After hitting some of the more high profile releases headed to Wii U, I asked the friendly Nintendo rep Christina what I should try next. She emphatically recommended The Wonderful 101
, a game that ended up being one of my most anticipated and unexpected titles for the new console. I’m not exaggerating that this is one of the top three games that has convinced me to buy a Wii U on launch day.
It’s a shame that this game has kind of slipped under the radar because I think if more people played it, they’d “get” the Wii U and be a lot more excited about it. Originally called Project 100 under its working title, the game is a self-described “mass hero action” game developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo. I’ve been a huge fan of Platinum games ever since they re-formed from the tragic wreckage of Clover Studios, and their carnage-heavy title Madworld is a personal favorite of mine.
In Wonderful 101 you can see influences from many of the games Platinum previously worked on when they were still known as Clover Studios. There are obvious pieces of Okami, and the art style is very reminiscent of Viewtiful Joe. Above all, however, is a clear focus on Pikmin’s mob-directing gameplay. You play as a lone superhero who travels through a city from an overhead isometric viewpoint. Alone you can’t do much to fight the giant robots and aliens invading the city, but once you recruit a crowd of citizens as superheroes in training, there is almost nothing that can stand in your way.
Accumulating new heroes is easy—simply hover over a crowd of panicked civilians and draw a circle around them on the GamePad. They’ll instantly rally to your cause, gaining cute little domino masks and capes in the process. With a healthy team of recruits you can mob giant enemies and beat them to pieces with button-mashing “mass attacks,” slowly chipping away at the hulking robot until it explodes. Mass attacks build your power gauge, and once it’s sufficiently filled you can unleash power attacks.
Power attacks are activated by drawing simple shapes on the screen. Three were available in the demo—a circle to make a giant fist, an inverted L-shape to generate a huge cannon, and a straight vertical line to produce a comically massive sword. Your enlisted heroes will form up to shape out the correct weapon, and once you have it generated you can really deal out the pain. Certain weapons work better for various enemies, and are also required to solve puzzles or clear obstacles. For instance, the giant fist can turn huge industrial cranks to open doors and valves. If things get too heated, your team can temporarily retreat into a shielded form, which is a big bouncy jello mould that repels all attacks.
Occasionally your main hero will need to leave his team behind and explore small buildings where only a single person could realistically fit. The view switches to the GamePad screen in these sections and usually involves puzzle solving of some sort, although you’ll need to stay on your toes because enemies are hiding in these areas as well, and you don’t have the protection or stopping power of your team.
Wonderful 101 won’t be available on launch day, so it’s probably the first game that makes the Wii U an actual investment as opposed to just another fad. The game is also one of the first to use the GamePad creatively, in more than one way, which already tells me that the GamePad is easier to innovate with than the Wiimote ever was. If you need a game to point to when your skeptical friends scoff at the Wii U, look no further than Wonderful 101; I can already tell the game is going to be a blast and I can’t wait to try it in multiplayer. With Bayonetta 2 also coming exclusively to Wii U later next year, hopefully this is the beginning of a long and successful collaboration between Nintendo and Platinum Games.