After our first look at the game in almost four years, it’s hard not to think of the cancelled Xbox exclusive
Almost four years since its announcement in 2017, Nintendo has finally re-revealed Bayonetta 3. Originally announced at The Game Awards in December 2017 with a scant teaser trailer and a few dismissive mentions in the years since, the long-awaited character-action sequel returned in full force at the end of September’s Nintendo Direct. The almost four-minute clip brings up a lot of new questions, like what is this brand new enemy type to Wicked Weave into the sky and who’s the guy with the katana right at the end? That being said, it does seem to answer one nagging question: where did all that work on Scalebound end up?
As a reminder, Scalebound was Platinum Games’ dragon-centric open-world action game that was meant to release as a Microsoft-funded Xbox One exclusive. Originally announced at E3 2014 during Microsoft’s Press Conference, Scalebound was in development at Platinum from 2013 until its sudden cancellation in January 2017, with concepts and design for the game dating back to the studio’s founding in 2006 (they made Bayonetta instead). Scalebound was also directed by Platinum head Hideki Kamiya, a role he has taken on rarely during his time at the studio; so far, Kamiya has taken on more of a supervisory role in the company and has only directed 2009’s Bayonetta and 2013’s Wonderful 101 so far.
From what we saw of Scalebound before it was cancelled, it looked to be Platinum’s most ambitious release to date. Set in the world of Draconis, players controlled both the human character Drew and a massive dragon named Thuban. Drew was the central player character, giving orders to an AI-controlled Thuban while cleaning up single enemies it missed, but the player could also enter “Dragon Link” mode to control Thuban directly, though this left Drew vulnerable.
As a Platinum-developed game, Scalebound was also noteworthy for just how ambitious it was compared to the studio’s previous games. While it looked to feature the polished character-action gameplay we’ve come to expect from the developer, Scalebound was also set to incorporate a massive open-world setting, a four-player co-op multiplayer mode and extensive RPG-style customisation for both Drew and Thuban. Drew could be customised with new weapons and improved with skill points, while Thuban’s appearance, armour and abilities could be altered and upgraded.
Scalebound was going to be a big game by any developer’s standards, but especially by Platinum’s. While it seemed to lack the stylish flair of typical Platinum efforts, Scalebound was exciting for its impressive, distinct sense of scale, not just in its world but in its gameplay, too. Especially at a time when the Xbox One was really lacking in essential games — a problem that’s only now being solved with a new generation — the cancellation of what could have been a unique and striking game was a gut punch to both Xbox and Platinum fans.
“Unlike the Climax Summons of previous games that automatically defeated enemies and returned to Inferno, 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.”
In the first two games, the massive demons from the trailer were only seen during pivotal moments, usually part of quick time events. This time, these same demons can be summoned and controlled outright, bringing kaiju-style battles out into the gameplay proper. From Miyata’s description, it also sounds reminiscent of V’s gameplay in Devil May Cry V, where the player can summon different demons and use different attacks depending on the situation.
From the gameplay footage, summonable demons appear to be equipped like items, seen on the d-pad layout in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Different attack button icons appear on this menu while a demon is summoned, too, signalling at least some direct control over a demon’s attacks as well as their movement.
Since this menu was reserved for consumable items in the previous two games, could this signal larger changes than expected for the series? Have items been removed, or are they just used via the pause menu from now on? Maybe there are alternate D-pad menus, similar to the way that weapons can be equipped across two different weapon sets and swapped between mid-gameplay?
There is also a purple bar underneath the D-pad menu that seems to govern how long a demon can be summoned for. While there doesn’t seem to be a traditional magic gauge anywhere on screen — in the first two games, this was represented as bubble-like segments underneath the health bar — this bar doesn’t seem to be connected to the magic system at all. Assuming the same magic system is still present in Bayonetta 3 but wasn’t not visible during this trailer, the “Demon Slave” mechanic and everything attached to magic, like Torture Attacks and Wicked Weaves, are distinct from one another. There’s a purple butterfly icon beside the health bar in the top left of the screen that could represent the player’s magic in some way, but this wasn’t true during the trailer since nothing in the UI changed whenever the player performed any major magic-dependent techniques.
Lastly, it’s safe to assume that the “Demon Slave” mechanic will replace the Umbran Climax power-up from Bayonetta 2, likely representing the flashy power-up/comeback move of Bayonetta 3. I’d guess that this purple bar will regenerate separately from the normal magic gauge but, like Umbran Climax, will need a full magic gauge to activate and summon a demon of your choosing.
Aside from gameplay, the new trailer teases a number of introductions and changes for the sequel, like an entirely new type of enemy to fight. Similar to the introduction of Infernal Demons as enemy types in the second game, Bayonetta 3 seems to centre around a brand-new type of enemy, though it’s unclear this time what they’re called or where they originate from. The safe bet is that this green-and-silver enemy type — who seem to be made out of souls and manifest into the Human Realm as jelly-like blobs before stretching out into shape — are from the final known realm of the Bayonetta universe called Purgatorio.
Borrowing from Dante’s Divine Comedy, Bayonetta’s worldis separated into three realms known as the “Trinity of Realities”: the Human Realm, Paradiso (Heaven) and Inferno (Hell). Purgatorio (Purgatory or Limbo), meanwhile, is a parallel dimension to the Human Realm and represents the “centre” of this trinity. It’s a neutral space where Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages can travel between the three realms. This realm has technically been seen in the series before, whenever Bayonetta and others turn “invisible” to humans without actually leaving the Human Realm, instead existing “outside” of it.
The question then becomes: if Purgatorio isn’t a real setting, where exactly did these new enemies come from? Do they come from another realm entirely? How is this enemy type different from Angels and Demons in the first two titles? Either way, it’s a solid hook for the sequel, even if the story will inevitably take a backseat to the action.
There are a lot more questions left to answer after the trailer, like what’s the deal behind the mystery man in the leather jacket seen in the final few seconds and a logo motif that might suggest parallel timelines or dimensions (which wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for this time travel-heavy series). Even Bayonetta’s new look and the way her design deliberately calls back to her appearances in the first game, both as an adult and as Cereza, herself as a child, seems to hint at something bigger than just an outfit swap. There’s also the question of whether anything we saw here connects back to anything in the original 2017 announcement trailer, where we saw Bayonetta (dressed in the same or very similar outfit she wore in the first game) killed and dismembered by a mysterious ghost-like figure.
Regardless, Bayonetta 3 is finally — finally! — on the horizon, and it’s set for release on Switch next year. Scalebound makes for a curious comparison but with so many new elements beyond kaiju battles, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited for the return of Platinum’s character-action juggernaut.