I will always have a soft spot for the Wii U, even when the Switch inevitably claims all of its exclusives for its own.
The concept is something I still think about and enjoy spending time with, despite the fact it never got the third party love and mass market attention it deserved. 2020, however, might just be the year we close the chapter on that system forever.
The addition of The Wonderful 101 on Switch and PS4, is a big shift in that direction. This was the third party cream of the crop on the system. It’s the one game non Wii U players have been desperate to get their hands on.
Now that a new Remastered edition is here, I’m happy to say it remains a treat and you absolutely must play it. No excuses this time, because the world needs a sequel to this amazing game.
It’s also appropriate, as I feel like W101 Remastered is coming at a perfect time. The world is stuck indoors and we’re more distant from one another than we’ve ever been. Never has it been more important for us to find some sort of unity.
And that’s exactly how this group of mighty superheroes find their strength and resolve. They look to one another to form powerful attacks to fight the toughest of enemies, but they also look to the people they protect, the ones they’re trying to save.
You see, in order to construct a massive powerfist that smashes through buildings, or a gigantious sword that can cleave through the thickest armor, you need to round up a small army of citizens and they can help you reach greater heights.
By drawing a comforting, welcoming circle around people crying out for help, they will rally and join your cause, then combine together to create bridges and gateways that will help you get through each mission.
But through the game you can also draw wonder lines to create swords and guns to help fight against the robotic threat.
The concept is genius, and you so often see the failures of these heroes if the people don’t work together. For instance, the timed cut-scene like sequences where you have to draw a weapon of choice. If you fail, comically, the hero will flap and flail around helplessly, as if they no real power of their own.
There’s real heart to the game, but the gameplay is also incredibly addictive, oozing this old school arcade like button-tapping style, with overblown explosions, quirky quips, and bad ass bosses that will tear you to pieces.
If I had to explain The Wonderful 101 at a base level, I guess you could liken it to a Pikmin meets Marvel Ultimate Alliance, with just a dash of Sonic the Hedgehog. So, just like MUA, you work together as a team to fight against hordes of robots, destroying them as quickly as you can, but if the enemy fights back and hurts you, your group will disperse and members will be stranded.
You have to gather up your troops again to build your team of civilians, but if you don’t, you’re left weak and vulnerable, kind of like if Sonic loses his rings.
But to honest, there’s nothing really like W101 as it blends so many different genres together and mashes them up into something quite special. The game’s easy-going, small mission structure means you can play through it at a slow and steady pace, with a tally at the end of each giving you a medal based on performance. But there are so many missions making up a chapter, you have a long way to go to get through to the end.
Your stats are impacted by how many civilians you rescue, how much damage taken, speed in which you complete the level, and whether you’ve used any continues. But it also depends on what you use, whether you’ve drawn a gun, or sword.
Personally, I’ve always favoured the sword as I can swing it around recklessly and it’s almost guaranteed to take something down with it. But I love the variety which the game offers you.
The Remaster looks great, with some sharper visuals and improved audio, but ultimately the game does still have some bad performance based on the amount of characters on screen – an issue which it often struggled with on Wii U.
The Switch version definitely has hiccups – I can’t comment on the PS4 or PC versions, but Digital Foundry have some thoughts – which unfortunately, does make me wonder how much of a ‘remaster’ this actually is. When compared to the likes of the new Saints Row 3 Remaster, for example, it does make you wonder.
There’s also the added issue of no second screen, and trying to trace the wonderlines on the gamepad is difficult – with the game sometimes not even recognising what I have drawn.
Fortunately, if you play handheld you can trace the lines on screen yourself, but ironically that loses something the Wii U version had in being able to play the game both on the big screen and still using touch to interact with it.
Another issue that plagued the original – and is still, unfortunately, an issue here – is the camera. Sometimes it zooms in too close and other times it’s too far. It rarely seems to be on your side and it’s often a source of frustration.
All that said, I am still heavily invested and greatly enjoying my time with this wonderful game. Yes, it’s still imperfect, but that adds to its charm and unique sense of style.
The essence of W101 is about protecting the world but also showing what can be accomplished together and moreso than ever, it offers such an empowering message during these incredibly difficult times.
Because of that, this has the soul of the ultimate super hero adventure because it’s not just about a group of almighty heroes with amazing abilities, but those who believe in them and work together as one.
We know Platinum has a lot more planned for The Wonderful 101 thanks to the successful Kickstarter – and we look forward to checking it out when its ready. While I wish the remaster had offered a little bit more in terms of improvements, there was always going to be a challenge bringing a two screen game one single screen hardware. Perhaps a mobile app might be a solution?
Either way, I’m so grateful to have the chance to play this smart little game one more time and I’m sure many of you will be too.
The Wonderful 101 Remastered is now available on PC, Switch, and PS4
Played on Switch
Code Provided by Platinum Games