I’ve personally been a massive fan of Bayonetta since the series’ first installment on the PS3. I didn’t dare dream that this kid-friendly spinoff could even come close to reaching the highs of the original entries, but, slightly shockingly, it actually does a whole lot of stuff better than those original games. For example, even after playing the three Bayonetta games multiple times, I struggled to understand their stories, which combine various planes of existence, intersecting realities, and (as of Bayonetta 3) a full-on multiverse. Cereza and the Lost Demon, however, delivers a much more straightforward narrative told through a narrated storybook, and honestly, knowing what the heck was going on in a Bayonetta game itself was a relief. Throughout my time with Bayonetta Origins for this review, I truly felt joy in completely understanding the inner workings of the plot.
In Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, players control Cereza, a young witch in training, and her demonic companion Cheshire as they venture into a mysterious forest. The storybook design of Cereza and the Lost Demon can best be described as a coming-of-age story.
Written Like A Storybook
Cereza and the Lost Demon tells how young Cereza’s life is forever changed when she wanders into an enchanted forest. Being an enthusiastic but somewhat unskilled Umbra Witch in training, Cereza knows to obey her teacher Morgana’s strict rules about avoiding Avalon Forest once she has better control of her growing powers to summon and control the various demons within it.
However, Cereza can’t help but venture into the forest when a mysterious aura begins urging her toward Avalon and the strange power hidden inside it that she might be able to use to free her mother, who was imprisoned due to a forbidden romance with Cereza’s father. Being the obedient young witch that she is, it isn’t until she unintentionally manages to summon a demon, proceed to name them Cheshire, and bind them to her stuffed animal that she’s even willing to enter the forest.
Overall, Cereza wants to gain confidence in her witching abilities and save her mother, while Cheshire wants to return to the underworld. Destroying four elemental orbs, apparently, would give the pair the power to accomplish both of their goals. This is where the game truly begins.
Out of the Bayonetta series, this story, in particular, has to be my favorite to date. It is humorous and heart-warming, and it has the emotional depth to provide substance to the protagonist we all know and love. It was terrific to watch Cereza and Cheshire’s relationship blossom over the course of the adventure as the budding witch tries to prove her worth to the skeptical demon. The plot takes some unexpected yet well-earned turns, and the voice acting is wonderful, especially the narrator. Her warm delivery and smile-inducing impression of the gruff Cheshire rekindled the long-forgotten joy of it being to read a fun bedtime story.
A Joy to Play (Bayonetta Origins Review)
Suppose you’ve ever played previous Bayonetta games. Series creator Hideki Kamiya’s signature flair will readily appear as you start poking around Avalon. Also, there’s a delightful amount of visual and audio DNA transplanted from a beautiful source: Platinum Games’ brilliant 2017 Square Enix team-up, NieR: Automata. The tangled forests, odd inhabitants, and comical yet unnerving enemies. In the background, the incredible Celtic-influenced soundtrack, which relies heavily on woodwind, cranks up the otherworldly atmosphere.
The game takes more of a top-down view than Bayonetta’s usual third-person camera. You will control Cereza with the left joystick and Cheshire with the right. The most considerable difference between this game and the others though is how art director Tomoko Nishii gave the game a vibrant, dreamy, and cell-shaded visual style that gives the whole thing a sort of storybook design.
In many ways, Cereza and the Lost Demon is anti-Bayonetta. It is simple, innocent, and welcomes new players with open arms. Unlike the previous realistic sheen of the previous games. Cereza and the Lost Demon sports the aforementioned folklore visual style, taking place inside the crisp-looking pages of a children’s book. Out are the guns, bloodshed, and kinky executions, replaced instead with fairies, cuddly toys, and a surprisingly heartwarming tale.
Now, as mentioned previously, when it comes to the character controls, it may seem daunting to contain two characters at the same time. However, after some time, you should become familiar with using one character to move part of the environment or pin down an enemy to set up the other. These moments though can still at times lead to some uniquely mind-bending scenarios of the coordination required to handle the follow-through effectively.
As you might expect from the softer tone, tween Cereza isn’t quite the OP character fans will be used to. To fit her underdeveloped witchcraft, the gameplay here is a blend of platform and action, with Bayonetta’s reduced move set. Seeing her utterly reliant on protection from cuddly toy turned-demonic bodyguard, Cheshire.
To reinforce, with combat at the centerpiece of Bayonetta. It should be noted you won’t be executing various dozen-hit combos and screen-filling special attacks. Origins’ battling makes the most of its simplicity. Cheshire executes single-button combos, while Cereza can only bind enemies in place using magic. Controlling the two characters on a busy battlefield made me cross-eyed at times, but the unique strategy of dodging foes to tie them down before tearing them to shreds made up for that. Unlocking each character’s skill trees adds small but meaningful layers that really deepen the combat by adding executions, counters, evades, and longer combo strings that rely on button timing rather than combining inputs. The action evolves at a good pace without going mechanically overboard.
