The Wonderful 101 Remastered
Genre: Action Adventure
Back in 2013, the Wii U was in the midst of its relatively short console life, still producing games like Tokyo Mirage Sessions and other games that have gained cult status in recent years since. When folks got a whiff of an idea that The Wonderful 101 was going to be re-released somehow, a wave of excitement washed over my social media pages.
To be honest, I had no idea what the game was. I had heard of it way back when it had come out but beyond the title, I had no clue what it was and didn’t know if it was something I would get into based on what I had heard from folks. It fell to the wayside for me and by the time I had any more inclinations to go back and check it out, the Wii U had fallen out of circulation from my TV.
Cut to 2018 when Hideki Kamiya had mentioned an interest in porting the game to the newest Nintendo console. Shortly after, a very successful Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest and a ton of support from the gaming community brought the game’s remaster to fruition. Publishing on their own, PlatinumGames made good on their promise to bring The Wonderful 101 Remastered to their fans. As someone who had never gotten to play the original, I was interested to see what made this a title that so many people had become so excited to see a port for.
In the not so distant future, the world has been at war with a group called the Geathjerk, an organization of aliens attempting to invade and eradicate all Earthlings. With their army of robots and weapons of destruction, they have found their way to Earth for a third time to wage war on the planet. How were they held off the first two times, though? What force could be powerful enough to protect all of the innocent people in the world just trying to live their day-to-day lives?
Enter The Wonderful 100 (you, the player, are the “1” to make them “101”), a group of superheroes from around the world who have been drafted by the CENTINELS, a secret service put into place to keep the world safe from interplanetary threats. As the invasion starts up in Blossom City, a bustling town full of commerce and citizens in danger thanks to the incoming Geathjerk assault. This is when Will Wedgewood, mild-mannered elementary school teacher, becomes Wonder-Red, Blossom City’s designated “One” and now leader of the operation to guide the rest of the Wonderful 100 in the defense of the Earth and its people. Through their super suits and ability to unite to become everything from giant weapons to ladders and hang gliders, they will recruit citizens and bolster their ranks until they can ward off the aliens and keep our planet safe.
As The Wonderful 101 plays out, the player will take control of Wonder-Red and Wonder-Blue, followed perpetually by a group of other Wonder-Ones, destroying robots and rescuing civilians (as well as other Wonderful Ones) as the group grows in number and power. Every member of the group falls under a color-coordinated offensive style- while under Red’s leadership, the team can unite into a giant hand that can punch enemies or grab on to handles to turn or move objects. Blue leadership results in a Sword unite that can slash a wide arc and sever chains and ropes. Over time, other weapons become available, becoming important for progress, seeking out hidden caches, and engaging in quick time events during large battles. Switching between these battle methods is as easy as drawing a shape with your controller. A circle will result in switching to the Red Fist while an ‘S’ brings up a Pink Whip- and switching between these methods mid-battle is easier than it sounds and important for making battles easier.
It’s not hard to see what made Wonderful 101 such a cult classic, and the remaster seems to smooth out some of the edges that might have roughened since the original game released. The game is colorful and over-the-top superhero mayhem split up by cutscenes with quirky dialogue and ridiculous characters. The combat is tough to master but easy to pick up and while drawing designs to switch between combat styles sounds intrusive, the game’s design makes it a simple and engaging mechanic. While the better you perform in combat, the more rewards you receive (and thereby have more options for unlocking new Unite options or additional buffs for your team), the game is forgiving enough for players who aren’t experts at the system, offering a number of continues to let you pick up exactly where you left off if you lose your life to the Geathjerk and recovery items that can be found or bought between missions.
While the game is solid fun mechanically, there are a couple of technical issues, at least with the PC version. At times, the sound would cut out and when skipping dialogue, the game is designed to skip along in the text but not with the voice acting, creating some strange dissonance for folks who want to move things along. Another issue involved trying to use a controller which, when not officially recognized by the game, would still work but would end up with the game displaying the controls for the keyboard, making some of the button prompts tough to follow. There are a handful of minor inconveniences that make the game feel a little less polished than it could be but nothing that ruins the experience entirely.
Technical hiccups aside, The Wonderful 101 Remastered feels like a fun “pick-up-and-play” adventure for new players. It’s over-the-top, a little tongue-in-cheek, and wears plenty of its comic and video game influences on its sleeve like a badge of honor. While a little more attention could have been given to the cleanliness of the entire package, I can easily say that this is a game I’ll come back and explore again in the future and could easily recommend to folks looking for a game that mixes style with enough substance to feel like a quality title that can drum up some laughs and a challenge despite some rough edges.
(Author’s Note: for the purposes of this review, I did not finish the game so this is based on the first four or so hours of gameplay available.)