Introducing: The Wonderful 101 Switch Preview
During the press preview hour of PAX East day one I stumbled across the Platinum Games booth which was set up to show off The Wonderful 101 Remastered. Considering the game’s cult status and its enormously successful Kickstarter revitalization, I just had to give it a shot. I skipped the game on Wii U, so this hands on session was my first exposure to the game and its signature brand of high-octane chaos. As soon as my demo for The Wonderful 101 Remastered began, I was immediately confused and disoriented. While I only had ten minutes to get a feel for things, meaning that by the end of my demo session, I still didn’t have a feel for anything, I left intrigued and excited to see more.
The demo stitched together a series of missions that had me getting a taste for the game’s exploration, puzzle solving, and of course, combat. In a word, Wonderful 101 Remastered is wild. The title has the DNA of a fairly simple action game, however, that DNA has been mutated by a series of eclectic and creative design decisions, resulting in something much stranger and much more original. I took control of a superhero traipsing through the city rescuing the helpless citizens for simultaneously altruistic and opportunist reasons. The former is simply the charge of a superhero; however, the latter fuels the heart and soul of The Wonderful 101 Remastered. The posse of pedestrians that you accrue can be used to create Unite Morphs, Megazord-like battle formations that can interact with the environment in various ways.
This is the stem of The Wonderful 101 Remastered’s uniqueness. By drawing shapes with the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s right analog stick, the player can assemble the citizens into these aforementioned Unite Morph formations. During my demo, I was able to try out three of them. By spinning the stick in an “O” shape, I was able to turn my followers into the Unite Hand, a huge fist that could not only smash through incoming foes, but also solve puzzles. At one point in my demo, I needed to use this hand to adjust a series of dial locks to open up a warehouse door. At another point, I needed to crank a humungous Gatchapon machine to release a wave of capsules filled with citizens. By drawing an “I” shape, I turned my masses into the Unite Sword, a sword which dealt extra damage against certain types of enemies, whereas drawing an “L” transformed the followers into the Unite Gun, the only projectile-based weapon I had access to.
All three forms provide a different approach to combat, which, being an action title, is the lifeblood of the game. While I did not get to see too much of it, the fights have real weight to them. Each hit, either on smaller enemies or larger ones, felt punchy and satisfying. While I found myself sticking to the Unite Sword formation most often, each gameplay style felt tactile and worth experimenting with.
Cumbersome Control and Slick Personality
The Wonderful 101 Remastered is a very fast-paced game, with different situations calling for different formations. As such, being able to rapidly swap between these different shapes is essential. During my demo, however, I found the controls to be somewhat cumbersome. Drawing with the right stick actually made me wish I had the Gamepad back in my hands. Perhaps this is due to the demo throwing me directly into the heat of the moment, but I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around elegantly drawing the different patterns with the stick in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, the loss of the Gamepad certainly is felt, and while assigning the drawing to the right stick is probably the best solution, having to bring up a digital Gamepad with the tap of a button to display information felt extra clunky. With more time, I think that I’ll get a better sense of how the game flows. But, having to juggle all of the inputs in response to the action certainly felt overwhelming.
I’m happy to report that past the control squabbles though, I had a blast with The Wonderful 101 Remastered. The game has a larger than life personality, complete with a slick aesthetic and goofy characters. During my demo I even encountered a quick-time Wonder Jump sequence, in which time slowed down and I completed some simple quick time event prompts to leap across the remains of a bridge that had just been blown to pieces moments before. This part of the demo was undeniably campy, but also an excellent reminder that this game has personality coming out of its ears. When The Wonderful 101 Remastered launches in May, I will undoubtedly be diving head first into this bombastic, Platinum Games adventure.
A Surprise Appearance
However, just because my demo session was completed, my time at the Platinum booth was not done. As I waited for fellow Nintendad team member Derek Wright to finish up his hands on time, I was able to pick up some neat swag, including a postcard and poster, both of which adorn my wall at this moment. As I admired these items, though, Derek was paying a tad closer attention to our surroundings. Before I realized exactly what was happening, Derek had asked the Platinum Games representative if we could meet “him,” gesturing to someone behind me. As my mind raced ahead to my next appointment, I didn’t pay much attention to who exactly this “him” was.
That is, until I looked up and realized that the man in question was none other than Hideki Kamiya himself, the esteemed, enigmatic creator of some of the industry’s most influential games. Entirely awestruck, we walked over. I shook Mr. Kamiya’s hand, introduced myself, and then Derek and I posed for a picture with him. It was a surreal experience, and an unforgettable way to start out the show. It took less than an hour for PAX East to temporarily reduce me from an esteemed member of the press to a stuttering fanboy, which is the magic of the show. My trip to the Platinum Games booth was a brilliant start to Nintendad’s coverage of The Wonderful 101 Remastered, but it is only the certainly just the beginning. Expect even more coverage from us in the coming weeks, as the game is slated to launch on May 19th in North America, and May 22nd in Europe. Stay tuned!