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PAX East 2013: The Wonderful 101 Hands On

Source:   Matt Hawkins
March 29, 2013




Nintendo's booth at PAX East was a bit disappointing, to put it a mildly. Those expecting an abundance of software to help justify the purchase of the Wii U last Christmas were left mostly disappointed. There honestly wasn't a whole lot to speak of.

Nintendo was clearly still trying to introduce the software to the masses, hence why New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land was present, despite being out for months now. Otherwise, you had some third party offerings, but they too can already be found on store shelves. Though, both LEGO City: Undercover and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate had just come out, so it was many people's first chance ever to play those games.

As for stuff that was actually knew, you had Pikmin 3 and Game & Wario from Nintendo. They’re cool and all, but hardly different from their predecessors. Actually, the latter simply cannot hold a handle to the "WarioWare" franchise, though it might be a bit too early to pass final judgment. But there was one diamond in the rough: The Wonderful 101.

Yes, it was the same demo that was there at PAX Prime last year, but it's still the most enjoyable, and more importantly, most original game of the entire booth. As well as one the game that most have still not heard about. Long story short: The Wonderful 101 is essentially "Pikmin" mixed with "JLA." It's from Platinum Games, the studio in Japan that's comprised of all-star talent, mostly expatriates from Capcom. The game itself is being directed by Hideki Kamiya, who previously helmed Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 1, Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta, to name a few. Point being, the game has pedigree.

Story details are sparse at the moment, but you control one super hero, who leads many others. Initially it's a relatively small group (the demo gave me maybe 20 at the onset), but as the game progresses, the ranks will grow. To 101 obviously; this is achieved by saving people along the way and blessing them with powers.

You control the lead hero and everyone follows suit. When you punch, they punch. And there's a lot of punching involved; the main foes in the game are aliens, and there's lot of them, which requires you to swarm them, from all angles. Kind of like ants all doing their best to get rid of some large spider that has invaded their territory, that same type of deal.

Everyone can also be organized into specific offensive and defensive formations, by drawing a lines or shapes on screen. You also have special morph attacks that has everyone forming a gigantic fist or a sword. Plus, everyone can form shielding as well, which can cause an enemy's attack to backfire on them. If it all sounds complicated, well, it is. Yet it's not, thanks to the extremely simply control scheme.

Aside from ease of play, the nicest thing is about the details. Each little hero has personality, though it's not readily evident with the camera pulled back so far. But they're there. And perhaps it’s because there were 101 different unique personalities to be mindful of, their personas are on the wacky, scraping the bottom of the barrel side. My favorite was just some dude who had a gigantic rotary phone for a head.

Any of the characters can be used as the ringleader. There are several basic categories in which the leaders can be swapped out, and which thusly let's specific characters shine. One might assume that there could be a need to switch leaders to and fro, depending on the situation, though no Nintendo rep would comment on this possibility.

As you fight the aliens, you’ll find plenty of people in peril because of them, and who are thusly recruited, as also noted. But sometimes onlookers can be brought into the fold as well. It remains to be seen if there are exactly 100 civilians through the entire to snatch up, and if you don't get everyone single person, you have less than 101 at the very end. Or if the game is a bit more forgiving than that; again, no comment from Nintendo.

There's some light puzzle-solving moments as well, plus a few quick time events. But for the most part, you're button mashing away. The end of the demo had a boss battle in which a giant alien is walking around the city, causing destruction, and you're walking all over him, in hopes of putting on the breaks. These parts require a certain degree of finesse and thought to make progress, to get from one appendage to the other. To the point that it makes the aforementioned "puzzle break" a bit unnecessary.

If you're a Wii U owner, you absolutely need to put The Wonderful 101 on your list of must haves, especially since there's honestly is not a whole lot on the horizon at the moment. No word yet on a release date, though it's a safe bet that it'll be out by year's end.


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