The Wonderful 101 is a stylish character action game for the Wii U published by Nintendo and developed by Platinum Games. The game was directed by Hideki Kamiya whose previous works include Viewtiful Joe, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta. I mention those titles specifically because Wonderful 101 takes many of their elements and evolves and refines them. The art style and theme of the game is humorous and light hearted like Viewtiful Joe. The combat rewards last second dodging and retaliation similar to Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. It offers a fair challenge and urges you to learn the nuances of the mechanics. Like Platinum’s previous games it is designed to be played through multiple times to improve score and overall player skill.
The story follows a war between Earth’s CENTINELS Planetary Secret Service and an invading alien force called the Geathjerk. The CENTINELS employ the use of 100 costumed super heroes from around the globe called the Wonderful 100 (pronounced Wonderful One-Double-Oh). Agents of the Wonderful 100 are able to use nearby members to create constructs, literally forming the team into weapons such as whips, claws, swords, etc. It channels heavily from the super sentai genre of Japanese shows: color-coded heroes battling giant sized alien forces. The characters are charming and well written, going for a Saturday morning cartoon vibe. The cast is voiced by cartoon and anime veterans like Tara Strong, Yuri Lowenthal, and Laura Bailey. The end result is a mix between the Power Rangers and the Green Lantern Corps. In Platinum’s usual style the conflict keeps escalating all the way to the finale leading to a very satisfying (and very long) final chapter.
As the player you are given control of the entire squad of heroes. The actual characters are very small on screen and this can sometimes lead to a very confusing and hectic battlefield. It should be said that the camera angle is a problem for the game at times. It goes with a ¾ isometric perspective which can lead to missed jumps during the game’s platforming sections. On the other hand it also lends itself to an impressive sense of scope and scale that escalates over the course of the game. The gameplay is centered on forming your team into various shapes using the right analogue stick or the Wii U pad. The shapes are simple enough: a straight line for the sword, a circle for the fist, etc. Once you have the shape drawn you can press A to use the weapon yourself or you can press X to have a portion of your team form the weapon and perform an automatic combo. Your combat abilities are limited by the number of heroes in your party (recruited as each stage progresses) as well as a meter that fills up over time and through successful hits on enemies. Blocking, evading, and various special moves will deplete the meter.
The game is really good about steadily introducing new weapons, abilities, and enemies throughout the game. There is also a good bit of variety to the gameplay in the form of shoot-em-up sections and some puzzle sequences that require the use of both the main TV screen and the Wii U pad’s screen. Each battle is ranked based on time taken, damage received, and a combo score. Once the game is completed on the Normal difficulty it unlocks a Hard mode and completing on that unlocks a final difficulty. Characters, skills, and inventory persists through this progression and the game is really meant to be played through multiple times to improve on the aforementioned scoring system. Even if you are planning on playing it just once though the game poses about a 12-15 hour campaign set through 9 varied locations.
It can take a while before the core gameplay starts making sense. There is quite a lot going on at any moment. Enemies give audio and visual cues before attacking and this can be hard to pick out in the chaos. The small size of your characters on screen and the camera angles don’t help. Also the abrupt shift in genres throughout the game is a bit jarring and makes it hard to get high scores if you are not skilled in bullet-hell shooters. I stuck with the right analogue stick instead of the Wii U pad to form the shapes. Over time the gestures input on the analogue stick started to feel similar to fighting game move inputs and that’s when the game really clicked for me. If you have a Wii U and especially if you like this genre then I cannot recommend this game enough.
OXIDIZATION LEVEL – 5/5