The Wonderful 101: Remastered Review – Here They Come to Save the Day

    Title: The Wonderful 101: Remastered
    Developer: PlatinumGames
    Release Date: May 19, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: PlatinumGames
    Genre: Action

No matter which way you spin it, the Wii U was a troubled system. Whether it was the marketing or lack of support, it was one of Nintendo’s worst-selling systems ever, and for a few years, no one really knew what to make of the company’s next moves. However, the Wii U did have a few notable releases, one of which being PlatinumGames’ The Wonderful 101.

I never got around to playing The Wonderful 101 when it originally released, even though it looked like one of the best Wii U exclusives on the market. For the past seven years, however, the game continuously popped up in my mind as a game I needed to play. Even though it eluded me, thanks to the constant stream of new release, PlatinumGames is about to change this with the release of The Wonderful 101: Remastered on additional platforms. Like most who didn’t experience this game on its original platform, this version offers players a chance to experience this zany superhero action game. However, I would call it much of a remaster.

The Wonderful 101: Remastered takes place during the third war between Earth and the alien terrorist organization, Geathjerk. In an effort to take down the alien menace, the United Nations formed the CENTINELS Planetary Secret Service, a worldwide organization dedicated to protecting the planet. CENTINELS’ top agents are a superhero organization known as the Wonderful Ones, a group of 100 heroes that use a device known as a Unite Morph to form large weapons that fend off the alien menace.

Though there are technically 100 heroes in the Wonderful Ones, only seven have anything close to leading roles: Wonder-Red, Wonder-Blue, Wonder-Green, Wonder-Pink, Wonder-Yellow, Wonder-White, and Wonder-Black. Each of these heroes represents a different part of the planet and wields a different Unite Morph weapon. Players begin the game with only Wonder-Red’s Unite Punch, and Wonder-Blue’s Unite Sword as the rest of the characters are unlocked within the first five or so levels.

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My favorite thing about The Wonderful 101: Remastered is its story. The game plays out like one long episode of Power Rangers or any other Super Sentai show. Each character is written and performed in an over-the-top way that feels as if it was ripped directly from a cheesy children’s action show, and I loved every second of it. Even players that might not be a fan of the campiness of the story will almost undoubtedly find humor somewhere during the dialogue; every cutscene is filled to the brim with humor that practically always lands.

Though I initially that this would be the perfect game for kids looking to get into the action genre, I was surprised to find a slew of raunchy jokes and characters hidden under the game’s childlike exterior. Nothing is too in your face, but each sexual jokes or innuendos made me think, “how the heck is this in a kid’s game?” before remembering that The Wonderful 101: Remastered is actually rated T for teens. All this to be said, don’t mistake this for a kiddy game.

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The Wonderful 101: Remastered features PlatinumGames’ iconic stylish action combat. The combat is incredibly fast-paced and takes more than simple button mashing to win a fight. Players will need to master combos and memorize specific strategies to take down different enemy types to get the highest rating possible at each level.

However, this is easier said than done. It doesn’t take long to learn each weapon’s combos and how to defeat each type of enemy, but I still found myself constantly knocked down or dying, especially on the harder difficulties. While my deaths were usually due to user error, I couldn’t help but feel one of The Wonderful 101 Remastered’s main mechanics kept screwing me over.

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The original release of The Wonderful 101 was built from the ground up for the Wii U and its gamepad. The Wii U gamepad allowed players to use a secondary touchscreen during gameplay. Many games on the system used this touchscreen for maps or inventories, and The Wonderful 101 used it to draw shapes that would create the Unite Morph weapons in-game. This is an absolutely crucial mechanic as many fights, puzzles, and quick-time events rely on players drawing the correct shape to summon the right Unite Morph weapon.

Seeing as how the game is now on touchscreen-less systems, the controls have been reworked for this release. Instead of drawing the shapes with a stylus or a finger, players now form Unite Morph shapes with the right stick on a controller. Sure, this does work, but it can take much longer than necessary to create shapes and can be incredibly imprecise. I missed many quick-time events simply because I couldn’t get the characters to form the shape I was trying the get them to make fast enough. Touch controls are available on the Switch version of the game while playing in handheld mode but, seeing as how I spent most of my time with the game in docked mode, I didn’t get much use out of the feature. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game too much, but it certainly made it frustrating.

The strange thing about The Wonderful 101: Remastered is that it doesn’t feel like much of a “remaster.” Not much about the game has changed since 2013, and it’s noticeable. The graphics and environments don’t look horrendous, but they do look dated, with muddy, pixelated textures being found scattered throughout the levels. Even though the game’s developers warned that the remaster wouldn’t feature a massive graphical upgrade, it still felt out of place when played in tandem to other games on modern systems. Luckily, however, the game does still runs in a smooth 60FPS.

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The more time I spent with The Wonderful 101: Remastered, the better I felt with its combat. It does a fantastic job of consistently rewarding players with new upgrades and powers as they progress. I did, however, think that many enemies were damage sponges that took much too long to take down. This led to many encounters getting stale quickly as I slowly cleared the screen of enemies using a barrage of attacks. No matter how powerful or smart I was when fighting, they could only be defeated in the same slow, tedious ways, which gets old quickly.

Each level in The Wonderful 101: Remastered is broken up into three different sections. The first two parts almost always consist of several fights between regular enemies and puzzles, while the third part is devoted to a large-scale boss battle. These boss battles are the highlight of the game, with some fantastic cutscenes and quick-time events that make you feel like an unstoppable badass. You can say whatever you want about PlatinumGames, but they can undoubtedly deliver flashy, entertaining set pieces in their games.

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The Wonderful 101: Remastered has its ups and downs. It features a fantastic story full of humor, likable characters, and enjoyable boss fights, but its outdated graphics and less than stellar controls hold it back from being the hero that we all wanted it to be. It’s nice to see this game find new life on more popular hardware, and I’d love to see what comes of the series from its earned success. Now, suit up and get out there to save the world.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jake Yoder

Lover of all things gaming, anime, film and theatre. Shonen anime/manga enthusiast.