The developer is not one to sleep after getting games to retail. In 2012, while still actively working on Revengeance, Platinum Games announced two new games for Wii U. As part of the exclusive publishing deal with the Big N, The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 were announced in 2012. Since then, news has slowly dribbled out about the games during separate Nintendo Direct news presentations. However, Nintendo had both Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101 playable at E3 2013, giving a prominent space to Platinum’s new games.
While The Wonderful 101 originally had a launch window release for Wii U, the March end date came and went with little news…except that it would need more time. It was not until a recent Nintendo Direct that Nintendo dated the title for Sept. 15, only a month after Pikmin 3. Perhaps, a huge reason to have The Wonderful 101 playable at E3 was to distinguish the title from Pikmin 3, which lurked adorably and imposingly close to the demo kiosks for the game. Nintendo set up the kiosks for both the diminutive superhero title and Bayonetta 2 in front of a “take a pic with Bayonetta” booth, and they had both single-player and multiplayer demos available for attendees to try out.
E3 attendees got a chance to try out both of Platinum’s Wii U offerings on the show floor and what is clear after playing both of them is Platinum Games knows how to make a pretty Wii U game. Both Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101 play extremely smooth and look gorgeous, each for their own reasons. Despite the different tones, they each play with color palettes nicely. The Wonderful 101 has the color ramped up to 11. Everything bursts with reds, blues and greens. What strikes the player immediately is the exaggerated, stylized and adorable art style. Not only does each superhero exude a unique personality, but the citizens, despite their frantic behavior or often unconsciousness, have a distinct look oddly reminiscent of Miis. The art style and look of the game immediately differentiates it from Pikmin 3, and the gameplay further separates the two.
The idea of an “E for Everyone” game from Platinum is perplexing. Why would they make this move and how can the studio that gave the world Bayonetta and MadWorld pull off a game aimed at being fun for seedy adults and foul mouth children? The answer comes in the form of the GamePad, which is the central hub for 101’s gameplay. When playing single-player, The Wonderful 101 has a slight learning curve, which requires players to figure out how to use the touchscreen and simple swipes of the stylus to form specific shapes that correspond to a superhero configuration. For example, swiping a straight line on the GamePad’s touchscreen forms a sword, and the longer the line, the bigger the sword. Drawing a circle will turn the superheroes into a defensive bunt cake. Essentially, the types of heroes in the player’s roster will allow them to do new moves. There is an awkwardness when running through the game and using the GamePad at the same time. Like with most GamePad integration, it is clunky and awkward at first to use the touchscreen-specific moves while fighting enemies in the fast-paced superhero frenzy on screen. However, it becomes easier moving forward. The game also features a traditional button configuration outside of the touchscreen and can be played with the Pro Controller.
In the 10-minute-long demo, players were able to do a test run of a mission in the Wonderful 101. Depending on the skill of the player, it is possible to finish the mission before the time runs out or even not to make it past the first big enemy fight. There is a speed run component seemingly built into the game for players to come back and replay missions for prestige. Many people complained about the camera zooming out too much during multiplayer matches to the point that the game was unplayable, but that is not an issue during the single-player mode. There is plenty going on at any one time for sure, but the camera stays in a decent range to give a good idea of what is happening on screen. The demo mission had the superheroes running through what seemed to be a carnival/theme park locale where they could go down a water slide and ride a charming Ferris wheel. As the player moves through the world, they can recruit citizens temporarily to the horde of heroes and sometimes one of those citizens is a new hero they can integrate permanently. When in combat, heroes will be knocked out, making moves less effective, but simply running into downed heroes will revive them.
What the demo showed is that despite the “E for Everyone” label and art style, this is 100 percent a Platinum Games’ joint. When in combat, everything feels like classic Platinum but with a twist thanks to the shape/squad mechanics of the superheroes and the GamePad. It has the same fluidity and frenzied action feel that Bayonetta or Revengeance has with a different bent. Players will be able to dodge, string combos, defend and create interesting combat opportunities against enemies and bosses by utilizing the shape mechanic. As with most of the enemies in the demo, there is often a weakness to exploit by using a specific shape. Not everything can be hammered on by a sword or shot at from a distance with a gun. Sometimes players are going to have to whip enemies. Whip ‘em good.
While the demo did not feel perfect, there is a ton of promise in what Platinum Games is cooking up with The Wonderful 101. At the very least, they are trying something new and unique on Nintendo’s platform. Plus, they managed to make a game that can appeal to younger and older gamers alike, which is a feat.