When I first purchased my Wii U, I began my search for games to add to its library. I kept hearing comments here and there regarding a game that was a cross between the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Pikmin, and Viewtiful Joe (if you aren’t old enough to know or remember that game, go look it up). Of course I was interested. So, hoping there would be one, I searched the eShop for a demo of the game, as to get a taste to whether or not I would enjoy it; luckily there was. I downloaded the game, and decided to give the game a shot, if for nothing else than to support Platinum Games. So, is this game a worthy addition to Platinum’s well-rounded action genre game collection?
Visuals (8/10) –
Well, the first thing you’ll notice is how charming the game is. The semi-overhead camera focused on a tiny body in the distance scurrying around the level. The background, and the animations filling it, were surprising; I found myself watching the entire screen on multiple occasions. Then, it didn’t take long for the main character, Wonder Red, to find some recruits to add to his entourage. The game looks great, and can process many different individual character designs at once. The backgrounds throughout the entire game range from dull mega buildings and cities, all the way to running around inside a human body while micro organisms try to kill you (seriously, I’m not making that up). It’s a mixed bag, but more often than not, you will find yourself captivated by this world Platinum has created. The detail and time put into each Wonderful One reflects the care and love the designers put into this game as well. I found myself spending a large portion of time just going over each Wonderful One I discovered in the game, looking at their profile and reading all about their back story. However, there are some technical flaws with the game: when multiple enemies fill the screen – especially when you have amassed a large group of recruits – the frame rate does drop sometimes. Now, it was never deterring, and didn’t take away from the overall experience, but it was noticeable when it happened. The game is incredibly ambitious graphically, due to all the individual character models running around the screen, mixed with the constant background animations running; but at times it does slow down. Otherwise, Platinum did an exceptional job with their Wii U debut game.
Audio (8.75/10) –
If the visuals were similar to the likes of the Power Rangers, then the audio and music are even more so. I mean, just listen to this and tell me you don’t smile and think of the good ‘ol days where people dressed in tights and flipped around, kicking baddies in the face:
Every punch, kick, grunt, jump, and stomp sound great and fit the game perfectly. I also found myself actually speaking along with the Wonderful Ones’ catch phrases and one liners as well. The voice acting is incredibly cheesy and over the top, but that’s what it was meant to be. Heck, even when there was dialogue, they would show a picture of the speaker’s face with terrible lip syncing; the kind you find in old Kung fu movies that were dubbed over to English. Whether it is your taste or not, the audio and soundtrack are very well done, and very fitting to this game. You know a soundtrack works for a game when you can’t imagine playing it without the volume turned way up.
Gameplay (8.75/10) –
Now, to the part where Platinum usually excels in their games: the gameplay. I cannot even begin to classify this game under any specific genre, as it has characteristics of an action-adventure, RPG, button-masher, fighter, and plat-former. It truly is in its own genre, breaking down many barriers in very subtle ways – the reason they are so subtle is because it works. The way you play is simple, but can become complex: you can attack, block, and jump. What changes things up are the Wonderful transformations. When you gather enough recruits within each level, you are able to form different shapes to create different weapons (always made up of various Wonderful Ones). For instance, to form a giant fist, you either use the right joystick or the touch pad to draw a circle. The bigger the circle, the bigger/more powerful the fist. If you want a gun, you draw an “L” shape, and voila, a giant gun appears. Each transformation is used in the game, and this is where the gameplay shines: every gamer will play differently. Much like a fighting game, every player uses a different character to fight with, and they learn that fighters technique. In Wonderful 101, one player might tend to favor long shot attacks, and may upgrade accordingly, while also using the gun or whip transformation more. Maybe another favors power – then the fist and sword would be the best choices. I will say this though: the learning curve is a little tough, and in fact, I only felt completely in control of the mechanics towards the end of the game. Add these deep mechanics to a form of RPG-like upgrade system (beefing up and adding various powers your group can do), managing your battery power (which powers your transformations), and amazing boss battles, and you have a solid mix for a great core to a game.
However, this game isn’t for everyone, especially beginners, as the difficulty ramps up continuously the further the game goes on. This, however, leads to another interesting facet of the game…instead of just dying and starting over from the last save point, you get the choice to do so. If you choose to die, you pick up where your last save was, and your score at that point, leading to high rankings towards the finish of the level. If you continue, you pick up right where you died, but your score will be affected for each continue used. At first, I didn’t like the way death worked, but after playing for a few hours, I realized it fit the game and actually added motivation to not die or use a continue if I did. Another downside to the game is that the camera angles can sometimes hinder your gameplay and even cause you to die an untimely death. Much like the frame rate drops, the terrible camera angles appeared throughout the game – not enough to affect the overall experience too much, but enough to cause frustration and worth a mention in this review.
Finally, I have to give a LOT of praise for Platinum really utilizing the GamePad. They didn’t just include the GamePad, they incorporated it into the gameplay. This is what Nintendo needs to do, and give incentives to developers to be as creative as Platinum is with this game. For example, later in the game I arrive at a baseball stadium (that I previously had visited). There is a tank in the middle of the field with a gun turret that has been destroyed. Above, flying around the stadium, is a boss shooting at me, and I couldn’t figure out how to reach him, as I only got a glimpse of him at first, then he went off screen. I ran over to the tank, directed my Wonderful recruits to transform into the missing gun turret, and then jumped on. The GamePad quickly became a second screen, showing the turret from a first person perspective, and using the gyro, I was able to aim with it. I used the two joysticks to move the tank around the stadium and avoid gunfire, while I kept following the boss around the outskirts of the stadium, trying to shoot it down. And it wasn’t awkward either: I caught onto the controls quickly and understood what needed to be done. This game is a perfect example of what needs to happen more with the GamePad.
Entertainment Factor (8.5/10) –
This is one entertaining game all around. Visuals, music, game mechanics and a very charming core combine to create a very enjoyable experience. I will say that the Miiverse community for this game is probably my favorite so far, as everyone is very helpful and pleasant to converse with. There is multiplayer, but it’s local only, in the form of missions separate from story mode. And speaking of story mode, the story in The Wonderful 101 isn’t anything new, and is very (VERY) over the top, but the sheer charm of the characters and the “good versus evil” attitude riddled throughout the game make it incredibly enjoyable. I found myself laughing out loud various times my first play through, as well as moments of pride as I watched the Wonderful 101 save the world, and stand up for each other. All in all, I was thoroughly entertained by this game, though there was no online multiplayer option (and honestly, it wasn’t needed in a game like this)
The Wonderful 101 is a heroic attempt at stepping out of the genre boundaries and trying something new; definitely a breath of fresh air and a great addition to any Wii U game library. I recommend this game, and now you can get it on the eShop for extremely cheap now ($29.99 to be exact), so go download it and enjoy your adventure with……theeeeee Wonderful 1-0-1!
Overall – 8.5/10