If you happen to find the secret chapter in last year’s excellent degree Bayonetta 3you will already see the art style and general atmosphere in Bayonetta Origin: Ceresa and the Lost Demon.
This secret area turned out to be a short demo that we assumed pointed to some kind of incoming DLC for the main game before this T-rated spin-off was officially announced. stories, we initially assumed it would be a fairly one-off story, a fresh prologue aimed at a younger audience that fills in some backstory and not much else.
However, after spending a lot of time studying the first five chapters of the game, we’re happy to report that this is by no means a one-off. What we have here is an elegant and magical fairy-tale adventure that deftly combines puzzles, platforming and combat to create a prologue to Bayonetta that really got us hooked.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon begins with the birth of baby Bayo, the forbidden child of the Light Sage and the Umbran Witch. As punishment for their forbidden love affair, both of Ceresa’s parents are exiled, her father is sent to a distant land, and her mother is imprisoned deep underground.
We first catch up with our young heroine as she trains under Morgana, a good witch who has also been banished from the Umbran community, and we take control of Ceres as she wanders through a short dream plot. During this dream, she is visited by a young man who tells her that she must visit the forest of Avalon and follow the trail of a mysterious white wolf if she is to gain the powers she needs to save her dear old mummy.
From here, you’ll be introduced to some early game mechanics by completing some simple tasks for Morgana. You’ll have to fetch a bucket of water and then use a few spells, Witch Pulse to make the plants grow and Thorn Bind to capture and hold the slimy client trying to escape your clutches. After a failed attempt to summon an infernal demon, Morgana punishes Ceresa, which leads to the young girl remembering her dream and deciding to wander in the middle of the night in the Forest of Avalon, aka the Forbidden Forest, clutching her cuddly toy, Cheshire, as she goes.
Of course, Cereza is soon in big trouble, and surrounded by enemies, she once again tries to summon the hellish demon, this time managing to corrupt herself in such a way that the demon now inhabits the body of Cheshire’s soft toy. While trying to attack Ceres, the demon finds himself hindered by some unseen force and also needs to stay close to the young witch in order to conserve his energy and magical abilities. This is how a difficult union is formed. Ceresa promises to help the demon return to Hell, and he agrees to help her find the white wolf.
After a rather slow start, things pick up once we get the hang of controlling Ceresa and her demon pal. Each character is assigned a Joy-Con and can move in their own direction within a limited space. This mechanic is then used to hilarious effect with a series of simple platforming puzzles that teach you the ins and outs of the gameplay. Cheshire can attack barriers and enemies with huge strikes from her powerful claws, while Ceresa can use Witch Pulse and Thorn Bind to create platforms and bind enemies so that Cheshire can sneak in and finish them off without taking damage.
The game gives you a few battles to get used to it all before introducing Cheshire’s two playthrough modes, Unleashed and Hug. In Unleashed mode, you control the demon as a separate entity, moving through areas and attacking barriers and enemies, while in Hug mode, Cheshire shrinks into a soft toy and travels in Ceresa’s arms, where he can be tossed onto ledges or pulled out in order. jump, run and collect collectibles from nearby bushes and undergrowth. Embrace mode also serves to replenish Cheshire’s health/magic, so you’ll find that you need to balance embrace modes and denouement modes during more heated fights.
And, surprisingly, there are actually hotter battles. They may not be at all like the excerpts you are used to from the main line Bayonetta, but the combat here throws enough different enemy types at you that you’ll at least need to plan who you’re going to target next in order to get around the encounter without getting hit. After only five chapters there is already quite an impressive list of villains, mischievous forest fairies whose names are taken directly from Celtic lore and mythology – there’s a big Celtic connection here. There’s even a guy named Amadan, which we’re pretty sure means idiot in Gaelic. So, out of luck for this little guy on the name front.
