Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon in the test - magical puzzle adventure not only for Bayonetta fans

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon in the test - magical puzzle adventure not only for Bayonetta fans

Bayonetta Origins

The Bayonetta series includes three titles so far, two of them exclusive to Nintendo consoles, which have been praised by fans of the hack 'n' slash genre for their action-packed gameplay and spectacular attack combos. Once a game series has firmly established itself in a genre, it's exciting to see what happens when its development studio dares to step into a completely different genre. The latest example of this is Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, a prequel that still comes from PlatinumGames, but takes a completely different direction in terms of both visuals and gameplay - and thus far more players than the actual one main row.

Once upon a time there was a young witch...

The Lumen Sage and the Umbra Witches - two powerful magical clans whose members vowed to keep apart to avoid conflict between them. However, when a witch once fell in love with a sage and as a result gave birth to a child who combined the blood of both clans, both were punished for breaking the taboo: the sage was banished while the witch was imprisoned. Since then, the young girl Cereza has been ostracized and cursed by the other witches of her clan. Only the witch Morgana, who is also living in exile, takes on the young witch and trains her in the dark arts. One night, the inexperienced witch-in-training has a dream: a mysterious boy appears to her and promises to give her the power to free her mother from her cell. To do this, however, she must enter the enchanted forest of Avalon, a place her teacher warns her against. Fairies live there, mischievous creatures who love kidnapping lost children. Nevertheless, convinced of the boy's words, Cereza grabs her faithful plush cat Cheshire and sneaks into the forest in the dark of night.

Cereza knows many plants in the forest of Growing Avalon with her magical witch pulse

© Nintendo / SEGA

Once there, Cereza is initially on her own and can't do much more than move, climb ladders, or use her magical Umbra -Arts to cast on some plants of the forest to make them grow. And as is natural when someone tempts fate like this, it's not long before Cereza finds himself cornered by a group of fairies, with no way of fending off their adversaries. Desperately, the young witch tries to summon a demon from hell to take on the nasty fairies in her place, although she has already failed at such a summoning in the past. As luck would have it, she succeeds in summoning this time, but not as originally planned: While hell demons are usually bound by the hair of an Umbra witch and subjected to her will, the spell goes awry and a fierce figure nests in Cerezas instead stuffed animal one. The witch and demon are obviously not very enthusiastic about the outcome of this incantation, but quickly realize that they only have a chance together to defend themselves against the dangers that the forest of Avalon has in store. And so Cereza goes in search of the mysterious boy, while the demon, who hasn't yet been named and is therefore called by Cereza like her stuffed animal, hopes for the witch's promise to set him free once her goal has been achieved and she reluctantly hopes pledges his support.

What is special about this concept is the fact that the extraordinary and purposefully created cooperation between the girl and the creature from hell is not only the plot, but also the Significantly influenced gameplay. You control Cereza with the left Joy-Con (or the left half of your controller), while Cheshire can only be controlled with the right Joy-Con (or the right side of your controller). So you have to navigate both characters with the respective sticks, which is certainly quite unusual at first, but quickly becomes second nature. Additionally, by holding the ZL button, Cereza can use her Umbra Arts to either cast magic on nearby objects or shackle enemies in battle, temporarily immobilizing them. If she influences plants or other objects with her witch's pulse, the gameplay devolves into a kind of little rhythm game, where you use the left control stick to match the beat, which is represented by a light circling Cereza. Later-game variations require you to tilt the stick in four directions instead of three, quickly press the stick twice in one direction, or tilt the stick in one direction and then continue arcing. This may sound complicated, but it is quite easy to do; Fortunately, mistakes are not punished either.

Teamwork is the key to victory: While Cereza binds the dragon with her magic, Cheshire can really hit him

© Nintendo / SEGA

Cheshire, on the other hand, is your only weapon against the goblin-like fairies that regularly try to make your life difficult. This plush demon can dish out powerful paws by pressing the ZR button. Charged attacks can also be used tactically in battle, and you can even devour weak opponents to replenish your magic. This is mainly used in Cheshire's elemental forms. Throughout the game, you seek and destroy elemental cores in the Forest of Avalon. Once you've eliminated one of them, Cereza can not only absorb the elemental energy of the respective type, which removes path blockages, but Cheshire also benefits significantly by being able to change his form using the A, B, X and Y buttons . In his various forms, he not only deals elemental damage that can do more against certain enemies, but can also perform special actions by pressing the R button. For example, Wooden Cheshire can use its tongue as a tendril to tug at objects or snatch a protective shield from enemies. Stone Cheshire, on the other hand, can stomp hidden objects out of the ground due to its high weight and effortlessly defies attacks due to its steel-hard skin. Fire Cheshire and Water Cheshire, on the other hand, excel in their missiles, which they can use to harass enemies from afar. While the fireballs can also melt walls of ice, the water jet can be used wonderfully to cross the water on a floating lily pad. So you can expect a whole range of elementary puzzles in the area that will make it difficult for you to progress. Unfortunately, the developers have not managed to combine the elementary skills for really challenging puzzles. Only the combined use of wood and water Cheshire is occasionally necessary, which is also the highest of feelings when it comes to solving puzzles. What a pity!

