The Wonderful 101: Remastered
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 22/05/2020
Rapid Reviews were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
With such a unique approach to the release of The Wonderful 101: Remastered on the Nintendo Switch, and because it would have been a missed opportunity not to – something you’ll find rather apt as you read on, I have chosen to share 101 comments, considerations and key details about PlatinumGames’ latest game. Enjoy!
1. The Wonderful 101: Remastered is the latest game from PlatinumGames who have a history of high-quality releases: Astral Chain, Bayonetta and Nier.
2. With 33, 199 backers and roughly £1.8million in funding on Kickstarter, the remaster of The Wonderful 101 was highly sought after by the gaming community.
3. It was first released in August of 2013 as a Wii U exclusive and made use of the GamePad.
4. It is believed that development began during the days of the Wii however an unsuccessful pitch to Nintendo meant that it was back to the drawing board.
5. Although many consider it a cult classic of the Wii U games catalogue, it sits at 74th in the Metacritic top Wii U games with a score of 78.
6. The Kickstarter ensured release on both PC and PS4 as well as the Nintendo Switch.
7. The game directors have also worked together on Viewtiful Joe and Okami.
8. Two of the characters, Wonder-Red and Wonder-Blue, are spirits in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
9. The Wonderful 101: Remastered marks the first self-published title from PlatinumGames.
10. “Hideki Kamiya, director of The Wonderful 101, has supervised this remaster and added numerous improvements to ensure that this game can be more easily and thoroughly enjoyed by all and on various platforms, and with improved visuals, framerate, and loading time for an enhanced experience on all fronts.” – Nintendo eShop
11. Taking control of Wonder-Red (a schoolteacher from Blossom City), you embark on a mission to stop Geathjerk Federation – an alien terrorist organisation – from destroying the planet.
12. The Wonderful Ones work for a secret service that has been created by the United Nations, and you will lead them into battle.
13. Citizens can be found throughout the city who require saving. Once secured, they then join your group and become a part of the united army to save Earth.
14. Through swift weapon changes and fast-paced combat, you must attack and defend to defeat the alien robots.
15. The Wonderful 101: Remastered comes flying out the gates with a punchy – no pun intended – introduction to the world of W101.
16. It sets the tone during the opening scenes for a weird, wild and altogether ‘wonderful’ superhero story.
17. W101 continues to dial up the ‘superhero’ styling across the nine operations and epilogue.
18. This is as coherent a plot as is possible when an alien invasion is upon us and the local citizens are getting involved.
19. All the tropes of a ‘superhero’ story are used and abused, for better and for worse.
20. It certainly feels as though its motto is ‘New location. Kill Monsters. Repeat.’ and enthusiasm for it can wear thin over the course of its 20 or so hours’ worth of gameplay.
Careful character curation
21. Each character exudes personality from the off, with carefully curated dialogue evident throughout.
22. The character designs are conventional and arguably typical of the superhero genre, with creative costumes that still conform to the expectations of a superhero game.
23. Collectively, the Wonderful Ones provide that feelgood factor of a team with the expected dose of good humour and cheesy one liners.
24. The names of the characters are also fairly simplistic, however in-game dialogue seems to acknowledge that with various puns throughout by the enemy.
25. Heartfelt moments in amongst the over-the-top action help to develop the characters further and it works really well.
26. Development of the characters is reliant on more adult humour at times and the ‘hard as nails’ combat makes this better suited to teenagers and adults, even though it may be appealing to children.
27. Most of the game consists of moving from area to area, fighting increasingly bizarre enemies.
28. It is a difficult game to master, and this alone will deter would-be superheroes from completing it.
29. When you find a rhythm, combat is delightful and is the perfect reminder as to why so many fell in love with this game when it was originally released.
30. If you fail to build momentum, the hack ‘n’ slash nature of W101 can quickly grate and the desire to turn it off is difficult to ignore.
