With the release of Bayonetta 3 to a fanbase that had been waiting for nearly a decade. As of October 28, 2022, fans were treated with the return of the Umbra Witch in all her glory. Also, per Bayonetta tradition she is sporting a new knockout of a look for her new narrative outing. One of the main draws of a character action games, are the mechanics. Not only are they fun to play, but does it hold depth within the game. Leading to a certain level of mastery required to see all the game has to offer.
However, while the gameplay remains fun, fast, and fluid. The Bayonetta 3 narrative didn’t impress at all. While the story of the Bayonetta games may not be the main draw for players, there’s no denying that each game has one. Narrative is very integral to games weather we know it or not. It serves as a medium to interact with narratives being told which is unlike any medium out there. A narrative is what gives these games context and helps endear us to characters. There is a reason Bayonetta was beloved enough to receive an invitation to Super Smash Brothers.
What are the Homunculi?
Bayonetta, is an Umbra Witch who forms contracts with demons. To uphold her end of the contract, she kills angels. However, for the first time in the series, angels will not be the main enemies. With a twist akin to the previous game, Bayonetta 2, which introduced enemies from inferno. New enemies from the human realm have been introduced, known as the homunculus. An enemy type which hints that the use of alchemy may be the origin of these creatures. Alchemy could be seen as a combination of science and magic from a certain perspective.
Unfortunately, this is the first major problem the story faces. Unlike the homunculus, angels and demons need no real explanation on their origins. The lore of this world is built on their existence. However, with a man-made enemy like this, it requires some sort of explanation. The previous games have hinted that the Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches were the only humans who use magic. There is no actual mention of alchemy in the game’s narrative, so even that theory may not be true. However, these homunculi can battle on even ground with infernal demons and even manage to kill alternate Bayonettas. Ultimately it is unclear what powers are on display here.
Bayonetta Narrative Goes Multi-versal
The second issue is introducing a multi-verse without truly explaining how any of it works. Time Travel and Multi-Verse are things that are popular story tropes to base a narrative on, even the previous game Bayonetta 2 dabbled with time travel. The villain of Bayonetta 3 is destroying different realities, revealing that the world of Chaos is made of a multiverse. The reason why realities vanish is unclear though. It seems that each multiple Bayonettas’ life is linked with their reality, and when a Bayonetta dies their reality falls as well. The reason could be a call back to her being the Left Eye of Darkness, but again nothing is explained to us. The game’s story feels like its leading players’ by the nose.
Especially with the rinse and repeat of the goal of each level. Spending the majority of the game hunting done these important artifacts, the Chaos Gears, only for them to be forgotten about as soon as they’ve served their purpose. For Viola its worse as she spends her entire campaign chasing after Luka. She doesn’t even come to that decision herself. She is told to go after him by Bayonetta, albeit it is also for personal reasons as she’s the daughter of Luka and Bayonetta in another reality. Despite being the catalyst of the story, she ultimately contributes nothing to stopping Singularity. At least in Bayonetta 2 Loki was an asset in defeating Loptr.
A Personal End Goal
The next problem is with Bayonetta herself. In Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, the plot centered around what she wanted to accomplish, and no one would stand in her way. Her personal goal was to recover her memories in Bayonetta. She wasn’t interested in any prophecies or eyes of the world. It was made even clearer when she would roll her eyes at angels talking to her about the plot. In Bayonetta 2, her personal goal was to save Jeanne from Inferno. While the Aesir plot was going on in the background, it was always clear what her goal is and she only changes gears when her personal mission is accomplished. For Bayonetta 3, she has no real personal goal. It is only to collect five important items because someone told her too. She lacked some of the agency she usually has.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Luka and Bayonetta, and how Viola fits in as a potential successor to the series should be reserved for another piece, as many were not too pleased about how the Bayonetta 3 Narrative ended. The most unfortunate part of this is despite how low standards may be for the storytelling of Bayonetta games, it lacked a few finer details that made the titular character so much fun to journey with.