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Bayonetta 3 wants you to express yourself, darling

The witch has some new backup on her side

Bayonetta poses with a purple pistol in Bayonetta 3 Image: PlatinumGames

After spending 15 minutes with Bayonetta 3 at this year’s PAX West, here’s what sets this new installment apart from its predecessors: openness. This Bayonetta is all about offering more options without compromising on the series’ commitment to non-stop action, extensive combos, and linear core progression.

Diversifying combat

The first thing I noticed about Bayonetta 3’s combat is that magic takes more of a back seat here. The protagonist now harnesses demonic energy to power her weapons. She also struts onto the scene with two new abilities: demon masquerade and demon slave.

The first ability allows Bayonetta to masquerade as demons and gain their abilities; for example, her old rival Madama Butterfly grants her the power of flight, and Gomorrah equips her with a vicious pair of claws. These transformations don’t last forever, though. They draw from Bayonetta’s magical supply, and once that meter runs out, gameplay returns to the classic combos that players unlock as they progress.

Bayonetta bares it all while her summoned demons fight alongside her in Bayonetta 3 Image: PlatinumGames

Based on the demo, the game felt well balanced between familiar Bayonetta staples and new demonic powers. But what about those amazing, clothes-ripping ultimates that made the heroine famous (or notorious, depending on whom you ask)? That’s where Bayonetta 3’s demon slave ability comes in — and where the demo truly shined. To tip the scales of battle in her favor, Bayonetta can now summon infernal demons to crush her enemies.

Bayonetta could summon demons in the first two games in the series, but this time, the player can actually control them in combat. Of course, these titans aren’t infallible. They can be defeated in battle, after which they need time to recharge before they can be summoned again. Protecting Bayonetta while controlling a summoned demon adds an extra layer of challenge. Once a demon starts up a move, she’s left defenseless to other enemies, and if she takes damage, her demon(s) will disappear. I could queue up to two demon attacks at a time, though. This helped me keep the witch away from the center of combat, thereby keeping the demons from their demise.

Supporting more play styles

Bayonetta’s new demon-wielding abilities seem designed to entice different kinds of players and techniques. Each new weapon and infernal demon supports a different play style. From the slow but heavy-hitting tank Gomorrah to the lithe and stealthy Malphas, players now have more options than ever before.

A massive demonic entity in Bayonetta 3 spews purple, sparkly fire Image: PlatinumGames

Gone are the climax summons that automatically defeated enemies. Now, players have to choose a demon and finish the fights themselves — and they get to choose the preferred demon for the job. Yusuke Miyata, director of Bayonetta 3, put it this way in a message on Platinum Games’ website:

This mechanic lets players control demons during gameplay and unleash a host of intuitive actions. Each demon’s abilities vary and the kinds of abilities that are advantageous in a certain situation can change at any time.

As Miyata suggests, changing demons is encouraged — I know it helped me a great deal as I faced the different landscapes and homunculi in the demo — though it’s not technically required. You can summon any and all of the demons according to your choosing, based on combat advantages, environmental conditions, or just personal preference. (For example, if you used to find it hard to time a perfect dodge and set off Bayonetta’s Witch Time ability, you might take comfort in the slower, steadier speed of the tank-like Gomorrah.) If you find a demon and weapon combo that makes the game more fun for you, Bayonetta 3 will let you meet all combat situations with them.

Having only spent 15 minutes with this demo, I’m not sure where the series’ story will head next, although the developers have hinted that this game is the beginning of a new era of Bayonetta. As for what that means, only the Time Witch will tell when the game comes to Nintendo Switch on Oct. 28.

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