31. Each of the main W101 heroes has their own special power, known as Unite Morphs, and it is these that inject that ‘wonderful’ originality into the game.
32. Accessible by making the appropriate gesture using the right analogue stick, the Unite Morphs transform your eclectic cast of heroes into a superpower to wreak havoc on your foes. Selecting the right morph for the situation is essential, and the more members you have, the larger and more powerful the weapon is. Much like everything associated with the W101 though, there’s a caveat: making the appropriate gesture with the right stick can prove to be infuriating as the game misinterprets your actions and this leaves you at a disadvantage in such fast-paced fights.
Beautiful Boss Battles
33. A true highlight of the story mode are the boss battles which are incredible.
34. Blending outstanding cinematics and larger than life enemy design was an excellent choice.
35. Battles are multi-faceted with a host of variables impacting your successes in the mission, but they culminate to create some of the most enjoyable moments that the game provides.
36. The small arenas can mean that the boss battles are challenging just because of the inconveniences associated with a small screen and a large enemy, rather than through clever level design.
37. Immersion in these battles can be disrupted through those oh-so-inconsistent analogue gestures.
38. Outside of combat, there are platforming sections which, when executed properly, provide a much-welcomed change of pace.
39. These elements also make for some fantastic action sequences which are an excellent accompaniment to the cutscenes.
40. There are occasions where these feel tacked on and serve to be little more than a distraction as you battle with the camera – this won’t be the only time this is mentioned.
41. When the Wonderful Ones aren’t transforming into weapons, they can be found morphing into practical objects to aid exploration and to move the plot forward. Whether it’s a ladder for scaling a building or a bridge to move between rooftops, the movement is smooth and the ingenuity is on point.
42. Other sequences in the game see you in control of a car on rails as you weave in and out of obstacles or jumping between falling debris as you attempt to save a statue from a great height. There is an abundance of these scenarios that are thoroughly enjoyable.
43. The aforementioned challenge that W101 offers up is a cause of much debate. On the one hand, it ensures that character move sets are fully explored, and an element of strategy required to complete it, however, it will leave some out of their depth.
44. Thankfully, there are two easier modes than the default ‘Normal’ which offers some respite from the difficulty spikes evident throughout.
45. Regardless of the options available, it is hard to ignore the overriding feeling that some of the difficulty comes from issues in the way the game is presented to the player. The camera, in particular, is a sore subject – there is little room for manoeuvre and during particularly tight spaces or large battles, it can be hard to see what is going on.
46. There is a currency available in W101 that can be spent between operations on food, skills, Unite Morphs and the like. You are rewarded for performance on a mission with dollars, however your chances of earning top dollar are hindered by objectives that are heavily reliant on you being good at the game i.e. no deaths, no use of items.
47. Whilst the game only has nine ‘operations’, these are subdivided into a number of different missions which can vary in both length and difficulty. This means that there is an element of challenge in planning ahead as you may need to purchase more items for the journey than you realise.
48. Many players could be forgiven for thinking that W101 is yet another hack ‘n’ slash title. Whilst, at its core, there is a strong emphasis on combat, the other aforementioned platforming and puzzle elements do offer something extra.
49. The depth of this game lies in the way that your in-game money is spent on new skills and items, and how you approach each mission.
50. The missions are graded from Bronze to Pure Platinum, with points decided based on how quickly you completed the mission, how much damage was taken etc. A strategic approach is needed to complete the levels quickly, as is strategy needed to complete them with minimum damage.
51. Determining how and when to use the special abilities of each playable character is where many will spend their time, and over the course of the game, this becomes much more intuitive.
52. With missions graded based on performance and currency obtained through skill, there is a lot of reason to play missions through multiple times. That being said, it is unlikely that the average player will have the inclination to do so.
53. Some operations are much more enjoyable than others, and fortunately, you can select which you want to replay at any point once you have played it through once.
