I wasn’t sure what to make of this Bayonetta spin-off, to begin with, but it immediately struck a chord with me with its whimsical tones and stunning visual presentation in the style of a water-colored storybook.
Straight away, it feels like there is something special about this game.
The only experience I have had with the series is the original Bayonetta, which I played way back when it first dropped in 2010. So when they announced this odd-looking alternate take on the series, I didn’t think I would ever play it.
But let me tell you – I AM GLAD I DID!
Bayonetta is a series known for gratuitous action, brutal violence, and just a smidge of over-the-top sexuality. So when a new game comes out looking like it took a spin through the Wind Waker machine, it might make you cock your head in confusion. The look is entirely different from the main series. It features more of a “painted style,” the characters are very cute and have over-embellished anime eyes.
The gameplay is more akin to an action RPG or old-school Zelda instead of the ridiculous action that we’ve come to expect from Bayonetta games.
Very quickly, however, you start to feel the charm of the presentation. You warm to the whimsical music that whisks you to a magical land, and you realize this is different; this is something unique. It captures your heart like a demon trapped in a stuffed cat.
This is an origin story about a girl that would become a powerful witch. The story of Cereza (baby Bayonetta, before she becomes a badass sultry slayer of angels) starts with the tale of the forbidden love between her parents. A witch and wizard on opposite sides of two magical clans.
After having a child, the father is cast out, and the mother imprisoned, leaving the child in the care of the Umbral witches of her mother’s clan. Cereza wants to free her mother from imprisonment and hopes to become a powerful witch to do so. Unfortunately, she’s just not.
Alongside her stuffed cat Cheshire, and against all warnings, she travels into a forbidden wood called Avalon Forest in search of a power she was told to find by a mysterious boy in her dreams. Soon after, she is attacked by Faeries (not the nice faeries that give you magic butt dust) and desperately attempts to summon a demon to protect her.
But the demon ends up embodying Cheshire instead. This all works to great comedic effect as the demon HATES being a stuffed animal and only wants to return to Inferno. He also immediately tries to kill Cereza but can’t due to their magical bond. So he begrudgingly helps her so that she can send him home.
All of this is delivered in the style of a watercolor storybook with some amazing voice-over performances. I especially love the voice for Cereza by Angeli Wall, which to me, sounds like a cheerier Hermione Granger (err, Emma Watson). I found myself falling in love with these characters – and the game – incredibly quickly.
I think this game is absolutely gorgeous! Everything looks hand-drawn and painted in a brilliant mix of vibrant colors that “drip” onto the page and fill the scene. The environments look stunning and feature some Van Gogh-esque backdrops behind them to add to the moving tapestry.
With each scene, a page turns, and action plays out in frames that fill with color and texture. This is where I get some Yoshi’s Island vibes. The characters also have a striking style that adds to the feeling that you are looking at moving drawings. When you get into action, the use of color makes combat explode off the screen with some impressive effects.
If you can believe it, the sound design in this game is just as beautiful as the visuals are. The music is a perfect accompaniment to any scene, with whimsical pieces setting the tone for most stages, playful piano for lighthearted moments, and swelling overtures to elevate exciting and intense situations. Like Cereza’s little red bow on top, the voice acting is incredible.
Cereza, voiced by Angeli Wall, is fantastic! She may come off as a sniveling whiney child in the beginning, but as the story progresses and the character grows, so does Angeli’s delivery. Near the final act, Cereza starts to become the witch we all know her to be, and there are some extremely powerful and heartfelt moments that are nailed home like an Angel punished in a torture device.
The Narrator, voiced by Jenny Lee, tells the story through cutscenes and gameplay, but she also voices Cheshire just like someone would do when reading a storybook to a child and voicing the characters. I found this very charming and added a lot of personality to the story. Her delivery is amazing and makes me feel like I’m Fred Savage in The Princess Bride getting read a bedtime story.
