Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon | Review

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon | Review

Bayonetta Origins

While watching the credits roll of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon , I realized that I literally fell in love with this game. There were no doubts about it, especially considering how I enjoyed the second half of the game in one breath, without hitches, losses or uncertainties.

I therefore stopped to reflect on the reasons for this infatuation, especially in the light of the experience we had a few months ago with Bayonetta 3 . The last chapter of the original trilogy didn't turn out to be a perfect game – quite the contrary – yet it had amused me from start to finish, non-stop, often putting an exalted smile on my face.

So I thought I had found myself in a similar situation, captivated by a video game beyond its actual merits and willing to overlook its shortcomings. I thought, I rewound the tape, I tried it again after the conclusion and… no, I actually think that this strange and unpredictable prequel is really a well packaged product, whose value manages to go beyond the expectations of any fan (and not ) dazed by the announcement of a title far from being a stylish action game .

As happened other times, before continuing with the review, I suggest you retrieve the preview, if you haven't already done so, full of details about the fundamentals of the game that may not be covered in this review for avoid being redundant. It is also possible to try a full-bodied demo, with which to experience the initial stages of the adventure and preserve your progress for the full version.

The eye also wants its part

It is clear that when a "new" production like this relies on its audience it is really important to make a good impression, right away. From this point of view, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon does not miss a beat, which is shown with an immediately captivating watercolor cel shading graphic rendering, which supports and elevates the original character design that dances between the figurine and the fairy tale illustration.

We are far from what we have come to know and love in the chapters of the main series, and we are in a real children's book. Luckily, over the years there have been many productions that have shattered the aesthetic prejudice, proposing entrancing and unmissable experiences while starting from apparently childish foundations.

The artistic direction is solid, aiming for sophisticated designs but with almost abstract traits, which blend perfectly with the dreamy settings that host the plot events. So it will not be a coincidence that it is a dream that acts as a trigger for the events of this story, with the young Cereza forced to relive the separation from her mother every time she lies down in the arms of Morpheus

In dream world is a young boy, apparently the same age as Cereza, who invites her to the forest of Avalon, a place where she would find a source of power capable of helping her recover her mother. The final goal is so great and important as to make the young woman unable to consider any danger. The leap into the dark echoes of courage but it is indeed foolish, and the protagonist discovers it very soon.

Out for the first time from the safety of the mansion in which she was hosted by her teacher, Morgana, the little witch enters a kingdom totally unknown to her, apparently at the mercy of nature but in reality dominated by fearsome fairies.

Saturated and bright colors alternate with natural, almost dull hues: in the general design, the apprentice witch of Umbra stands out decisively, outlined by a black outline that is not typical of other creatures. A choice that denotes the differences of this "human" compared to the inhabitants of the fairy kingdom, which also allows us to more easily trace our avatar during exploration.

Avalon is amazingly rich in detail and elaborate in its views, piquing the player's curiosity both immediately and in the long term. In fact, the playing areas extend over 3 different levels of depth and, despite the fixed camera, they often allow us to cast our eyes towards passages and ravines that could - with the right power - open up new paths for us.

L Exploration is therefore driven not only by plot obligations (clearly indicated, fear not), but also by the game world's ability to amaze and intrigue us, prompting us to our next move. While not being able to enjoy the details that a hardware tested in high definition renderings could offer, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon overcomes the uncertainties of a few too many jagged lines to offer overall a solid and very pleasant visual system, without incurring annoying slowdowns. Each area is distinct and recognizable, and some locations are truly surprising for their personality and sophistication.

Cheshire, the star of Bayonetta Origins

I don't mind the young Bayonetta, who hopefully will understand having not yet developed the temper that distinguishes her in the main series, but if I had to identify the true protagonist of this title it would be Cheshire , the demon that little Cereza accidentally invokes in the early stages of the game.

Grumpy, clumsy and inexperienced, the creature breaks the screen thanks to its design that takes the imagination of the rag doll to extremes, built with somewhat random elements, and lights it up with colors and textures that go far beyond the darned fabric, instead recalling the brushstrokes of Modernism .

It may be a little ungainly, but its power is essential to allow Cereza (and the player) to overcome the challenges that await them. The bizarre duo thrives on contrasts and complementarities, trying to smooth over the shortcomings of the individuals – both inexperienced – compensating with the qualities of the other.

On the exploration side, we will see Cereza use the magic of dance to activate some areas of map and provide new passages or footholds useful for the continuation. Ceshire, on the other hand, will use her powerful claws to remove obstacles, clearing the way where necessary. However, the forest of Avalon is a place permeated by elemental magic, and often the two will find themselves having to make forced choices due to seals and blocks with which it is not possible to interact.

And it is here that Cheshire becomes the protagonist : with the continuation of the plot our duo will come into possession of powers related to the elements (wood, stone, water and fire), which in addition to changing the aesthetics of the stuffed cat, provide him with new abilities with which he can finally access otherwise inaccessible places or activate previously unusable mechanisms .