54. There is a multiplayer option which offers the chance to play with friends on a variety of different missions. In just one of many missed opportunities, this is restricted to local multiplayer and represents another occasion whereby this game could have been thrust into the limelight but wasn’t. What better way to garner a following for this game the second time around than to bring players together to complete missions in online co-op? The multiplayer mode is assigned only one of our 101 points, and this is representative of what it truly brings to the party.
Good but not great graphics
55. The visual fidelity of W101 can be viewed in one of two lights: do you judge it as a standalone version on the Switch or comparatively to the Wii U version? In both cases, the result is the same.
56. ‘Remastered’ comes with a weight of expectation that only the best games can rise to. Unfortunately, W101 fails to deliver. Whilst it could be argued that the cartoon style doesn’t need as much of a visual upgrade, it has been referred to as a ‘remaster’ rather than a port and it is difficult to see why.
57. What can be said though is that W101 is a good-looking game. The vibrancy and pop of the colours is excellent and is well-suited to the Nintendo Switch. It was designed exclusively for a Nintendo console and that can be felt throughout.
58. Blossom City and the other areas you visit in the game have been creatively designed and embody all that The Wonderful 101 is about.
59. When one of the Kickstarter stretch goals is to make orchestral recordings of two of the songs from The Wonderful 101: ‘The Won-Stoppable Wonderful 100’ and ‘Tables Turn.’, you know that the soundtrack must be an outstanding one.
60. The accompaniment of the soundtrack alongside the pertinent moments in-game is glorious and it sets the tone perfectly.
61. Over-the-top action and adventure is synonymous with pop-art ‘cracks’, ‘bangs’ and ‘wallops’ and The Wonderful 101 does not disappoint.
62. Between the collective efforts of the colourful sights and sounds of W101, the game keeps momentum high and provides an engaging action adventure which more often than not proves to be the saviour for some of its shortcomings.
Vonderful voice acting?
63. Having already alluded to it earlier, it will come as no surprise that the cheesy and downright silly humour is delivered through equally exuberant voice acting.
64. For the most part, it is in keeping with the atmosphere that has been created, however, it can prove to be overbearing at times.
65. It is easy to foresee that the unusual plot and ridiculously flamboyant delivery will continue to make W101 a niche title, something that PlatinumGames was hoping to be more a reflection of the Wii U rather than being representative of the game itself.
66. Although a minor complaint, it is a shame that due to the art style of W101, the animation of the characters mouths during cutscenes doesn’t marry up with the voiceovers themselves.
67. A wonderful fact: If you stay on the pause screen for too long, a narrator berates you for not understanding the importance of the mission and it did make me chuckle each time.
68. Although it has been said that the visual fidelity could be better, the production values of the cutscenes are first-rate.
69. The story is told through lengthy dialogue between missions but the real action is mid-mission when new enemies are introduced or there is an event to advance the plot.
70. Both the characters and the environments are brought to life during the cutscenes and include all the usual extravagance associated with superheroes.
71. The animation of each character, including some of those that play a lesser role, is superb.
72. Unfortunately, for all that the cutscenes bring to W101, they also serve as a reminder that the in-game camera is too far away from the action for it to feel the same way when playing.
73. Moments where the player is asked to interact with the cutscenes ie. Unite Actions is a fantastic addition and keeps it all punchy and fresh.
In need of improvement
74. Guidance on how to play the game and get the most out of it, particularly in the early stages, could have been much improved – particularly for a game and a developer who are renowned for difficult games.
75. Tailoring the release of The Wonderful 101: Remastered to the Switch rather than amending what was already there would have been extremely beneficial, because, as it stands, it feels much more like a port.
76. A fixed isometric camera angle is not ideal in modern gaming, particularly when the on-screen action is so fast-paced and busy.
77. By not acknowledging the difficulties of playing on a smaller screen i.e. Switch Lite, and making more suitable adjustments, the game isn’t as exciting a prospect for portability as it should be. In turn, it fails to capitalise on another potential marketing opportunity for the game.
