The slumping Wii U needs a hero and Platinum Games—the action-centric development house behind the likes of Anarchy Reigns, Bayonetta, and MadWorld—delivers capes and tights. 100 of them, in fact. The Wonderful 101 (the extra “1″ represents you!) is a quirky combo of Viewtiful Joe, Katamari Damacy, and Pikmin, that puts gamers in control of a Super Sentai-like team tasked with defending Blossom City (and the entire earth by extension) from a monstrous alien invasion. The plot sounds standard fare, but director Hideki Kamiya’s creative touch and lighthearted humor transforms what could’ve been a run-of-the-mill action title into the Wii U’s most intriguing game.
You control a fleet-footed super-squad in brightly colored, cartoon-like isometric urban and suburban environments to battle enemies ranging from tanks to mechs—and you’re graded on each encounter based on completion time and the number of combos performed. Several squad members are everyday citizens who are temporarily transformed into super-beings until you can fill your ranks with legitimate superheroes you encounter over the course of the game (you pull Average Joes and Janes into your ranks by drawing circles around them using the GamePad’s touch screen or right stick—more on that later).
The super-team attacks in unison, and the fighting is fittingly fast and chaotic—what you would expect when dozens of super beings do battle with an alien monstrosity. On the other hand, the flashy attacks and small characters sometime make it a challenge to keep a bead on your team when the action kicks up—especially in the five-person multiplayer mode. Still, it’s a joy to pummel giant beasts with tiny, tiny heroes.
Small Things, Big Things
Stages are divided into “operations” and conclude with a massive boss fight. There’s excellent use of scale—the heroes’ minute statures make the enemies appear absolutely massive. In fact, there’s a mech villain so large that you actually conduct battle on the surface of its body. It’s not quite as visually dynamic as Krato’s battle on Gaia’s arm in God of War III, but it’s very impressive nonetheless.
The Wonderful 101′s combat isn’t simply about button mashing. Heroes combine to form giant weapons and tools to overcome obstacles. For example, drawing a straight line with the GamePad or right stick while in combat causes the heroes to merge into a large glowing sword, which is excellent for humbling enemies. At another point I assembled a giant glowing hand that I used to open a hangar and solve puzzles. These Team Attacks tap that wacky, Super Sentai formation sequences seen in shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but they can sometimes be tricky to execute in the heat of battle. Fortunately, you can draw the motions using either the GamePad’s touchscreen or right analog stick—I found the right stick more conducive to drawling accurate lines.
As you advance through the game, you gain the ability to temporarily split your team into multiple squads to perform multi-team attacks. This sets up big combo opportunities that can quickly dispatch foes and increase your rating.
O-Parts collected from downed enemies serve as currency that’s used in the in-game store. The cash lets you purchase new abilities (known as Unite Morphs) and upgrade existing ones. One of the most vital Unite Morphs is Unite Guts, which causes your heroes to form a gelatinous dome used to parry incoming enemy attacks. The parry window is a little too wide, but it’s highly satisfying to dizzy a hulking alien and then follow with a mighty counterattack. Another Unite Morph lets you dodge attacks in a very Slinky-like fashion. Bolstering your defense is essential because taking blows in combat causes you to lose squad mates, which weakens your capabilities.
The GamePad lets you do more than just draw Team Attacks. The Wonderful 101 also lets you use the GamePad’s motion controls and the integrated 6.2-inch screen to survey interior areas—albeit in a somewhat clumsy, unappealing fashion—and select a new lead hero from the capes you’ve collected (although it doesn’t seem to have much obvious impact on gameplay).
You can, of course, play the entire game on the GamePad, which is perfect for times when you just want to kick back in the bed or easy chair.
Wonderful 101 is Wonderful
The Wonderful 101 took a while to arrive—it was first revealed over a year ago during E3 2012—but in that time the game was polished into a highly enjoyable action title. It has some truly thrilling, odd, and chuckle-worthy moments that only a Japanese studio as talented as Platinum Games could deliver. In short, if you own a Wii U, you should own this game.
|Platform||Nintendo Wii U|
|ESRB Rating||T for Teen|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc