The Wonderful 101 Remastered Review – True Spectacle and Action
The Wonderful 101 RemasteredMay 22nd, 2020
The Wonderful 101 is a Platinum Action Game. Just when I was getting used to running around the city streets saving people and defeating mechanized alien monsters, I am flying through the skies, shooting down a giant robot, then forming a giant hammer to slam down upon alien ships ravaging the skies, then jumping through the burning wreckage, commandeering a ship and engaging in aerial combat, leaping from the burning ship as it explodes, and dealing the final blow with a giant fist. The Wonderful 101 is non-stop, exciting, intense, and spectacular. The Wonderful 101 is a Platinum Action Game.
It's been a long time since The Wonderful 101 first released, and was essentially ignored as a Wii U exclusive. So other than the cries of the die-hard fans online, you can't be blamed for being unaware of what The Wonderful 101 Remastered actually is. What we have here is one of the most unique character action games you will ever play, with all of the hardcore challenge and spectacle that you'd expect from Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, only you control 100 little warriors at once. The Wonderful Ones are tiny superheroes and using advanced technology they can use Unite Morphs that allow them to literally fuse together into the shapes of specialized weaponry, depending on which character is the leader of the pack. In seconds you can transform your team from a fist, into a sword, into a gun, into a whip, and even more. Your team will form into a slinky to dodge, morph into a jello pudding to deflect attacks, an anvil to smash down on the ground hard, and more.
In combat the camera will be zoomed way out, and these 100 tiny warriors end up looking like ants facing off against Goliath-like mechanical aliens. But the more warriors you gather, the bigger and more powerful your unite morphs become, allowing you to create giant swords and fists, which can devastate enemies in a single blow. In battle, it'll often look like you're controlling a giant sentient weapon, with a tiny character attached to it. It's ridiculous and cartoony, and The Wonderful 101 leans into that style with a cast of kooky multicultural stereotypes, all of which offer some fun dialogue. You can't take the characters too seriously, but they're undeniably endearing throughout - even if the French one can get annoying. No offense to French readers.
Despite that cartoon and comic-inspired style, The Wonderful 101 Remastered offers visual setpieces that are on par with the best in the industry - this is PlatinumGames after all, and this game offers the same insane spectacle you know from the likes of Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta 2. Skyscrapers will shatter and crumble into ruins around your heroes, you'll travel above the city, and takedown beasts which are thousands of times the size of your character. In these moments The Wonderful 101 combines spectacle with top-notch combat and action to create truly memorable moments.
The combat was designed for the Wii U, allowing you to draw the shapes of the weapons you wanted on the touch screen. This is possible on Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, but it was frankly awkward then and it still is now. You can "draw" the shapes you need using the right analog stick,. and this is a much better way to do it in the heat of the moment. At first the combat honestly feels slow and annoying, but you quickly gain more abilities, particularly the speed draw and multi-morph functions. Speed draw simply allows you to create your unite morphs much more quickly, while multi-morph allows you to draw and press X instead of A to finalize your morph, morphs created with the X button will attack the enemy independently of you, allowing you to combine multiple attacks on a single enemy to devastate them. Once you unlock moves like these and many others the combat becomes incredible, while early on it might fool you into thinking it's nowhere near as interesting.
But this unique battle system can lead to frustrations. Drawing your unite morphs is never perfect or simple, and it'll take a decent amount of adjustment if it's new to you. It's too easy to waste time fumbling with your unite morphs, especially if you're low on team members or power to form morphs. Some boss battles feel obtuse too, with some attacks requiring a perfect counter with a certain unite morph, and it might take you too long to figure out exactly which morph you're supposed to be using and when. The game does offer hints on occasion, but not when it really matters. Outside of battle the camera is zoomed way in too, which can often just make it difficult to figure out where the path forward is, which can also be frustrating. It's a shame that these issues didn't get worked out to turn The Wonderful 101 Remastered into an essential action game. With these minor frustrations ironed out, this could be one of Platinum's very best action games.
But even with those small points of contention, what we're left with is an incredible action game. I underestimated The Wonderful 101 when it first launched and barely played it. Now that it's on Nintendo Switch, I believe the hype. This is an incredible action game when it truly gets going, I only wish the depth allowed by the battle system was obvious from the first mission, instead of much later. Also, this isn't the perfect remaster, as I had hoped for a smoother 60FPS on all platforms, and that's not quite what has been delivered. Despite that though, I can't help but feel The Wonderful 101 is the best version of an already amazing game, and the extra content, visual refinements, quality of life improvements, and remastered music all enhance the experience.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (code provided by the publisher).
The Wonderful 101 Remastered is an incredible action game, one definitely worthy of playing for those who skipped over it on Wii U. The unique battle mechanics make it a standout and borderline essential for action game fans, while those more casual fans who just want a big explosive adventure will find a lot to love here. And if any game deserves to be played by a wider audience, this has to be it.
- Great, unique combat mechanics
- Some truly mesmerizing moments of spectacle
- Massive variety of attacks and unite morphs
- Drawing unite morphs can be awkward and frustrating
- Camera is too zoomed in on some stages, making navigation difficult
- Some battles require specific counters to attacks, which can be obtuse