To understand, the power of wood allows him to use his tongue as a vine, with which to drag objects with a handhold, water to emit powerful jets with which to activate mechanisms whirlpool and the stone to break through unsafe surfaces. Fire… well, with fire melts ice, of course.

Although Cereza also grows as a sorceress over time, it is Ceshire who dictates the progression, like any good self-respecting protagonist.

Players who travel fast, maybe too much

It's probably already evident, but I think it's worth noting: Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is not structured in a linear way, mission after mission , like the regular series but it is instead a real three-dimensional Metroidvania (a la Metroid Prime , with due proportions), divided into chapters that mark the crucial moments of the adventure.

You will therefore find yourself, at least initially, having to give up the exploration of some areas, then recovering them when you come into possession of the correct elemental power. And it is after a conspicuous learning phase that the player is therefore allowed to use fast travel, a fundamental tool.

The reasons that dictate off-plot exploration are easy to say: the recovery of resources useful for learning the skills of the characters and the collection of the various lost sprites, present in the various corners of the map - and before you create expectations, they too tend to provide objects related to the growth of the character.

Yes therefore go from sifting through every corner to find a crystal or material in the bushes to solving timed skill puzzles, then looking for the best ways to reach the Pearls of the Moon and the Infernal Fruits, which allow you to unlock the advanced skills of Cereza and Ceshire.

Occasionally we will also appear in projections of the fairy world, the Tír na nÓg , to be completed by testing the synergy between the two characters on environmental puzzles or in combat you lie. These are real hidden mini-worlds, which add depth to the exploration and breadth to the world of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon.

Obviously the dynamic duo will also find themselves beating hands , with the witch of Umbra using her abilities to slow down enemies and the demon using claws and elemental abilities to take them out . The creature library is adequately stocked with opponents, who often acquire new abilities through elemental infusion. It will be up to us to figure out which one to use, even if the visual language is blatant, to get the better of it.

Honorable mention for the bosses: there aren't many, but they all offer an experience rather different from each other, in some cases offering specific gimmicks related to the nature of the character or the environment in which they are faced. Between circus subjects (literally) and creatures that seem to emerge from Monster Hunter, the kingdom of fairies will launch truly formidable rivals at you.

The challenging element in this case will not be the only difficulty, basically calibrated towards a medium/low level, but rather your ability to coordinate the two characters: in fact, we remind you that Cereza and Ceshire are each assigned to half a controller (or to a single Joy-Con), complete with separate control of the sticks for movements and backbones for attacks and spells. It takes training, I assure you, to perform certain maneuvers under pressure!

However, I found the experience very engaging as a whole, without ever falling into frustration and finding it challenging mainly in the final stages. The curious player will never need to waste time to "farm" healing and power-up items (he will find them galore) and a fair amount of skill will also allow him not to have to resort to Cereza's skills in creating potions and perfumes, managing to overcome clashes with basic energy, recharging with end-of-battle bonuses.

From personal experience, almost all the challenges in the game are quite readable and with the right attention they can be overcome on the first try. A spike in difficulty should certainly be highlighted in the last 2-3 bosses, but the spectacularity of the staging and the possibility of using many skills in a reasoned way make these challenges exciting.

Cereza's heart shines in her imperfections

In the preview phase we were left with very positive feelings about the value of the game, with some doubts about what could be the narrative scope of a product that seemed very detached from the franchise and somehow created only and exclusively to give substance to some of the elements introduced in the third chapter - in some cases presented in an all too risky way.

Without wanting to fall into spoilers, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is an origin story yes interesting, capable in some moments knows how to touch the right strings and tease the fans, which however closes in on itself as often happens when we talk about narrative inserts in contexts that already exist try and consolidate.

Every now and then I have perceived the same absence of urgency that a "filler episode", perhaps created on purpose to insert a retcon of sorts, can convey. This is clear is due to the previous experience with animation, TV series and even historical video game franchises that have taken similar steps. You recognize the signals and raise your antennas, a little worried.

However, taking Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon for what it is, i.e. a game that tells the past without the claim to position itself as Episode 1 in Star Wars can be, at the end of the journey one can only express a judgment of appreciation for the work and for the choices prepared by the team.

What can be reproached for this game? Perhaps the lack of courage in really putting the player to the test with control of the two characters: initially the game seems to want to marry the puzzle game approach, instead giving way more to action - still fun and intriguing in its mechanics. Maybe the absence of animated cutscenes could weigh, but with a story told like leafing through a book and propped up by practically perfect voice acting, you don't feel the weight.

Exploration also really requires a lot attention and ability to read maps on several levels, leading the less experienced to get lost, but it is the classic problem of the genre. It's up to the player to put the pieces together in his own mental map to navigate better.

Bayonetta Origins, a love story

Finally, something more could be desired in advanced combat, varying the options available to the player - indeed limited - and not simplifying further in the final stages. The intent is clear, that is to introduce atypical mechanics such as the control of two characters at the same time without alienating all potential buyers.

That's why I literally fell in love with this game. Because Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a game that can be improved, but not flawed or flawed, and when it works at its best it offers an experience that stays in the mind – as well as being unique in the Nintendo Switch library.

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