Hands-on with Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

Not the same old song and dance

07 February 2023
by quence 8
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Platinum Games works in mysterious ways. After years of waiting for Bayonetta 3, it only took them two months to announce Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon. With a rapidly approaching launch date of March 17, 2023, fans won’t be waiting nearly as long to dive back into the world of Bayonetta. I was able to play through one of Bayonetta Origins’ early chapters, and was delighted to discover a wholly unique gameplay style, separating it from previous entries in the series. It may not be what fans expected, but there are some very promising ideas at play here.

Chronologically, Bayonetta Origins is a prequel to the original Bayonetta. Players follow a teenage Cereza (a younger version of series protagonist Bayonetta) on her journey to become a powerful witch. Cereza comes fully equipped with a tragic backstory, and the game starts out with her struggling to learn magic while her mother is imprisoned. During one of these magic attempts, Cereza accidentally summons a powerful demon. Said demon decides to take up residence in Cereza’s stuffed cat, Cheshire, and things really take off from there.

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“Cereza and the Lost Demon” isn’t just a clever subtitle; It represents the core of the game, as you’ll be controlling both Cereza and Cheshire simultaneously. You’ll move Cereza around with the left stick, and Cheshire with the right stick, while controlling their actions with the shoulder buttons (both Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers can be used).

At first, making Cheshire and Cereza both move the way you want them to feels a bit like trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time. Anyone who’s familiar with 2013’s brilliant Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (also available on Switch) might have a leg up when it comes to mastering these controls. That game also relied on the player controlling two characters simultaneously, and I’m excited to see another developer expanding on the concept. I didn’t have enough time to fully master the controls in Bayonetta Origins, but I get the sense that it will become second nature before too long.

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Cereza and Cheshire serve very different functions depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. In combat, Cheshire is your primary damage dealer (this makes sense, as he happens to be a giant cat demon with big, sharp claws). You’ll use the trigger to make him hack and slash at various enemies until their health is depleted. Meanwhile, Cereza provides support for Cheshire via her magic. Her starting spell will generate thorny vines that can hold an enemy in place, making Cheshire’s attacks easier to land. There’s a cooldown system requiring you to wait for abilities to be refreshed after use, so you’ll have to be smart about when and where you put them into action.

Again, you’ll be controlling both characters at the same time using two sides of one controller. This dynamic can be a little tricky to wrap your head around, but when you do figure out how best to place and utilize the two characters, it feels like a real accomplishment. Most of the enemies I encountered in the game’s early section were fairly generic, without much in the way of special attacks or abilities. However, as I was still getting used to the combat and the controls, I found these encounters fresh and engaging. I imagine that once you’ve progressed, more advanced enemies could take combat to a much deeper level.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon certainly doesn’t seem as involved as in the other Bayonetta games, which were of course much more focused on intense, high-speed action. If your primary enjoyment of those games came from memorizing combos and unleashing them with expert timing in order to get high scores, you may find Origins lacking. The developers were clearly going for a very different feel here, but I think it’s a successful one, even if it doesn’t provide quite the same challenge.

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When you’re not tearing down enemies, much of Bayonetta Origins is focused on solving environmental puzzles. If you thought controlling two characters during combat might be disorienting, this is where the real head-scratchers come into play. As you proceed through the levels, you’ll come across various paths that only one of your two characters will be able to cross. For example, Cereza is too small to reach high platforms, while Cheshire is unable to cross areas filled with demon repelling magic. At these moments, you’ll need to split them up, switching your focus from one character to the other as you go. Often you’ll switch back and forth between them multiple times in order to open up paths for the other, before inevitably reuniting.

The puzzles I experienced were similar to the ones found in many other two player co-op games, only with the added twist of controlling both sides of the equation. None of them were too complicated, but I still managed to get stuck a few times, mostly because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my surroundings. The developers seemed to have fun playing with perspective, and the areas are cleverly designed to make solving puzzles a satisfying affair.

You’ll also occasionally come across a rhythm-based minigame that requires Cereza to use her magic. You’ll move the left stick in various directions, matching your movements to moon symbols around a circle in time to a beat. Often this will unlock a new pathway to a previously inaccessible area. This is a neat little distraction that helps to break up the larger combat and puzzle sequences. However, I’m hoping that more minigames appear later on for the sake of variety, as I could see this one getting repetitive before too long.

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One of my favorite aspects of Bayonetta Origins so far is its visual style. A complete 180 from the originals, the game employs a soft, gentle aesthetic. It’s frequently reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s works (especially Princess Mononoke), and it’s also, dare I say it, downright adorable. Nintendo and Platinum are really leaving money on the table if they don’t start selling Cheshire and Cereza plushies as soon as possible! The game world seems to provide a cozy, inviting atmosphere that’s pleasant to be in, even while angry demons are trying to destroy you.

There’s also a big focus on narrative in Bayonetta Origins. The game features lengthy, storybook-style cutscenes with a great deal of voiced dialogue. From its cute visuals and fairy tale style, you might get the impression that this is a game for younger audiences, and I think that’s true if you’re comparing it to the rest of the series. Origins certainly seems more appropriate and inviting for younger kids than any of the other Bayonetta games (It’s rated T for animated blood and fantasy violence). That said, all of the characters and lore I saw seemed to be consistent with the other games, and nothing felt dumbed down.

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Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is shaping up to be a very different experience from the original Bayonetta, but you shouldn’t discount it as a disposable or forgettable spin-off just yet. It may not be the direction any of us expected the franchise to take, but everything I saw really hit the mark for me. It’s more accessible and less punishing than Bayonettas 1-3, but what I saw still showed signs of greater depth waiting to be discovered. Keep this one on your radar whether you’re a longtime Bayonetta fan, or completely new to the series.

