Bayonetta 3 proves the Nintendo Switch Pro is long overdue

Bayonetta 3 - Conversation Gameplay
(Image credit: Nintendo)

In 2017, the Nintendo Switch was a revelation. Underpowered specs aside, its portable nature and strong lineup of exclusives made the console an instant hit.

Five years on, though, the Nintendo Switch is much longer in the tooth. Exclusive games are releasing at a slower clip, and many of those that do are hindered by the console’s aging Tegra X1 processor.

Case in point, Bayonetta 3. It’s a game I love greatly and, with ocean-deep combat mechanics and mind-melting set pieces, it’s quintessential Platinum Games. But the developer’s over-the-top ambitions come at a cost that the Switch simply can’t meet.

For me, Bayonetta 3 would’ve been damn near close to perfect if it wasn’t for its glaring performance issues. Gameplay segments, both calm and bombastic, clunk along at an uneven pace – the game’s framerate never really being able to settle on one solid number. Bayonetta 3 targets 60fps but the Switch, bless its little circuits, often has us playing at 30fps.

Given the solidly high performance of its predecessors (bar the PS3 port of Bayonetta 1), Bayonetta 3 finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t very well lock itself to 30fps; fans would be furious. But its Nintendo Switch exclusivity means it’s entirely unable to hold a buttery smooth 60fps.

It’s high time, then, for the Nintendo Switch Pro to make itself known.

Switch over

Nintendo Switch OLED Splatoon 3 Edition

(Image credit: Nintendo)

We know that the Nintendo Switch has a long lifecycle ahead of it. Nintendo itself has confirmed as much in early 2022. At the time, I was thinking charitably, and assumed this long life cycle meant that we would get a glimpse at a Pro model sooner rather than later.

But now it’s hard to say definitively either way. Nintendo is as unpredictable – and inconsistent – as it is wildly creative. This is the company that, with the Wii, refused to embrace HD display technology right as it was burgeoning, in favor of a cheaper, more accessible console for the masses.

The Switch isn’t so different. All three models, including the Nintendo Switch Lite and Nintendo Switch OLED, are cheaper than its competitors (bar the incredible value of the Xbox Series S). Not only that, but Nintendo’s portable wonder offers ways to play that suit a variety of players.

...even Monolith Soft – certified wizards of the Switch’s hardware – can’t stop its detailed world from chugging

Yet, also like the Wii, the Switch falls well behind in the specs department. So much so that games that support a native 1080p resolution on the console happen once in a blue moon. It’s not capable of 4K, nor 1440p. Its storage capacity of 32GB (64GB on the OLED) falls well short of what’s available on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, too.

But I could forgive most of these issues if even the best Nintendo Switch games had more consistent performance. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 won my heart this year with its marvelous characters and breathtaking scenery. Yet even developer Monolith Soft – certified wizards of the Switch’s hardware – can’t stop its detailed world of Aionios from chugging when the action ramps up.

Let’s also not forget Kirby and the Forgotten Land. It’s Kirby’s first fully 3D outing, and it’s a damn gorgeous game to boot. But because of the Switch’s drawbacks, it’s trapped at a subpar framerate.

Even Platinum’s own 2019 masterpiece, Astral Chain, had to be locked at 30fps to maintain consistently adequate performance. You know something’s up when Platinum Games – famous for its commitment to high frame rates – has to tone things down.

Will the Switch sitch improve?

Bayonetta 3 Umbra dragon

(Image credit: Platinum Games)

And that brings us right back to Bayonetta 3. Much like Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Astral Chain, and potentially even The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it’s an incredible game trapped on ailing hardware.

I want to wax lyrical about the sights I’ve seen in Bayonetta 3. How each colossal set piece had my jaw dropping further than Scooby-Doo’s in the presence of a ghost. “It’s not that bad,” you might respond. And sure, Bayonetta 3 isn’t unplayable. It’s excellent. But even something as seemingly mundane as frame pacing can have a huge impact on how a scene makes you feel. Platinum’s all about style and panache, and much of that is unfortunately lost as you witness the Switch struggle to keep everything stitched together.

If you want my harebrained prediction, though (with a side of wishful thinking for good measure), I do think we will still get a Nintendo Switch Pro. And I want to believe it’ll be day-and-date with the launch of Tears of the Kingdom.

Nintendo’s no stranger to launching a console alongside its next big Zelda game. Twilight Princess came with the Wii, as did Breath of the Wild on the Switch’s launch day. Tears of the Kingdom, with its massive open world and emphasis on verticality, would be the perfect game to showcase the specs of a Nintendo Switch Pro console.

And hopefully, the Pro would retroactively improve performance for previously released Nintendo Switch games like Bayonetta 3. I would absolutely love to revisit the game and others like it at a higher resolution and a higher, more stable framerate.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but even recent Nvidia leaks seem to suggest that an upgraded Nintendo Switch is in the works. And, now that most of Nintendo’s first-party exclusives have been accounted for (sans Metroid Prime 4, of course), what else could the company show off in the near future? Keep an eye out for the next Nintendo Direct; I think we might just be pleasantly surprised.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.