As the title suggests, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a prequel to Platinum Games’ Bayonetta series. Instead of being a character action game like the mainline entries, Origins is a less action-focused adventure game that boasts a colorful new aesthetic.
Bayonetta Origins puts you in the shoes of a ten-year-old Bayonetta, then known simply as Cereza, and takes you into the depths of the Avalon forest. Born from the forbidden union of a sage of Lumen and a witch of Umbra, Cereza is left isolated after her mother is imprisoned in an unknown place. It is then that a witch named Morgana decides to take Cereza under her wing to train her in magic.
Upon witnessing a recurring dream that tells her to follow a white wolf to obtain the power to save her mother, Cereza heads to the fairy forest, a place forbidden by Morgana. It’s here that she unwittingly ends up summoning a demon into her stuffed animal, Cheshire, who has the same appearance as the demon of the same name that accompanies Viola in Bayonetta 3. The two of them are stuck in the mysterious forest, and, therefore, put aside their differences to survive. The story itself is rather simple in itself and doesn’t require you to have played other entries in the series to understand. However, there are plenty of nods to the mainline titles here for diehard fans that help in fleshing out the young witch’s backstory.
While exploration and puzzle-solving take the front seat here, there’s still plenty of action in Bayonetta Origins. Unlike in the mainline entries, Cereza’s repertoire of moves is severely limited here, and she is only capable of using a basic spell to immobilize enemies. Cheshire, on the other hand, can attack in her place using his sharp claws. As such, the young witch can immobilize enemies, making them easy prey for the demon.
There is an interesting catch here, however. Both characters are controlled simultaneously, with Cereza being controlled using the left Joy-Con while Cheshire is controlled using the right. It works in the same way that simultaneously controlling both Cereza and summoned demons did in Bayonetta 3. It certainly takes a little getting used to but becomes manageable once you familiarize yourself with the mechanic.
It also helps that combat encounters in Bayonetta Origins are generally slower than prior entries, allowing you to plan your course of action with both characters. As Cereza, you’ll be looking to immobilize enemies from a relatively safer distance, while, as Cheshire, you’ll find yourself taking a more head-on approach in combat.
There is a cooldown period associated with Cheshire’s demon form that you’ll need to be mindful of. Each of his blows consumes his magic gauge which, once empty, transforms him back into a plushie, forcing Cereza to take him in her arms. While in plushie form, his cooldown gauge is gradually refilled, after which he’ll be able to assume his demon form once again.
The combat dynamics ramp up in terms of complexity and engagement as you unlock new abilities via the skill tree. Cheshire gains new elemental abilities that can be used both during combat and exploration. The game also has traces of Metroidvania DNA, as backtracking to previous areas to use newly unlocked stills can unlock hidden places to explore. This is especially rewarding for those who will invest more time to explore every nook and cranny the game offers.
Despite the game being relatively short, the back-and-forth combat and exploration can, at times, feel a little repetitive. The game is segmented into individual areas involving either exploration and puzzle solving or arena-like regions that pit you against various enemies. This layout tends to get predictable and, ultimately, repetitive. Additionally, the poorly conceived in-game map ends up being a significant detriment to exploration.
Bayonetta Origins is a bold new direction for the series as well as developer Platinum Games. Aside from a few notable quirks, there’s an undeniable charm in the Cereza’s very first adventure, whether it be due to the sublime art direction or the Bayonetta 3-inspired dual-protagonist gameplay mechanics.