Nintendo’s Hidden Gem of 2023 Just Got a Huge Discount
A stunning storybook adventure.
In a year full of great games, Nintendo had a particularly great year. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom managed to exceed expectations, Pikmin 4 was the most accessible entry in the delightful series, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder brought back 2D platforming in glorious style. But it really all started back in March when Nintendo got its groove going with a game that has flown under the radar.
The latest entry in the campy action series from PlatinumGames was completely unexpected. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and The Lost Demon is a prequel that turns the raunchy heroine’s ass-kicking into a puzzle adventure game for all ages and manages to add some of the most emotional high points the series has ever seen. It was an unexpected delight in March and remains one of the year's most surprising and satisfying releases.
Nothing about Bayonetta Origins made sense when it was announced. Nintendo’s third entry in the series had mixed reviews, yet it was followed by a prequel a handful of months later that felt rushed at best. Turning one of the more adult characters in games into a family-friendly mascot was even more of a head-scratcher. But somehow, Bayonetta Origins manages to pull off its wild premise with flying colors.
Shaking up so much of the franchise’s status quo gave both the series and its fans room to breathe. For people like me, who were burned by the end of Bayonetta 3, the distant prequel offered a new story with a fresh take on the beloved umbra witch. The confident and sultry women of the mainline titles were stripped down into a child, desperate to put on a brave face and prove herself to others. But Cereza is still immediately recognizable as the same witch we know as Bayonetta, just without some of her signature confidence.
Likewise, the high-octane (but sometimes repetitive) combat of the series is mostly done away with in favor of exploration and puzzle-solving. By controlling Cereza and Cheshire, her now demon-possessed stuffed animal, the player navigates the forest in a manner reminiscent of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Rather than a power trip that lets the player beat up enemies, Bayonetta Origins seeks to put the player and Cereza into a child’s fairytale. Cereza finds herself lost in a forbidden forest that inspires terror and awe in equal measure.
That fairytale vibe extends to every aspect of the game but shines most in its art direction and unique approach to cutscenes. The game itself looks like a watercolor painting. The vibrant greens, blues, and purples make the forest feel alive with magic as if you’re seeing the world through a child’s eyes.
Finally, the cutscenes. As this is a child’s fairytale, Bayonetta Origins chooses to make cutscenes appear like the pages of a storybook. The game opens with a shot of an actual book titled Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon à la the old Disney movies. Each cutscene plays out on a page, with the text and illustrations filling out the space as the story progresses. The cherry on top is the narration, which is all done by actress Jenny Lee. Lee voices nearly the entire game, and as any good narrator does, puts on voices for different characters that make the game even more delightful.