Viola, a newcomer to the series and Bayonetta 3’s second playable protagonist, is a figure shrouded in intrigue. This punk rock-inspired warrior hails from another universe and is an Umbra Witch in training. She doesn’t have the same handle on her abilities as Bayonetta (nor her confident elegance), so Viola sports a vastly different playstyle that reflects her inexperience.
Instead of being adept at using a variety of weapons like Bayonetta, Viola only uses her katana and throwing darts. She also summons her demonic companion Cheshire for backup. What she lacks in finesse, though, she makes up for with raw power.
Playing as Viola, her style feels noticeably more deliberate. She’s still quick, but her sword attacks feel more measured and, most of all, impactful. This approach tells me that Viola may not have the experience to hang in a drawn-out battle, so she focuses on hitting haymakers to end encounters quickly. Case in point: Holding the attack buttons charges her swings, engulfing her in a fiery aura that unleashes an explosive assault on the unlucky target.
Viola lacks her own set of guns – those are reserved for true Umbra Witches. Instead, she uses an unlimited supply of throwing darts to keep distant foes at bay. Naturally, you can’t fire these off as quickly as bullets, so you have to be more tactical about when to toss them.
Like Bayonetta, Viola can beckon Cheshire to fight alongside her. She accomplishes this by using the doll attached to her sword as the conduit for the summoning instead of her hair. The trade-off is that she has to disarm herself, something director Yusuke Miyata says requires a great degree of courage since she relies on her sword so heavily.
Viola’s rookie status means she’s less capable at using magic; she can conjure demons but can’t control them. Thus, Cheshire behaves independently, swiping his large paws and going ballistic on whatever threat lies in front of him. As the Avengers learned when dealing with the Hulk, the best way to “control” Cheshire’s onslaught is to point him towards a target and hope for the best. It’s amusing watching this ridiculous-looking creature go to town on enemies. Plus, the benefit of not having to command Cheshire is that players can still fully control Viola. Although she has to fight bare-handed, tearing apart Homunculi alongside her demonic kitty is a blast, and Platinum says the pair are capable of dishing out more max damage than even Bayonetta.
Witch Time presents the biggest contrast between Viola and Bayonetta, one that will throw veteran players for a loop. Going back to Viola’s emphasis on brute strength, she doesn’t dodge to trigger the effect. Rather, you must block with your sword just before an attack lands. What will trip up fans – as it did me – is that blocking is mapped to the R button. Years of using Witch Time has trained me to keep a finger hovering over the right trigger at all times, so I absorbed many punches to the face before I became (mostly) used to hitting the R button instead. Viola can still dodge, mind you; it just doesn’t have an effect tied to it. The upside is that the timing window for Witch Time is more forgiving in Viola’s case. If that doesn’t work out, she can simply block attacks normally.
These traits, plus Viola’s inability to use her hair to perform wicked weave attacks, initially made her feel basic in comparison to the flashier Bayonetta. But the more I played with her, the more I began to understand and appreciate the differences she brings to the table. Most exciting is that I only played the weakest version of Viola. Like Bayonetta, she sports a full skill tree, and I’m excited to see how her arsenal evolves throughout the adventure.
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