In my opinion, one of the signs of a good game is when it makes that inner child that is locked inside of you come out. What I mean by this is that you have that childlike wonder and excitement when playing a game, while maintaining the critical thinking of an adult. Not a whole lot of games do that for me. Sure, I might have fun, and really enjoy a game I am playing, but when a game brings out that inner childlike excitement, it is a feeling like no other. One of the developers that brings out that youthful excitement and wonderment is Platinum Games, makers of some of the best action games ever! There is just something that they do so well with how they design their games. I will admit that some of their games have flaws that hurt the games sometimes, but for the most part, they are some of the most fun games around. When they put their best creative efforts into a game, it shows, and nowhere is that more apparent than with the recent Wii U exclusive, The Wonderful 101!
Since its announcement back in 2012, this has been one of my most anticipated games of 2013, alongside other action games like Tomb Raider, God of War Ascension, and Platinum Games’ other games that were released this year like Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Rising, which you should all buy if you haven’t already. The Wonderful 101 is definitely a game you should buy. Read on to see why it is one of the top five Wii U games, and could be possibly the best Wii U game out right now.
The story is about, well, an alien invasion of Earth! The aliens in question are the GEATHJERK. You will also know them as the “Guild of Evil Aliens Terrorizing Humans with Jiggawatt bombs, Energy beams, Ray guns, and Killer lasers” and yes, that is quite the name for a group of alien invaders. So, who does the Earth get to defend it from these jerks? None other than a bunch of cosplaying superheroes known as the Wonderful One Double O or the Wonderful 100 for short. The first Wonder soldier you meet is “The Crimson Fist” Wonder Red, voiced by Charlie Schlatter. He is then joined by “The Super Sonic Blade” Wonder Blue, voiced by Roger Craig Smith. Of course, since there are 100 of these superheroes, I will only go over the main seven characters that you play as throughout the game. The other characters you meet are “Le Sniper Supérieur” Wonder Green, voiced by Kari Wahlgren, “The Queen of Rage” Wonder Pink, voiced by Tara Strong, “The Hammering Russkie” Wonder Yellow, voiced by J.B. Blanc, “The Claws of Calamity” Wonder White, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, and “The 8-Bit Enchanter” Wonder Black, voiced by Kris Zimmerman. It is up to these seven heroes, along with the other 93 Wonder soldiers, to take down the GEATHJERK and save the world!
Let us be honest here about the story. It is silly and campy with some melodrama mixed into this casserole of Power Rangers and Japanese superhero shows, but it all works! The characters are memorable, funny, likable, and are each in their own way, fun to play as. I actually cared about the story, and you could tell that Platinum Games had a lot of fun with how almost self-aware the game’s story and universe are. Though short, the story is one of the best parts of the game.
The Wonderful 101 is an action game, with some rather unique combat mechanics mixed in with some resource management added to make the combat even more strategic. Like the title suggests, you can have up to 100 heroes on the screen at once and can use the gameplay’s main draw, the Unite Morph. This is where the combat is one of a kind. Using said 100 heroes, you are able to pull off different Unite Morph weapons that act differently in combat and while going around the levels. I am going to explain to the best of my ability how each of the main Unite Morphs works, since like I said, they have more than one use.
The first one is “Unite Hand” where you draw a circle and form a giant fist using said 100 heroes or however many you actually use, but I will get to that mechanic later. This “Unite Hand” morph is your all-around melee move that has a good range and attack power. You can also use this ability to envelope your “Unite Hand” in flames to throw fire balls and turn gears or pull objects that are in the levels. The second Unite Morph is “Unite Sword” where you draw a straight line and the 100 heroes form a sword. This is used mostly to slash your way through enemies. You can also electrify the sword and reflect lasers off of it. The other abilities attached to “Unite Sword” are to slash off chains that are covering bonus items or to open doors like a key. “Unite Gun” is your long-range weapon, where you need to draw an “L” shape on the gamepad and use individual heroes, who are not used to make the gun, as ammunition. You basically use this ability to shoot enemies from long-range or hit targets to activate something to help you get through the environment.
“Unite Whip”, which is Wonder Pink’s ability is, well, a whip where you need to draw an “S” shape that delivers strong lashes that have a bit of a wind-up. The special ability of this Unite Morph is that you can take care of enemies that are covered in spikes by ripping the spikes off of them, or removing spike walls that are in your way. You also use the “Unite Whip” to get across large gaps, like a vine you swing on. One of my favorite Unite Morphs comes from one of my favorite characters, Wonder Yellow, “Unite Hammer”. You form this weapon by drawing what is basically the shape of a lollipop. From what I could tell, this unite morph has the most attack power, but is also the slowest to use. You will use this ability to deliver slow-moving, but strong strikes against enemies that have hard shells that other Unite Morphs can’t touch, or, to slam down on buttons. One of the funnier characters, Wonder White, has “Unite Claws”. You activate this ability by drawing a zig-zag or “Z” shape. This is easily the weakest attack strength-wise, but is the fastest Unite Morph, which leads to a bunch of very fast attacks. This ability also helps the player climb walls and will help you open certain doors. The last of the main abilities is Wonder Black’s “Unite Bomb” ability. You form this ability by drawing a circle and a straight line at the top. Sure, Platinum Games could have just left it at being just a huge explosion, but they instead made the bombs do damage and slow down time. This ability is used with the teleporting enemies and platforms that spin around too quickly.
