The Wonderful 101 is almost obviously made by Platinum Games. It features the developers’ trademark quirky charm, characters reminiscent of Viewtiful Joe, and a crazy focus on combo-based action like Bayonetta. It’s on the way for Wii U on September 15th, and in anticipation of its release, Nintendo has released a Nintendo Direct focusing entirely on the game, hosted by Hideki Kamiya himself.
But before we get into all that, check out this recap from the Nintendo Direct earlier in the week.
And check out the latest trailer for The Wonderful 101, courtesy of Nintendo:
We’ve seen The Wonderful 101 on multiple occasion, but this is the first time that we’ve gotten an extended look at the characters and the lore that make up the game’s interesting premise and unique world. We learned the name of the alien threat that The Wonderful 100, nicknamed the “Friends of Justice” have to contend with in the game, and they are called the Geathjerks.
The Wonderful 100 was organized by the planetary secret service to protect the Earth from alien threats such as the Geathjerks. There are 100 heroes in all, with the main team of seven that I will get into a bit later. One of the goals in the game is to recruit all 100 heroes in the game, each with their own special abilities.
We got a glimpse of some of these secondary heroes. We learned of Wonder-Painter, Wonder-Yang, and Wonder-Fixit. They all had unique looks and amusing stats about them. I can’t wait to see what other characters and heroes will be met throughout the adventure in The Wonderful 101.
Everyone’s a hero
One of the main objectives in each mission, besides completing puzzles and fighting the alien enemies, is to do what superheroes do, which is rescue citizens that are in danger. After saving the citizens from the monsters or other threat, players have to draw a circle around them using the GamePad’s touchscreen to recruit them as temporary heroes.
The citizens are imbued with Wonder Energy to give them powers to act as stand-in heroes. They are used in Team Attacks where they are used to deal damage to enemies almost Pikmin-style, jumping on enemies and clinging to them in order to immobilize them, which makes it easier to attack them. While Mr. Kamiya was explaining this gameplay mechanic (by the way, in the Nintendo Direct video, every segment ended with “Buy Wonderful 101 on September 15th!), we learned of a new enemy type called the Chew Dough-Goo.
One of the main gameplay mechanics in The Wonderful 101 is the Unite Morph ability. Using this, the heroes can transform into giant weapons by drawing specific symbols on the GamePad touchscreen. Drawing a circle will create the Unite Hand, whereas drawing a straight line creates the Unite Sword. Drawing a right angle creates the Unite Gun, and drawing a wavy line creates the Unite Whip. Later in the Nintendo Direct, other abilities such as Unite Hammer and Unite Bomb were also revealed. For those “hardcore” players that don’t want to use touchscreen controls for whatever reason, the symbols can be drawn using the right analog stick as well.
The larger your group of teammates, the larger the Unite Morph weapons will be. The Attack Power of each weapon is proportionate to the amount of teammates you have recruited as well, so there’s even more reason to go out of your way to find all the heroes and rescue large groups of civilians.
Puzzles and platforming
While the Unite Morph has obvious functionality in the combat sector, it will also be used for puzzle solving and platforming purpose. Various examples were given during the Nintendo Direct showing how to use the Unite Morphs for those puzzles and platforming purposes.
In order to get across a gap, a chain was created that could be walked across. In another situation, all the heroes were turned into a ladder in order to climb up the side of a building. A bridge was also made, and the heroes were even used to replace parts in a broken elevator. By drawing a triangle on the touchscreen, the heroes turned into a hang glider to glide from the roof of one building to another.
We also saw the Unite Morphs specific to the characters used in other ways. Unite Hand was used to turn a large lever that the heroes couldn’t possibly turn by themselves, and the Unite Sword was used a key. Unite Whip was used as a grappling hook to use a crane to get across a large gap.
The Wonderful Mart
Hideki Kamiya and Platinum Games in general tend to put in-game shops in their titles. In The Wonderful 101, the game shop is called the Wonderful Mart. Players can gain in-game currency called O-Parts from winning battles and completing missions. Various items and abilities can be purchased from the Wonderful Mart, including new Unite Morphs.
Two examples of purchasable Unite Morphs were given during the Nintendo Direct. Unite Guts, which was shown in earlier videos of the game, turns the characters into a gelatin-like blob in order to deflect attacks. Unite Spring turns the characters, predictably, into a spring, which is helpful for dodging the attacks of enemies.
Power up items called Custom Blocks can be purchased from the Wonderful Mart as well. New skills can be bought to expand attack moves can also be purchased. Healing items and other types of items are also up for purchase at the Wonderful Mart.
Each stage in the game is divided into smaller missions. Players are scored based on five different criteria and awarded a medal based on how well they do. Combos are a great way to build up your score. The Climb Attack ability, in which the heroes jump on the enemies to stop them from moving, as mentioned earlier. Attacks do more damage when enemies aren’t moving, plus it’s easier to pull off combos to raise your score.
Multiple Unite Morphs can be activated simultaneously to help in the combos. Up to five Unite Morphs can be activated simultaneously. You can chain together multiple Unite Morphs to chain together combos. You can learn new skills to help the combo attacks along.
A wonderful cast
Finally, we’ve gotten an extended look at the characters in The Wonderful 101. It is honestly reminiscent of the Power Rangers, with each of the main characters having a distinct personality, their own color to represent them, and their own unique abilities to help them stand out from each other.
