Preview: Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

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A spin-off prequel that strips the sexuality of the Bayonetta series in favor of wholesomeness was definitely not something that was on my Nintendo bingo card for 2023, especially since Bayonet 3 just launched in October last year. Of course however, Origins of Bayonetta: Cereza and the Lost Demon was announced at The Game Awards 2022, causing some understandable confusion among fans. Not only are we getting a new Bayonetta game so soon after the last one, but it features an entirely different playstyle, art direction, and overall tone than what we’re used to with the notoriously risque franchise. After playing the first five chapters of Bayonetta Origins, I quickly realized that the extraordinarily talented developers at PlatinumGames should never be underestimated.

Before Bayonetta was the sassy badass we got to know, she was Cereza, a young girl born from the forbidden love of a witch and a sage. With her father exiled and her mother locked up in prison, Cereza was cared for by Morgana, a hard-to-love witch who would teach her the ways of the dark arts. One faithful day, Cereza awakens from a recurring nightmare where she tries, and fails, to save her mother. This time however, the dream ends differently, with a mysterious boy telling her that she can gain fantastical power by following the guidance of a white wolf through the Forbidden Forest of Avalon filled with fairies. Ignoring Morgana’s warnings, Cereza bravely ventures into the forest unaware of what may await her inside.

Bayonetta Origins emphasizes the story, told in chapters with a fully narrated and beautifully illustrated picture book art style. Given that she is only a child during this time, Cereza’s personality is one eighty of her adult self in the main games. She is naive, fearful, caring and humble, not afraid to be vulnerable and show her emotions. This also means that her ability to accurately perform magic spells is deeply flawed, but luckily she wears a special splint she got from Morgana that makes it easier. In an attempt to perform a summoning spell during a dire situation, Cereza accidentally summons a demon spirit that possesses her sentimental stuffed cat, Cheshire. In a fortuitous turn of events, the giant, heartless demon reluctantly helps Cereza, as he knows this is his only chance to return to his home of Inferno.

When it comes to action-adventure gameplay, you take control of Cereza and Cheshire simultaneously, each with the left and right halves of your controller. This means that theoretically you can play co-op using two Joy-Cons, but that’s not the intended way to play, nor was the game designed with that in mind. The left stick controls Cereza, while the right stick controls Cheshire, with the corresponding triggers acting as action buttons. For times when it’s not necessary to use both characters at the same time, you can shrink Cheshire down to stuffed toy size so Cereza can take her with her. Since Cereza hasn’t yet developed her hair’s magical transforming powers, and guns obviously aren’t an option like in other Bayonetta games, Cheshire is your primary method of combat. His moveset and abilities will grow even stronger as you find all four “elemental cores” through natural progression, and they can be swapped with each other at the press of a button.

Cheshire deals the most physical damage, but Cereza also has her own set of useful skills. She can not only interact with objects, she can also perform a few basic spells such as; Witch Pulse, magical energy that can be delivered to a target by rhythmically tilting the control stick, and Thorn Bind, temporarily freezing an enemy in place with thorns to allow the Cheshire to attack more easily. Additionally, while Cereza is holding Cheshire (known as “Hug Mode”), she can extend it forward to launch herself from platform to platform or collect hard-to-reach items. Hug Mode also allows him to toss Cheshire onto certain high ledges, a useful tactic when Rosemary is in your direct path, as Cheshire has a strong distaste for the smell of weed. You have to be very careful though, as the duo can’t stay too far apart for too long.

Progressing through the story is a mostly linear experience; solve puzzles, defeat enemy fairies and follow the clearly traced tracks of bright blue wolf paw prints. However, there are many hidden paths and trails to find secrets, and as you start unlocking new areas, access to much of the forest becomes intertwined. Some subsections require an elemental core that you won’t acquire until later in the game, so you’re very much encouraged to explore and revisit places you’ve been before. Abundantly spread throughout the forest are different items, ingredients to concoct items, and Onyx Roses/Avalon Drops, which can be used to upgrade the skill trees of Cereza and Cheshire respectively to gain new abilities. The act of upgrading your skill tree can only be done at shrines; recurring checkpoints where you can also save your game and optionally instantly travel to other shrines you’ve found.

Another thing you will come across semi-frequently as you venture into the forest are the “Tír na nÓg” steps. Tír na nÓg translates to “Land of the Young” and in Irish mythology, is described as “a paradise island and supernatural realm of eternal youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy”. These steps are the origin of the deceptive fairy illusions that Cereza witnesses in the forest. Inside a Tír na nÓg stage, you’ll go through various puzzle challenges to earn treasures, including Vitality Petals to increase your max health. Once completed, you can revisit them from shrines to gather up anything you might have missed and compete in new time trials to earn special collectibles.

As the Nintendo Switch nears its sixth anniversary, the hardware is undoubtedly starting to show its age with some of the most graphics-intensive software out there, but thankfully games like Bayonetta Origins are a saving grace. When a game has stylistic creativity and good art direction, it doesn’t always need high-end hardware to reach its maximum potential. This is why indie titles often sell the best on Switch, because you don’t have to sacrifice performance drastically by choosing to play the Switch version. Bayonetta Origins has the charm of an indie game with the budget and quality of a AAA title. The watercolor fairy tale book aesthetic is a visual anomaly and doesn’t noticeably hamper the frame rate. PlatinumGames has made Bayonetta 3 and Bayonetta Origins awesome in their own right.

I’m really looking forward to playing Bayonetta Origins until the end to give my final impressions, but given the first impressions, it certainly exceeded all expectations. So far, the narrative seems to be deep enough to satisfy already established Bayonetta fans, while opening the door for potential newcomers by being easy to follow with its wonderful storytelling method. Although quite different, the gameplay mechanics are on par with the mainline Bayonetta series, with enough similarities that its uniqueness is also familiar. Be sure to keep an eye here on My Nintendo News for our latest review ahead of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon launching on Switch on March 17, 2023. If you can’t wait and want to see more, you can unlock a short demo hidden game in Bayonetta 3.

A copy of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK.

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Article source https://mynintendonews.com/2023/02/28/preview-bayonetta-origins-cereza-and-the-lost-demon/

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