In addition to various obstacles, the fairies also want to keep you from exploring the forest. Every now and then you will find distortions of reality that lead you to a rift that lets you slip into a so-called "Tír na nÓg". If you make it to the end of these particularly mystical-looking phantasm dungeons, you'll be able to unlock the distortions and explore new areas. Although there is a certain variety and variety in the Tír na nÓg trials, especially at the beginning of the game, these unfortunately degenerate into generic combat challenges in the same environments over the course of the game. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of wasted potential here. The developers have apparently either run out of ideas or the time to implement them.

A talent tree lets you invest the resources you have found in order to give Cereza and Cheshire new skills to bestow

© Nintendo / SEGA

Especially when exploring, but even if you're running out of magic in combat, it's also useful to recall Cheshire to Cereza. By pressing the L button, he transforms back into his much smaller plushie form and is carried in Cereza's arms. In this so-called "cuddle mode" Cheshire's magical energy regenerates and you can stretch him around you like on a kind of magical leash. This is useful for collecting items lying around or for performing a kind of jumping maneuver at certain points. You can use the items you collect in two ways. You can spend some of these in a skill tree to give both Cereza and Cheshire new action options. For example, the young witch can bind multiple enemies at once, or Cheshire uses his charged attack as a powerful finisher. The further you progress in the story, the more skills you can acquire. On the other hand, you will also find materials that you can use to brew potions. Cereza can then use this with the control pad, for example to heal himself or to provide Cheshire with unlimited magic for a short time. Unlike the main parts of the Bayonetta series, you can even brew several potions at once here and don't have to spend a little eternity in the menu each time - how great!

In terms of game support, many other games can certainly learn a lesson from Bayonetta Origins. In addition to the usual settings for the screen or sound, you will find options that can simplify the game according to your wishes. So if you place more value on exploring the world or the storyline, you can, for example, reduce or even negate the damage received, give Cheshire unlimited magic or let Cereza automatically use her witch pulse, which influences objects in her environment. This allows everyone to adapt the game to their own wishes and abilities. However, as someone who loves to explore every corner of the world and turn over every little stone, I would have liked a clearer map in the game. Although the map looks pretty in the appropriate watercolor style, it is not informative. Important connections such as ladders or tendrils are not shown and transitions to other areas are only marked with arrows, which do not reveal exactly where they lead you.

Cutscenes are attractively presented in the form of watercolor illustrations on the pages of a picture book

© Nintendo / SEGA

A major highlight of the game is certainly the look of the puzzle adventure. While many games today are based on hand-drawn environments and stylized design, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon stands out with its watercolor look in the isometric camera perspective. The many sparkling effects let the forest of Avalon with its various localities shine in a mystical-magical atmosphere. Due to the chosen style, the frame rate is consistently stable and without noticeable drops. If you look closely, you will notice that items and other objects only appear from a certain distance, but this never really bothered me. The plot is presented in picture book form, which scrolls through cutscenes and features slowly building illustrations that often move at first before freezing when the book wants to turn to the next page. Here, too, it is up to you to decide whether you want to speed up the sequences, let them scroll automatically or skip them entirely. As a big fan of the Bayonetta series' auditory design, I'm happy to report that the music and general sound design of Cereza and the Lost Demon are also a real treat for the ears. There are mysterious and magical melodies everywhere, especially in the music, which bring the setting in the forest of Avalon to life, but also contain familiar Bayonetta melodies at one point or another. The English dubbing voices are also convincing, especially the voice of the narrator contributes to the fairytale atmosphere of the game. Only when it comes to the mysterious boy from Cereza's dreams does the question arise why no actual boy was found for the role, but instead a dubbing actress who tried a little too hard to sound like a boy for my taste.
However, the Bayonetta series was not only known for its excellent action gameplay and spectacular set pieces, but also for the depictions of violence and the protagonists' partial nudity. In line with the story of a much more childlike Cereza, which is presented to us in Bayonetta Origins, I can give the all-clear here. With a USK 12 age recommendation, Cereza and the Lost Demon is not only aimed at die-hard Bayonetta fans and puzzle adventure lovers, but also, for the first time, at a younger target audience. Speaking of the series: The name of the game, "Bayonetta Origins", gives the impression that PlatinumGames might want to tell more background stories in the future. With Cereza and the Lost Demon dedicating itself to the childhood of the titular witch, I'm thirsty to learn more about other mysterious characters from the Bayonetta universe. Maybe at some point we'll find out why Rodin equips Bayonetta with new weapons or what argument Madama Butterfly started with Alraune. Only time will tell if this will be a new series beyond the main series, or if Cereza and the Lost Demon remains the only origin story PlatinumGames wants to tell us.

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