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Wonderful 101: What are you going to do with all these heroes?

This game is demanding.

If you don't shut up and pay attention to what's going on, you're bound to not do very well. Frequently you'll be bombarded with numerous enemies, ranging from little grunts to massive monsters and gigantic robots, and if you want that coveted Pure Platinum rank, you're gonna have to use more than simple button mashing to obtain it. But first, you're going to have to practice how fast you can draw with an analog stick or touchscreen, or just�watch one of these useful videos�to get yourself acquainted to the mechanics.

I believe this is the reason the game is so divisive even with the two or so people with a Wii U. You're either going to like a demanding, technically complex brawler like this with unconventional controls, a la God Hand, or dismiss it as impenetrable nonsense with terrible controls and unclear instructions. And really, the controls do take some getting used to, but not in the "murder on the hands" way like Kid Icarus Uprising. It just takes practice, really, but it's the kind of practice that reviewers aren't likely to do.

For the uninitiated, The Wonderful 101's main mechanic involves drawing Unite Morphs, little symbols that activate certain powers. Drawing a circle activates Unite Hand, which is your main damage dealer, drawing a straight line activates Unite Sword, which is probably going to be the beginner's weapon, and drawing a right angle activates Unite Gun, which is more or less a support weapon. The size and power of Unite Morphs are totally dependent on how big you draw it, with larger morphs being absolutely devastating but doesn't contribute much to your combo score. Like everything here, practicing this system is key to being successful in the game.

As you continue to level up your characters, you can unlock different moves for each Unite Morph depending on how much you use them. Unite Hand's variation on Wonderful Rising is bound to be different from Unite Gun's variation, for example. This encourages you to string together combos of many different Unite Morphs so you can eventually unlock a full list of possible combos. You can also buy and equip skills, such as parrying and faster drawing with the right stick, quite useful if you're going for speed necessary for the Pure Platinum rank.�

It's this depth that makes the game oh so very replayable, allowing you to go back to levels where you weren't so sure about how the game played with new-found knowledge and skill and ace it with flying colors. I did pretty poorly on the first real level, mainly due to the lack of a dodge move in my repertoire at the time. Now, I've managed to get a Pure Platinum for my efforts. And you're actively encouraged to do this, thanks to an extensive medal system, a ton of secrets, and a long list of moves and combos to learn and use. And if you feel frustrated, you won't get it right on your first try. You'll inevitably get a lot of consolation prizes(the lowest rank in the game) on your first playthrough, and that's fine. Keep playing, and you will be rewarded with something great. Plus, the difficulty level can be changed between levels, a design choice that�successfully�splits the difference between Plat's usual audience of�Adrenaline�junkies and newcomers.

The gameplay is wrapped in a candy-coated, Saturday Morning cartoon presentation and story, one that lampoons equal parts Power Rangers, Superfriends, Godzilla, Silver Age comics and Giant Robot anime. The game is one that clearly isn't serious, and would probably be considered a�cavalcade�of cliches if it weren't for the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Robots will be punched, dragons will be cleaved in half in midair, enemies will tower above every conceivable thing like scale doesn't matter, and that's just in the first two hours of the game. The presentation is also similar to a grand toy playset, with the environments having a pleasingly tactile look and your team essentially being the superhero�equivalent�of green plastic soldiers, where the mentality of throwing action figures at each other is taken to literal extremes. Top-notch voice acting, a legitimately hilarious script and a bombastic orchestral score add to the effect.

The boss fights are a particular highlight. Expect to see one or two minibosses in every level, and every final level in a particular operation gets an increasingly absurd boss as well. Platinum's commitment to absurd action particularly shines in the massive bosses that you will be fighting throughout. In the first boss level alone, you'll chase a flying King Ghidorah-like dragon in a rail-shooter section, hook onto its tail, and then fight the beast on its back while�it is still�airborne,�and then take out one of the monster's eyes and take control of the eyeless head and bite the other head off. But that's not the end of it. You'll soon be walking on pieces of debris, avoiding the dragon and throwing bombs at the final head. Once it's weakened, you do some fencing with its sword-wielding rider, use the bow on the statue that the beast had attempted to destroy to pierce the dragon, and then cut both the rider and the dragon in half, destroying them once and for all. It only gets better from there.

The game isn't without problems, though. The Gamepad segments has the normally smooth flow of the gameplay come to a screeching halt, where the perspective is flipped to your controller and you have to look at both screens to solve puzzles. The puzzles themselves often give you unlimited time to solve them(it'll hurt your score if you dawdle, though), with at least one exception so far, but the awful motion-controlled camera combined with a rather wonky lock-on button make it more trouble than its worth. It's somewhat alleviated by using the Pro Controller and having the Gamepad off to the side, though. This is also one of the few problems that isn't�alleviated�as you get better.�

In addition, the game's genre is... fluid, to say the least. Sometimes you'll be controlling a ship Star Fox-style, travel underwater in an homage to Zaxxon and Gradius, a straight behind the shoulder beat-em up in one boss fight, a Mr. Driller homage, and even two bosses that are a fairly obvious homage to Punch-Out!!!, complete with a way to play identically to the actual game. If you know these games, these are neat additions, but they can still throw you off from getting a Pure Platinum.

The Wonderful 101 and your opinion of it completely depends on how much time you're willing to spend on it. If you're the kind of person that plows through a game in a few weekends and never touches it again, this isn't the game for you. But, if you're willing to learn the ropes and continue to get better at it, you'll quite possibly play one of the most wildly original and replayable games of the year. Even if the game won't get the recognition it deserves right now, it'll hopefully gain a sizable cult audience as well. Then again, what Platinum/Clover Studio game hasn't?
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Jonathan Holmes   1



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About boxcollectorone of us since 4:06 PM on 02.07.2013

An aspiring artist from bumfuck nowhere, Pennsylvania. I lurked on this site prior to joining, and I hope to do something with my time on this earth until I shed my mortal coil. but for now, let's waste some time.

I've been doing artwork on the side for a while, but I have only recently started sharing it around outside of family and friends(and also obscure forums). Hopefully I'll turn out to be a valued member of the site.