Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon - A Storybook Beginning
I think origin stories are a hard sell sometimes. You’re used to a hero working their way up to their best, and it’s hard enough to ‘reset’ them between games so you can build them up again. Origins though, you’re dealing with characters at their earliest which can be a coin flip on how it makes you feel.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon allows players to delve into the childhood of Cereza, unsurprisingly. Her mother was captured for breaking taboo, and kicked out of the town she lived in, Cereza lives out of town with a witch who doesn’t care much for the goings-on in the city, Morgana. Morgana takes care of Cereza and trains her in magic (a bit). After Cereza dreams of some boy who ominously beckons her to “seek the white wolf” in Avalon Forest to free her mother, a place she’s forbidden from going. Kids being kids, she sets off with only her magic brace, her stuffed toy cat Cheshire and a hope and a prayer. Things going the way things go, she gets into trouble, summons a reluctant demon into her toy and continues on her quest, Cheshire by her side.
I spoke a lot about the styling of the game in my preview, and that remains true throughout the entire game. I didn’t get tired of the aesthetic at all, I think it’s remixed in plenty of interesting ways so that the relatively smallish map has plenty of variety. This is good because if you want some of those juicy secrets, you’re going to spend a good amount of time backtracking.
The secrets are actually super interesting. Design-wise I think it’s a bit odd. Some of the collectables are lore, but some of them are incredibly important Moon Pearls or Inferno Fruits, which play a critical role in upgrading your skills. The juxtaposition is huge, and so I end up prioritising finding the useful ones more than anything. Thankfully the map does show where collectables are in an area after you’ve cleared the special Tír na nÓg stages. Unfortunately, I found the map itself a bit of a mixed bag, where it seemed to have a lot of trouble showing elevation, so I would try and walk down paths that showed on the map but just did not exist. At least not from the path I was taking.
Combat is interesting. Coming from the mainline games where there are so many options for combos and weapons, this game feels very limited. You’ll unlock a few new abilities for Cereza, and Cheshire has a few form changes that give new attacks, and its attacks can be augmented too via upgrades, but not too many of the enemies need intricate strategies to kill and it’s not the type of game where combos are counted, so you can rely on a few basics and get by throughout the entire game.
Enemies and environments seem to be lifted straight from Celtic lore. The forest is rife with the fae, and whilst the combat feels basic, the enemy design is wonderful. Whether it be the Spriggan and its massive shield, or the cheeky Amadán, I enjoyed the designs thoroughly. This is especially true of the boss encounters, which shine above the rest.
The funny thing is, many of the choices made in the game are representative of Cereza’s origins. She doesn’t have strong magic to fall back on, and isn’t able to summon huge demons, she’s inept in combat and is unable to control her summons fully. She’s a kid, after all. She’s unsure, she gets scared, and she makes terrible decisions. I think this is all part of growing up and like ourselves, failing and getting up again is an integral part of what makes us who we are.
Even the narration and voice acting is light and whilst I didn’t hugely enjoy it, Cheshire’s voice being done by the narrator gives credence to the entire storybook style. Like a parent putting on voices for their child at bedtime. Admittedly, thematically this feels a little closer to traditional Grimm faerie tales rather than the watered-down versions of today, but I think that makes it all the more interesting.
There is a lot to like here, but expectations can be a double-edged sword. If you’re expecting fluid combat and myriad enemies, this is not that game. If you want to see how Bayonetta came about, and to learn some more lore about the game then this is the right game for you. Incidentally, even if you don’t like the combat in the mainline games, this is still a great little title about a child coming to grips with her power, setting off on her own and trying to right what she sees as a fundamental wrong. Remember, Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.
Bayonetta Origins was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by Nintendo Australia