Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a unique entry in the Bayonetta series not only for its more family-friendly presentation, but also in how it handles elements like combat. The game follows the misadventures of Cereza as a young child, one who’s yet to fully master her powers giving her a Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch sort of vibe. Accompanying her is the newly summoned demon companion Cheshire, who Bayonetta fans previously met in Bayonetta 3.
Together, the two have to work together in tandem to solve puzzles and battle against faeries deep within a forbidden forest. In the process of this, the pair form a close, loving friendship. One that helps Bayonetta Origins feel like a lighthearted, whimsical standout in the Bayonetta series despite some of its darker themes, and at times, somewhat convoluted story.
Finding friendship in a forbidden forest
The story of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is largely served up to players in a storybook-style format complemented by enthusiastic narration and subtle character animations. The game opens with some helpful backstory on Cereza’s childhood plight where her mother has been taken from her and locked away in a near-impenetrable basement prison.
Her mother’s predicament clearly weighs heavily on Cereza, particularly in how she’s not yet powerful enough to rescue her mother herself. With this, she vows to work hard to achieve that power under the stern, yet loving tutelage of mentor Morgana. Struggling to master Morgana’s teachings though, particularly in summoning demons, Cereza’s frustration and impatience grows.
This motivates her to journey deep into the forbidden Avalon Forest at the behest of a mysterious boy who appears in her dreams and promises he can help her free her mother. Guiding her forward through the forest is an equally mysterious White Wolf that leaves a trail of helpful blue paw prints behind for Cereza to follow in a Blue’s Clues sort of way.
I can’t dive too deeply into the importance of the White Wolf or the boy in Cereza's dreams without spoiling key points of the story, unfortunately. Suffice to say, it works well enough as a motivator to spur Cereza through the forest, though it ultimately convolutes some of the best parts of the story in my opinion which center around Cereza’s newly summoned demon, Cheshire.
We met Cheshire previously in Bayonetta 3, and here in Bayonetta Origins we get to learn more about him as a character and how he came to reside in Cereza’s beloved stuffed cat. The bond Cereza forms with Cheshire as the two explore Avalon Forest feels genuine, heartfelt, and sincere, with the pair slowly learning to trust and depend on one another.
Cheshire and Cereza’s various interactions both good and bad are the high points of Bayonetta Origins’ story, and fortunately make up the bulk of it which helps make the majority of the campaign an enjoyable one. With that being said, I still can’t help but wish the campaign had kept to that theme of growth between Cereza and Chesire more without sprinkling in mention of the White Wolf and the boy in Cereza's dreams at various points. It felt at times like those narrative elements were being shoved down my throat, and it made me even less receptive to them once I reached the game’s ending. Despite feeling like the game’s ending was just ok, the gameplay itself surprised me in how fluid and fun it is throughout.
Two of a kind
Bayonetta Origins is unique not only in its more family-friendly story arc, but also in how it approaches exploration with light puzzle-solving elements and tag-team combat with Cereza and Cheshire. Working your way through the forest is kept continuously interesting as you guide Cereza and Cheshire in tandem, with Cereza being controlled using the left thumbstick, and Cheshire with the right thumbstick.
It can be a bit awkward at first as you work to get the hang of things and remember which thumbstick and buttons are paired to each character, but eventually you get into a nice rhythm with it. Especially with the game allowing you to do things like call Cheshire back into Cereza’s stuffed cat where she’s able to carry him around, or toss him up to higher out-of-reach spots.
You’re forced to have the pair split up and reunite often during exploration due to obstacles like patches of rosemary that act as repellent to demons like Cheshire. Here, controlling both characters together is incorporated in more puzzle-solving sort of ways. I liked having to figure out how to get both characters to the same spot using different paths. Some of these puzzles can become a touch repetitive after a while, but are always satisfying to work through.
Another aspect of the game that gets repetitive after a while are the numerous Tír na nÓg side stages. In the beginning, these promise a nice blend of puzzle-solving and combat outside of what you encounter in the forest itself. After a while though, they start to pivot to focus more on combat specifically, without much in the way of puzzles to solve.
I feel like the game would've been better off with fewer of these Tír na nÓg stages, and a more consistent blend of puzzles and combat within each. However, I appreciated the challenge some were able to offer regardless of the repetition, along with how visually stunning they are to enter and exit.
Using both Cereza and Cheshire at the same time is arguably at its best when it’s used in combat, including the aforementioned Tír na nÓg stages, though it’s not perfect here either. The game incorporates a magic gauge for Cheshire who gradually unlocks new elemental-based skills and abilities as you discover different Elemental Cores in the forest. This keeps Cheshire’s combat feeling constantly fresh and engaging.
Cereza on the other hand is a little lacking, with her primary use in combat being her Thorn Bind ability where she can trap foes for Cheshire to take swipes at. Cheshire can also return to Cereza in his stuffed toy form, with Cereza hugging him to her chest to help restore his magic gauge before sending him back out into battle. As cute as that is to see, it doesn’t do all that much when it comes to incorporating Cereza into combat, with Cheshire doing the bulk of the work for most of the game.
At times, Cereza almost felt as if she was in the way during combat and more of a detriment than a help. There were also times when I forgot about her entirely until I saw her getting hit by an enemy and sent Cheshire over to help. Cheshire doing the bulk of the work in battle can add some extra challenge which I appreciated, but that aside, I can’t help but wish Cereza had been given the chance to expand her abilities in a similar way to what we see with Cheshire over the course of the game. There are moments where Cereza learns a few new tricks that make her more helpful to Cheshire, but they come much later on in the game than you'd expect and are ones I can't talk about further without spoiling the game's story.
Combat itself is largely focused against different types of faeries in the forest, with many based around aspects of Celtic folklore. I liked this quite a bit, and the game’s Alice in Wonderland meets Celtic fairy tale themes as a whole. I also found myself surprised at the challenge presented by larger foes like the Jabberwock, with these larger enemies in particular boasting some stellar visual designs in combat. The balance of exploration and combat, combined with generous save points, skill trees for Cereza and Cheshire, and collectibles to find along the way all help the game feel like a full, robust, engaging experience from start to finish.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon departs from the traditional Bayonetta formula in a big way with its more family-friendly themes, unique tag-team combat, and storybook-like presentation. It doesn’t always feel necessary as far as some of its changes go, or like something Bayonetta fans need to drop everything to play. That said, it nevertheless manages to serve as delightful bonus content for those looking to learn more about Cereza and Cheshire in particular.
Young Cereza is adorable, lovable, and endearing, while Cheshire is fascinating in the compassion he shows towards Cereza, and at times unintentionally funny with his gruff attitude as well. Together, the pair make Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon and its many chapters feel like time well-spent, even if the game’s campaign does drag a bit at the end.
Overall, I highly recommend Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, so long as you approach it as it is. Not a mainline Bayonetta game, but as a largely optional (yet still incredibly delightful) spin-off, standalone title.
This review is based on a digital copy of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon for Nintendo Switch provided by the publisher. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon releases on Friday, March 17 for Nintendo Switch.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
- Gorgeous storybook visuals
- Enthusiastic, expressive audio narration
- Heartfelt story with great character writing
- Delightful bond between Cereza and Cheshire
- Engaging puzzle-solving during exploration
- Unique combat utilizing both Cereza and Cheshire
- Certain story elements feel unnecessary and forced
- Cereza's lack of skill makes combat clunky at times
- Tir na nOg stages feel repetitive after a while
- The game feels a touch too long, drags at the end
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