Bayonetta Origins hands-on: A charming tale of a witch and her demon cat

PlatinumGames' upcoming prequel sheds light on Cereza before she became the gun-toting enchantress we know today.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Even though Bayonetta 3 just came out last fall, there’s already another entry in the franchise due out in March starring everyone’s favorite gun-toting witch. However, for its next release – Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon – instead of a continuation of the story, PlatinumGames has created a prequel featuring a charming new art style and gameplay twists that shed light on a younger version of Cereza, before she became the over-the-top enchantress we know today.

After a short explanation of Bayonetta’s lineage, the game introduces its first major twist when it asks you to control both Cereza and her stuffed cat Cheshire, who serves as a vessel for a recently summoned demon. That’s because instead of switching between each character independently, you’re meant to control both at the same time, with the left Joy-Con responsible for maneuvering Cereza while the right Joy-Con is dedicated to directing her cat. (Don’t worry, you can also play the game with the Switch’s Pro Controller if you prefer.) So on top of the game throwing various puzzles or hack-and-slash encounters your way, you often have to do battle with your own mind as you try to get both sides of your brain on the same page.

In Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, you control Cereza and her cat Chesire independently using via the Switch's left and right Joy-Con (or the left and right sides of a Pro controller).

For me, this setup drew immediate parallels to one of my favorite games from 2013, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. (Sorry youngins for the somewhat dated reference, but if you haven’t played Brothers, you should really give it a go.) Granted, Brothers is much more of a true puzzle platformer, but even after playing it for less than an hour, Bayonetta Origins delivered the same sort of deeply satisfying solo co-op vibes. Also, while Nintendo claims the title is meant to be a single-player experience, I get the sense that this might be just as fun/frustrating (maybe even more so) when played with a friend, with each person getting a single Joy-con.

Additionally, while the game’s controls are relatively simple and straightforward (due in part to its split controller layout), there’s a surprising amount of depth when it comes to combat and traversing obstacles. Typically, Cheshire serves as the muscle when battling forest spirits or other monsters, while Bayonetta relies on her witch powers to lock down and control enemies. That said, the two can work together, with Cheshire able to shrink down and serve as a grappling hook, allowing the pair to jump gaps and chasms. So despite the game’s slower pace compared to previous entries, getting your left and right hands to work together is still very rewarding. I also have to admit it’s just really cute seeing Cereza snuggle up with a demonic patchwork plushy, who despite its hatred of cuddling, needs to be close to the witch in order to survive.

In Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, you'll need to rely on Cereza's spells to lock down and manipulate opponents while her demon cat Cheshire handles melee combat.

Another departure from other Bayonetta titles is the game’s art style, which has ditched its anime-inspired origins for a more storybook aesthetic – and it looks absolutely fantastic. When combined with a younger version of Cereza that’s still figuring out her place in the world, the game feels more like a new-age fairy tale than the eccentric action-packed circus we’ve seen in earlier games.

And while I only had a short time with Bayonetta Origins, perhaps my biggest surprise was how quickly I became engrossed in the game. That’s because while the bombastic nature of previous entries in the franchise is more my style, Cereza’s latest adventure offers a very charming and downright wholesome take on the series. So for all of the Bayonetta fans who might have been put off by this installment’s design or visuals, you might want to rethink that stance and give Cereza and the Demon a chance when it officially comes out on March 17th.

The demon trapped inside Cereza's stuffed cat does not enjoy being cuddled.