There are two schools of thought when it comes to sequels: make more of the same, perhaps with a few minor improvements or additions here and there, or make something radically different.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages -- make something too similar to the original and fans might feel a little short-changed; make something too different and you run the risk of alienating the people who made it popular in the first place. It's a delicate balance.
Bayonetta 2 very much takes the first approach, and that's absolutely fine; the original was an excellent, fast-paced action game, and more of that is certainly welcome -- particularly on Wii U, which is in urgent need of some high-profile games. Platinum Games titles aren't necessarily system-sellers, though they do have a dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic audience -- and, interestingly, ever since the Eurogamer Expo opened on Thursday this week, there's been a constant line of people waiting to try Bayonetta's new adventure for themselves. Nowhere near the same volume of people as for something like, say, Titanfall, but there's still a healthy degree of interest, and it's perhaps telling that it's one of only two or three games at Nintendo's booth that you have to actually wait in line for.
I'm not generally big on manic action games as my reactions aren't as fast as I'd like and I often find it difficult to remember complicated button combinations for special moves and so forth. One of the things I really liked about the original Bayonetta, though, was that although it was chaotic and bewildering to watch, the screen frequently erupting in explosions and torrents of blood, I always felt in complete control of what was going on. The fact that all of the various combos were restricted to just two buttons made it easy to understand while allowing the flexibility to respond to a wide variety of situations. The game was excellent at giving feedback to the player, too; clear but subtle on-screen indicators telegraphed when enemies were going to attack, making it easy to take full advantage of the "Witch Time" mechanic, whereby dodging at the last split-second before an enemy attack connected slowed down time. It was a satisfying game to play; combat felt fluid and exciting, even while you were learning, and it wasn't long before the game helped build your confidence to try more complicated combinations. The fact you could practice your moves and review all the possible combos on each loading screen was an eminently sensible idea, too.
The reason I mention this is that it's all true for Bayonetta 2, as well. The Eurogamer Expo demo launched straight into chaotic combat, but felt immediately familiar. Being surrounded by enemies wasn't a daunting prospect, because it was easy to take advantage of Bayonetta's agility to avoid them. It wasn't long before it was all flooding back and I was comfortably reading the visual cues of enemies, triggering Witch Time and unleashing devastating combos -- with occasional breaks for the button-mashing of the series' iconic and gory Torture Attacks, of course.
Platinum clearly hasn't forgotten that a big part of Bayonetta's appeal was the sheer spectacle of many of its battles, too; just in the first part of the demo, you're fighting enemies on the wing of a fighter jet before leaping through floating rubble, only to land on a speeding train being attacked by a giant monster. Like its predecessor, the game isn't afraid to throw back-to-back bosses at you, either, with an important part of successfully completing each of the "verses" in each of the game's "chapters" involving prioritizing targets and being aware of what's going on around you. The over-the-top "Climax" attacks are back, too, with Bayonetta summoning terrible beasts from the hellish Inferno dimension to devour her enemies. The first Climax in the demo leads to some new gameplay, in fact; a backfired summoning allows the demonic Gomorrah to escape, and Bayonetta takes to the skies on black feathered wings made from her hair to battle the feral demon who is, as you might expect, a little bit angry.
Like the previous game, there's a strong focus on replay value in Bayonetta 2. Each verse ranks you with a medal, and you'll collect Sonic-style rings in ever-greater quantities for unleashing huge combos and attaining high scores. The demo didn't show what it was possible to spend these on, but if it's anything like the original, you can expect everything from new weapons to helpful consumable items via a fine selection of silly costumes and peculiar equipment items -- perhaps the "Odette" ice skates will make another appearance?
Strong efforts have been made to ensure that Bayonetta 2 is accessible to as wide an audience as possible, too, regardless of skill level. Not only does the new game feature the button-mashing easy mode from the original, there's also a touch-controlled mode that allows players to direct Bayonetta and her attacks simply by using the GamePad's touchscreen. You can freely switch between the two modes in the middle of play, too -- a pleasing nod to those who want to try out both control schemes and see which they prefer.
Fans of the original can have faith then; Bayonetta 2 is very much a sequel to Bayonetta. Whether or not it'll sell many (or any) Wii U units remains to be seen, but Platinum fans who already have one (and who are probably already playing The Wonderful 101 if they've got any sense) can rest assured that this will more than likely be a safe purchase when it finally releases next year.