Monday, September 23, 2013

Even more wonderful than its title suggests.

I’ve noted many times so far this year that there were so many great games coming out this year, that it felt insane compared to past years. And ever since last year’s E3, I’ve had my eye on the Platinum Games developed, Nintendo published The Wonderful 101. For a while, I stayed mostly just curious about the title, though had the intent of getting it due to needing games for my Wii U. But this year, after having plunged into the Platinum vortex with Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Rising, the level of high-octane crazy action and crazy stories got me more and more excited for The Wonderful 101. And after The Wonderful 101 Direct that Nintendo put out, it became even more apparent to me: I needed to get this game day one.

 The Wonderful 101 takes place in a not too far future, starting in Blossom City. The robotic GEATHJERK end up invading the Earth and you control Wonder Red for the story, but quickly end up gaining members of the other Wonderful 100 (one hundred different heroes from one hundred different cities across the world) to try and stop the GEATHJERK invasion. You spend the game traveling across the world, all to try and make some progress in stopping this invasion. The best thing about The Wonderful 101’s story is that, while it takes itself seriously, it doesn’t take itself TOO seriously. It considers itself an over-the-top, crazy action movie first and foremost, which I feel definitely helps with the quality of the ride. And what a hell of a ride it is. By the end of every set of levels (called Operations in the game), I frequently said to myself “Well, there’s no way that could be topped,” and yet each time without fail, that moment was topped, throughout the entire course of the game. The sheer absurdity of the game’s story beats and plot are at this point something I feel I should EXPECT from a Platinum game, yet I’m taken by surprise each time. From the first mission all the way until the end, I was constantly getting surprised by the fact that they were able to surpass the story so much. Every high was higher than the last, and led to what I consider an unforgettable experience. 

The gameplay of The Wonderful 101 is both similar to the gameplay of other Platinum action games, as well as rather fundamentally different. You have two main methods of attack: the Team Attack used with X, which is a generally weak attack that allows members of your unit to climb onto enemies to attack repeatedly, and Unite Morphs that are used with A, that are created by drawing (whether with the right stick or on the Gamepad’s touch screen), and are generally more powerful attacks with different purposes: the Unite Gun being useful against long-range enemies or aerial enemies, or the Unite Whip being useful against spiked enemies. That’s not where the combat capabilities stop by any means though. Using the X button while drawing a Unite Morph, you can have multiple Unite Morphs in play at one time, and you can even swap between different Unite Morphs with your primary character for extended combos; the sheer depth of The Wonderful 101’s combat opens up both as you get more Unite Morphs and the more you play, which works incredibly well with the game. Starting everything out is rather simplistic with a small handful of Unite Morphs, but quickly grows as you reach new sets of levels and gain new Unite Morphs.

The gameplay doesn’t even just stop at the action gameplay centered around the Wonderful 100, but tons of other types of gameplay, from vehicle gameplay (a lot better than it sounds), and interesting types of gameplay that, I’ll just say, involved rather large robots.

Due to not exactly being an expert at action games, I did have some trouble playing on Normal throughout the course of the game, but nothing too bad. The game is tough, but it is also manageable without a doubt. The combat can be a bit on the rough spot sometimes due to the view and the small size of your point Wonderful One against the size of the rather large enemies that fill up the screen, but again, it is mostly manageable and probably more a testament to my own lack of hardcore action games than anything.

The game managed to last a solid twenty three hours for me, and that was just a straight run through of the game with the occasional finding of a secret mission and plenty of deaths along the way. The fact that I still have some 40 or so Wonderful Ones to find, a lot of secret missions to play through, and, theoretically (though I know I’ll never be good enough to reach that point) Pure Platinum’ing every Operation. The game’s director, Hideki Kamiya, said this would be their most content filled game to date, and I have absolutely no doubt about that either.

The game’s art style is also rather fitting for the theme of the game. A brightly colored, almost shiny plastic aesthetic works perfectly, and the game runs rather well on the Wii U. Despite not being a rock solid 60 FPS, the occasional drops from everything in the game exploding and the general mayhem aren’t bad in the slightest. The game holds up aesthetically and technically. Although the Wii U isn’t as powerful as the PS4 or the Xbox One, the game’s stylized art style works well for it being on the Wii U, and is definitely not a hindrance.

Although the game can be rather tough, as well as being on a weaker console that currently doesn’t have many games out, I would say it definitely helped validate the purchase of my launch day Wii U. It’s an incredibly crazy, charming game, that has some of the most solid gameplay around, all packed with a rather interesting idea behind the story (as well as the story being absolutely nuts itself), and a bunch of over the top, memorable boss fights, and you have a recipe for an instant classic. It makes me sad that the game isn’t getting more of the recognition it deserves, because the idea of this universe being explored more is something I would absolutely love to see, and I hope is pursued.



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