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Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review

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After the long wait for Bayonetta 3, the last thing I would’ve expected only months afterwards would be to be playing the prequel spin-off Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon. Not only does the game take us back to Bayonetta/Cereza’s childhood, but it also contains a character with a connection to Bayonetta 3, leaving me with two questions; is this a standalone game from the main titles? And is it still fun to play when you take Bayonetta’s frenetic combat out of the equation? Let me answer those questions for you.

We start at the beginning, at the very beginning of Bayonetta’s origin. Cereza was born of a forbidden romance between an Umbra Witch and a Lumen Sage. After the Umbra Witches lock her mother away, where Cereza may never see her again, she studies as a witch in training with another outcast witch, Morganna. Cereza finds herself called to the nearby Avalon Forest. Faeries have ensured that those who go into this dangerous forest never come out. Ignoring the warnings, Cereza enters the forest and manages to summon a demon for the first time at a time of dire need. Inexperienced in summoning, the demon winds up stuck in Cereza’s stuffed toy Cheshire. Cereza cannot return the demon to Inferno (Hell). Here starts the adventure of two unlikely allies, Cereza and the titular lost demon Cheshire.

Not only does the duo need to find their way out of the forest, but a mysterious boy also offers Cereza a chance to obtain enough power to break free of the forest and rescue her mother. Throughout the forest are four elemental cores to collect. Still, it isn’t that simple – Morgana wasn’t lying when she spoke of the danger of Avalon Forest. Throughout Avalon, there are a lot of faeries who will be happy to end the story before it truly begins. With Cereza still inexperienced and Cheshire a fledgling demon trapped in a stuffed toy, the game centres around them having to work together to survive.

Where the Bayonetta games are filled with fast-paced, over-the-top combos and ridiculously over-the-top action sequences, with exploration between fights being on relatively contained paths to the next chapter, Origins puts on the brakes. Instead, Origins is an action-adventure game. For the combat portions, Cereza is unable to attack on her own. She uses magic to ensnare the faeries and keep them in place for Cheshire to attack. All of the damage is delivered by the vicious demon cat, pouncing and slashing with his claws, with a few elemental attacks added over time. Now you might be asking how you control these two entirely different characters to do separate actions simultaneously?

If you have played Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, you will have some idea of how the game controls. One joystick controls one character, and the other joystick controls the other. With the Switch, it is neatly divided by the Joy-Con controllers. The left is delegated to Cereza, and the right is Cheshires. Whenever a control scheme like this is utilised, no matter how many hours I put into the game, I would still get caught trying to move the wrong characters. It won’t be an issue for many people, but you could struggle if you get tripped on such mechanics. You don’t have to constantly control both characters independently. Cheshire can be carried around in ‘hug mode’ where Cereza will carry her beloved toy. You only need to move her around, but with the other stick, you can also have toy Cheshire move in a small radius around Cereza to help collect nearby items.

The good news is that the game is quite forgiving. It never throws too much at you or leaves you feeling punished for slip-ups on the controls. Throughout my entire playthrough, I only ever needed a handful of health potions, and I only wound up dying at the very end. While everyone’s experience will vary, if you do find the game harder than expected or if one section is proving difficult, you can open up the menu at any time and tweak some of the options to find a setting that allows you to enjoy the story and game at your pace.

Unlike other Bayonetta games, Avalon Forest is a mostly interconnected world with other areas opening up as you gain the elemental abilities to clear the way. You’ll occasionally get caught up in combat when moving around the forest. Still, most combat is reserved for the new version of challenge rooms called Tír na nÓg. The forest will often become warped near these cracks. In reality, entering them allows you to restore the surrounding area. Once in the Tír na nÓg, the goal is often clearing an arena or two of faeries and maybe solving a co-op puzzle to reach the end and repair the crack in reality.

There is some puzzle-solving which will usually require the pair to separate so Cheshire can use his elemental abilities to help get Cereza through. At best, it is a very light environmental puzzler, and you’ll unlikely find yourself stumped. I don’t mind the puzzles getting out of the way of the story and the journey through Avalon Forest, but if you’re looking for a challenge and for the game to get creative with your abilities chances are you’ll feel let down.

You’ll get to a point in the game where you can purchase new moves or upgrades to increase Cereza and Cheshire’s abilities. I never found myself too short on either character’s currency. Still, both require harder-to-find items to unlock an increasing number of skills. Sticking to the main path, you will come across very few of these items. Outside of some initial moves locked behind this requirement, I didn’t see any more through the last half, even with some backtracking and clearing any Tír na nÓg in my path. It was a shame that I could see some fun new moves that might finally mix up the combat, but it just wasn’t to be. As I continued through to the end of the game, there was the additional realisation that the moves I had unlocked much earlier worked just fine outside of an extra attack. This brought me to the realisation that so much can easily go unused in Origins. You can use four different potions to fill meters or buffs, and only the health potion is necessary. Many upgrades have minimal impact or go unused the whole game.

Cereza and Cheshire’s adventure takes them to mostly distinct areas within the forest, one of the more memorable standouts being a Faerie Circus. Across the more than 10 hours I spent with the game it never felt like it demanded much of me. It felt like it ran on auto-pilot at times. The Tír na nÓg rarely posed a challenge. The puzzles are clearly indicated and usually just require Cheshire to use an elemental power. It feels like a game best approached in short bursts to keep repetition from setting in. It sucks to have all these gripes, I didn’t dislike playing Origins at all, but the namesake and charm can only go so far for some.

From the very opening, the entire game is presented as a picture book full of lovely watercolour-painted pictures while keeping a painterly aesthetic throughout. This art style works for most of the game; it only really falters during the narrated story scenes. It’s meant to add to the storybook feel where the narrated moments are turning through pages of the book. However, it limits the big moments where something exciting or dramatic is meant to be happening, reduced down to a few frames. Other moments undercut the building bond between Cereza and Cheshire. It doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable; it just feels restrained. Even with a change in visual style, the game retains some flourishes from the main series. Every new Faerie enemy gets their intro splash screen, and the designs themselves befitting a Bayonetta game.

A teaser for this for Origins was unlockable in Bayonetta 3. Given it is only a few months out from seeing Cereza in the bombastic third game, it all feels a bit strange already returning to that world, even if it’s going way back to the beginning. There are a few connections to the third Bayonetta game that I won’t go into any further, and there is a constant connection in Cheshire. Only the stuffed toy turned demon is a different-looking beast. While it is treated as an origin story for Cereza, prequels tend to nod and wink towards information or characters already known as necessary to the already established story, and Origins is no different.

Origins is a tricky game to place the intended audience. While it is friendly to newcomers, you’d be shocked when the rest of the series is a different game genre. For the Bayonetta fans, you’ll see Cereza go from a timid witch in training to gain her confidence and determination, which helps her become the Bayonetta we’re familiar with. Fans, however might not be so keen on playing through an easy action-adventure game to eke out whatever connections the game has to the main trilogy. All up Bayonetta Origins is a charming adventure game that doesn’t demand too much of the player than to enjoy an extra chapter in the Bayonetta universe.

Bayonetta Origins initially feels like a twisted fairytale (faerie tale?) from Cerezas childhood. By the end, it also feels like a companion piece to Bayonetta 3. Origins changes up the familiar Bayonetta hack-and-slash with an action adventure in a similar vein to the Legend of Zelda series whilst still keeping the spirit of its predecessors. While I have my issues with the game, Cereza and Cheshire’s adventure is endearing and it is fun to see how they grow closer in a world where Witches don’t make friends with Demons.

Rating: 3.5/5

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