The The Wonderful 101: Remastered Kickstarter announcement threw me for a loop. I couldn’t believe it was getting a remaster, and I was shocked at how much funding it received from fans. Originally a Wii U exclusive title from PlatinumGames, the game now has a chance to reach a larger audience on the more popular Switch. Sadly, the technical hiccups that were present on Nintendo’s last system are still here on its current one. It’s a shame because these faults drag down a truly unique, mesmerizing game.
What’s wonderful about these masked crusaders
This action adventure has a fairly standard alien invasion plot. The extraterrestrials known as the GEATHJERK attack Earth, and it’s up to The Wonderful 100 to stop them. (The extra one in the title is you, the player.) The group travels around the world pushing back against the otherworldly forces. Each mission consists of one central area, with three stages each. Players control the team as one unit, picking up both permanent and temporary recruits along the way.
The gameplay is presented in an isometric, zoomed out view. Your central character, or leader, is determined by certain shapes you draw. Players must produce these to access team leaders’ powers in order to combat enemies. For example, drawing a circle will form Wonder-Red’s giant hand. A straight line will grant you Wonder-Blue’s humongous sword. An L shape will summon Wonder-Green’s large gun. These weapons not only help in combat but are also necessary for environmental puzzles.
On the Wii U, gamers could draw the figure they needed using the stylus and GamePad. The right stick was also an option. Switch-wise, you can utilize your controller’s right stick or draw on your screen in handheld mode. Without a stylus, though, it’s quite cumbersome.
As you progress, you’ll notice The Wonderful 101: Remastered has an undeniable charm and wit. The superhero genre is embraced and exaggerated to maximum levels. There are numerous jokes, cheesy lines, and hilarious sound effects. Every one of the main protagonists has distinctive traits that are genuinely amusing. Characters’ apparel explodes upon death, you can form a tombstone in the air to crush adversaries, and you can create a shield in the shape of gelatin. Above all, there are smart influences from other PlatinumGames IP and even Clover Studios’ games. You can tell Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and Bayonetta all had a massive impact on this.
The unpleasantness surrounding The Wonderful 101: Remastered
Unfortunately, The Wonderful 101: Remastered is plagued by some subpar controls. For starters, the drawing mechanic is a nuisance. Sure, forming circles and straight lines is fine. But later on, players are tasked to make triangles, sickles, and Zs. In fairness, combat slows down when you are producing geometry. However, you can still get hammered by an attack while doing it. Not only that, but there are numerous instances where you have to paint something specific during a strict time limit. I cannot tell you how many times I have lost health or died due to failed triangles and sickles.
Also, the camera is too far away from the action. I understand the decision to scale it back. The Wonderful 101: Remastered is all about forming a giant collective to take on the alien threat. But when there are so many baddies and goodies on the screen at once, it’s very easy to get lost in the fray. There were many instances where I lost track of my team leader during my playthrough. In addition, even with everything scaled back, the screen will scroll along with your unit. Not the opposition, though. I’ve been hit more times by a flying projectile from off-screen than I care to remember. You will perish quickly and often.
Lastly, the combat is not very good. Your amalgamation can swarm combatants by pressing X repeatedly, leaving them open to attack after a few moments. Yet your moves are limited. You can wail away with your preferred object with the A button. And as you level up, you’ll get access to new abilities like Wonderful Stinger and Wonderful Rising. These requrie careful left stick inputs to perform. But there’s no way to lock onto foes! That means if you do manage to pull off a fancy skill, you might go careening in the opposite direction of a fight.
What I found most disappointing was how unfair the battles are in The Wonderful 101: Remastered. The “tells” to dodge or parry, done expertly in Bayonetta 2, are hard to notice when you’re surrounded by numerous opponents. It feels like you have to activate defensive mechanics a bit early in order for them to work. There’s no Witch Time equivalent, either. Having the action slow down would do wonders after an impressive sidestep, but that’s only reserved for drawing, for some odd reason.
I’ve been struggling with how to rate The Wonderful 101: Remastered. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before, and it’s fantastic how it’s getting a second chance on the Nintendo Switch. I love its core gimmick; I like how it has the Bayonetta-like secret battles, optional levels, and grading system; and there were special moments that made me grin from ear to ear. But I died so many times for often frivolous reasons, used countless healing items, and even said out loud, “I’m not having fun.” You should definitely experience a taste of this game in some form at least once, but you’ll only stick with it if you are especially forgiving of its faults.
A review code was provided by the publisher.