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PAX West Hands-On: Bayonetta 3

14 Sep 2022

The Bayonetta series is probably one of the most infamous cult classics coming out of studio PlatinumGames. The original, way back in ye olde days of 2009, gained a number of fans…but not enough for original publisher Sega to consider the series viable. That’s where Nintendo swooped in, reviving the series with a second entry on the Wii U in 2014…and now, nearly a decade later, a third incoming entry for the Switch.

I never jumped on the Bayonetta train when either previous game launched, only becoming acquainted with it when the original was remastered a couple of years back. While I wasn’t particularly good at the game, I could see why it had gained so many dedicated fans.

At this year’s PAX West, we had the opportunity to try a small snippet of the upcoming Bayonetta 3. And by small I do mean small – about a fifteen-minute segment from the game’s opening. But it was enough of a teaser to show off what’s incoming, and why I believe long-waiting fans won’t be disappointed.

Bayonetta 3 puts our titular character up against a new threat: the “homunculi.” The demo we got to play featured little-to-no story, instead opting to put us directly into the action, so I can’t really say much about what these enemies are, just that they’re there to be killed in as stylish a manner as possible.

Things opened up in a cityscape, where I had the opportunity to take down a few basic enemies to reacquaint myself with Bayonetta’s moveset. Dashing around between enemies, pulling off combos with easy button inputs, and perfect dodging to activate time-slowing Witch Time (which felt much easier here than my experience with the Bayonetta 1 remaster), all felt incredibly smooth and nimble.

Soon, though, I was introduced to some of the new features of Bayonetta 3. A few massive homonculi lumbered onto the field…much too large to be handled by just Bayonetta on her own. That’s where the ability to summon controllable demons came into play. Making use of a magic meter, I was able to call a massive creature to the field – one with its own attack combos to take down these hulking monstrosities. Of course, the amount of time I had to control it was limited by said magic meter, requiring me to take quick breaks to beat up on some smaller trash to restore it. The ebb and flow of this felt good, while also keeping me from feeling too powerful controlling the summoned demon.

The game quickly moved through a few more environments. Running through and on a train twisting itself through the sky, where I got to use Bayo’s new equipable demons, particularly one that gave me wings to quickly flit through this segment. Battles against giant flying creatures that saw me controlling an equally hulking creature as it jumps and slides through demolished buildings. And all of this being thrown at me without ever feeling like it’s slowing down once.

This was definitely helped by the demo appearing to keep a smooth framerate. Bayonetta 3 has been reported to be targetting 60FPS, and while I wasn’t able to confirm this from the demo, it certainly felt like it had high frame smoothness. And I hope it does, because it would soften the blow of my one complaint about this demo: the graphical quality leaving something to be desired.

There’s a lot going on in this game, to the point that I imagine it’s pushing the aging Switch toward its limits. Graphical resolution seems lower than I’m used to seeing from modern major releases, though not so bad as to be off-putting. The environment and some character models appeared somewhat rough around the edges, as well. Though, to be completely fair, I’m mostly working off of memory here with these opinions.

Despite this, Bayonetta 3 feels like a game that isn’t likely to let its fanbase down. It’s been eight years since 2, and fan excitement is beginning to reach a fever pitch. A fifteen-minute demo doesn’t leave me with too much to discuss, unfortunately, but what we got to try here is definitely promising.

Bayonetta 3 is set for release on October 28th for Nintendo Switch. You can check out a recently released trailer here.

Screenshots courtesy of Nintendo.