With Bayonetta 3 set to release later this year, the real question is not “if” but “how” this stellar team will top its predecessor.
The fact that Bayonetta 2 garnered even more critical acclaim and love from the fans than the original already feels like PlatinumGames pulled off some sort of supernatural feat. With Bayonetta 3 set to release later this year, the only question worth asking is not “if” but “how” this stellar team will top its predecessor and enchant the masses a third time.
Bayonetta 2 added to the lore of the series, not by introducing a slew of new concepts and characters, but rather by expanding on what fans already knew about the characters and their world. The first two Bayonetta games work well together as two parts of a neatly constructed whole, but that also means that, by the end of the second game, the story circles back in on itself, and the narrative to feel constrictive.
For example, one central mystery of Bayonetta 2 is the identity of the masked Lumen Sage. Given that Balder, the last Lumen Sage players saw, was supposed to be the last of his kind and was known for the white peacock motif of his design, the fact that the masked sage also features this motif makes it obvious that the masked sage is really just Balder again. Though Balder’s return does further flesh him out in a satisfying way that sets up the events of the first game, the way the reveal was handled makes the mystery come off as a red herring.
This game’s plot trades both the element of surprise and expanded lore in favor of adding weight and nuance to past story beats. Where Bayonetta gave players glimpses of the Witch Hunts and Bayonetta’s mother Rosa, Bayonetta 2 went all-in and sent players back to those events to fight alongside her. In fact, Bayonetta 2 only added two new characters: Loki and Loptr. Even then, they are technically two sides of just one character, Aesir.
Even the first game’s MacGuffins, the Eyes of the World, return in Bayonetta 2 to play a similar role. The only added bit of lore about them is who created them and the consequences of destroying one of the Eyes. This results in is a series with a robust backstory that it now needs to break free from to introduce new characters and concepts.
Demons were a welcome, if inevitable, addition to Bayonetta 2‘s roster of enemies. The first Bayonetta set itself apart from other dark fantasy action games like Devil May Cry by having players face off against hordes of angels. In Bayonetta 2, players do venture into the depths of hell and face off against demons, though, which serves to fully explore the pre-established light and dark duality of the games’ cosmology.
Although it makes narrative sense for the enemies to be limited to these two types of entities, adding more fantastical, otherworldly beasts to slay would be a great way to expand the series’ mythos. The enemies mostly keep combat fresh, but there are also several angels that are just palette swaps of previously encountered foes. The fact that so many angels from the first game were reused during the last chapters of Bayonetta 2 felt less like cool callbacks and more like a clever way to reuse old assets.
Fortunately, if the footage shown in Bayonetta 3‘s gameplay trailer is any indication, fans can look forward to all-new entities. The enemies shown so far do not resemble angels or demons, and notably, unlike past enemy types, they are visible to the human eye. In previous entries, both the demons of Inferno and the angels of Paradiso could only interact with the human world indirectly through the dimension of Purgatorio, meaning they were invisible to non-magical humans.
In terms of gameplay variety, the Bayonetta series has always kept players on their toes. One second, players could be plowing through enemy hordes on the ground, and the next, they’re facing off against serpentine angels in the sky. There are also four characters to unlock, the occasionally playable Infernal Demon kaiju and the Umbran Climax supercharged attacks to keep things interesting — but Bayonetta 3 can still do more.
The gameplay trailer already shows the developers are expanding on the concept of giving players control over Bayonetta’s Infernal Demons. The flying portions of Bayonetta 2 were a fun diversion, but the controls weren’t the tightest, and their overuse made them feel like a crutch for set pieces. Bayonetta is such a versatile protagonist, and there’s plenty left to do with her in terms of gameplay and story. If PlatinumGames ever sees the need to expand its games’ narratives with other playable characters, Devil May Cry has shown that this can definitely be done successfully. Bayonetta 3 would do well to swap some flying portions out in favor of giving players control of beloved characters like Jeanne or Rodin as part the main campaign.
Bayonetta has consistently dazzled gamers since she stepped onto the scene in 2009. Now, as the series is set to round out its trilogy, expectations have never been higher. Action games of this sort are almost defined by their ability to one-up themselves with each successive entry in their series. Though only two games in, the Bayonetta series have managed to pull this off so far. Whether it’s expanded lore that takes players to unexpected places or new enemies and old friends that keep fans invested in the story, one thing’s for sure: When Bayonetta 3 finally comes out, the eyes of the world are all going to be on everyone’s favorite gun-toting witch.