Bayonetta 3 for Nintendo Switch review: Frenetic action on aging hardware

The third adventure for everyone's favorite witch knocks the action out of the park, but is held back elsewhere.

Bayonetta 3 Jeanne and Bayonetta cutscene
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bayonetta 3 is an excellent action game that lives up to the series name, but the aging hardware it runs on and some story choices bring the experience down.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent action gameplay

  • +

    Awesome secondary protagonist

  • +

    Great soundtrack

  • +

    Unique and creative boss fights

Cons

  • -

    Poor visual quality at points

  • -

    Performance drops at larger segments

  • -

    Odd story choices

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After eight years, the next entry in the Bayonetta series is finally here, and while overall positive, the results are a bit more mixed than some might've expected.

While prior games have seen the titular Umbra witch Bayonetta tackle the angels of Paradiso and the demons of Inferno, here in Bayonetta 3, the threat comes from man-made bioweapons called Homunculi. Upping the stakes, these Homonculi aren't content to destroy just one world: They intend to bring down the entire multiverse. 

So once again, it's up to Bayonetta to save the world by treading the multiverse. Along the way, she'll have help from Jeanne, as well as a new young and inexperienced witch from another timeline named Viola. She'll also encounter the Bayonettas of other timelines that have their own unique challenges.

Fans who have been looking forward to the franchise's trademark action and style will get it delivered in spades, with top-tier boss fights and combat mechanics that make it a joy to try and get the highest score possible as you quite literally dance over your foes. 

The experience isn't perfect, however, as some of the design choices result in a game that's far less impressive visually than its predecessors, as well as experiencing markedly lower framerate performance than the past games. Meanwhile, the story makes some very strange choices that leaves an otherwise action-packed finale feeling weird. 

Ultimately, the sheer fun wins out, and Bayonetta 3 is still one of the best action games available on the Nintendo Switch, just with a bit more reservation than might've been expected. 

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Nintendo. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

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CategoryInfo
DeveloperPlatinumGames
PublisherNintendo
GenreAction
ESRB RatingMature
Install Size14.3 GB
PlayersSingle-player
Playtime12-15 hours
PlatformNintendo Switch

Bayonetta 3: What I liked

(Image credit: iMore)

After this long of a wait since Bayonetta 2, a new game in the Bayonetta series had a lot to live up to. When it comes to the sleek style and fast-paced action the prior games were known for, Bayonetta 3 more than delivers.

Like the prior games, this is a third-person action title. Bayonetta has access to a wide array of combos through different weapons — including her guns from the first two games if you have save data on your Nintendo Switch — and while she's lost the ability to set different weapons for legs and arms, the sheer arsenal available means you don't end up missing this feature all that much, especially since she's also got access to a new gameplay mechanic called the Demon Slave. 

Because demons usually prefer munching down on angelic foes (or other demons, even) they're not really inclined to help out against the Homunculi. Bayonetta solves this by assuming direct control of these demons in fights, gaining immense power in exchange for leaving her dancing body vulnerable. It's a great way to shake up the fights and it means carefully managing foes in order to use the demons you summon with maximum potential.

(Image credit: iMore)

This also means that levels are usually far bigger than in past games, and while there are some drawbacks — more on that below — Bayonetta 3 has a scale that the prior games only achieved in particular moments. There's more to explore when finding collectibles and optional encounters, as well as just making sure there's room to summon the towering demons you equip.

The concept of a Multiverse is hot right now, and Bayonetta 3 uses it for genuinely creative setups instead of just set dressing. As this story crosses the multiverse, you'll encounter different Bayonettas and their unique demons, acquiring these demons as part of your arsenal. You can only have three equipped at once to pull up in the heat of battle, but just like your weapons, these can be swapped in and out across your journey, as well as improved alongside other skills.

There are plenty of boss fights, and few of them unfold the same way. PlatinumGames mixes in plenty of sudden gameplay changes or new mechanics only for one or two fights, meaning that it always feels like something exciting and new is right around the corner.

