Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wonderful 101: Boot Camp

Wonderful 101 is soon coming out for the Wii U on September 15th. This game shows a LOT of promise - but is sadly plagued by some self-created pitfalls. To help anyone interested navigate this strange, hard to describe game, I compiled together a list of reviews and info about the game - in preparation for it's release.

I love Tokusatsu (Japanese Special Effects), like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. This title harkens back to that kind of theme, with a group of Super Heroes called the Wonderful 101. The group consists of some classic arch-type personalities, like Wonder Red (the leader), Wonder Blue (ladies man, rival to leader), Wonder Pink (whip wielding vixen), and Wonder Green (comic relief gunsmith). Together this group gathers more and more members -- the more members, the more power the group can utilize.

Utilizing the powers of Wonderful 101 is the key, and the fun, to this game -- as you use a skill called "Unite Morph" - to use literal bodies of the group to create large-scale weapons, like fists, swords, guns, whips, and more. You save people by recruiting them into the group, endowing them with Super Powers for a short time. The Wii U gamepad shows off it's unique abilities by allowing you to simply draw a symbol, and have the corresponding weapon Unite Morph for use in combat and puzzle solving. It's not always as accurate as you'd like it to be -- but the game has an Easy mode, which I hope will reduce a lot of the stress of creating the right type of weapon during battle. (From all reports, "Normal" mode is extremely challenging, and will create a lot of frustration for the gamer.)

Sadly, is Wonderful 101's biggest problem is that it offers up so many abilities and skills, that you're overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options the game offers. Making that problem even worse is a severe handicap of not explaining simple functions or tactics to the gamer.

The Demo, now available on Wii U, is a horrible example of this -- as if drops you into the game, but gives no explanation how to utilize the simplest of functions. A tutorial (which the game does have, but was not offered in the demo) would have been very helpful.

Despite all of that, this game exudes a sense of charm, silliness, and fun that I simply do not want to miss! After seeing certain videos about the game, both reviews and promotional items -- I have a better understanding of what to expect when I finally get this game.

Here, Director Hideki Kamiya explains in a Nintendo Direct segment, many of the functions and abilities used in the game. (Warning -- they repeat the release date quite a few times; sort of annoying).

This review of the game, here, helps explain Hideki Kamiya's history in gaming, and how it influenced Wonderful 101

Here are Reviews from Gamespot, and a Review from IGN.

What surprised me, though, was how forgiving the reviewers where towards this games flaws. They mention the punishing level of difficulty (which is thankfully mitigated with an Easy Mode), but its still a reoccurring theme: this game can get frustrating for even seasoned gamers. I was sure the game was going to be eviscerated -- yet it receives praise for actually doing something with the Wii U, flawed or not. I feel like this is simply a case of the bar being set so low for the Wii U right now.

If I suddenly sound like I'm being down on the game -- I'm apparently not the only one who didn't have faith in the title. Japan reportedly only sold 30,000 copies - an extremely low number, and I feel must be quite an embarrassment for Platinum games.

You see - Platinum Games, previously Clover Studios, has a long underdog aura about it -- creating incredible and revered games, like Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta, and the awe-inspiring Okami. Everyone roots for this innovative company to pull through! Yet, once again, Wonderful 101 looks like it's going to be mostly enjoyed as a cult-classic, instead of a wide-spread gaming franchise. I hope that isn't the case; things could certainly turn out different, if the games sells better over here in America and other Western countries. Yet, with that punishing level of difficulty, hard to describe game mechanics, and tripping-over-themselves with a lack of explanations about functions and abilities -- it's just very hard to be optimistic.

Another bit of controversy, I thought to mention, was the recently introduced "Wonder Black" -- which, upon seeing him, made my heart sink -- as here, at first glance, we see a black person in the role of the Black Super Hero. Power Rangers, and the first American Black Ranger, can be forgiven because it wasn't an understood controversy until casting was already done. After all these years, I initially couldn't find myself in a forgiving mood for it happening here again. I thought perhaps this was done intentionally, to be used as fodder for jokes in the game; but I can't count on that. I know, I know - Japan doesn't have a stellar record with Black characters in their popular culture -- but, here again, comes Wonder Black to seed new accusations of racism.

Wait.... hold the breaks a moment!!! Turns out, I was jumping the gun in regard to Wonder Black. Yes - he is the dark skinned person in the group, relegated to being Wonder Black. But, according to Wikipedia, he isn't African American (as I first thought), he's in fact Indian! Does that makes things better? I guess thats for people to judge themselves.

Playing that Game Demo, I can full attest that this game is a lot of fun. It would just be a hell of a lot more fun if I knew what I was doing. Study any tutorial the game throws at you early on!

For all of its flaws -- I'm simply psyched to get my hands on this game. The use Tokusatsu themes, fast paced, funny and silly action, with unique and innovative gameplay, is indeed what we've needed to see appear on the Wii U. I hope sales for the game prove Japan's skepticism wrong - and it proves successful overseas. If you want to join in and buy the game, you can find it for pre-order on

So -- are you going to get Wonderful 101? Because without "YOU" - it's just Wonderful 100. As the gamer, we're all part of the group! Ready to save the world?!

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