The Wonderful 101 was always one of those games that I really, really, REALLY wanted to play, but just didn’t. I guess the same could be said for a lot of the Nintendo Wii U’s back catalogue really, with the console’s library often feeling as neglected as the system itself. Fortunately, Nintendo have had a lot of success in bringing some of those older titles over to the Nintendo Switch, with an assortment of wonderful ports giving some real gems a new lease of life.
Admittedly, I never thought that The Wonderful 101 would be one of the games to get a remastered release on the Nintendo Switch, but here we are with PlatinumGames handling porting duties themselves. They’ve done a really good job too, with the fast-paced brawling gameplay of The Wonderful 101: Remastered making for a real treat to play seven years on from its initial release – even if some of the innovations that the Wii U brought with it aren’t quite as effective without the iconic GamePad screen.
There has been an alien invasion! Earth find itself under attack by a race known as the GEATHJERK (which brilliantly stands for the ‘Guild of Evil Aliens Terrorizing Humans with Jiggawatt bombs, Energy beams, Ray guns and Killer lasers’) with all of humanity at risk of extermination. Fortunately, a group of superheroes known as the ‘Wonderful Ones’ are at hand to help take this threat down, with the team working in unison to travel the globe, protect some reactors, and ultimately take the fight to GEATHJERK. It’s your typical humanity-versus-aliens affair really, with plenty of kooky and fun elements added to the mix to make it all feel super charming throughout.
The Wonderful 101’s main gameplay sees you mashing buttons and brawling through an assortment of colourful and creative levels, with plenty of alien foes to smash up along the way as you receive ranks for how good of a job you do. You won’t be doing this alone though – a wild bunch of superheroes known as the ‘Wonderful Ones’ will join you along the way, with players leading a vast troupe of characters together as they work in unison to dish out some beatings.
Controlling masses of characters at once might sound a little intimidating, but the way they merge together into a group in the game feels incredibly intuitive and controls with ease – it’s never over-bearing to keep track of the abilities that characters have, whilst pulling off attacks feels as simple as it would if you were playing as just one character.
Certain heroes bring with them special abilities, some of which are essential when defeating your alien foes or simply when navigating through levels. The Wonderful 101 has plenty of variety on offer in its level design that’ll require all sorts of tricks from the player too, with puzzles, mini-games, and on-rail shooting segments present to go along with the standard pummelling of foes. It makes for a super fun time and certainly embraces the unique wackiness of the game’s world perfectly.
There are a few extra team-based mechanics that will take a little extra work to activate in The Wonderful 101, such as the Unite Morph that challenges players to use the touchscreen (when playing handheld) or the right stick to draw a shape in order to use a special ability. Admittedly, I found that using the right stick to draw could be a little finicky in-game, with the touchscreen the more intuitive and easy way to activate a Unite Morph – your choice of control will ultimately come down to whether you’re playing the game docked or not, though.
These Unite Morphs typically take on the form of weapons, so naturally you can expect them to deal a good bit of hurt – the fist will hit some hefty damage on foes, the sword has a large area of effect, whilst the gun will blast away at enemies, for example. They’re definitely game-changers when it comes to combat and they’ll certainly help you get through some of the tougher battles in the game. However, you’ll also have to use them within the game’s platforming and puzzle-solving, with each ability used to interact with various objects in the environment or to protect yourself from enemy attacks and hazards. It’s a neat little feature that really expands their use, whilst it also adds a frantic QTE element to the game that actually feels satisfying in-game.
Everything in The Wonderful 101 comes together nicely to make for an experience that is pretty… well… wonderful. However, one of the most important aspects of the game during its original release came with the Wii U GamePad, which didn’t only offer touch controls but an additional screen to see the action play out from another perspective. That extra innovation is missing on modern consoles, with the extra screen instead utilised in a picture-in-picture form during gameplay. The player can even customise the location of it, so you can set it up in a way that best suits you with a simple press of the minus button pulling it on-screen.
Whilst it’s good to see that PlatinumGames have made the effort to utilise this, it never really felt all that intuitive in-game. Being able to take a quick glance at the GamePad to see an additional view of the action on the Wii U would have been pretty neat, but calling it up on the Nintendo Switch just felt clunky and a bit intrusive. It’s even more awkward when playing handheld where it’s often a little difficult to make out the action anyway, never mind when there’s a second picture on-screen to keep an eye on.
Other than that, there isn’t too much to complain about in The Wonderful 101. Sure, the camera could be sketchy in places and it zooms out of the action quite a bit to make up for the sheer amount of characters at your disposal, but it never made the game feel awkward to play and it’s something you do get used to. The frame rate was generally pretty consistent too, with it only dropping during some of the busier action sequences – again, it never made the game feel frustrating or unplayable, so it’s just a small issue in the grand scheme of things. Overall, It’s just a good port of a very fun game.
I’m really glad that I finally got to play The Wonderful 101, with its colourful action-packed brawling, its charming world, and its unique gameplay mechanics really setting it up to be one heck of a fun adventure.
Admittedly, there are a few issues in this remastered release thanks to the lack of a second screen, whilst the camera and frame rate could be a little sketchy at times too. Thankfully, neither of these issues stop The Wonderful 101 from being a blast to play and it certainly lives up to its ‘wonderful’ name.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC