The latest title from Platinum Games is a crazy mash-up of super-hero tropes and Japanese action button mashers. Published by Nintendo and developed for the Wii U, The Wonderful 101 helps fill the console’s line-up with something new and interesting.
What You Need to Know
Earth is being attacked by alien beings known as Geathjerks. The Wonderful 100 are a group of 100 highly trained secret agents that all have codenames starting with Wonder, and they are Earth’s defense against the Geathjerks (they could be called Earth’s kneejerk defence). You control the Wonder group with the Wii U gamepad, fighting off aliens in a highly stylized cartoon world using combinations of Wonder moves with expert timing.
The idea of controlling a whole bunch of characters at one time is very interesting. You can form the group you’re controlling up into bigger ‘weapons’ by using the right stick to draw on the screen the emblem of the weapon (a circle for a fist, a straight line for a sword, a right angle for a gun and so forth) and pressing the ‘A’ button. You can also achieve this by drawing the emblem on the touch pad, but I found I preferred the right stick.
You can assign a bunch of people under your control to fight using one of these ‘Unite Morphs’ by making the emblem and pressing ‘X,’ continuing to do your own thing elsewhere. Pressing Y makes your group form up into a circle and pressing X without using the right stick makes the group attack in the direction you’re pointing. It sounds a little like a real-time-strategy game in this explanation, but it’s more action-style where you control one character and have some control over a larger group too.
What’s the Same?
It’s essentially a beat-‘em-up – there is lots of mashing ‘A’ to attack, but the timing is really important. Often you need to engage the defence move (ZR, which causes a ‘Unite Guts’ move) at just the right time to make an attack rebound against your enemy, and then mash ‘A’ while they’re recovering. Overall the game has the feel of a super-hero-style button masher, with all of that genres good and bad bits.
You’ll Enjoy The Wonderful 101 If You Liked…
… Other Platinum Games such as Mad World and Anarchy Reigns: It has the same feel – lots of craziness and interesting ideas, but a little bit unbaked and unpolished and quite repetitive.
… Superhero games like Superman or Wolverine: Similar button-mashing style of combat and moves learned along the way, with waves of enemies to defeat and some fun boss fights.
What I Liked
- 5.) The cartoony art style, especially the excessive shininess of the Wonder characters. Some brilliant enemy designs, like the three headed machine-dragon.
- 4.) Some really goofy, but effective humour. Every different enemy has a baby-pronounceable name which is funny too.
- 3.) New skills are well paced out and tough battles can often be made easy work of by using the right combination of moves with good timing.
- 2.) The wonderful creativeness of the Wonderful 100 characters, and the flashy way each new enemy is presented when you first encounter them.
- 1.) Completely over the top boss fights
Favourite Line of Dialogue:
What I Didn’t Like
- 4.) Repetitive music that just seems to be on infinite loop. It’s not bad music, but gets a little tiring.
- 3.) Weirdly tiny areas make the game feel like you’re playing with miniatures and make battles feel too claustrophobic. The camera sometimes also messes up by not showing you or not showing your enemy on the screen because it’s too zoomed in, and then suddenly you get side-swiped.
- 2.) Frustrating moments, like when I couldn’t figure out what the game was asking me to do and I had to continue a number of times before figuring out the exact sequence of symbol and button-press, or when the game prompted me to press Y but did nothing once I did. These are moments where it just feels like you’re short of information, but once you’ve figured out how the game works they’re easy to understand later on.
- 1.) Repetitive battles. The missions feel a lot like a sequence of little arenas with a smattering of enemies you’ve already fought many times thrown in.
Least Favourite Moment:
Spending ages beating up on a boss thinking I was doing him damage because I was getting damage-like feedback (his robot face was going red each time I whacked it), only to find after a while that it wasn’t really doing anything. So I tried using my glider to fly over to the boss’ other limbs and found that I hit a weird skybox and couldn’t get there.
So I finally did what the game actually wanted me to do and used a ‘Unite Bridge’ (or whatever it’s called) to get across and popped some pimples on the other hand of the boss to defeat it. It was a satisfying boss fight overall, but those moments where the confines of the game are so apparent really bugged me.
There are bonus missions which have time limits, and over and above the substantial story mode there are also challenge missions you can take on in Easy, Medium or Hard modes. You can play the story mode in Normal, Easy or Casual, and harder levels are unlocked once you finish.
There are a huge amount of collectibles, too – five Platinum Coins can be found in each mission, there are the 100 Wonderful Ones to find to add to your team, figurines, badges as well as all sorts of purchasable unlocks to increase things like speed and power. This doesn’t feel like a barebones game like some previous Platinum Games titles I’ve played, it’s chock full of stuff.
The Wonderful 101 – Official Trailer
The Bottom Line
The Wonderful 101 is a crazy over-the-top button mashing game with Kamiya flavour. A little repetitive, sometimes frustrating, but worthwhile for Japanese action fans.