(Image credit: iMore)

While players usually control Bayonetta, they'll also have access to Viola, whose gameplay is similar but differs in some important ways. Because Viola hasn't mastered her abilities yet, she's clumsy and much more of a brawler in combat, favoring physical strength over precision.

Viola uses Witch Time through parrying instead of dodging and only has access to one demon. Even though this means she feels more restricting to play, her levels are spaced out across the story, so it actually ends up working well to keep the game's variety in set pieces and encounters going. This is needed, because Bayonetta 3 is substantially longer than its predecessors, with my first playthrough doing lots of side content running about 15 hours.

(Image credit: iMore)

Not everything works well in the game's conclusion, but I really enjoyed the balance of Bayonetta and Viola. The latter is extremely different, leaning into punk, with her soundtrack going full rock as opposed to the softer ballads that accompany our mainstay heroine. It's a jarring juxtaposition, but a fun one that works for the game's betterment.

Bayonetta 3: What I disliked

(Image credit: iMore)

Unfortunately, despite the visual style that's imbued in practically every part of the game, when it comes to the graphics Bayonetta 3 is a mixed bag in the best-case scenario. Most of the time, it's well below that. Because the levels are much larger than what's been in these games before, the resolution often looks grainy and details break up at even short distances.

Bayonetta 3 includes a photo mode, but taking shots that look good is often difficult because of how blurry they turn out. It's a shame because the style and aesthetic are excellent, and you can tell PlatinumGames' art direction is still on point for the different enemies and bosses, as well as the various worlds that Bayonetta explores. Unfortunately, that means that the game's art direction is often hidden under a grainy overall image and keeps Bayonetta 3 from looking as good as it could otherwise.

The performance isn't as much of an issue, but it's still a noticeable step down from how well Bayonetta 2 ran on the Nintendo Switch. Scenes with massive amounts of enemies and particle effects slow down and feel sluggish compared to the smaller areas, which are fairly rare given the larger scope of Bayonetta 3.

(Image credit: iMore)

Another issue comes in how the story is concluded. I don't want to directly spoil the major events, but some of the decisions feel jarring, and even at direct odds with how the prior games set things up. Bayonetta has always been a very independent character, kind-hearted but aloof, and some of that is reversed with tonal whiplash that isn't really introduced with the grace befitting her character.

It's not all bad, and I'm still looking forward to maybe seeing future games after this, but I do think PlatinumGames could've done a better job setting up some of the things that they choose to focus on in this game.

Bayonetta 3: Should you buy it?

(Image credit: iMore)

Bayonetta 3 is a great game, and there's a lot for longtime fans of the series to enjoy here. The action never stops, with new gameplay mechanics provided for Bayonetta and Viola that shake up the established formula and encourage you to think about new ways of creating killer combos. All of this is backed up by a killer soundtrack and some seriously incredible boss fights.

At the same time, there can be no denying that visually, it's a step down from what many of the best Nintendo Switch games have to offer. Obviously, it's tough scaling a game for a handheld system, but the reality is that many scenes are so muddy and grainy that the entire point of having a photo mode is rendered irrelevant. 

Overall I still recommend playing Bayonetta 3, especially if you've loved the prior two games, but there are definitely a couple of reasons to pause and give it some thought, and that's a shame. Bayonetta has never been one of Nintendo's top-selling franchises, but it has been an extremely unique part of the roster, as an overly mature game with a fun protagonist that doesn't take herself too seriously. I hope this isn't the end. 

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Bayonetta 3

The third game for everyone's favorite gun-slinging witch is finally here. The visuals are somewhat underwhelming, and the ending won't be to everyone's taste, but this is still an excellent action game that fans of the genre shouldn't miss out on.

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Samuel Tolbert
Contributor

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance gaming writer who started working for iMore and its sister sites Windows Central and Android Central in July 2019. He handles news, previews, reviews, and exclusive original reporting, and has also been featured on TechRadar.

With a background studying engineering before he shifted his focus to gaming journalism, he's skilled at identifying technical advantages and disadvantages provided by different hardware. If he’s not writing something, he’s off playing video games, spending time with his pets, exercising, or reading. He's also fond of trying to draw things with his iPad.