Additionally, the action evolves by using the abilities of Cheshire’s elemental mimics, such as using a water form that fires robust streams to its vine form that yanks down airborne targets. However, I did grow weary of the more minor, random encounters over time. The more significant arena battles that throw several enemy types with different elemental vulnerabilities kept me engaged. A sprinkling of boss battles, including a fantastic final bout, evokes the chaos of the main series in a good way without giving folk sweaty hands. In fact, I seldom used health and magic potions for most of the boss fight. I’m good with that, as the difficulty had enough challenges without compromising the games’ more relaxed vibe.
Beyond that, while the combat never reached the intensity of previous Bayonetta titles, it did come surprisingly close.
The Unfortunate Pitfalls
There were a few little gameplay annoyances here and there; I found Cereza’s primary environmental spell, in which you hold ZL and manipulate the left stick, to be a bit repetitive and tedious. An option allows you to hold the ZL trigger and let the game do the rest though.
My only real last issue is with the game’s storybook cutscenes. A large majority of Bayonetta Origins’ story is conveyed through storybook cutscenes with lightly animated drawings, text, and (fabulous) narration. As much as I enjoy the art style, the cutscenes had a tendency to go on for a bit too long and usually dragged what was otherwise a well-paced experience. Due to there being so few in-engine cutscenes that let you see the action, it sometimes felt like there was a separation between what I was actually doing in the game and the story being told.
Beyond that, there’s an almost entirely extraneous potion-concocting system and health potions aside. I barely used them in battle. Granted, twirling the analog stick and stirring the cauldron to pleasant music is fun, but perhaps they could have been a little more useful.
Said Pitfalls Are Subjective (Bayonetta Origins Review)
All-in-all though, this game really doesn’t have too many negatives. The “pitfalls” in it can be chalked up to player preference. It is a very refreshing and wholesome experience (not sure if I’ve prefaced that enough yet). It instills a distinct wave of nostalgia, at least for me, which brings me back to listening to bedtime stories with my parents. Except for this time, I get to play the bedtime story and fight demons in unique ways with the two character controls.
I hope a potential sequel to this would alleviate some of the above issues though, and I really hope it gets one. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a phenomenal surprise that, while just slightly imperfect. Beautifully blends Platinum design with light Zelda and Metroid trappings. To me, the game’s quiet release (and cumbersome title) betrays Cereza and the Lost Demon’s status as perhaps Platinum’s best Switch game yet.
A Truly Unique Bayonetta Game
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and The Lost Demon is a testament to making a unique game. It is, without a doubt making a gamble. The game takes a beloved character in a new direction that is kid-friendly first and true to the OG Bayonetta second. However, with its cute story, an expansion of the multiversal mythos that finds itself at the core feature of the game’s story, and an extensive selection of unlockable clothing.
Simply looking at Bayonetta Origins is a colorful treat. Thanks to its painterly art direction that evokes games like “The Cruel King and the Great Hero.” The forest looked fantastic, and a melodic soundtrack filled with lovely tunes and cute sound effects made the world feel even more magical. I enjoyed revisiting parts of the sprawling map to unlock new areas and solving the simple yet satisfying puzzles using Cheshire’s abilities.
Manuvering the Overworld(s)
Unfortunately, getting lost can be easy, but the game makes up for this by clearly marking collectibles and even guiding lights to save points. Collecting dozens of wisps, the lost souls of departed children became one of my favorite pastimes. Due to the cute personal bios that were unlocked for each of them. Even more minor interactions, like playing a rhythm mini-game to grow flowers, shattering crystal dandelions for currency, or shaking bushes for potion ingredients, fed into the playful atmosphere that almost makes the forest feel toylike.
Regardless, the game’s style was an overall risk that essentially paid off. As you roam its whimsical woods, Avalon Forest’s fantastic environments are brought vividly to life via finely sketched lines. Each new area feels like entering a newly turned page of a delightful pop-up story, taking you everywhere from idyllic waterfalls to ethereal dimensions. Part Okami, part Child of Light, its twist on the well-worn cel-shading art style is a charming one. This perfectly suits the limitations of the increasingly aging Nintendo Switch hardware.
Cereza and the Lost Demon is true Bayonetta at its core. And with the series having yet to do much in a while. It might be precisely what the series needed to bring in new fans and bring back old ones.
A Wonderful Time (Bayonetta Origins Review)
As said, what seems like a hundred times at this point. This game is absolutely amazing. From the storybook art style and top-tier voice acting. To the “janky at first but ultimately unique fighting style.” This game, in my opinion, would have to be Platinum’s best game ever released on the Nintendo Switch. It brings an absolute breath of fresh air to the Bayonetta series as a whole and could serve as a bit of a revival to the series after the release of Bayonetta 3, which left some fans, such as myself, in a bit of a rut—deprived of a solid and fun Bayonetta game. Again though, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon absolutely turned that feeling around as I played through it for my review. It revived my faith in these games and has left me wanting more.
As mentioned already, I am really hoping that Platinum chooses to continue the adventures of a tween Bayonetta and Cheshire in a new game in the hopefully not-so-distant future. Considering how satisfied I came out of Cereza and the Lost Demon, I hope Platinum opts to market a potential sequel much more aggressively. While it might not be mainline Bayonetta, my time with Origins for this review has made me see it clearly retains the series’ identity while crafting something truly unique. People need to know when the next one is coming to be appropriately prepared, especially so the sequel can receive as much love as this one did and deserves.