The sound of collecting items is ever-satisfying. As you explore and gather resources and upgrade materials, there is a pleasing “ting” that goes with it. Yet again, taking a page out of the Zelda handbook, when you open chests, there is a very Zelda-esque fanfare which makes me wonder how much involvement Nintendo had in the development of this game. I am certainly not complaining, though, as it all works wonderfully well.
The core experience revolves around exploring the lush forests of Avalon. Again, this feels akin to classic Zelda games with a blend of action RPG combat. You explore the map by making your way through maze-like areas solving puzzles that will require some solid thought and logic. Which have you utilizing Cereza’s magic and Cheshire’s strength to clear your path moving forward. This is where the game really stands on its own with its unique gameplay and dual character control in order to complete puzzles and defeat foes.
Many of these puzzles will have the main characters working together as Cheshire goes down one path and Cereza traverses another, all the while assisting each other to progress. As you explore, you will use Cereza’s magic to activate various plants by dancing and timing stick movements to do so. Cheshire can smash obstacles in his base form, but you will learn new forms that allow him to pull with vines, smash rocks, blast water, and shoot fireballs.
You will have to face tough foes known as faeries that inhabit the forest. Here you will battle with Cereza and Cheshire. If you’ve played Astral Chain, this will feel kind of familiar to you.
With the left-hand controls, you’ll have Cereza cast binding spells, use items, and recharge Cheshire. On the right hand, you control Cheshire, where you have basic attack combos and will unlock special abilities as you progress. It sounds complicated but is actually quite simple – and oh-so-satisfying. Some of my favorite moments were when, during a boss fight, I would have to execute some button mashing to perform over-the-top finishing moves that left me squeeing with joy.
There are options for some of the combat mechanics that make the combat easier for those that want more of a relaxed experience. That being said, there are also some challenging boss battles that had me using my health potions more than the rest of the game. For me, I thought the game felt a little too easy, but I also feel that that is by design. I only wish that it had included some difficulty options.
When exploring, you’ll hug the plushy Cheshire and use him to explore by tossing him up on ledges, running faster, or booping enemies to shake ‘em down for goodies. You will collect resources for upgrading Cereza and Cheshire’s skills and abilities. There are two skill trees. The first one increases Cereza’s magic affinity and binding spells. The other opens up powerful attacks and finishing moves for Cheshire. Before long, you will be pulverizing faeries and reaping the rewards for more upgrades.
Throughout the world, you will come across dungeon-like voids called Tír na nÓg. These are faerie illusions that the dynamic duo must traverse while completing puzzles and defeating foes. They’re very similar to the shrines in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You even get a piece of a heart… er, Vitality Petal, when you clear it. Huh. When you collect five of these, your overall vitality will increase. I’m really sensing a pattern here.
As you explore, you will collect various ingredients that can be used to mix up different types of potions. You need to concoct these potions at rest locations, but they’ll find their use in battle. There’s one for healing, one for boosting magic, one for boosting damage, and one that creates a large shock wave. I rarely found myself really needing these until late in the game, but they can make some fights a little more manageable.
It took me a little over 14 hours to complete the story, and I still went back to find all the collectibles. There is a massive amount of lore and journals to collect, with some interesting backstory and world-building to be found here. When you complete the game, it unlocks an additional mode that tells a story about Cereza’s friend, Jeanne.
Bayonetta Origins is an incredibly charming and heartfelt action adventure that was an absolute joy to play. I loved the beautiful watercolor visuals and cute characters, the easy but super satisfying combat and clever puzzles, and one hell of a story that kept me guessing and even caused me to shed a few tears!
I really wanted to give it a 10, but due to the lack of difficulty options, a confusing map, and some repetitive gameplay, I give Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon a whopping 9 out of 10. I am so glad I played it! I enjoyed it so much that I am not only going to replay the original Bayonetta but also 2 and 3.
Are you a fan of Bayonetta? Were you going to play this spin-off from the sexy mainline series? Let us know in the comments.