There are also other Unite Morphs that help you in both combat and in platforming. One of the most useful Unite Morphs is “Unite Guts”, which turns you into a defensive piece of Jell-O-looking cake that will protect you from most attacks, but isn’t always the go-to defense mechanic. This is why you get another defensive/evasion ability called “Unite Spring” which gets you out of the way, like most dodge mechanics used in action games. You can get the “Unite Spring” and other Unite Morphs at a shop where you pick up items and other perks to the morph mechanics that help you play the game. The item management (besides the healing items) comes in the form of the energy bar below your health bar. The Unite Morphs use up the energy bar that takes the form of batteries. The more batteries you drain, the bigger and stronger the weapon gets. Usually the Unite Morphs that are used for combat just get bigger, but sometimes they have added effects like the “Unite Gun” mechanic will turn into a bazooka, shaped like a Super Nintendo Super Scope. This mechanic will use multiple heroes as one large bullet. When “Unite Bomb” is bigger, it will slow things down for about 30 seconds or more, and cause more damage. The tradeoff is, besides draining your energy bar, they don’t stay in that gigantic form for long. Of course, the way you get your weapons to become bigger is by recruiting other heroes who are part of the Wonderful 100, but you can also recruit innocent bystanders who don the Wonder Masks and become temporary heroes.
Things you will have to consider in combat are the enemies you face. Certain enemies are more easily dealt with by using specific Unite Morphs. You could be fighting a group of normal enemies and want to wipe them out as fast as you can, but sometimes those enemies might be backed up by shielded enemies that need to be rid of that armor before attacking them. This game will not hold your hand. It will ease you into each mechanic, but it expects you to learn enemy attack patterns and get good at the combat system. It is incredibly complex, and the game will punish you if you do not learn how to use each ability given to you. The Wii U GamePad is used in some rather interesting ways. Sometimes if you enter buildings, you will need to look at the Gamepad and solve a minor puzzle, or control a space ship. There is even one situation where you are stuck in a huge box and need to maneuver across a section of a level by hitting the different color-coordinated sides to move in any direction. It is definitely one of the best examples of how to use the Gamepad.
Outside of the 10-12 hour single-player campaign, you have “Wonderful Challenges” where you and friends can team up to tackle each of the challenges given to the player. If multiplayer challenges aren’t your thing, inside the single-player campaign, there are hidden challenges throughout the levels that can be rather tricky at times. If anyone is concerned about this game being easy, well, the game itself isn’t. You start out with three difficulty settings, Very Easy, Easy, and Normal, but the game, even on the Easy setting, can be rather challenging. You are in for one of the tougher games on the Wii U, but there are plenty of collectables and secrets that will definitely keep you coming back for more.
The graphics are colorful, bright, and are just great to look at. Sure, the lip movement for the characters might not match up with the spoken dialogue, but that is on purpose, since this game is a tribute to Kamen Rider, Power Rangers, and those old Japanese monster films that have some questionable English dubbing. The voice acting is over-the-top, cheesy, but is top notch. Each voice actor fits his or her role perfectly. The villains also have good voice actors. Steve Blum is the main bad guy, and Quinton Flynn is the rival bad guy: Prince Vorkken. Fred Tatasciore voices Vorkken’s second-in-command, Bob Joles does a majority of the antagonists’ voices in addition to one or more of the villains, and you get the idea. The music is wonderfully composed. It’s upbeat, action-packed, and is just a blast to listen to. Once again, presentation-wise, Platinum Games has yet another great over-the-top package.
So, what is wrong with the game? As much as I want to really give this game a perfect score, it has a major issue. The one enemy that will be your biggest hindrance from time to time is the camera. The game’s camera is set up in an isometric view, like so many isometric shooters you see on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live. I guess this was a necessary evil since you can do the unite morphs by using the stylus or the right stick on the controller, but sometimes the camera is placed where I have taken cheap hits due to its setup. The other issues I have with the game, like the isometric Zaxxon-inspired shooter segments, are very minor and don’t hurt the overall experience.
Some people have complained that the controls don’t work, but that just isn’t true. I don’t want to say the people who complain that the controls don’t work are the kind of gamers that rush through the game, not really taking their time to understand how its entire combat engine works, but it pretty much sounds like it. This isn’t a game where you can rush through it and get it over with. I would actually categorize this game alongside other action games like Ninja Gaiden or Dark Souls, where you really need to take your time with learning how the game works, or else you’re gonna have a bad time.
The Verdict: Wonderful 101 is indeed Wonderful
What else can I say about this game? It’s fun, creative, hilarious, silly, crazy, dramatic, campy, and everything good about a video game from Platinum Games. It is really a terrible shame that this game isn’t selling well due to the fact that Nintendo, even though they had an entire Nintendo Direct about it, didn’t have that many commercials or ads for it, which is just a crime. We need to strengthen the sales of this game and show that there is interest for games like this. It is easily one of the most unique and memorable games of this year. It is one of my top 10 games of 2013. Even if you don’t own a Wii U, you need to buy this game or else you are going to run into another Xenoblade Chronicles/The Last Story situation where the game will become rare and hard to find. If that happens, you’re gonna have a bad time. This is easily a game where you can tell Hideki Kamiya, the game’s creator, had a lot of fun and put a lot of passion in it. If you have time and patience to try out one of the best action games this year, then try out The Wonderful 101.
The Wonderful 101
This game has an entertaining story, a unique and creative combat system, great graphics, and has that signature Platinum Games style.
The camera is troublesome at times.