Before growing up and having to embrace adulthood, and all the reality that came with it, there was a time where you could turn on your television and be whisked away into a world of colorful heroes, giant robots, cheesy fights and enough transformation poses to guarantee that you accidentally break at least something in your house when you mimicked them. But, just for that half an hour, you could imagine yourself as a hero, a stalwart defender of justice and peace, fighting monsters, aliens, mutated creatures and really anything that seems evil. It's a wonderful feeling, and the Wonderful 101 wants you to relive the days of doing silly poses to the rainbow adorned heroes taking on the bad of the week.
Here, alien invaders, the GEATHJERK, have launched their assault on our great planet Earth. And here, you take control of not one, not two, but an legion of 100 heroes united to take them on.
Essentially, imagine Pikmin, Super Sentai, and Kamen Rider were blended together into a wonderful, over the top, challenging, but obtuse action game. Don't let it's appearance fool you: this is a Platinum Games game, and as such, it's all about the frenetic, stylish, and challenging action gameplay.
The main attraction here is the system known as the Wonder Liner. By drawing a shape(in the case of this remaster, using the right stick), you can form a specific weapon called a Unite Morph such as a fist, a sword, a gun, and much more. The bigger the shape, the bigger the damage and the bigger the morph. But this comes at a cost: the 100 heroes in your group are essentially your resources, and by drawing a circle around helpless civilians on each level, you can recruit more and more to your ranks, including unique heroes. The Liner also uses the Unite Gauge, your battery level, as the size of the morph is also determined as such.
The Wonderful 101 is a hard game to get into at times. Something that likely precedes it's own reputation as an underlooked gem, and something indicative of Platinum's brand of game. However, W101 can be obtuse for the wrong reasons. The game at times simply does not clue the player into enough information to make judgments on what they encounter. While this allows players to discover new techniques and ways to play on their own, certain info feels it should be divulged. For example, the block ability of the game, Unite Guts, is only effective against specific types of attacks. Guts is shaped like a pudding, so it gives you a clue as to what it can block, but it still feels as if the game's logic is overriding what the player expects. The Guts, since the game doesn't say this outright, can be bigger or smaller depending on how big the current Unite Morph is, and as such can deflect bigger attacks. There's certain illogical aspects throughout the game that can make it frustrating at times. The game's learning curve is also notoriously high, but, when this game clicks, it becomes an wonderful classic.
More than just the satisfying and intricate gameplay, is the pure spectacle, passion and heroic spirit emanating from every piece of W101. From results screens for each fight taking the form of a newspaper congratulating our great heroes for their valiance, to the insane presentation of boss fights through(a rare sight) fun quick time events that endow the heroic action unfolding before you.
The characters are also fun and surprisingly likable despite being essentially parodies. The game is also really, really funny with Platinum's goofy and earnest sense of humor that shines even beyond character interactions and to the gameplay itself in many surprising ways.
Passion is in it's purest form in this game. It's a passion project from Platinum, and it feels as such that you can't help but love it. If you can surpass the game's learning curve and ride with the game instead of fighting it, there's a truly unforgettable experience here.
Most of all, the game whisks you back to that innocent time, where you with all your heart cheered on the great heroes to defeat the cartoon bad guy. Wonderful indeed, and a wonderful game of pure heroic passion. Give it a try, you may just be surprised.