Nintendo came to New York Comic Con with a huge presence this year, bringing a slew of Wii U titles along for the ride. Among the most prominent was The Wonderful 101, Platinum Games’ single-player action title formerly known as “Project P-100.” I was able to secure some hands-on demo time of this interesting, Pikmin-like take on superheroes.
There’s not a lot of background knowledge needed before jumping into The Wonderful 101. The Earth is under attack from giant aliens and it’s up to a conglomeration of heroes to recruit citizens to the cause to take down the menace together. Players will encounter citizens in shock of the destruction and then turn the collective fear to determination by drawing a circle around them on the Wii U’s gamepad. This action will inspire these citizens, give them domino masks, and allow them to join your group… just like Pikmin. The larger the group of citizens, the stronger they become… just like Pikmin. Wonderful 101 also sports unique morph powers that will rise in power depending on how many heroes are attacking. The sword morph attack, for example, will have a longer reach and be able to hit enemies from a great distance with a bigger group.
Defense will be key in maintaining a high number of heroes, as taking damage will cause your citizens to be knocked unconscious and leave the group. They aren’t lost forever, however, as running up to these dazed protectors will wake them up and bring them back to the battle. This can turn into a distraction that leaves an opening for additional attacks, so be sure to pick and choose when to revive fallen mates. The dodge and guard buttons will be a huge factor in keeping the group alive, so use them freely.
When on the attack, The Wonderful 101 offers solid options for different situations and employs a system that prevents the overuse of special attacks. A battery meter determines how many times players can use these morph abilities, and it can only be recharged with the standard rush attack.
To properly morph, players will need to make the appropriate shape on the GamePad or with the right analog stick and press the A button to activate.There are three choices when it comes to these abilities. The first is a fist meant for up-close encounters and the turning of nobs for doors and puzzles. Second comes the aforementioned sword, which seems to excel at mid-range and area-of-effect damage. The third and final morph, the gun, takes skill in precision and will provide a long-range option should players need to maintain their distance.
Morph abilities and hero recruitment aren’t the only ways Wonderful 101 is looking to capitalize on the Wii U’s capabilities. At one point, my heroes had to enter into a warehouse to solve a puzzle, and while the TV screen remained on the exterior of the building, my GamePad screen changed to an interior view. My attention then shifted on the screen in my hands as I matched numbers on the inside to those shown on the outside. Upon solving the puzzle and leaving the warehouse, the action returned to the TV.
Another interesting use of the Wii U GamePad occurred at the end of the demo, where my heroes came across a movie-monster-sized robot. Having jacked a ride on the behemoth’s arm, vulnerable bubbles emerged from the boss’ metal carapace. After destroying enough of them, my heroes then had to do the same to the opposite arm, which could only be reached by drawing a chain on the GamePad that connected the two. If more moments like this are included in the final product, players will be forced to stay on their toes.
While I wasn’t able to slay the giant tin can destroying the city, I still walked away impressed with The Wonderful 101. The intelligent use of the GamePad and diversity in the game’s combat options give Wonderful 101 a strong and fun design, even with obvious similarities to Pikmin. The game should not be overlooked when it launches exclusively for the Wii U sometime during the new console’s launch window.