The witch is back again. For the second time in the span of a few months. However, this isn’t the Bayonetta that you know. In fact, Bayonetta Origins takes place in a time before the umbra witch goes by that famous name. Instead, she’s simply Cereza, a young girl that’s yet to master her magical capabilities, and it’s fair to say that she’s not had the best start in life.
Her story begins with the imprisonment of her mother for her love affair with the enemy, Cereza’s father. As such, the young girl must grow up with her mother behind bars, and while she’s forbidden to do so, Cereza sneaks in and visits her mum regularly. That is until the umbra witches choose to move her to a deeper prison, a place from which the poor girl may never see her mother again.
Luckily for Cereza, Morgana, an exceptionally powerful umbra witch that their people also shun, takes her in with the intent of teaching the young girl how to harness her magic. This is where the game begins. You need to complete some tasks for Morgana before she gives Cereza her lesson for the day. Once all tasks are complete, it’s time to learn how to summon a demon.
Longtime Bayonetta fans are bound to know that the hair of a witch is vital in the summoning of a demon, but her first attempt goes horribly wrong, resulting in Morgana shunning the youngster and deeming her not ready to learn such a form of magic. Big mistake, as while Cereza is still a child, she already demonstrates the stubbornness and tenacity of her older self (though she has a sweet and timid nature and is yet to ooze confidence). As such, she, and her stuffed toy Cheshire, make their way into Avalon Forest, a place that’s said to hold tremendous power.
The fact that vivid dreams plague Cereza in which a person summons her to the forest only adds to her determination to get to the bottom of everything. Unsurprisingly, the forest is extremely dangerous, and the young girl only has so much magic available to her to defend herself. When she finds herself in a particularly tough fight with no way to escape, she summons a demon as a last resort. This time, it works, and the beast disposes of her would-be killers.
However, the inexperienced witch has no idea how to send the demon home, and in order to continue surviving in her world, the demon has no choice but to inhabit her stuffed toy. Without a name of its own, Cereza dubs him Cheshire, and this is where the game kicks into high gear as the pair must work together to navigate the forest and find the power that will not only give Cereza the power to save her mum, but to return Cheshire to his own realm.
Though the danger is real, and Cereza and Cheshire could meet their end at any turn, the forest itself is breathtaking. There’s an ethereal aura about it with a majestic flair that begs you to respect it. With each new area I enter, I can’t help but gaze in awe at my luscious surroundings, something that the puzzle gameplay adds to wonderfully. You have no choice but to take in what’s around you in order to forge ahead, and that’s something I appreciate.
To navigate through this world, you need to control both Cereza and Cheshire simultaneously at times, and while there’s one way for the young witch to get through, the demon may have to look for an alternate route and vice versa. The puzzles in this game are fantastic, though if you struggle to nail the use of Cereza’s magic, you can adjust the settings so that she does it automatically while you hold down a button. This is also very handy should the combat overwhelm you.
Speaking of combat, both Cereza and Cheshire have their own skill trees in which you can purchase abilities with two different currencies for the pair. Depending on how you wish to approach combat, you can pick and choose certain skills, though I certainly recommend that you pick up the dodge ability for both of them. Though Cereza is the only one you really need to worry about health-wise, if Cheshire falls in battle, he reverts to his stuffed toy form in Cereza’s arms, but it only takes a couple of seconds before he can go full demon mode again.
Furthermore, as you progress through the game, you can unlock different forms for Cheshire to take, and these enable you to explore previously unreachable places in the forest, so it encourages you to revisit areas and pay close attention to your surroundings. Not only can Cheshire’s various forms help you to access multiple places, but they can also aid you in battle against the different types of fairies. While all of his forms are impressive, the fire variant is my personal favourite, but perhaps that’s the underlying pyromaniac in me coming out.
When you find yourself in a fight, the one that can take down your enemies is Cheshire, so you need to control the pair separately at the same time. In combat, Cereza can use her magic to grip enemies and keep them in place for Cheshire to wail on them. This is easier to achieve when you don’t have to worry about pulling off her magic. For that, I applaud the accessibility on offer, as PlatinumGames clearly wants as many players to enjoy the experience as possible.
Not only can you adjust how magic works in Bayonetta Origins, but if you want to experience the heartwarming story of a girl fighting to save her mother with little exertion in the ways of combat, there are changes you can make to damage output, damage taken, and more. You can tailor the experience how you see fit, and for me, this is a great asset to the game.
Going into the game, I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive about the controls, especially when the time comes to use both characters at the same time. However, my fears are unfounded, as it works beautifully. Everything runs in tandem, and at no point do I feel as though it’s too much for me to handle. The changes you can make to how the game works can help to make things feel a little less daunting, and I certainly appreciate not having to worry about button inputs with Cereza.
A limitation in controls can sometimes restrict the game’s accessibility, particularly when it comes to a game like Bayonetta Origins, where you need to use the left side of the controller for one character and the right half for the other. It’s easy for a system like this to feel overwhelming, yet that’s not the case here. A perfect example of this is when you’re in a Tír na nÓg, these special areas (akin to dungeons) vary in the challenge that they pose. Some may purely offer a combat task, while others invite you to complete an array of puzzles, which requires you to make full use of both characters simultaneously.
Furthermore, Tír na nÓgs are stunning. I was in awe the very first time I found myself in one, and despite completing the vast majority of them, I still feel the exact same way, and that’s thanks to the variety in what they expect from you. While these areas are mostly optional, they house some great rewards, including permanent boosts to Cereza’s health, so let the game take your breath away while reaping the rewards.
Both characters control well. They move fluidly and expertly. Neither pulls back the other when working together. It feels like PlatinumGames has created a fine piece of art. Actually, that’s the perfect word to describe it, for the graphics are reminiscent of paintings, and it looks stunning, especially with the setting in which the game takes place. Better yet, when it comes to story moments, Bayonetta Origins tells them to you through illustrations in a book. It feels like I’m embarking on a fairytale journey at times.
When you combine all of that with the fact that I’m yet to encounter a single performance issue with the game, I have nothing negative to say about it at all. Bayonetta Origins is the perfect spin-off game to the Bayonetta trilogy, and I, for one, love this in-depth look at a young Cereza, to me, it gives even more depth to the umbra witch. In essence, this is a chance to see the girl behind the tempting seductress, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s a must-play for new and old fans alike.
Bayonetta Origins review
Bayonetta Origins shows you the umbra witch in a whole new way, and while you may feel sceptical about her going from heavy action to puzzles, Platinum Games nailed the transition flawlessly. While different to the trilogy, the gameplay is engaging, the world is stunning, and the story of Cereza and Cheshire is precious. I can’t recommend this game enough.