Review – Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

The announcement of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon not long after the release of Bayonetta 3, which was a long overdue and somewhat disappointing sequel to the 2014 masterpiece that was Bayonetta 2, was… interesting. It was a change of pace, an amusing one, to say the least. Turning the overly absurd and excessively tryhardish Bayonetta into a smaller, tame, Alice in Wonderland-inspired spinoff was something to look forward to… until something else announced before its launch made us skeptical about it. It also raised the game’s expectations to a level it just couldn’t muster. Let’s take a look at this delightfully bizarre playable storybook and see what it was all about.

Cereza Dialogue

Well, shut up and open the damn thing.

An origin story for Bayonetta is a really neat idea. Even though a good chunk of the plot of the last few Bayo games is forgettable (because, let’s face it, Hideki Kamiya is not exactly Tolkien), there is a lot of room for setting up a wider universe for the franchise. Even though some of the elements in the series are just “find-and-replace” changes from Devil May Cry (instead of a son of a human and a demon, you are the daughter of a witch and an angel), there is room for development, it is an interesting world to build upon, with all its fairy tale and Celtic influences. This is Bayonetta Origins in a nutshell: an origin story told via a fairy tale storybook.

This leads to the biggest positive and most striking aspect about Bayonetta Origins: its presentation. Bayonetta 3 tried to go ultra-realistic in a console that just couldn’t handle the graphical demands at all. That resulted in setbacks, namely in the resolution, post-processing effects, and framerate. Bayonetta Origins does what many Nintendo Switch exclusives do and appeals for a cartoonish vibe, easing the workload on textures and geometry, letting the system’s GPU work in peace. I do not understand the asinine 30fps cap, but the game is indeed pretty to look at. It is, of course, a playable storybook, with all of its (MANY) cutscenes being told with the flipping of pages.

Bayonetta Origins Cutscenes

I like the art style. A lot. I don’t like that all cutscenes are static, though.

We also get some pretty good music and voice acting in this package. Well, for the most part, when it comes to the latter. The soundtrack is exactly what you would expect from a game so heavily inspired by Alice in the Wonderland. It’s a perfect balance between whimsical and mysterious, but with some added touches of darker, moodier instrumentation at times, just to convey the dark side behind most fairytales. There is also the occasional Celtic undertone, a neat little nod to the franchise’s origins.

The voice acting, on the other hand, has some ups and downs. Whenever an adult is speaking, be it the narrator (or as I like to call her, “if Werner Herzog was a woman”) or Bayonetta’s mentor, things are pretty good. Bayo herself, or Cereza, as she is known in the game, is a different story. Being a kid, she is voiced by a kid. Unfortunately, that is the kind of stuff I don’t exactly think pays off for the most part. Her voice actress sounds like how Emma Watson did in the first Harry Potter movie: she put in the effort, but she still doesn’t have the best acting chops. This is the biggest issue, because, as the protagonist of the damn game, and as an insecure and lonely girl, she never shuts up, always talking to herself.

Bayonetta Origins Combat

A combat-oriented approach to the gameplay loop seen in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons turned out to be a bit janky.

Now, for the gameplay. I was actually curious to see what the hell Bayonetta Origins would be. All I knew is that it would be isometric. But was it going to be an action game? A puzzle adventure? An RPG? No clue. I was going in blind, and to be fair, that was exciting. It helps that, because of reasons I’ll discuss later, I stopped paying attention to a good chunk of Bayonetta Origins‘ previews, so I was ready to pretty much expect anything and everything.

Not long after starting the game, I realized that the core gameplay loop had me play as Cereza with the left stick and the ZL button, while also playing as Cheshire, the demon living inside her plush toy, with the right stick and the ZR button. Everything was centered around solving puzzles and going through obstacles by controlling both schmucks at the same time, using their skills to complete said tasks. Cereza is not affected by the demon-killing rosemary flowers, while Cheshire can actually kill monsters with his monstrous claws.

It didn’t take long for me to realize: this is exactly the same gameplay loop as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons! Well, sure, with an additional emphasis on combat sections, which just don’t fit in well at all with a control scheme meant to confuse your brain if you’re playing it solo, but still, it’s exactly the same as Josef Fares‘ first game. I think this is what made me a bit iffy on the whole gameplay loop, to be fair.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a puzzle game. It was perfectly designed to make the act of controlling two different characters at different points of the screen easy and intuitive. Bayonetta Origins adds combat to the damn mix (Cereza can and has to bind foes with her magic), and that makes things messier, more confusing. On top of the control scheme, you still have to run, dodge, evade, pay attention to multiple foes at once.


I love how the game portrays Cereza as shy and insecure, with that neat reflection effect on her glasses.

All of it is tied to the main focus of the game: its story. We were sold that Bayonetta Origins was going to be exactly that, the origins of one of the most outlandish characters in video game history. It just doesn’t stick to the landing, however. The game constantly promises more epic crap will happen on the following chapters, but its overall tone and structure just doesn’t allow for the kind of absurdity it’s hyping up. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just too tame for a Bayonetta game. I will give the game the following, however: it does not try to imitate Devil May Cry , at least.

