Bayonetta 2 was released on the Wii U in 2014, eight years ago. Regardless of whether or not you were a fan of the console, the Wii U was ultimately a bust with almost no "killer apps" aside from PlatinumGames' Bayonetta series. While support for the console quickly came and went, it was re-released on the Nintendo Switch where it has seen far better success in 2018. In the span of almost a decade, fans have asked for Bayonetta 3 ever since it has been teased that it was in development.
Even before its announcement, Bayonetta has been a staple of Nintendo, appearing in Super Smash Brothers as well as various cameos. Nintendo had a huge role in Bayonetta's sustained success as the publisher who saved the series when neither Sony, Microsoft, nor SEGA wanted to do so. This has always made the series a unique case as SEGA still owns the right to the first game, meaning that while the first game had appeared on multiple platforms, Bayonetta 2 onward is on Nintendo properties.
This leads me into a unique situation as I've never played the second game for I never had a Wii U. Even when it was released on the Switch, I still had not had the chance to play the sequel as of this writing. I'll answer the question for those who are also in a similar predicament. You don't have to play both games but you must play the first game at the very least. Much like No More Heroes, the first two games are directly connected while the third game is more "standalone," expecting you to know the major characters at play.
Bayonetta 3 begins with the titular character fighting an entity and meeting her match. She goes into a dialogue about wondering if there's another version of herself living a better life. This subtly segues into the concept of "wibbly wobbly timey whimey" involving a second Bayonetta. Following the apparent death of the original Bayonetta, her ally and newcomer Viola enters a time gate while bringing other monstrosities with her.
The actual beginning sees the current Bayonetta shopping while her handler Enzo is forced and dragged around. For those who hadn't played the original Bayonetta, there are similarities between the opening here and the original. In every Bayonetta game, the duo hangs around while she looks for angels to hunt. Something goes wrong and in a dramatic fashion, Bayonetta enters combat mode with the biggest grace. If you're on a yacht in New York, you have to make an impression somehow.
Combat in Bayonetta 3 is similar to the other titles, specifically the first game, which meant that it was easy to grasp the controls. Very little changed over a decade ago, but Bayonetta does have some tricks up her sleeve. I'm not sure if this was a thing in the second game, but it seems in this game she has sort of a "Devil Trigger," allowing herself to transform into Madama Butterfly and amplify her attacks. Witch Time exists as well, with a well-timed dodge and entering slow-motion mode.
I'll address the elephant in the room and state that Bayonetta does have a new voice. For reasons I will not state here and can be answered with a Google search (you don't have to look far), longtime Bayonetta Voice Actress, Hellena Taylor, didn't return to reprise her role. This time, veteran VA Jennifer Hale takes on the weaving witch and she plays it exceptionally well. She sounds like a more youthful and sprightly Bayonetta, which combined with her updated appearance, isn't too far off.
Hale doesn't "continue where Taylor left off," but rather she gives us a unique part of Bayonetta The same coin but a different side so to speak. Those who were concerned about the switch-up can rest assured that this is still the sassy and confident Bayo we spent years playing. Unlike most prologues, this one is a seemingly endless boss rush as more monsters throw themselves at her. When she summons her demons for her iconic Climax attack, she's told by long-time ally Rodin that the monsters fought aren't Paradiso angels.
It's here that Bayonetta 3 turns into a kaiju. Rather than using the demons as finishers, Bayonetta tames the demons using her magic and controls them like it was Pokemon. The demon has different attacks depending on what button is pressed and can cause wanton destruction as it is on the field. Bayonetta cannot move while the demon is out as she is channeling her magic to control it. This means to get out of harm's way she would need to unsummon the demon, offering a bit of strategy and positioning.
At the end of the prologue, several other notable characters make their appearance, and just like that, New York is destroyed. Thus begins the journey of Bayonetta 3 with both familiar and new aesthetics. If you were like me and afraid you'd be out of the loop, don't be. I highly recommend replaying the first game to grow accustomed to the characters, settings, and gameplay.
Those completely new to the series should definitely play the first game as it holds up to this day and you'll probably be lost without the context. Check back here soon for a full fleshed-out review of everyone's favorite witch!
Bayonetta 3 is now available on the Nintendo Switch.