With shielded enemies that need to destroy their cover, to burrowing enemies that Cheshire will need to stomp to reveal, rocket-firing fairies whose shots can be deflected back in the face, and plenty of larger mini-bosses to attack, there is definitely something to think about. Both Ceresa and Cheshire also have skills to pay the bills, with two separate skills packed with dodges, double binds, finishing moves and charged punches that can be unlocked with Avalon Drops and Onyx Roses you’ll collect during battles and research.
Indeed, as the adventure unfolds here, we were amazed at how many mechanics there are to deal with. We expected this game to be very, very simple – and there are tons of options available for those who want to automate certain aspects of combat – but what we found is a game that has a lot of interesting variations on its core skills with speed, that will keep you interested to see what happens next. Cereza can eventually bind multiple enemies and even kill smaller enemies on her own—something she’ll have to do during periods when the pair are temporarily separated—while Cheshire can take on various elemental forms to take down villains and open up different avenues of advancement.
As the story unfolds, our two heroes learn that they must destroy four elemental cores in order to gain the power Ceresia needs to save her mummy, and each of these cores, when destroyed, imbues Cheshire with a new elemental form and a wealth of skills. So far we’ve unlocked wooden and stone forms for the big guy, and they allow him to grab onto enemy shields to rip them from your enemies, destroy bridges during platforming sequences, smash boulders out of the way, deal damage to enemies encased in spontaneous force fields, and much more.
It all adds to the fun of both the combat and the fun of exploring here, and Avalon Forest really looks like a place worth exploring. The art style of the paintings and the wonderful Celtic soundtrack make for a very atmospheric adventure, and the forest itself is filled with animals, strange sounds and all kinds of flora and fauna. A little Nier Automata in the way the camera pans dynamically to constantly frame the action, also with lots of great depth-of-field effects that make it feel like this forbidden forest really is fully enveloping our characters. It’s a great looking game, make no mistake, and so far we’ve had no performance issues either handheld or docked.
Along with combat encounters and explorations that always reward you with a treasure chest or some ingredients that Ceresa can use to make potions, explosive bombs, and tonics, you also deal with Tir Na Nogs. The chapters of Tir Na Nog (Land of Youth in Irish) find you locked in a mischievous enchantment manipulation of reality that you will need to break free of to continue your adventure. These mini-dungeons consist of battles and some platforming or puzzles where you’ll face off against a bunch of fairies or even a mini-boss before picking up some loot from a big old treasure chest and breaking a spell cast on the surrounding area.
Defeat Tir Na Nog and your game map will populate with the location of nearby collectibles; treasure chests, journal pages, and extremely powerful sparkles that give you access to some of the most powerful moves in your skill tree. These mini-dungeons can also be replayed once you’ve beaten them by simply selecting them from the menu at one of the game’s rest areas, where you can dive back into normal mode or time trial mode to earn more goodies.
Bayonetta Origins has a decent level of Metroidvania-esque action in various areas, and as you progress through the story, you’ll occasionally find yourself going back and appearing in places you’ve visited before, now armed with new skills to unlock paths that you have been blocked before. It’s a rewarding thing, made all the more exciting by the level of care and detail that went into every aspect of the world-building and atmosphere here.
For the purposes of this preview, we can’t share anything other than chapter five, but since we left our heroes at this point in the game, we’ve already had a big boss battle with a huge fairy in a confusing circus tent and made friends with forest harnesses , which we agreed to rescue when we find them in exchange for a reward. We also used our powers to outrun trains, climb towers full of beasts, and unlock a series of increasingly diabolical Tir Na Nogs to reveal all sorts of goodies on our game map.
So, so far we’re really enjoying how this great prologue is progressing in terms of blending playstyles, and there’s a lot more to discover as we move forward to see how this great prologue eventually comes together (or not) with the main Bayonetta series of games. Stay tuned for our full review before it finally drops on St. Patrick’s Day. I told you the Celtic connection is strong!
Are you excited for Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon when it comes out on March 17th? Let us know in the comments.