- Developer: PlatinumGames
- Publisher: PlatinumGames
- Release Date: 22/05/2020
- Price: £39.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by PlatinumGames
Introducing: The Wonderful 101 Switch Review
Everybody loves an underdog; perhaps that’s why news of The Wonderful 101: Remastered heading to Nintendo Switch was met with such buzz. Even people like myself who’d never laid hands on the original Wii U game kept a close eye on the Kickstarter. After all – with director Hideki Kamiya at the helm (Resident Evil 2, Viewtiful Joe, Ōkami) this remaster could be nothing less than thrilling.
The question for both newbies and veterans, though, is whether the developers used this glow-up as an opportunity to smooth out some wrinkles in the gameplay.
It Came from Outer Space
The game kicks off in classic comic book fashion: as alien invaders descend on Blossom City, one unassuming school teacher steps into action. It turns out that Will Wedgewood is secretly Wonder Red – a master of martial arts, and one of the newest members of the Wonderful 100. (Wondering who the 101st is? Take a look in the mirror!) Although longtime members like sarcastic Wonder Blue and flamboyant Wonder Green question why “n00b” Red is heading the Super Squad, he shows his stripes as a natural leader.
The plot is as simple as it needs to be – you lead the team on missions to take out invaders from space, gathering up more members of the Wonderful 100 as you go. The story’s sparkle comes when we fall in love with this huge cast of characters, who could easily have become faceless names. Instead, they each have little backstories; cutscenes feature animated portraits and voiced dialogue that breathe personality into even the most cliche blokes in the bunch; plus, if their banter doesn’t make you laugh, then the clever references (such as Wonder Green’s firearm being lovingly named “Christine Daaé”) just might.
The sharp, shiny art style looks flawless in both docked and handheld mode; it lends a unique action-figure vibe to the characters. Not to mention, the heroic soundtrack and on-point Wonderful 100 theme song will make you feel as if you’re constantly in the midst of a Marvel film sequence.
A Super Smörgåsbord
If there’s one thing this game has a ton of, it’s variety. No two levels are alike in design or challenges.
The basic formula will have your squad exploring a map and facing off with intermittent waves of enemies. Maps are abundant with hidden goodies: collectible coins, secret files, and even citizens who can borrow the team’s Wonderful energy and temporarily help them fight. From rooftops to rivers, it’s rewarding to explore anything suspicious.
When enemies block your path, there’s no choice but to wipe them out! The team uses energy from their Unite Gauge to form giangic weapons, such as Wonder Red’s crimson fist, or Wonder Blue’s mighty sword. They’re summoned by using the right stick to draw a simple shape with the Wonder Liner, and pressing “A” to bring it into existence. You can also use the touchscreen to draw, though it’s hard enough to keep up with fast-paced combat with the joystick control – after just a few levels, my right hand was actually feeling sore from the effort of switching between the stick and “A.”
Drawing a bigger shape results in a bigger and more powerful weapon, but it’s harder to maintain – especially if an enemy swings at you, scattering your team in all directions. When this happens, you’ll need to rush around the battlefield to collect the stunned Wonderful Ones. Playing defense becomes easier as you purchase new Unite Morph abilities, such as the indispensable Unite Guts, which allows you to form a temporary reflector shield using “ZR.” Others, like Unite Rocket, can be useful in and out of combat.
Your gigantic weapons are also indispensable outside of combat. They’re required in many of the curveball sequences, like a classic arcade-style shooter scene in which we steer a ship using Wonder Red’s giant hand. There are also brain-tickling puzzles – most of which are seamlessly blended into the action, and require you to pay attention to your surroundings.
Some puzzles require you to use the subscreen, summoned or dismissed with the “-” button. This mini window is the Remaster’s clunky version of the Wii U gamepad, made slightly less annoying by the ability to move it around and make it more transparent. Still, especially in handheld mode, it’s an unwelcome carryover from the original.
Team, Unite Up!
With all the campaign has to offer, it was tempting to find a friend or two to join me for the multiplayer missions that are carried over from the original. However, I was hesitant to subject anyone else to the killer learning curve that I had to endure to get half-decent. It would have been great to have a shorter tutorial in the menu – not just as a quick lo-down for friends who want to try multiplayer, but perhaps as a general refresher if you’ve taken an extended break from the game.
Overall, multiplayer is an experience that siblings or roommates could enjoy playing and practicing together, but because of the many controls, it’s not very accessible as a go-to party game that newbies can pick up quickly (like, say, Super Smash Bros, where clueless button-mashing could actually get you places.)
Just as The Wonderful 101: Remastered presents a variety of genres, it also puts me through a roller coaster of emotions. At one moment, I’m in stitches because of the hilarious cutscenes – the next, I am in literal tears because I’m finally so close to beating a boss, but work is calling and I can’t pause because I had to press “+” a million times to get the dang game to actually pause. (If I had a dime for every time this laggy pause menu killed me…) The difficulty is steep as well. There were several times when I had to put the game down due to utter frustration – often, I fumed over the awkward camera angles and obstructive foreground objects as I kept dying at the hands of incessant attacks, having to skip cutscenes and replay levels or bosses over and over as a result.
It turns out that a lot of my frustrations could be blamed on the difficulty level I chose. We’re presented with “Very Easy,” “Easy,” and “Normal.” Thinking that I’m an adult who’s been playing games for two decades, “Normal” sounded up my alley. Longtime Wonderful 101 fans later told me that this is something they hoped would change in the Remaster, as these three levels, in practice, translate to “Easy,” “Normal,” and “Hard.” Even knowing it’s a misnomer, selecting “Easy” would hurt my delicate ego too much – especially when the icon shows Wonder Red dual-wielding a donut and a controller. Are you calling me fat, game?
Despite those flaws that slipped through the cracks, to experience The Wonderful 101: Remastered is to experience the youthful excitement of the superhero genre. Each member of this team dazzles with their rainbow of costumes and larger-than-life personalities. If the punchy voice lines don’t hook you, then overcoming the challenging action gameplay certainly will.
Although newbies should beware of the deceptive difficulty ratings, genre veterans can get a good thumb workout in. Both are guaranteed to crack some smiles as they flick giant weapons into existence and save humanity – one cheesy catchphrase at a time.
- Smooth, colorful battle animations
- Fast-paced levels – abundant with collectibles
- Variety of genres
- Fabulous voice acting & soundtrack
- Inconvenient camera angles/obstructions
- Awkward control mapping
- Inaccurately-named difficulties
The Wonderful 101 is an imitable experience with its action-packed levels and lighthearted theme. The cult phenomenon’s Remaster doesn’t smoothly address the loss of a Wii U gamepad, though, resulting in awkward controls and an obstructive subscreen.