Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

Cheshire wakes up the witch apprentice from her initial slumber to deliver a gorgeous and quite unique faerie tale that almost excels.

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One has to give PlatinumGames credit for having what it takes to create a prequel/spin-off by removing the source material's staples in such a radical way. The fact that Cereza and the Lost Demon is so deviated from the original Bayonetta trilogy is actually something that we should celebrate, as it's the kind of risk-taking we should be asking for from these derived works: something that gives fans a completely new perspective to the IP while staying true to some of its core essentials.

And even if, as I had to admit a couple of weeks ago, this tale started off so slow that it almost put me to sleep, now I happily accept that I've really enjoyed most of the adventure, as I ended up as engaged with its systems and gameplay progression as I was already with its watercolour art style.

Because, let's be honest, from the outside, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon might look like a cheaper, simpler approach to the triple-A hack 'n slash series in the worst way. First you have its weird, almost gimmicky twin-stick controls, with left stick and shoulder buttons mapped to Cereza, and their right equivalents to the demon, Cheshire (an acquaintance of those who recently played Bayonetta 3), the witch apprentice's very first summon at the age of 10, as she learns the Umbra ways under the strict supervision of Morgana in the Avalon forest.

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With the main series' complex combat excessiveness and heavy reliance on blockbuster-like cutscenes clearly gone, the switch to a more calmed, exploration-based metroidvania experience had to work flawlessly to convince in the long run, and it really takes its time in the first 4-5 hours to get there, as beautifully-narrated the pages of this tale might be. But, thankfully, once you feel in complete control of the different mechanics, as more abilities and new challenges are introduced, the gameplay loop becomes something not just enjoyable, but also quite unique compared to other efforts in the genre.

In other words, and to be totally clear, many could write this off as your average indie metroidvania and nothing really special within PlatinumGames' property, but as I kept turning pages, and even more so after closing the book, I felt like this could sit comfortably next to Ori and the Blind Forest and the likes, as it's lovely and even memorable at times, even if it doesn't manage to excel within its new genre.

As you might have guessed with the references to Avalon and Morgana, Cereza's tale adds a few twists to the Arthurian mythos, same as the main series does with the never-ending battle between angels and demons, divinities, Creators, and so forth. I won't spoil a single thing about the events here, but I will say that it actually works as an origins story to build the witch's character we all know and love, even if it naturally opts for a more straightforward narrative compared to the trilogy's interweaving plot lines and time-bending scripts. That being said, it does hold a couple of nice twists up its sleeve, and I enjoyed the differences and the clash of prides between Cereza and Cheshire. And speaking of twists, the interpretation of faeries I've found here is one of the most fascinating and twisted I've ever seen.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost DemonBayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
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The Avalon forest itself gives a good sense of disorientation as you feel more lost and haunted the deeper you explore. This is for better and for worse, as the map itself looks to be deliberately drawn in an obtuse, slightly confusing way (more so if we talk about its otherwise decent verticality), to make you personally explore every nook of the natural, organic environment in search for secrets, treasures, and upgrades. Here Cereza's spells and Cheshire's powers open up new paths and sometimes are used in tandem during platforming sections, and it mostly works despite some minor detection errors (which eventually occurred in combat too).

In my experience, that exploration is good enough when you're walking the main path and taking the most obvious detours along the way, but it can feel a bit unfair or even boring when you want to complete the game further before and after the credits have rolled, as it'll force you into some old-school trekking instead of making it easier or faster via shortcuts, despite allowing for some fast travel mid-game.

However, the level design itself is very good for the most part, and the same could be said about a bunch of the puzzles, so much so, that I would have loved more Tír na nÓgs (sort of spell zones you have to complete to clear the map) to focus on puzzles rather than on combat, as some of them left me the best Zelda-like aftertaste, but with the unique dual-stick approach of this game.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost DemonBayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost DemonBayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

Most are combat-based, though, but even if it starts as slow as the rest of the game's mechanics, the combat system finds its own ways to be varied and entertaining in the long run, both inside the Tír na nÓgs or during the many random encounters in the forest. If you want quick reflexes and moving your main character swiftly around the stage to beat up giant creatures, you better go back to the original trilogy, as here you'll gradually learn to literally keep one eye on the kid and the other one on the demon. The former to cast spells on the enemies (mostly to tie them up) and to use potions, the latter to deal damage by using both his fierce bites and swipes, or by choosing the right elemental attack or ability.

As the game progresses, both Cereza and Cheshire will become stronger as a beautiful skill tree grows more branches, and their bond will make the combination of the pair a truly powerful one. As much as we love Cereza herself and this 10-year-old version we're presented with, Cheshire completely steals the show both narratively and gameplay-wise. Much as a grumpy cat of a precariously stuffed animal he is, you just got to love the way he moves and his amazing elemental powers and different transformations, and you'll have a hard time choosing your favourite Cheshire from his Forest, Stone, Water, and Fire forms.

All in all I finished the game at above 80% and after about 20 hours of play time, with a few of them dedicated to some unfruitful completion before the final showdowns. Those are, by the way, really good and inventive to some extent, and there's plenty of fan service towards the end for Bayonetta fans not only in what the game tells, but also in how it plays. Also, it has to be said that this isn't a difficult game at all for a fan of the series or of the action genre until the very last few pages, and it also introduces a good bunch of welcomed accessibility options to make it easier for apprentices. And while I still insist it's not the best game for completionists and I wanted to drop it once finished, it's after all a metroidvania and now I'm nearing 100% as I just can't help it.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost DemonBayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

At the end of the day what seemed to me like a slow, average indie metroidvania at first, ended up putting a spell on me by combining a creepy fairytale with some fresh ideas under a gorgeous visual finish. Those unique concepts make this a very personal origins story by Team Lost Faeries despite the different sources of inspiration (and I haven't even mentioned their own Okami yet). It's a tale worth being played on its own merits.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Fresh approach to both genre and series. Works as a cool prequel in the universe. Beautiful art. Cheshire is devilishly adorable. Fantastic, fantastical music.
Could use a few more puzzle-based Tír na nÓg. Not the friendliest metroidvania for completionists. Combat can get repetitive at times. Couple of detection issues.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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