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Oct 01 2013

Review of The Wonderful 101

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I want to love The Wonderful 101 so bad, it’s got a style that’s undeniable and a reverence for the Super Sentai genre so deep that it makes me wish I was five years old again so I could go run around the yard punching imaginary bad guys with my Power Rangers branded Power gloves. Unfortunately though-as you probably guessed from the score above-I don’t love The Wonderful 101, in fact I would go so far as to say that I have an active disdain for it. I love what the game does in terms of style and context, I love the people who made it and what they’ve made before in this same genre, but I don’t love the gameplay here and that’s where this whole experience fell apart for me.

Good luck aiming that gun without any sort cursor or lock-on.

Good luck aiming that gun without any sort cursor or lock-on.

So to cut right to the meat of issue let’s just jump right in and talk about the gameplay and more specifically what I dislike about it. At its heart 101 is a character action game in the same mold as games like DMC and Bayonetta except with the hook being that there are 100 of you and the enemies are gigantic; an interesting idea for sure but 101 makes a few missteps that see it fall far short of being fun to just end up as frustrating. You see the game makes too many departures from the tried and true character action formula so that it can cater better to its Pikmin style mini army concept and in doing so they lose many of the things that make that formula work. The camera for instance is constantly pulled far back and set at angle so as to emulate the look of a child playing with their toys but this means you lose a lot of important details when it comes to countering and defending. It also means that thanks to the speed of the game you’ll regularly find yourself blocked on-screen or shunted off camera and just feebly mashing to try and fight your way back to the center of the screen. It’s a camera style that simply doesn’t relay enough in-depth information fast enough for the player to really ever feel like they have a handle on the situation. Another issue is that (assumedly because you are small and the enemies are large) you are able to get knocked out of every combo in this game. This wouldn’t be such a problem if getting knocked out of a combo didn’t also destroy any weapons you build using the game’s core mechanic of combining all your dudes together into massive creations. You might say “well just build another weapon” but the game has a rather finicky interpretation of the shapes you draw on the touchpad to build them and of course while you can also draw with the right stick, you do so in 3D space and drawing anything reliably against a right-angled wall is unpleasant at best and frigging impossible at worst.

Between rail shooter segments like this and some well done QTE's the game at least has some good gameplay variety.

Between rail shooter segments like this and some well done QTE’s the game at least has some good gameplay variety.

Basically it’s all little problems that on their own would be excusable but they combine in such a way as to make one giant terrible experience. The awful camera meant I couldn’t see what was going on and would unfairly get hit, getting hit knocked me out of my combo, getting knocked out of my combo destroyed my weapon, having lost my weapon I had to redraw it which takes a few tries and requires me to focus on the gamepad instead of the TV and of course that loss of focus gets me hit again and restarts the cycle. Put simply I wasn’t having fun regardless of how joyously goofy the game’s presentation and story were and not having fun is the death knell of any game.

The story doesn’t really require all that much explanation, it’s your standard Super Sentai story line of technologically enhanced spandex clad super heroes fighting off an alien invasion led by goofy looking rubber monsters. The plot is basically that the world of Gaia has already been invaded once but its inhabitants somehow fought off the aggressors, following this they built up all sorts of defenses, chief among them being a 100 strong team of the best and brightest the world has to offer all joined together via the incredible “Unite Force” power which allows them to meld into marvelous shapes. As one would expect the world is then invaded again and you as the Wonderful 100 must fight them off; oh and if you were wondering, you personally are the 101st member of the team. The actual writing is generally pretty funny if not somewhat overlong at points; they lean really heavily on the overtly complex bullshit pseudo-science, long introductions, and bad character archetypes that the Super Sentai genre is built on and while that’s funny to a point it eventually becomes as annoying as it is in the source material.

While slightly off putting at first the laminated look everyone has totally works.

While slightly off putting at first the laminated look everyone has totally works.

The only real shining light of the experience in my eyes was the presentation which is just bang on for the Super Sentai style. The whole game sports a shiny poly urethane sheen that makes everything look like a living toy and the designs behind all of the Wonderful 100 are just perfectly and innocuously wacky with characters designed off of any random thing the designers had in the office which gets us guys like Wonder-Phone and Wonder-Money. The music too is spot on with the main theme being this very proud bellowing chorus that yammers on with lines about knuckles cracking and their hearts uniting as one against the darkness, it reminded me a lot of the old Jet Jaguar song from Godzilla Vs. Megalon, except it was in English. It all just feels very authentic and the genuine love Platinum obviously has for the Super Sentai genre is clear to see. I absolutely love the style of this game which makes it that much more depressing that I find the gameplay so unsatisfying and dislike the overall product.

I know my opinion of this game is not going to be held by everyone, even trying to keep away from other reviews before writing this. I heard the trickles of praise for this game being dripped from the internet. All I can recommend is checking out a demo if one’s available and just absorbing as much as info you can about this game before you make your decision. That said though if you generally agree with what I’ve got to say, especially when it comes to action games, then stay away from this one. For as much as I love the style, it is eclipsed by the unnecessary frustration of the gameplay. I’m sad to say it but I’m giving The Wonderful 101 a 2 out of 5 stars, all the quirky theme songs in the world aren’t worth suffering through a game that just isn’t fun.

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