There’s Wonder Red, the Crimson Fist, the leader of the team. Then there’s Wonder Blue, the Supersonic Blade, who has a bit of an ego. Wonder Green is Le Sniper Superior, a French hero that is a bit overweight and creates the Unite Morph Gun. Wonder Pink is the only female in the group, the sassy Queen of Rage.
Wonder Yellow is the oldest member of the group, a Russian that uses Unite Hammer, and has the nickname the Hummer Ruskie. There’s a Japanese ninja called Wonder White that uses the Claws of Calamity. And finally, there’s Wonder Black, the youngest member of the group with the nickname the 8-Bit Enchanter, and has the power of the Unite Bomb.
We were also introduced to other members of the cast. Laurence Nelson is the general in charge of the heroes, whereas Alice MacGregor appears to be his lieutenant. P-Star is a robot companion that follows the heroes around and I assume it is how they communicate with Nelson and MacGregor. There’s also James Shirogane, a quirky scientist that builds technology for the team, and Luka, a small child on the hunt for revenge that tags along with the heroes.
We got a glimpse of multiple enemies, including a Prince and Queen of the alien invaders, shoot ‘em up style combat sequences, and a situation where the heroes were even fighting with each other. The Wonderful 101 is shaping up to be one of the best games of the year from my estimation, with an insane premise. It’s basically an anime version of Power Rangers in video game form.
Hands-on with the game
Shortly after their Nintendo Direct, Nintendo made a game demo of The Wonderful 101 available to download through Wii U’s eShop. I highly recommend doing that right now before reading my own thoughts on the game. The demo allows for a total of 20 play times.
The demo is surprisingly extensive. You can play through a decently long section of the Story mode, which allows for over 10 missions, and have access to a variety of Unite Morph abilities and other abilities as well. The “spring” and “guts” abilities that were shown in the Nintendo Direct were able to be used as well, and they were easily pulled off with the triggers.
In the Nintendo Direct, it was said that these abilities were optional and had to be purchased, but I can’t imagine combat without them. Without the ability to block bombs with the guts Morph or the ability to dodge quick enemy attacks with spring, the already incredibly tough combat becomes impossibly difficult.
I played the demo on Normal mode, and it was a very hard game. However, it was fair, and that is important. Yes, I died on multiple occasions, but I was also thrown into the game having to learn all these abilities and attacks by myself instead of naturally learning them in the beginning stages of the game, which I assume happens at some point, especially since Guts and Spring are optional.
There was also an optional side mission available to play. I was disappointed that this mission wasn’t much different than the story mode mission, but it was still fun and offered new challenges. Using the right stick to draw is infinitely inferior to using the touchscreen, by the way, so when you play the game, you’ll definitely want to be using the touchscreen for performing the Unite Morph attacks.
I didn’t expect The Wonderful 101 to really take advantage of Wii U’s unique “second screen” capabilities, but in the demo, it did, and on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, the “whiplash” effect from looking back and forth at the TV and the GamePad was hugely prominent in The Wonderful 101 thanks to the nature of the game. The game is an action-intensive brawler that requires you to almost constantly be looking at what’s going on to avoid damage, and when you look at the GamePad, that can be a problem.
Eventually, I got used to drawing the Unite Morphs without looking at the screen, which is vital to winning the tougher battles. Combining Unite Morphs is a bit trickier, but mastering the gameplay is hugely rewarding. Managing items is also a bit of a pain at first, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. Speaking of items, there were a few different items to use in the demo.
There were a couple of different rocket types. One rocket type simply launched a barrage of missiles on the screen at various locations. The other required players to aim with the GamePad at the different enemies on the screen and then tap them to fire the missiles at them. I found this to be a particularly entertaining use of the GamePad. Other items included more weapons, such as ones picked up from the corpses of fallen alien robot enemies, as well as a variety of healing items.
One of the cleverer ways the game took advantage of the GamePad was when I walked through a warehouse. The camera, which can sometimes be a hassle, is a somewhat angled top-down perspective. Instead of just showing us what’s going on under the roof by fading out the roof of the warehouse like most games, the perspective switches to the GamePad screen. The camera here is controlled by moving the GamePad around, and there was a puzzle to solve. I love the concept, though the camera was even more of a nuisance at this juncture.
Switching between the TV and the GamePad was somewhat annoying in earlier Wii U games, such as the Wii U port of Assassin’s Creed III, but The Wonderful 101 (and Pikmin 3 as well, I’ve discovered) do a much better job of it, making switching between the GamePad and TV as simple as pressing the “Select” or “Minus” button on the GamePad. It didn’t always work as intended in this game, though that is probably due to the game’s functionality that specifically uses the GamePad and unique features of the system.
Overall, The Wonderful 101 is a game I really want to play more of. I am very interested in the crazy lore behind the game, as it reminds me of my childhood. It seems like a love letter to 90s kid action shows, with a healthy injection of over-the-top action and zany moments that just ooze Platinum Games. In the past, I have been mostly impressed by Platinum’s efforts, but will The Wonderful 101 be a misstep or will it be Pure Platinum?
Gamers won’t have to wait long to find out! You can download the demo right now from the Nintendo eShop and the full game releases in just a little over a month on September 15th, exclusively for Nintendo Wii U.
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Have you had a chance to try out The Wonderful 101 yourself? For those early Wii U adopters, is The Wonderful 101 the game that finally justifies your purchase of the Wii U system? Or have you been satisfied with it already up to this point? Sound off in the comments below about a very exciting upcoming Wii U exclusive.