Of all the titles announced for the Wii U since launch it’s arguably The Wonderful 101 that has garnered the intrigue of the core demographic more than any other. Yes, new Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda titles will undoubtedly sell more, but these were clearly expected. Yes, The Wonderful 101’s stablemate Bayonetta 2 was a surprise – and a very welcome one at that – but as a sequel we already have a basis on which to establish our expectations. The Wonderful 101 however, is original and unique. The only thing we have to go on when it comes to how the videogame will play is the fact that it’s being developed by the widely respected PlatinumGames.
That was of course, until Electronic Theatre managed to get hands-on with the videogame. The Wonderful 101 always looked like it was going to be some a bit unusual, quirky, special even; now that Electronic Theatre has actually played them videogame it’s more than appropriate to say that all of the above is true. This is a videogame that takes a lot of conventions from established videogame genres and mixes them into something designed to make use of the Wii U’s console’s unique features. It’s an experience that comes so close to Nintendo’s own ethos that it’s no wonder they have chosen to handle the publication of The Wonderful 101 on the international market themselves.
The core gameplay of The Wonderful 101 sees the player creating weapons via the collected characters in their army. Players draw shapes on the touchscreen in order to create weapons – circle for a fist, straight line for a sword, ‘S’ shape for a whip and ‘L’ for a gun – with bigger shapes utilising more people and creating a bigger weapon. As you incur damage people will fall from the weapon, causing it to shrink and reduce the amount of damage it will inflict. Eventually, you’ll need to gather-up your fallen comrades and redraw your weapon.
This of course creates a system in which the player has to balance aggression against their own potential weakness, pre-empting the need to collect new people and the stall involved in redrawing their weapon. This is especially prevalent in boss fights: learning a pattern is no longer simply about waiting for the opening in which to strike, but also the freedom to move throughout the area to regain your former strength. Given that the combat itself can most commonly be compared to a simple version of a modern scrolling beat-‘em-up, akin to God of War or Sacred Citadel, timing is of great importance in all aspects of The Wonderful 101’s action.
Set for release later this month, The Wonderful 101 is looking set to become one of the most unique experiences of the summer not just on Wii U, but on all videogame platforms. This, of course, is exactly what Nintendo needs to raise the profile of their underappreciated home console. It may not be enough to sway public opinion alone, but for the core Nintendo audience that have stuck with the company through thick-and-thin it’s exactly what the Wii U’s software catalogue needs. An externally developed videogame that takes mechanics we all know and love and adapts them to fit an unusual template all of it’s own published by Nintendo? If Electronic Theatre didn’t know any better we’d say The Wonderful 101 has all the hallmarks of another Blast Corps.