Video Game Review: The Wonderful 101


The Wonderful 101
Jake Dubusker ’15
School may be back in session but the traditional Summer Games Drought still drags on. It’s particularly brutal this year, the time period where nothing is coming out because all the developers are holding out for holiday sales in the coming months. So over the Summer I’ve acquired both a gaming PC and a Wii U, meaning when the big publishers see it fit to actually release a game or two I’ll be ready and waiting. In the meantime I can go over the releases I’ve missed in the past for lack of the proper hardware.
I’ll throw this out right from the start: if I gave out Game of the Year awards, The Wonderful 101 would receive it for 2013. The game’s story is simple, Earth is being invaded by an alien force that calls itself the GEATHJERK (Guild of Evil Aliens Terrorizing Humans with Jiggawatt bombs, Energy beams, Rayguns, and Killer lasers), and your team of 100 elite color-coded soldiers known as the Wonderful Ones must unite to drive them back. As you may have already extrapolated, the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s like a Saturday morning cartoon in its depth and complexity. The Wonderful Ones all fight as a team in a unique gameplay arrangement where you control your entire team at once. Essentially, you control one character, one of the leader Wonderful Ones, and your dozens of teammates follow you close by. Your teammates come into use when you attack, using the Wonderful Ones’ unique ability to perform Unite Morphs. After you draw a certain shape (using either the Wii U Gamepad touchscreen or the right thumbstick) your teammates actually stack up and unite into that weapon (draw straight line for a Unite Sword, circle for Unite Hand, zig-zag lines for Unite Claw, etc.), which the leader then uses. If this is difficult to understand, it’s because it’s so unique that there’s nothing I can really compare it to, I can only advise that you look up videos of the gameplay. This is the core of the gameplay, the team’s ability to unite into weapons and other useful structures is what you use to defeat every enemy and navigate the occasional puzzle or platforming challenge.
The combat itself makes up most of the game, and it’s rather reminiscent of Platinum Games’ previous titles such as Bayonetta, being a flashy spectacle fighter with an emphasis on style and combos. The combos in W101 aren’t like the ones in Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, however, where they’re sequences of memorized button strings. No, in W101 You can draw out up to four additional weapons and have them fight automatically alongside you. The right combo of weapons against the enemy can mean the difference between a Pure Platinum trophy at the end of the level or getting the Consolation Prize for taking too long and taking too much damage.
The Wonderful 101 does something beyond my comprehension, it scatters quick-time events throughout cutscenes and gameplay, and they’re fun. I didn’t think it was even possible, but the QTEs are masterfully woven into the core gameplay and are extremely satisfying to pull off. For example, you may encounter a boss in a cutscene. He will appear very suddenly and charge at the team in attack. Then, the game will slow down and a leader character will pop on the screen and valiantly call out his counterattack, while you draw the indicated shape to unite and perform that attack. They’re very fun to go through in a way that can only be described as “hyped up,” yet this is another element that can only really be understood by seeing it in action.
However, I’ve yet to play a perfect game, so The Wonderful 101 has its gripes. At some points it can be vague at best where you’re supposed to go or what to do to advance. The camera isn’t always a team player and more than once I found myself assaulted by enemy cannons lying just offscreen. There are also some levels that had me fly some form of space vehicle where the perspective and controls had me dying an unpleasant amount of times. I’m almost obligated to mention that the controls can take some time to get the hang of, since most other reviews for this game mention a very brutal difficulty curve and hard-to-learn controls. It may be because I’m accustomed to games of this genre, but I had no troubles at all and the starting Medium difficulty was almost a bit too easy. Everyone’s experience is different, naturally, and you can download the demo for the game for free on the Nintendo eShop, so you can see for yourself if you like the game before making a commitment to purchase.
However, these complaints about the game are just a small scratch on a fine-cut diamond, and this review isn’t finishing without me giving The Wonderful 101 a massive recommendation. I think this may be one of the very rare cases where anyone who says the game is bad or not fun is provably wrong. The gameplay is unique and immensely fun, the cutscenes and story are over-the-top and exhilarating, the soundtrack is fantastic, the writing is hilarious, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that the final boss of the game is the crowning achievement of all humanity to date. So that’s The Wonderful 101, absolutely sublime from start to finish; all Wii U owners owe it to themselves to try it out.