Friday, October 10, 2014

The Wonderful 101 Review (Gaming Grunts)



Poor The Wonderful 101. Despite the highly-acclaimed resume behind director Hideki Kamiya (Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta, Okami), his Nintendo-funded debut title on the Wii U never stood a chance with both retail and public perception alike. While the former was no surprise given the relative obscurity of developer Platinum Games (not to mention Nintendo's horrendous marketing), the game's overt complexity blindsided potential buyers and fans alike, and the gaming world at large still doesn't know what to make of it...or worse, has already forgotten it.

As a fan of the game, I can readily admit Wonderful 101's flaw lies in its inability to explain what the hell is going on. I still can't wrap my head around how vital defensive maneuvers are left unlocked in the game's the shop, and it's further compounded with frustrating, inexplicable gameplay flub-ups like how your Wonderful One leaders can randomly switch or why your whole group isn't piling together into a designated spot (did any of that make sense? haha). It's a real shame the game is so daunting, particularly when you consider how the aforementioned Bayonetta/Viewtiful Joe had quick, interactive tutorials and the same wasn't applied here. The forced gimmicky interludes involving shmups and the like also do it no favors (granted, I do like a couple of 'em, but they tend to mess with the overall pacing).

And yet, I still love it. How could I not? The game's so obviously made with love, going the extra mile with the super-fun "Saturday morning cartoon" being propelled by its Platinum-brand of epicness. Kamiya was correct in the Iwata Asks column for the game in how the first playthrough is much like the tutorial, and now I'm able to play through normal difficulty without much issue (excluding some of the latter enemies, yowch!). I'm still not the best at stringing together combos, but I can still manage to earn a Platinum trophy (as opposed to my former collection of consolation prizes and bronze statues).

Maybe this is a little selfish, but I take obscurity as something of a special treasure. While it was undeniably frustrating how Nintendo marketed The Wonderful 101, it's safe to assume it never would've done that well. But in the end, we got what was most important: an amazing game to play. I can still laugh at the hilarious script, get pumped-up from the heart-pumping soundtrack, and further improve myself in the satisfyingly deep combo system. With the sheer amount of unlockable characters and lore peppered across the levels, I don't think I'll be done anytime soon.

As Kamiya said on Twitter: stop worrying about scores and sales and play the damn game!

By the way, I used to play this and Pikmin 3 every weekend, yet have recently taken a break...I should get back into that groove.

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