Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a prequel to the hit trilogy of action titles developed by PlatinumGames. Initially teased as a bonus unlockable in Bayonetta 3, it was finally revealed to be a full-fledged game at the 2022 Game Awards. In stark contrast to the rest of the series, this game takes a radically different approach, more akin to a Zelda-lite game than the combo heavy action romps the series is most known for. Does this game stick the landing and become a well-respected addition to the franchise? Or does it get lost in the forest of its own ambitions?

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
Nintendo Switch

Developed by PlatinumGames
Published by Nintendo
Released: 17th March 2023
Digital copy provided by Nintendo UK

The story tells of a forbidden love between two members of opposing clans, the Lumen Sages and the Umbra Witches, and their child Cereza. After the father is exiled and mother imprisoned, Cereza is taken in by another witch, Morgana, and trains desperately to be a powerful witch of her own right. Cereza has a dream where a mysterious boy tells her that the power she seeks to rescue her mother lies within the Avalon Forest, a forbidden place inhabited by Faeries who feed on the souls of humans. When she tries to venture forth, she is attacked by the Faeries and attempts to summon a demon to defend herself. However, the attempt isn’t entirely successful, and it ends up trapped inside her stuffed cat, Cheshire. Now she also has to find a way of returning the demon to Inferno, as well as fulfil her original wish.

Right off the bat, it’s extremely evident just how different the game is when put next to its counterparts. It is tonally very different from the usual Bayonetta fair, dropping the series signature personality for a different, more restrained approach. The stylised visuals are reminiscent of a picture book in motion, steeped in fairy tale themes with a watercolour aesthetic. This is a stark contrast to the bombastic and confident flair of the other games. This shows how Cereza is timid as a child, needing to prove herself with acts of great bravery before becoming a powerful witch.

Ultimately, this tonal shift is executed exceptionally well. It truly is a sight to behold, mastering the visual style effortlessly with a unique and characteristic aesthetic that’s taken full advantage of. Taking on the fairy tale vibe, then presenting the story scenes as a literal picture book is extremely appealing and arguably the game’s strongest asset. 

The gameplay is split into two halves, very literally. The game follows an asynchronous style, where you control Cereza and Cheshire independently from each other.  Cereza makes use of the left stick, ZL and L, while Cheshire takes the right stick, ZR and R into his own paws. Cheshire can switch between two modes, Unleashed mode where he strikes at foes with his powerful claws, and Hug mode where Cereza can use him to swing around and toss to new areas.

On her own, Cereza performs dances, where you get a sequence of directional inputs which you must match to continue the dance. These dances have a variety of effects, from affecting the environment to freezing enemies in place. Cheshire, on the other hand, is the offensive one, performing attacks to take out enemies or break barriers. Making use of each other’s abilities in tandem is the key to success.

Chapters mostly consist of traversing through the forest and navigating your way past various barriers and puzzles that involve you making use of the strengths and weaknesses of each Cereza and Cheshire. For example, Cheshire can’t pass through rosemary, no matter what, so he needs to separate from Cereza and take another path forward. Meanwhile, she will likely also need to clear some obstacles along the way, opening the way for Cheshire. This back and forth between the two of them keeps you active as you traverse Avalon Forest.

Management between the two simultaneously is a must, as you need to be careful in combat, maintaining situational awareness at all times. The combat is surprisingly in-depth, largely focused on maintaining the balance between Cereza, who acts as a support, and Cheshire dishing out the damage. There are a wide variety of Faerie enemies too, having different strategies and weaknesses you need to take advantage of to get through unscathed. 

Not only that, but keeping track of when the two are separated for puzzles is crucial for success, though you can at least take your time a little here. At first, this style is a little disorientating, so the game eases you into elements bit by bit so as not to overwhelm you. If you find some aspects too difficult, there are certain actions that can be automated in the options; the game even points this out whenever any new tutorial is over just to make sure you have the option straight away.

Throughout the game you can collect various ingredients used to concoct items by mixing them together in a cauldron, just like a witch! These items vary in use from healing tonics to reducing Umbran magic cooldown. The sanctuaries where you save your game are where you can concoct these items.

Several varieties of collectibles are hidden away in various nooks and crannies, which are used to upgrade both Cereza and Cheshire. Cereza makes use of Onyx Roses and Moon Pearls, while Cheshire consumes Avalon Drops and Inferno Fruit. The skills you can learn range from boosting abilities you already possess or outright learning new ones. Onyx Roses and Avalon Drops are fairly plentiful, while Moon Pearls and Inferno Fruit require more thorough searching to obtain, so spend them both wisely.

Scattered across the forest are areas known as Tír na nÓg. These are effectively mini-dungeons akin to shrines from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, filled with a variety of puzzles and combat scenarios, as well as treasures as rewards. These can be replayed from sanctuaries, where they can also be challenged as time trials as a test of skill and for additional goodies.

The main goal of the story is to locate the four Elemental Cores, which in turn grant Cheshire special abilities that aid him in both combat and in puzzle solving. You will no doubt spot sections that you can’t access right away, encouraging you to return later once you have obtained the means to get through. Much like Zelda, these optional side paths lead to hidden treasures, rewarding the player for coming back to a prior area. As such, the game is filled with various “aha!” moments where you obtain a new core and realise its uses from obstacles you’d bumped into previously.

While penned as a single player game, it is technically possible to play it as a co-op multiplayer experience if you use the Joy-Cons. It’s not entirely equal though, as various actions are limited to certain “halves” of the controller. Whoever has control of the right Joy-Con also has the ability to navigate menus and confirm with the A button, yet the left Joy-Con has total control of the rest of the game due to Cheshire not being necessary to have out for every section.

The game does open up very gradually, as various elements are only introduced as you progress further and further. This leads to a more methodically paced game, one you could call slow for that matter. You’re encouraged to take your time, with various little rewards dotted around. This slow pace is in stark contrast to the previous Bayonetta titles, where fast, frenetic action takes centrefold. As such, it may be a very polarising game for long-time fans.

Ultimately, the game is propped up by its unique mechanics and bold stylistic shift from the series norm. While the aesthetics and tone are wonderfully executed, the gameplay doesn’t quite reach the same heights, losing its lustre after the first half. It’s a quaint diversion that’s well worth the trip, but it could’ve been so much more at the same time. More experienced players will probably not find too much challenge in the game, which is something of a shame. While well executed, keep in mind that the game is likely targeted towards younger audiences, as such may not be as thoroughly engaging as the more mature, action focused older sisters.

Final rating – 3.5 out of 5

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is available now for Nintendo Switch.

Long time fan of Nintendo and games in general, I always lean on the quirkier and unique sides of things in particular. It all started when I was lucky enough to get a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Yellow for my tenth birthday and it’s been going strong ever since. I’ve always had a need to get my voice heard and share anything I find interesting with the world.