78. Optimisation of the graphics would be key so that there is a marked improvement between the two releases some seven years after development.
79. Blurred lines about what the Kickstarter was for wasn’t a highlight in the lead up to this game’s release and it should have been made clear from the off.
80. There is an overwhelming feeling that this game could have, and should have, been better suited to the Nintendo Switch.
81. Redefining the control scheme has been done but it isn’t as intuitive or smooth as it should be.
82. Handheld isn’t the experience it should be either and this limits a userbase that was there to be capitalised upon.
83. On-screen concessions have been made to provide a similar experience to the Wii U original.
84. Is it really a remaster?
Port vs. Remaster
85. The only clue to this being a remaster is in the name. It is very hard to identify where the changes have been made to this game to make it worthy of the ‘remaster’ moniker.
86. Offering little in the way of new content and performance that isn’t as buttery smooth as you would expect, The Wonderful 101: Remastered fails to capitalise on the new lease of life.
87. So much more could have been done to the game to improve on the design, and the fixed isometric camera angle is first on the list. It was the biggest complaint of the Wii U original and hasn’t been addressed.
88. Its reception upon release should have highlighted other shortcomings of the game and these too could have been prepared for in this remaster. Instead, issues such as a poorly optimised control scheme have been further compounded here as it has now been released on hardware it wasn’t intended for.
89. The sheer amount of work that would need to go into a remaster can’t be understated, however, when labelled as such, this reviewer believes it should be more obvious than it is.
A Kick-starter in the teeth
90. The Wonderful 101: Remastered successfully reached its Kickstarter funding goal in 30 minutes. By the time it had finished, it had raised nearly fifty times its target and had met a number of its stretch goals. It is statistics like these which cause the next two quotes to divide opinion.
91. “I want to clarify that we didn’t do the campaign to ‘get money’ or anything like that — that wasn’t the point of it. The main goal was to bring the fans together, gauge interest, and find a good way to revisit and release the game.”
92. “In terms of the contents, it’s one of our larger games, so we’re happy with how it is. It’s not the case that we want to add more content – we just want to make it more user-friendly…I’ve got a list of the things I’ve always wanted to change that I wasn’t quite satisfied with in the original. Being able to revisit the game has allowed us to make those fine-tuned adjustments.” Gematsu interview with Executive Director, Atsushi Inaba.
93. Whilst no-one can deny that bringing fans together isn’t good for everyone, but there are a whole host of ways to do this. Stating that the Kickstarter campaign was one such way feels rather subjective and raises question marks over its validity. With such a large sum of money invested in a game that was almost ready, more wholesale changes to the way that The Wonderful 101: Remastered looks and feels would have been expected.
94. Making it more user-friendly was the order of the day back in the Wii U era, and unfortunately it remains the same now. It hasn’t been built free from the constraints of the Wii U original, and this is to the game’s detriment.
95. Whilst the game should be reviewed on its own merits, it is difficult to ignore the Kickstarter campaign entirely as the process was a unique one and is part of the W101 package.
96. The Wonderful 101 was a game that didn’t quite reach its potential nor garner the audience that it could have, and it is likely that history will repeat itself again.
97. For almost everything that the game gets right, there is something to remind you that there are missed opportunities aplenty with this project.
98. When the characters, combat and creative environments combine, it can be a rather enjoyable experience.
99. That being said, its unforgiving nature and cumbersome controls combine more frequently and limit the fun factor that a superhero game should be offering an abundance of.
100. Whilst it could be argued that it was eventually to the detriment of the game, the Wii U version was specifically designed for the console. The same can’t be said for the remaster, and this can be felt throughout.
101. In summary, The Wonderful 101 Remaster is a good game that could easily have been great. Poor hardware optimisation and a bizarre Kickstarter will have affected its reception, and will ultimately mean that, once again, The Wonderful 101 doesn’t have the audience it so craves.