By Chris Matulich, October 16, 2012
Nintendo had a pretty large showing at New York Comic Con, and with the Wii U just a short month away from release, the focus was on the bigger launch titles that will be coming along with it. Garnering just as large a crowd as big names like ZombiU and Nintendo Land, however, was the recently named, quirky, and very Japanese The Wonderful 101 from the widely popular Platinum Games. In what can only be described as a mix of Viewtiful Joe, Pikmin, and pure, entertaining chaos, The Wonderful 101 will be many gamers' breaking point when it comes to buying a Wii U.
On the surface, 101 seems to be a confusing mess of superheroes and other non-super characters with no clear objective, but once the Wii U pad gets in hand, it's far simpler. The player controls a vast array of characters that stay compacted together, attacking, jumping, dodging and blocking in a unified front. Animations are both slick and amusing, creating quite a unique style that's reminiscent of Pikmin. Sitting back and watching the organized chaos unfold is a blast in its own right, as each character fights in their own stylized way and makes a beautiful conglomerate of high combo action. The mock anime look that permeates the game also adds to the quirky feel, and is pretty impressive, though looks no better than an average HD game (welcome to last gen, Nintendo!)
Gameplay breaks down to light combo attacks, special attacks, blocking and dodging, with the specials needing a battery meter to be built up by normal attacks first. Specials come in three varieties that can be selected by drawing certain shapes on the touchpad, whether it be a circle for giant robot fist, a line for a sword, or an L for a gun. Linking attacks together is fluid and necessary, with the flow of battle adopting a Viewitful Joe style. More characters can be found throughout the level, and - by using the touchpad to draw a U shape to ensnare them - can be recruited to the team. While many of Nintendo's first party titles see a very limited control scheme, Wonderful 101 allows the player to make use of the right analog stick to draw in the game rather than the touchpad, and it's always better to give the player more options. Much of the action gets pretty frantic, where looking down at the touchpad for those vital seconds to draw something can lead to the game over screen, and it's just as easy using the right analog stick as it is to draw with a finger.
Bosses, and enemies in general, are creative and challenging, holding the same unique style as the cast of heroes and level design. Most of the enemies are robotic in nature, though with a style more akin to Pixar's Incredibles, featuring rounded bodies, old school-looking mechanical clamps for hands, and rubber tubing arms. It follows the quirky direction the rest of the game takes, with the complete package making for an original and refreshing change of pace from the super serious tones that the action/adventure genre has followed for quite some time now.
The Wonderful 101 is shaping up to be a... wonderful little title for the Wii U. Combat is sleek and fun, it holds a unique visual and gameplay style, and is simply extremely fun to play. The only downside is that it won't be an actual lunch title, so you'll have to wait until the New Year before you can get your hands on it.