As the year winds down, we are looking at some of the great games we missed. We thought the new Bayonetta would be a perfect game for the Halloween season.
By Karila-Monique Warner
As a fan of the Bayonetta franchise since the first iteration was released in 2009 by PlatinumGames and published by Sega, I’d been readying a lot of excitement for this next installment. Bayonetta 3 had been a disappointment to many but there was a hidden puzzle within the code. This unlocked the first look at Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon (CLD) as a playable demo. I wanted that immediately.
This game is a huge deviation from the original gameplay and story. CLD opens with a dark fairytale detailing how our protagonist arrived in this world. Cereza is under the careful guidance of Morgana, an exiled witch that is training her to strengthen her abilities. It’s narrated by Jenny Lee, who uses a mysterious tone to create an ominous feel. The brevity with which they went through the origins that created Cereza, a young umbra witch with long dark hair that carries a tattered stuffed cat doll, was both welcoming and disappointing. Fans of the series would be exhausted from hearing the tale as they would already know this if they played all three games. But seeing this remade left so much opportunity to maybe learn a bit more about why these clans are rivals beyond, I was fine with it.
Unlike previous games in the series, the tutorial isn’t presented to players in a separate practice screen. Instead, you are immersed in the opening sequence where Cereza is merely trying to find her mother. Previous games have tossed you into battle at the very beginning and you have no idea how to control the protagonist. But with a quick round of button mashing you can figure it out. CLD takes out the guessing work and combines the tutorial with the opening sequence.
There are two tasks in the tutorial that are a bit tedious, one where you have to fetch water and the other to gather herbs for Morgana. But there is something valuable in seeing that Cereza doesn’t just magically have the strength to carry off a bucket of water. As you learn, the cutscenes are broken up mostly into storybook form. The page turns are even animated and highlighted with sound. I really enjoyed the storybook nature of the cutscenes because it adds to its “Alice in Wonderland” whimsy. During these cutscenes, the background playing of the piano will adjust, increasing the emotional height of the situation.
Beyond the tutorial, whenever Cereza is frightened (she is, after all, only 15 years old), she will slow down on her own, carefully and suspiciously eyeing her surroundings. I found this to be a little redundant because it would happen during some of the most important moments. But for the first few times, it can add to your fear as the player. What could be lurking in the shadows? The high-pitched piano backed with cello struck fear in me and I even was jolted with Cereza when the fairies in the forest jumped out to attack.
The game introduces Cheshire, a giant catlike demon that possesses Cereza’s stuffed animal, your familiar and weapon in the game. Cereza uses a demon summoning spell to defend herself from a group of attacking fairies. Cheshire is the only demon you will have access to throughout the game because Cereza is still an apprentice witch. The fight scenes with both characters actually take a bit of strategy and planning because once you unleash Cheshire you have to control him with the R stick and ZR button; and Cereza with the L stick and ZL button. I found myself stuck in places because of this mechanic. I can’t say I enjoyed that part because it made some of the extra levels extremely challenging, especially if I wasn’t paying attention to where Cereza was standing when I summoned Cheshire. I would forget to move her which would leave Cheshire in a prime spot to be attacked and wounded just as my attention was pulled to Cereza’s high-pitched squeal after she’s was hit.
Once you get through several chapters, you unlock elements for Cheshire, wood, fire, water and stone. They make getting past puzzles and different enemies a lot easier. But this also becomes a lot to manage when you have to remember which elements work for which fairy type. So there’s a lot of strategy required for CLD which wasn’t really important for the earlier games. Button mashing can get you through Bayonetta 1 through 3, but not through CLD. You have to be mindful of where you place Cereza before you summon Cheshire and you have to quickly switch between elements as different enemies appear. Cereza can help Cheshire when there are hordes by using a thorn bind spell that traps enemies in their spot with sharp thorns and vines. But this only lasts a few seconds. I usually use the thorn bind to trap enemies that get too close to Cereza and then move her out of the way to a new safe spot.
