Published 14 September, 2013 | by Shane Henry1
Nintendo Wii U Review – The Wonderful 101
There comes a time when something unique comes to the scene that captures your eye, piques your curiosity or offers something very unusual in a very weird way. The first time I ever seen The Wonderful 101 in motion live at last year’s Eurogamer Expo really made me jump with joy, and with Platinum at the helm, creating a new IP and forging new ideas to add to their library of exhilarating action games was a great prospect for me. Does it live up to Platinum’s reputation as action game extraordinaire? Does it fall short, or is it on par with Platinum’s earlier releases? With the game finally nearing it’s American release, will it be worth the wait for our American neighbours, and will it be a ‘must-have’ game for the Wii U?? From what I’ve played, this is probably one of the most FUN games I’ve played in years. To put everything in short at the very start, I LOVE THIS GAME.
Just for the record, this is a pure action game through and through, and it’s completely different to Pikmin 3 which everyone who first glances at the game will compare it to. While Pikmin 3 is about time management and resource gathering, this is more action oriented, with your team acting as a cohesive ‘whole’ to become your weapon and to solve minor puzzles. The main mechanic revolves around the ‘Wonder-Liner’ which is used to recruit allies from rescued citizens or enemies, and to draw shapes to turn your team into different weapons to be used as your main functions of attack. When I played the demo, it took me at least my second playthrough on it to learn what I was getting into, and after a few playthrough’s, it just automatically ‘clicked’. When you get to this stage in learning the controls, then that’s when it starts to shine, and shine very bright indeed.
I’ve seen many reactions of people not getting to grips with the controls (probably by first playing the demo, but not taking their time to learn). Take it from me, it only requires execution practice and patience. While the touch screen is serviceable for lower difficulties, using the right analogue stick is the way to go here. Sometimes, you notice that you have a small amount of units in your team, so you need to make smaller shapes to execute. Getting the right shapes also means to look at the Wonder-Liner (on the game screen) to see if its colour-coded to the weapon you want. Later on in the game, it took a while for me to create certain shapes (I was struggling to draw Unite Bomb for example), but I had to develop my own way of executing it. Now I can produce that shape with absolute ease. Once you experiment and dissect the system to YOUR advantage, it becomes a brilliant game. It just asks for your time and commitment. With a little thought, it can be really satisfying.
There is a lot of depth to the system and gives you a lot of creativity in dealing with enemies; recruiting more allies to the team increases the size of a weapon, and each weapon has a different rate of combo and score multiplier. Managing the crowd control of your enemies and taking them down as quickly as possible produces a zen-like moment to me. The concentration in performing intricate combos for maximum damage on bigger enemies is handled with a lot of precision, and with certain power-ups obtained throughout the campaign mode giving more flexibility, combo potential and fluidity of movement, the controls are absolutely the star of this game. Going through hard mode is an absolutely rush with all of your abilities in check, giving that ‘Platinum’ learning curve progression. It essentially becomes Bayonetta on crack.
Wonderful Missions is the game’s other mode, which can be played alone or by local multiplayer with up to 5 players (1 player on the gamepad, the rest only using Pro controllers). This is a great little mode to test yourself, strive for top score, gain more secrets, or just practice your technique and execution. The mode gets rid of the bullet time for the Wonder-Liner to prevent other players being dis-orientated during gameplay, but I think it’s a good way of testing execution skills, and will most likely improve your abilities through the main campaign.
There are some minor niggles with the gameplay which wasn’t thought out at first glance though. The isometric view of the game may infuriate people on certain sections of the game; sometimes your view gets obscured from larger enemies, or some of the platforming and hand gliding sections are hard to judge positioning. There are also a few gimmick sections throughout the game which I won’t spoil, but they do get a tad annoying on multiple playthrough’s where I want to get to the main core gameplay. Lastly, there has been a few bugs that I encountered which was a bit annoying.
TIP: As soon as the prologue is done, immediately buy Unite Guts (which is your block move) and Unite dodge. Unfortunately, you don’t get both at the very beginning. I think this was used as a way of going straight to the Wonder-Mart as a tutorial incentive (and yeah, you will be coming here OFTEN), but it’s still a bit weird to omit it in every sense at the very start, and can baffle people who are just starting out.
The Wonderful 101 in my opinion, has striking colourful visuals which was inspired by Japanese tokusatsu TV programs. I really loved Power Rangers, Super Sentai and Kamen Rider as a child, and the way the game has its own take on it makes me feel that certain nostalgia. Performance wise, while the character models are not detailed, it is to accommodate all of the enemies that you see on screen, and the stages look absolutely beautiful with a great sense of scale and a wide colour palette; something that is missing in most modern games of today (har haaar!!). With the game striving for a locked 60fps, it is a very fluid game at its best. There are certain times where slowdown occurs, but it doesn’t really impact gameplay much at all. Gamepad graphics meanwhile looks very good, and perfectly serviceable for off-TV play.
The soundtrack to this game is very well handled, with great orchestral scores with a catchy (or sometimes infuriating to some people) main theme. I don’t really remember any memorable music, though when that main theme kicks in, you can sense the hype. A special mention goes towards the end of the game as the soundtrack goes into sensory overload, with music that is certainly on par with Bayonetta’s standards. It’s good. REALLY GOOD. As for the sound effects, audio cues are very important in these kind of games, mainly because you are looking out for certain sounds that gives an indication of an enemy attack. Most of the time, it’s very hard to judge sound among the chaos, and as a result, getting hit by a flying bomb in the face from off the screen is a bit off-putting. Game sounds coming from the gamepad are loud and crisp.
Ahhhh I can sense the hype already!! Kamiya actually wrote the song himself.
The game has a decent lifespan, and ensures that there is some replay value in collecting all the ‘Wonderful-Ones’ (your team hidden throughout the stages), and bottle cap achievements. I’m sure there is a special unlock by getting all bottle caps, but it will be a very hard task. Wonderful Missions is a great way to have a quick burst of gaming, or to tighten up your execution. It would of been nice to have some form of online leaderboard for Wonderful Missions to gauge your score with others to give that added incentive. As always with a Platinum game, unlocking the very hardest difficulty level and beating it gives a great sense of satisfaction also!