When it was first announced at E3 2012, The Wonderful 101 – then known as Project P-100 – was an enigma to the gaming media. It was not shown at Nintendo’s press conference, and all we knew was that it was being made by Platinum Games. Months later, however, the game has crawled up to the top of many lists of anticipated launch window Wii U titles, and from its presence at New York Comic Con this year, I would say Nintendo has noticed. Placed alongside large screens for ZombiU and Nintendo Land, it seems Nintendo wants this game to be seen, and after having played its demo, I can see where this interest has grown.
The Wonderful 101 is a superhero adventure starring the Wonderful 100, or at least some part of it. An alien armada has approached Earth with the desire to wipe out humanity, but one hero is not enough to destroy the monstrosities. Instead, a super hero crew known as the Wonderful 100 are called to defeat them, but only some of the team appears at the onset. It will be up to the player to ensure the rest of the Wonderful 100 comes together and works to save the Earth from annihilation.
The demo available for play at NYCC happens to be the same as the demos shown before, from E3 and PAX Prime. In it, players are given a three-segment demo through a neighborhood, across a crumbling city, and on top of a gigantic alien mech. The game itself plays in short Missions, pitting the heroes against one or a group of alien enemies at a time. Initially, the group of heroes can only attack as a swarm, rushing forth against the enemies, but as they attack in groups, a gauge fills on-screen, and when there is enough energy, one of the three lead heroes can create a group formation which can cause even more devastating attacks. In order to use said formation, the player needs to draw a shape on the Wii U GamePad touch screen or via the right analog stick. A circle creates the Unite Hand, whereas a line and L-shape create the Unite Sword and Unite Gun, respectively. After a Unite Power has been assigned, Pressing A switches to the assigned power immediately, provided there is enough power to use it.
Attacks are not all the group can do together. Pressing the triggers can cause the team to either dodge attacks in an arc motion or turn into a protective gel, sending back any massive projectiles in the process. Outside of battle, members of the team can become ladders or chains on which the lead members climb to reach destinations high and far. The team can even turn into a hang-glider to traverse over deep chasms in the distance. Furthermore, more heroes can be recruited into the group by encircling the group around people encountered in the level. The more heroes you have, the stronger your Unite Powers.
At one point in time, the game shifted its view to the GamePad controller. Inside a building, the GamePad displays what the hero sees while the television still shows the outside camera angle. This is helpful in opening doorways and potentially other things later in the game. It was a brief break from more action-packed areas of the game, and hopefully it will not be used too repetitively.
The game itself felt very smooth, despite all of the action taking place in the game. I had occasional issues with the buttons, but this may have had more to do with my being new to the Wii U GamePad layout than the game itself. One issue I did have with the game was bridging a chain between the boss’s arms; I had to resort to using the right stick in order to reach long enough. Hopefully long stretches like that are not too prevalent in the final game. Otherwise, the game was a delight all the way through. Attacking gigantic mechs with a large sword built out of other heroes was rewarding, and there was an especially great feeling when the defensive pose could send gigantic cannon balls straight into the face of the enemy.
The Wonderful 101 comes out sometime during the Wii U's launch window, and there are still many questions left to be answered. Will there be multiplayer? How many areas will there be? Does MiiVerse play a big role in the game at all? But most importantly, what is the fastest way to get my hands on this game? I guess we will find out soon enough.