Thorn bind is the only spell attack Cereza can use, but this spell can be upgraded to bind more than one enemy. That’s very useful in CLD since enemies usually attack in groups of threes or fours. The map is open for exploration but has limitations to where you can travel and thorn bind is very useful for evading traps in each location as well.
The game provides something for everyone. There’s action sequences in the fighting moments and there’s puzzles that can only be solved with one of Cereza’s spells or with one of Cheshire’s elements. I was excited to experience a sixth chapter battle where you had to fight off an ambush of fairies that had attempted to kidnap Cereza. A really fun and challenging puzzle was navigating a Tír na Nóg dungeon with both Cereza and Cheshire separately. They each had to stand on a platform to unlock doors and bridges to get across. Like every game in the Bayonetta franchise, the game makers give players the option to automate some of the spells, like the witch pulse spell that grows flowers that allow Cereza to reach specific platforms or to obtain onyx roses.
I spent hours locating moon pearls across the world because the final boss had beaten me several times. That’s because I had low magical vitality for both Cheshire and Cereza. Leveling up Cereza and Cheshire to max level with moon pearls is important because it’ll make combat and traveling through the world easier. Moon pearls are are hard to find, unless you complete multiple Tír na Nóg dungeons. Once completed, the dungeons often drop either moon pearls or vitality flowers that increase Cereza’s health.
Like all the games in the franchise, there are secret levels you can access that help to upgrade your map of the world. You only have limited view in the beginning and can only unlock the full location if you defeat the Tír na Nóg dungeons. Truthfully, the secret missions were fun extra battles and puzzles throughout the game, and successful completion would always reward you with lots of onyx roses and avalon drops. These are used to upgrade skills you’ve already obtained throughout the game, such as Cereza’s thorn bind or one of Cheshire’s elements.
I really loved that CLD was not a full action game like its predecessors. The story of a young Cereza trying to become stronger so she could do great things had me cheering her on when she successfully did something in the cutscenes or when a new skill would be unlocked. The player is pulled into the inexperience and is fully whisked away into the story. I felt scared with Cereza; I felt a sense of accomplishment with Cereza; I felt disappointment with Cereza. Yes, the high action sequences of the first three games are nowhere to be found in CLD. But the moments where Cheshire is slashing through enemies or using combos that meld with thorn bind were exhilarating.
It’s during this kind of play that the soundtrack made most sense to me. The music’s pace would pick up with each battle; the piano increases in tempo, the scenery would slowly lose focus. As tension rises, you are left wondering what is going to happen next. The cello would become sharper when Cereza fell from any height during a cutscene. Somber piano during any sad or heavy moments would compliment Cereza’s scene.
Randomly generated battles added to the anxiety that you feel when you play CLD. It’s good anxiety because you never know what’s coming next. I was running along, following the path toward a lost soul when I was ambushed by a group of fairies that hid within a flower. I used witch pulse, which transformed the environment and dispelled illusions. They burst from the plants defeated once I completed the sequence. Moments like that are why I genuinely love this game. I loved its references to literature beyond “Alice in Wonderland.” There were moments reminiscent of Peter Pan, too. The narrator and Morgana both share similar accents with Morgana’s being more Scottish.
The magical differences within Bayonatta: Cereza and the Lost Demon made this the most unique game in the series. It also had its share of winning moments, especially with the twist at the end before fighting the final boss. Yes, this twist of betrayal is a common one throughout the franchise. But here, it comes unexpectedly, perhaps because the gameplay was so different. I loved how they still managed to surprise me with tried and true tricks by burying me in all new content and ways of playing. I expected a game where Cereza would be young – yet still be that same fiery Bayonetta we get in the earlier games. Instead, players are challenged to grow courageous with Cereza and cheer her on as you play through.
Karila-Monique Warner has streamed games on Twitch for NYVGCC.
Over 95% of the reviews and essays on NYGameCritics.com are created by our paid student interns and mentors who have taken our classes. Donations help support our incredible student writers.