About quence

quence

Quence is a writer, YouTuber, podcaster, and gamer. You can listen to his podcasts Geeks on Trial and The Yeerky Boys wherever you get your podcasts! Find more of his writing and other projects at JonathanEstis.com.

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Comments (8)

d_says_hi

1+ y ago

Nice. I wonder how it compares to the other Platinum game where you control two characters, aka Astral Chain.

I definitely enjoyed the preview they gave us in Bayo 3 and preordered as soon as it was announced.


enthropy

1+ y ago

Preordered this the first second it was up. I will not love it like the "real" Bayonetta games, but from the tease from Bayonetta 3 and being a huge P* and, of course, Bayonetta fan I just know there'll be something here to enjoy. And the idea we might et to know more about Rosa exciting alone.


enthropy

1+ y ago

Oh and.... BAynoetta 3 has sold 1.04 million copies!!! This means more Bayonetta games should be coming. And by seeing some stuff from the latest art book, there are many, many ideas to go with. Bayonetta 3 (no, not you, Viola) can be a thing, and a dan good thing too.

Hope Platinum have "Switch 2" dev kits already! =)


dubbie

1+ y ago

This game is gonna be a big surprise to anyone who gives it a chance with an open mind, it looks wonderful and i hope it sells decently, fellow Switch players are missing out on Bayonetta goodness, hopefully Bayonetta Origins brings a bunch of newcomers to this awesome series

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mlt-malavida

1+ y ago

@enthropy

That's awesome ! How does it compare to the two first entries ?
Also, I don't suppose it's anywhere near as big as Nier was, but it's probably pretty good when compared to Astral Chain for example so from a Platinum standpoint it brings back bayo as one of their main licences. By the way I also hope they do more Astral Chain in the future as I absolutely loved it and I can't even begin to imagine how that licence could evolve as there are so many desirable options.

Also come on Viola is pretty cool and almost definitely the protagonist for Bayo 4. I know not everyone liked her but I don't see Platinum taking internet backlash into account anytime soon. That's just not who they are. I say better get used to her, she's probably here to stay !

Edited 1 time

Unsure how they sold actually. I think B2, U and Switch combined, did get the same (1.04M). And the first perhaps, all in all, around 2M shipped. But these sales took time, B3 sold a million in just 4-ish months which is a new record and it's sweet to see =) I loved the game.
Nah! Nier:A sold about 7M I think, but it's not a Pure Platinum game in the sense it's Toro's world/lore/everything.
But fun to see som Nier DNA in B3 =)

Viola was a tad bit better than I thought, but I didn't think too good of her to begin with. Bayonetta is Cereza and if they take her away for punk teen Viola B4 might flop big time. I don't think they would ever make a Bayonetta game without Cereza. Maybe even I, one of the biggest Bayonetta fans I know, would not get it. But we'll see. It's a long time to we see anything from those waters.
Of course Cereza is still out there. Was in the art book and confirmed by Kamiya. There is actually a lot of stuff in the art book that didn't make into the game that they can still use in B4 (or spin-offs even). There's a lot of leeway with the multi-dimensional theme anyway ;) And come one! Cereza went to Helll and back to save her best friend, perhaps Viola can do that?(then again, B3's ending wouldn't have such an impact).
OK, I'm sailing off here I see. I just can't imagine Platinum ditching their most beloved character.
Astral Chain sold over a million copies and is looked at as a success and it sure had an open enough ending to warrant a sequel. I sure fucking hope so since it was a superb game.
Every time Ninty and P* work together they seem to make gold (I could say Platinum....) so I really have to repeat: I sure hope they ahve Switch2 dev kits, even if early builds, in their hands, or at least they get dev kits early on, so they can let their ideas go wild.

(Edit: I think they can make an own Viola spin-off game that eventually can connect with Bayonetta 4. I can see that work actually.)

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mlt-malavida

1y ago

@enthropy

The Viola spin off might be what they will be going for or maybe a transition game where she goes to hell to get Cereza back and then they can do Bayo4 proper. My guess however is that they really are done with Cereza and that Viola will be the next protagonist even though they might redesign her with a more mature less teen punk look and explain that Bayo4 happens a couple years later down the time-line so they changed her looks and maybe even her personality a little. I really liked her so I don't really mind either way. Also as you said the ending of 3 would suffer a bit.
Anyway I am very happy to learn that Bayo3 is definitely a success for platinum and that the whole process of bringing this character back from hell finally paid off for everyone including us gamers since we're going to get more Bayo without having to wonder if the franchise is finally dead after each iteration.
The references to Astral Chain in Bayo3 really has to mean that they are continuing this franchise also and with two big Nintendo exclusive hitters they must have access to dev kits as soon as they are available. I mean they really are partners in every sense of the term now and it would be in the best interest of both so I would be surprised if they don't have some kind of special connection with Nintendo at this point.

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I don't know. Taking away Cereza from Bayonetta is like taking away Nintendo from Gonintendo. Many, me too, didn't like Viola so it would be a ballsy move from Platinum for sure. But it's Platinum so you never know. Actually it's Platinum AND Nintendo so we sure will not know until they tell us, those secretive bastards =D
Even though I'm really super duper happy with my PSVR2 now I still am very excited for Bayonetta Origins, even if it's a total spin-off. More on Cereza and Rosa in itself is enough to get me on board, but I think we'll get some surprises out of this one.
YEah it's weird how Bayonetta is basically a Nintendo IP by now. Always great to see these two teams work together.
Origins is finished so I wonder when we'll get to see their next game, whatever that may be.