As if Bayonetta 2 wasn’t enough to get excited for, PlatinumGames has one more surprise for Wii U owners: The Wonderful 101. While it was featured at E3 2013, I didn’t get a chance to try it out and it remains one of the few titles I was disappointed to miss out on. It’s a game I’ve been anticipating based on the reputation of the developer alone, as I have little to no idea what to expect from this particular release. Now that the demo is out and the full game is set to release in less than a month, it’s finally time to find out.
1. At first glance, it may seem as though The Wonderful 101 is wildly different from a visual perspective than some of Platinum’s other releases. Those familiar with their prior incarnation (Clover Studios) though will pick up on the influences from Viewtiful Joe, a franchise that got its start on another of Nintendo’s consoles. Those games also had a superhero influence and were quite hilarious, so to see some of those ideas make a return here is rather refreshing.
2. The most simplistic way I can describe the gameplay is Pikmin with a superhero motif, which is a fascinating coincidence since Pikmin 3 just released not too long ago. You control the leader of the Wonderful 100, though unlike Captain Olimar, your leader will consistently get in the mix of things rather than avoid danger as you and your followers move as one. 2. Getting hit, while depleting your health, doesn’t cause your followers to die either. They scatter all over the screen and are somehow reduced to their underwear.
3. The demo’s story mode is played single-player, though there wasn’t much story to speak of. There are some tutorial prompts that will appear during gameplay, though rather than instruct you in how to use the controls effectively, they merely tell you how to do them without any form of context. Fortunately, they aren’t terribly complex, so I was able to figure them out on my own without much trouble and the digital manual that can be accessed from the Wii U home menu was able to fill in the blanks.
4. As mentioned before, your leader and your superhero followers move as one unit. If you use the Y button to attack, several of your units will run out and strike, weakening your adversaries. From there, using the A button will consume some of your units to craft a large weapon, be it a fist or a sword, and finish off your foes; though you will lose speed while you carry this object. There’s also an option to jump, disperse, and pick up objects.
5. The right analog stick will allow you to draw lines with your followers, and by circling civilians with them, they will join your cause. Drawing certain patterns will also change the weapon you use with the A button. For example, a circle will make a giant fist, and L shape will craft a gun, and a straight line will turn into a large sword. Making circles around certain items, such as dying plant life will resurrect it and may reveal items.
6. The Wonderful 101 definitely seems like a game made for the Wii U system. The gamepad’s touchscreen will do some of the more obvious features such as a tutorials, statistics, and off-TV play, though there are times such as when you go into buildings where you may have to look down at it to see what you are doing. There was one puzzle in particular where the outside of a building had a number sprawled on it that could only be seen from the TV screen, but the gamepad displayed what I was doing inside of the building. Using a giant hand, I could turn cranks to change a number combination within the building to open a gate for myself to advance. Fairly rudimentary, but it definitely opens up possibilities for some of the later stages in the game
7. Some of the larger boss enemies have their own minions that can be guided around in the same manner as your own. They’ll strike as a mob just like you do, though if you destroy their units first you can weaken their offense. Other enemies will fire large shells that can reflected back at them if you defend with ZL; a move that turns you into a mound of Jello that causes things to bounce off.
8. Outside of the story mode, there are missions that you can take on with up to five players that involve a couple rounds of fending off enemies, two bonus rounds, and a final boss confrontation. I didn’t get a chance to try the multiplayer aspect, but if it’s anything like Nintendo Land‘s take on Pikmin, I’d definitely get some friends together and take it for a spin.
9. In the final game, members of the Wonder 100 will gain levels, though you can also fill your roster with random citizens that won’t experience any growth over the course of the game and will be dumped off at certain points. Additional weapons can be salvaged from destroyed adversaries, like guns and throwable arms, plus portable toilets will net some neat healing items. Batteries are strewn about too that will boost your health if so many are collected.
10. I couldn’t help but notice that the only difficulty levels available from the start were Normal, Easy, and Very Easy. I suspect the final game will have more, potentially some that will need to be unlocked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though it comes as a bit of a shock as Viewtiful Joe got rather tricky in some places.
Considering there isn’t a whole lot outside of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Nintendo first-party titles to look forward to, I’m glad PlatinumGames is stepping up to the plate to craft a unique new IP for the Wii U system (and bring us Bayonetta 2). If the actual release shows every bit of promise as the demo does, it may make a strong case for the console’s long term viability.
The Wonderful 101 releases on September 15th for the Nintendo Wii U.