The Wonderful 101: Remastered
A team of heroes from around the world must UNITE to protect the earth from vicious alien invaders!
This band of 100 Wonderful Ones works together using their fantastic abilities to create a variety of forms. Whether it be a giant fist or a sharp blade, they’ll use their wits and power to overcome the enemy’s pitfalls and perils!
And the final member of this team of courageous heroes—is you.
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The combat is still a blast for the most part and it's really fun to bust up enemies with the fist and sword. Unfortunately there's not a lot of use for the other weapons besides the enemies specifically designed for them but I suppose that's not too different from most action games. The only such case that annoys me is the spike enemies that require use of the whip because they are boring and tedious to deal with every time. Some encounters can end up with way too much flashy junk onscreen at one time and that can make avoiding enemy attacks and hearing audio cues more difficult than it should be. Using unite guts to counter and unite spring to dodge feels really good but some attacks that feel like they should be blockable with unite guts just aren't for some reason and that trial-and-error process can be annoying. The camera is generally fine but sometimes it's hard to have a good balance where you're not either too zoomed out to keep track of your character and enemy telegraphs or too zoomed in to keep the enemies onscreen. While TW101 tends to do a good job keeping the gameplay fresh with variety, Kamiya's obsession with blending genres is at its worst and the various shmup sections and parts where you control the virgin victory kinda suck. The punchout parts were still awesome, however. The story, aside from Luka being a brat, is great with a bunch of likable characters, fun interactions and some of the best voice acting in the industry. Wonder Red in particular is a fantastic main character who's really fun to follow. The cutscenes can be a bit long-winded sometimes but the overall package is an absolute joy to experience even a second time. The QTE sequences are also very exciting and do a good job punctuating the end of each chapter. The remaster itself is done well enough but they clearly didn't bother updating a lot of the assets and the models/textures that already looked pretty bad on the wii u look worse when blown up to a higher resolution. Kinda iffy about some of the music changes as well. I'm just glad it's not trapped on the wii u anymore. I'm sure this mostly sounds negative but it's still a fantastic game.
You ever played a game that unapologetically reflects the person who created it? That's The Wonderful 101 for you.
The Wonderful 101 is like if Hideki Kamiya gifted himself a birthday present, and for that reason, it's why I feel this game was naturally going to sway a lot of people off from it. I mean really, how do you market this kind of game? It's like a big melting pot of action game ideas from Kamiya work fit straight into a game about controlling a crowd of superheroes you collect to fight giant aliens or mechs. Casually looking at gameplay of it, you'd think it was just a Nintendo-published Pikmin clone but with more sensory overload.
Now imagine actually booting up the game and playing it for yourself. My first hour of this game was a nightmare of fiddling with controls and testing buttons while the game assaulted me with neon HUD elements and tutorial prompts, as the game also is presenting you new gameplay ideas such as new characters with their own weapons you got to draw, and not even 10 minutes in you start unlocking new moves for them and leveling up your health or your battery gauge that's used to determine how much you can use the Wonder-Liner. Despite how much tutorialization it throws at the player, the game doesn't give you the dodge or block at the start of the game which means you have to buy these very important moves from the shop. Granted these are cheap to buy, but it's also baffling they didn't just give you these from the start. Kamiya and his team shove a lot of stuff at the player from the start with barely any breathing room to really take it all in, so I can't exactly say TW101 has a very graceful start to its premise.
But man, I was so wrong lol.
It didn't take long for the game's combat to really click with me once all the tutorial prompts got out of the way. I was surprised to see how many elements Kamiya took from his old games and managed to make it work as well as it does. You got the juggling combo system from DMC and Bayonetta, Ukemi from Viewtiful Joe, Witch Time from Bayonetta, and most notably, the drawing system from Okami but transformed into the main gimmick of this game.
Rather than a traditional weapon switching system, TW101 asks the player to draw the weapon (preferably on the analog stick) to get the desired weapon. The bigger they draw the shape, the bigger their weapon will be, which will be slower but deal more damage, compared to a smaller one that will be faster but deal less damage, but also take up less battery gauge... you see the depth here offered already by this system? The biggest skill mastery is not only learning to draw these shapes (which the game is very intelligent at knowing since they are all distinct from one another) but you also have to know which weapon is useful for each situation, as some enemies will have certain strategies that are more effective for each weapon. But then you learn how to open up enemies with each weapon, and you learn that you can use your team, or Wonder Green's gun, to stun the enemy and then put them in a juggle state.
Juggling is really when the game turned into something special for me because pulling out certain weapons to keep the opponent in the air for a long time is when the drawing system becomes outright impressive. You never feel like you are going to do the same combo in this game. They are creative spectacles of skill mastery because of the flexibility offered by the game's freeform weapon drawing system. Masters of the game's drawing system can outright demolish a giant mech with their 100 man team, and it's probably the most stylish combo system I've ever seen. Not only for the fact a team of superheroes comboing an alien dragon mech is fucking rad, but it also asks more from the player while doing so, creating a combat system that's all-around more rewarding to master.
All the little niceties the game throws to the player too also make TW101 a very welcoming experience. As mentioned before, a lot of Kamiya mechanics from his older games return here, but there's also a lot more. You have very tightly designed enemy encounters that Kamiya is known for, along with gameplay systems Kamiya has explained he likes that return, with surprisingly good and fair boss fights all guided by probably the funniest video game I've ever played. I really vibed with what Kamiya was putting on offer here. The game oozes with passion all the way through and the more I played of it, the more and more I really appreciate every bit of it. It just kept getting better and better. Even the climax of the game was like 12 endings on top of each other. It's like if Kamiya took all of his favorite toys and smashed them together, which really highlights the toy-box like wonderment the game offers here.
My main critique though is because this is a Kamiya passion project, it also features probably my least favorite Kamiya trope often and that is introducing new gameplay elements from old arcade games. There's a punch-out mini-game, an isometric 3D shooter, some side-scrolling space shooters, and of course, the fucking space harrier level Kamiya just loves to put in. None of these are poorly designed mind you, but it wrestles time away from the main combat I ended up craving the most from TW101, and I really hope Kamiya's next project isn't as egregious with these as this game featured.
But despite that, going into TW101 was a very pleasant experience, especially given that I was already a fair fan of Kamiya's old projects. But this is elevated to a whole new level. Kamiya sought out creating a game that he wanted to play the most, and there aren't many creators out there that have the balls to do that. Clover Studio, the studio he worked at before Platnium Games, was a studio designed to create wild and new ideas, but none of those games ever found their audience outside of Okami, causing their eventual shut down. The Wonderful 101 is kind of like a Clover Studio game. A very ambitious action game designed solely to introduce a brand new experience unlike anything else. It wasn't designed for everyone in mind, but only for those who would appreciate these mechanics in mind... like a Kamiya fan. Maybe that's all it needed to be in the end. As for me, I say you should stick with it. It's pretty wonderful! ba dum tiss