I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to see a lighthearted, whimsical spin-off in the Bayonetta series quite like Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon. While the announcement trailer for the game had me somewhat intrigued, I wasn’t fully sold on the idea until I had the opportunity to sit down recently and spend some time with the game. Thanks to my hands-on time, I was able to learn more about what makes Bayonetta Origins a wholly unique offering in the Bayonetta franchise.
While we got a touch of young Cereza in previous Bayonetta games, and adult Cereza in the likes of recent releases like Bayonetta 3, Bayonetta Origins acts more as a fully-fledged prequel story. One that follows Cereza as a child, not yet acquainted with magic or the extent of her capabilities. At times during the demo, young Cereza reminded me a bit of Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch. Slightly clumsy, but endlessly endearing and charming.
The narrative not only offers Bayonetta fans additional insight into her backstory and growth as a character though, but also that of Cheshire who players met previously as Viola’s “Demon Slave” companion in Bayonetta 3. In Bayonetta Origins, it’s revealed that Cheshire was the first demon Cereza was able to summon on her own. Due to her not having fully mastered her magical abilities, the demon finds itself inconveniently trapped in her beloved stuffed cat toy (which is where it gets its name) and given the circumstances, is forced to help Cereza and keep her safe.
Cereza’s stuffed cat in Bayonetta Origins is the same one players were introduced to in Bayonetta 3 that hangs like an ornament off of Viola’s sword. While having played games like Bayonetta 3 isn’t required in order to enjoy Bayonetta Origins, having that background knowledge did add to the overall experience for me.
Despite being able to summon and even control Cheshire, Cereza finds herself in a pickle in regards to sending the creature back to Inferno from whence it came. Thus the story follows Cereza on a quest to figure out both how to free the demon from her stuffed Cheshire cat, and also acquire the sort of power needed to rescue her mother from the dark, cold basement prison where it’s revealed she’s being held during the game’s opening.
The story may have similar beats to previous entries like Bayonetta 3, but the gameplay itself is wonderfully unique in Bayonetta Origins. With Cereza being so young, she understandably lacks access to a full arsenal of powers like her adult counterpart has in Bayonetta 3, for example. Combat in Bayonetta Origins often feels more methodical than fast-paced as a result of Cereza's aforementioned limitations, and is also noticeably simpler though it does add fun complexity to the mix in that you don’t just control Cereza in Bayonetta Origins but also her newly acquainted demon companion, Cheshire.
Players are able to control both Cereza and Cheshire together, yet separately. More specifically, the right Joy-Con thumbstick controls Cheshire's movement with things like ZR used to attack and claw through obstacles. The left Joy-Con controls Cereza's movement, with it likewise being incorporated in elements of Cereza’s magic such as her Thorn Bind ability (held using ZL) to help trap foes in place for Cheshire to take safe swipes at.
To perform this ability, Cereza first needs to complete a QTE-like prompt with a circle on the ground and four crescent moons surrounding it, with players needing to gesture the left Joy-Con thumbstick in the direction of one or more illuminated moons. It can take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, the maneuver feels quite satisfying (almost like performing real-life magic) and adds a nice layer of immersion to Bayonetta Origins’ puzzle-solving elements.
Puzzles can include needing to guide Cheshire and Cereza past unique obstacles like thorny thickets and rosemary patches, while also needing to keep Cheshire in proximity to Cereza. Not only can you guide Cheshire in his demon form, you can also return Cheshire to the stuffed cat toy which Cereza can then toss up to higher out-of-reach places. The stuffed cat toy can also be held by Cereza and used to help grab and pull her forward, which lends itself to some light platforming elements that further make Bayonetta Origins an interesting, unique offering in contrast with other Bayonetta titles.
Unlike the apocalyptic cityscapes seen in games like Bayonetta 3, Bayonetta Origins sees Cereza exploring the gorgeous, yet deceptively dangerous Avalon Forest. As touted on the game's Nintendo eShop page, “each new area looks like it has been painted carefully by hand.” This certainly seemed the case from my own experience playing the game. In addition, the game offers stellar voice acting, particularly with the narrator who reads the story to you with the sort of energy and zest of a parent reading a book to an enraptured child.
Overall, Bayonetta Origins feels delightfully fresh, new, and worthwhile for hardcore and casual Bayonetta fans alike, and I’m really looking forward to putting more time in with the game once it’s released.
This preview is based on hands-on time with Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon for Nintendo Switch as shared by Nintendo. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is set to release on March 17, 2023 for Nintendo Switch. For more on the game, be sure to check out the page for Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon on the Nintendo eShop.