The Wonderful 101 is a colorful, exciting character action game developed by PlatinumGames. However, its initial release on the Wii U in 2013 didn’t exactly make a huge splash. This may have been due to the lukewarm reception to the Wii U, or perhaps it had something to do with the game, itself.
Fortunately, though, this interesting little superhero game has gotten a second life on newer consoles with a recent remaster. But does The Wonderful 101: Remastered do enough to make this update worth your time?
The Wonderful Ones
Playing as a team of superheroes, the player will race around various levels while collecting more and more supers to join the group. Naturally, players will also be taking on a variety of bad guys and bosses, while helping save citizens and cleaning the setting up a bit. Of course, the Wonderful Ones manage to cause plenty of property damage all on their own, too. (It’s fun, though, so don’t worry about it.)
Unfortunately, the story in The Wonderful 101: Remastered is simply competent. It’s certainly entertaining and fun, but it mostly feels like an afterthought. It grants plenty of excuses to do insane and goofy things within the game, though.
More than an action game
Based on first impressions, it’s easy to assume that The Wonderful 101 plays similarly to the Nintendo series Pikmin. You control lots of characters at once and solve puzzles with them, right? While that isn’t wrong, The Wonderful 101 is far more than that. This makes the game insanely deceptive, as it looks much simpler than it is.
A fair comparison would be something akin to Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. The Wonderful 101: Remastered is a fast-paced action game with a really neat twist to it. While you are frantically raising your combat rating with style, you also have to analyze the situation. By doing this, you identify which action to take next, which typically involves using a certain move.
The gameplay hook is what accompanies these special moves. By using the crew of wonderful supers, the player will be able to draw specific shapes in order to gain access to move sets. These moves employ swords, whips, giant fists, and more. However, drawing these shapes on the fly can be challenging in the middle of battles. Fortunately, the drawing mechanic is pretty good about recognizing what you’re attempting to draw.
Of course, this system was created for the Wii U gamepad which allowed players to use a stylus to draw on the screen. New consoles and PC do not have this feature, so the thumb sticks and mouse will have to do. In my experience, the gamepads worked far better for this game than mouse and keyboard did. Using the mouse to craft the shapes felt pretty janky and clumsy, whereas a controller’s sticks felt much more responsive.
The drawing system is used for more than combat, too. Sometimes you’ll need to pick a lock with a giant sword. Other times you’ll need to turn a crank on a giant gacha machine using a massive hand. These little moments aren’t exactly puzzles, but they are quite entertaining. Seeing how the Wonderful Ones use their unique abilities to alter the environment or remove obstacles is always pretty fun. The feeling that these little moments provide is actually pretty reminiscent of building things in the Lego games, which may be why it works so well.
Beyond those light moments, there are also tons of other gameplay segments beyond the standard beat-’em-up elements. Players will be doing things such as manning turrets, guiding aircraft with oversized buttons, and rescuing citizens in a variety of ways. All of these elements make The Wonderful 101: Remastered interesting, as you’ll never quite know what a level will toss at you from moment to moment.
A not-so-wonderful remaster
As great as this game is, it isn’t all that much different than the Wii U version. It looks a little bit prettier in the graphics area, but not by much for a 2013 game. Also, there is a bit of extra content included. However, everything else is basically the same, for better or worse. This is a real shame, as this would have been a perfect chance to really hammer out some things that drug down the original.
For instance, the early stages of the game are a bit of a challenge. The game has a surprisingly steep learning curve that is made worse by some vague tutorials. Naturally, once you actually get a good grasp of the game mechanics, it’s a terrific experience. Sadly, it isn’t hard to imagine that the opening moments could drive many people away from such a fun game.
To accompany that huge issue, there are also lots of smaller problems that could have been improved upon. Camera issues can be frustratingly common, as well as some moments where depth perception troubles can mess with you up. This is a game where the action can get hectic very quickly. In those times, the camera needs to much more functional, but hopefully those can be patched eventually.
The Wonderful 101: Remastered is a perfect chance for new players to try out this under-appreciated title. It doesn’t go quite as far as it could as a remaster, but it does deliver the experience that made the original so warm and entertaining. The gameplay is fun and satisfying, despite a few technical issues left over from the Wii U. All in all, The Wonderful 101: Remastered is a great game for fans of character action games, superheroes, or the works of PlatinumGames.