By the sound of this review, you must be thinking that I’d actually recommend playing Bayonetta Origins, despite its issues. After all, it is a good game, right? Yes, it is a good game, but in no way, shape, or form I can recommend getting it right away. One of the easiest non-recommendations I have ever given for a game, ever. I honestly want to explain this in detail, but in order to do so, I want to remind consumers (after all, what’s a review other than a consumer guide?) about one of the core principles of marketing: perception of value.

Bayonetta Origins Art Design

I can hear Tim Burton creeping behind the bushes wanting to remake this game into a stop-motion movie.

Let’s put it this way: when you buy a product, or acquire a service, you obviously take a look at its price. You expect to get your money’s worth for that price, and you indeed compare what you get out it with any other product or service you have acquired for the same price. You may think you don’t, but you do. It’s psychological, it’s almost unconscious at times. That means that, when something is expensive, you expect for it to give you your money’s worth. At the same time, selling something for dirt cheap (and by that I mean having its retail price being too small) gives your product the perception it isn’t good, that it’s cheap crap. Proper pricing is almost like an art form, and it’s actually one of the most important aspects of marketing as a whole.

In the realm of gaming, we can use these examples pretty easily: when a game from a major company comes out with a cheap price tag, your immediate reaction isn’t “hooray, cheap game”. You reaction is “aw crap, they’re gonna add microtransactions to it”. Very rarely does an utterly cheap, major label game succeed in this regard. Konami’s WBSC eBaseball: Power Pros succeeded because it was a test to see if the franchise would work in the West. On the other side of the scale, Konami angered us all when they released Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a freaking demo, for forty bucks. For that price, you expect content, you expect forty dollars worth of value, which it certainly didn’t have.

Bayonetta Origins Rosemary

Well, for reasons beyond logic, the big demon cat cannot stand these onion ring-shaped thingies. You need to look for another way around them.

This is why I think Bayonetta Origins is terrible in this regard. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Nintendo just decided to market this game at sixty bucks, just like all other Switch exclusives as of late. It just doesn’t have what it takes to justify this big fat AAA price tag. It’s not short, but it’s not long either. Furthermore, it’s not replayable at all. Gameplay-wise, it doesn’t do anything different than an indie title from ten years ago which can be purchased on the same system for a literal third of the price. Furthermore, said game actually runs at 60fps on the Nintendo Switch, whereas Bayonetta Origins doesn’t.

You can argue that its production values justify the price tag, but I sincerely cannot agree to that. Bayonetta Origins is pretty, but it’s also somewhat cheap-looking. What bothered me with the game’s presentation, besides the ludicrous framerate cap, is that not a single cutscene is animated. Every single cutscene in Bayonetta Origins is static. This game doesn’t even have that many animations to begin with. Its enemy variety isn’t enormous. And let’s be clear: this does not push the boundaries of what even the 3DS was capable of. In fact, Bayonetta Origins looks exactly like what I would expect from a portable spinoff of Bayonetta back in 2015-ish. You know, on a system which released games at forty bucks a piece.

What hurts even more is seeing Nintendo devaluing what to expect from its full-priced games. When the Switch was launched in 2017, it had games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey, games absolutely oozing in content, production values, technology pushing, and replayability. Other games like Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Metroid Prime Remastered dropping at a discount also helped with that. But Bayonetta Origins costing the same as both Bayonetta 1 and 2 combined, all while being as expensive as the latest mainline game of the franchise it was a spinoff of, is just maddening. Are they doing it just because they can? Are they doing it because they know people will cave in, FOMO will trump everything, and that you know for a fact it will never get more than a 30% discount in three years? Maybe, who knows.


That demon is just like my shiba inu.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a weird beast. It’s a pretty decent game, with a neat level of presentation, and a nice change of pace from the tryhardish action seen in the main games. However, it’s also a game I simply cannot recommend at the suggested retail price. It’s an uneventful attempt to adapt the gameplay loop from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons with more action, which goes against the control scheme itself. While pretty, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the overall “cheapness” of everything it had to offer, from static cutscenes to a pointless framerate cap. Were this a small spinoff being sold for twenty, maybe thirty bucks, it would have been a no-brainer. But for the price tag of a full-fledged AAA game, or even what Nintendo charges you for the first two games in the franchise? Nah mate, I’m out.


Graphics: 8.0

The art style is outstanding, but I can’t help but feel disappointed with the fact all of the game’s cutscenes are static, not to mention the pointless 30fps cap.

Gameplay: 7.5

It’s the gameplay loop pioneered in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but with the added element of combat, which never feels at home with the control scheme.

Sound: 8.0

The whimsical soundtrack is a treat. The voice acting is good, depending on the character. The narrator shines, Cereza doesn’t.

Fun Factor: 6.0

The story always promises the stakes will rise and things will get more exciting, but the game never fulfills said expectations. The gameplay is neat, but we’ve seen that being used elsewhere before, and better. Furthermore, there’s the lingering sensation this game just doesn’t have what it takes to warrant its insane price tag.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.