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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Wonderful 101 revisited!

Ah, The Wonderful 101. One of the first video games I ever reviewed on this blog literally years ago, and I noticed that 14-year-old!Spencer was a little harsh on the game. So after playing through the entire game on Normal difficulty (which, as it turns out, is pretty dang hard!), I shall be gracing The Wonderful 101 with a Revisit!

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For those of you who do not know what The Wonderful 101 is, this quirky action-platformer created by the lovely folks at PlatinumGames was one of the Nintendo Wii U's launch titles, and just kind of came, stuck around for a snack, then passed on into video game heaven. Seriously, this game was a commercial flop... Because people didn't buy it at all. Which is a shame, because this game is actually pretty dang good.

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The Wonderful 101 tells the tale of The Wonderful 100 (pronounced One-Double-Oh), a group of elite planetary defenders tasked with protecting the entire planet from alien invaders calling themselves the GEATHJERK (short for "Guild of Evil Aliens Terrorizing Humanity with Jiggawatt bombs, Energy beams, Ray guns and Killer lasers) Federation. And adding a spice of comedy into the mix is the fact the entire game is a parody of henshin superheroes (you know, things like Power Rangers or Kamen Rider). The story isn't original, but that's the point. It REVELS in the fact it is a parody of henshin superheroes, Plus, there's a plot twist that literally no one, not even me, saw coming (it was extra surprising on my Normal mode playthrough because I haven't touched the game since I played it the first time and as such I forgot most of the plot).

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The Wonderful 100 themselves are a surprisingly likable bunch, even if all their names start with "Wonder" and end with "insert color, object, or adjective here". From the talkative but extremely poetic Wonder White (who can quote Asian poetry on a dime!), to the reckless but loyal Wonder Blue, the Wonderful 100 are probably a lot more likable than they should be considering you know, this entire game is a henshin superhero (which is a genre well-known for shallow/bland characters) parody.

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"Well if it isn't the heir to the throne of the roaming comet
Rhullo, leader of the Space Pirate band known throughout
the universe as the Guyzoch, Prince Vorkken!"-Wonder Red, 2014

Also, I am not sure why, but I seem to be the only person ever that actually likes Wonder Pink. Why do I like Wonder Pink? One, her Romanian accent makes everything she says inherently funny. And too, I always found the running gag of her literally drooling over Prince Vorkken's (pictured above!) good looks to be hilarious. Plus, she's voiced by Tara Strong, and if you have been living under a rock, Tara Strong is that one voice actress that does EVERYTHING. She has voiced My Little Pony characters (a character? I dunno? Don't ask how many?), Timmy Turner from Fairly Odd Parents!, and about half a million other roles that I can't be bothered to list right now. She is EVERYWHERE.

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Every character in the game gets a flashy title card
when they make their first onscreen appearance. Yes.

Speaking of voice acting, I really like this game's voice acting. Again, not something you would expect from a henshin superhero parody, but the voice acting is surprisingly good.

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But ultimately, a video game's worth comes in through it's gameplay. And I have a love/hate relationship here. On the one hand, the Unite Morph mechanic (transform your entire team into giant weapons like swords and guns by drawing different shapes on the Wii U Gamepad) is really cool and the actual combat is both challenging and fun. On the other hand, I DESPISE the isometric and COMPLETELY UNADJUSTABLE camera, among other design choices that are, in retrospect, kind of idiotic. There are way too many moments where you easily miss out on collectibles due to the camera being locked at one angle. The fact the game automatically zooms in and out whenever it wants is both disorienting and frustrating. And the biggest problem of all? You have to buy the ability to block and dodge attacks from the in-game store. This is the most baffling design choice ever. If any of you have played literally ANY of PlatinumGames other titles (Bayonetta, Transformers: Devastation, OKAMIDevil May Cry, etc) you know that being able to block and dodge is a necessity. Now I know what you're thinking. "Spencer, why are you whining about the fact you have to buy the ability to block and dodge?". The answer is because there are SEVERAL enemy types that can basically only be defeated by blocking/dodging.

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Additionally, there are a ridiculous number of Quick Time Events and while the ones where you have to draw the aforementioned shapes on the Wii U Gamepad to trigger Unite Morphs are alright, the ones where you have to mash a button repeatedly are annoying. But you're milage will vary here, since this game is mostly beneficial to people with really good reflexes. Or if you have a friend or family member with better reflexes than yourself!

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On the bright side, The Wonderful 101 has a plethora of minigames, namely shoot-em-ups and one big massive homage to Punch-Out!, just with giant, MegaZord-esque robots instead of pro boxers (one of these robo battles even has a remixed version of the Punch-Out! theme!). They offer a nice break from the usual combat as well as save you from the atrocious camera.

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Behold! Laambo, Officer Sixth Class of the GEATHJERK
Federation! AKA The hammiest lizard-man in the galaxy!

The Wonderful 101 also has some surprisingly nice visuals. My only real complaint is how some characters look weirdly metallic during certain cutscenes (except the characters who actually ARE made of metal...) and the boss battles are all wonderfully (geddit!?) animated, chief among them being when Wonder White uses a Unite Claw enhanced suplex on a kraken, or basically the entire final boss. In fact, the only boss battles I don't like are literally any time you have to fight Prince Vorkken, who not only has better versions of all your own abilities, but also has Unite Boomerang (which, in my opinion is the best Unite Morph in the game) LONG before you can get it yourself. Oh well. At least Vorkken's theme is the epitome of classy! Speaking of music, the game's soundtrack is also alright. The main theme is deliberately cheesy, which makes sense since the entire game is, as previously stated, a henshin superhero parody. But there are some legitimately awesome parts of the soundtrack.

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Overall, I give The Wonderful 101 a 7.5/10. I know my original review was only 0.5 points lower, but I no longer agree with all the points I said and THIS review is the definitive version. Besides, that post didn't have screen shots! But anyway, if you like video games that are affectionate parodies of well-known genres, or just want to play a Nintendo exclusive action game made by the Kings and Queens of the Action Genre themselves (PlatinumGames, obviously), then this game is for you.

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