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Friday, 24 April 2015

The Wonderful 101.


The Wonderful 101.
 

I was quite hyped up about this game, actually, from - well, literally the moment it was announced. I haven't talked about Super Sentai a lot on here (although I've talked more than my fair share about Kamen Rider), but I got into it at about the same time as I did Kamen Rider - and even though my interest has waned some over the last few years, I'm still very fond of it. Similarly, I like Hideki Kamiya games: I think that Devil May Cry and Bayonetta are massively fun, and Okami is one of my favourite games of all time.

So, when this game was spat out as the next rental game to be posted to me, I was pretty happy. And I spent quite a lot of time playing it almost as soon as it arrived, which is unusual for me, given that I like to prevaricate and delay over playing any of my games.

Set in Blossom City, The Wonderful 101 sees Wonder-Red, a new recruit in worldwide team of Sentai-esque superheroes Wonderful 100, take the lead in the battle against an alien invasion. While each member of the 100 is powerful on their own, their true power comes from combining themselves into energy constructs, such as Wonder-Red's Unite Fist. 
 
Wonder-Blue, the ... cool ... one?


That last is important, because you're not really playing as Wonder-Red in this game. You are, in fact, playing as the entire team, controlling them as one massive crowd - a crowd that can grow even larger (and will need to) as any civilians you encounter can be temporarily granted your wonder powers, affixing masks to their faces and having them join your gaggle of superheroes, in a process that's probably meant to be inspirational but just seems an awful lot like brainwashing.

With more people in your crowd, your Unite Morphs become bigger and better, and it's in the execution of these Unite Morphs that the game's origins as a Wii title become extremely apparent, as you utilise them by drawing shapes - with the R Pad, but I'd bet money that in the earliest design phases you used the Wiimote for it. Some Unite Morphs are necessary for puzzles - you can't turn giant gear switches without the Unite Fist, for example - but most are just for combat, and thus on nearly interchangeable. That's a good thing, because while you pick up a knack for it after a little while, drawing the Unite Morphs is surprisingly difficult. The Wii U is unresponsive, the rules for what constitutes a circle or a right-angle both oddly arbitrary and vexingly draconian, and if you're anything like me you'll end up mostly using the sword, as it just involves drawing a straight line.
 
 
The team. Well, some of them.



As far as the storyline goes, it's simple and joyously ridiculous. I admit to tuning out the lengthy, Space Sheriff style explanations of how the 100's power armour forms, and in fact, much of the exposition early on, but none of it is really important anyway, as the plot in the earlier parts of the game always boils down to variations on 'gah, aliens, beat them.' The story does gain a few more layers as time goes on, looking at Wonder-Red struggling with the burden of leading a massive team, and the aliens slowly revealing their secret motives for invading, but for the most part, it's all bright, cheery, colourful fun.

Bright, cheery, colourful, somewhat confusing fun, as the game never seems entirely certain if it's going for bright, perky, child-friendly humour or toilet and sex humour, and if I'm being honest, it only does one of those two well. Visual humour moments like Wonder-Blue tossing a rose up into the air mid-transformation sequence, then fumbling to catch it; or the team struggling to stay still during freezeframes work very well, as do moments like Wonder-Blue remarking that the aliens will "feel the sting of [his] blade. But not for very long. Because they'll be dead. From [his] blade." The humour aimed at adults - or teens, really, given the game's rating - doesn't, to the point where it is almost depressingly unfunny.

Our villains.


This is especially true since it comes out of nearly nowhere about thirty minutes in the game, breaking the tone completely - in fact, every single time the humour dips into that particular reservoir of comedy tropes, it feels like a gigantic break from tone, and it jarred me out of the game for several moments every time.

Overall, The Wonderful 101 is a fun game, and a worthy addition to Hideki Kamiya's portfolio, but it's not and will never be his best game. It's no Okami. It's no Bayonetta. It's not even a Devil May Cry 1. If you're a Super Sentai fan, I would definitely recommend checking it out. If you're not, then - well, if you have the cash and the time, and you like either Kamiya games or brightly coloured romps, maybe check it out anyway.

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