Nintendo is trying to reposition themselves, and in the pivot stance they currently occupy, they seem to have encountered some difficulty communicating with the world. I am not really referring to how they skipped the annual press conference at E3 in Los Angeles this year, because the early booth opening was for the most part a success. What honestly has me the most confused is figuring out to whom exactly they are trying to sell their Wii U home console. Though in this particularly odd instance, Platinum Games has to share some of the responsibility.
While the Wii U launched with GamePad enhanced remakes of commercially successful franchises including Nintendo’s own New Super Mario Bros., you have to wonder now, where are the new good games? You could point to the recent release of Pikmin 3 as a step in the right direction, but unless the Wii U is the “quirky strategy game and rerelease console,” why would The Wonderful 101 be such a fast follow? If I were in charge of things, The Wonderful 101 would be on all of the systems that Pikmin is not on, to offer PlayStation and Xbox owners a taste of what they’re missing in Pikmin 3.
In case you haven’t gotten the idea, The Wonderful 101 isn’t all that different from Pikmin 3, at least in the mechanical sense. In every other way, The Wonderful 101 reeks of Platinum Games and director Hideki Kamiya’s previous effort, Viewtiful Joe. What this means is that the difficulty level is significantly tougher than a first party Nintendo game. It also means that the over the top action is likely to be accompanied by a real lack of polish. Throw all that in with a refusal to explain anything, and it’s little wonder that many of Platinum’s efforts never reach mass market success. Before any of you get too upset, let me say I really do enjoy the smell of what Platinum Games usually cooks up, and for the most part, I really enjoy The Wonderful 101.
The basic premise of The Wonderful 101 is that Earth is under attack from invaders known as the Geathjerk and it is up to a collection of superheroes known as the The Wonderful 100 and you to save the world. Starting with Wonder-Red, an awfully Clark Kent-ish teacher, it’s up to you to collect the remaining heroes, with the general population caught in the crossfire, to fight off the hordes. While Wonder-Red might resemble Superman, the general theme is much more Power Rangers/Kamen Riders-esque than anything else. Luckily, most of the Wonderful 100 are pretty interesting characters.
Like Pikmin, it is your job to round people up and use them to fight the bad guys. Instead of just clicking on what you want them to fight, you must draw shapes to form them into super weapons. For example, you will draw straight lines, circles, and a variety of other shapes on the touch screen to execute power moves and solve puzzles. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done and the imprecision along with sparse direction is likely to make most people put the GamePad down for good. Control with the analog stick is offered, but it’s not much of a better solution.
The Wonderful 101 does break up the action with some other activities and the boss battles do feel really epic. If you spend the time, there is actually plenty of additional content and hidden treasures to find. There is also a multiplayer offering if you can find a handful of others willing to give it a go.
Released on the Wii U so close to Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101 begs for unfavorable comparisons, which is a terrible shame considering all of the charm the game holds. The crazy story, homages, heavily stylized but stunning art, and the over-the-top action give more than enough reason to play The Wonderful 101. If only the mechanics worked a little better, the game could be a real hit instead of the niche title it will surely become.
The Wonderful 101 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes.