The Wonderful 101 – Sorta Anime Review
Took me a while to get around to playing this to completion, as I don’t play that much on console.
This game is amazing, I will come out and say that straight away, because I will not be reviewing this in my normal way. See, at quite a lot of moments through The Wonderful 101 I kept thinking “this feels exactly like playing an anime”. Probably moreso than any game based on an actual anime.
So I will be taking a look at Hideki Kamiya’s (and Platinum Games’s) masterpiece on its merits as an anime, which I have even less qualifications to do than game reviewing. So this will probably end up in a horrible disaster.
The basic premise… why not just let it introduce itself?
So yes, the defenders of Earth are 100 superheroes (with the player being number 101). Imagine the Justice League, if they were led by the Power Rangers. It sounds daft, and it is, but it is also glorious. One might even say… wonderful. (Seriously though, it’s hard to avoid using that word when talking about this thing.)
So yeah, there are seven main heroes that have iconic Wonder-Powers, and 93 other named heroes that have weapon variants of the main powers. During the course of the story the main cast have a side-quest of sorts to find and activate all the other heroes, but they can also recruit normal people as temporary heroes.
See, at the base of all this is two things: The Wonder-Energy and the Wonder-Liner. The heroes, also known as Wonderful Ones, arrange themselves in a powered line they dub the Wonder-Liner, and form a shape to activate a certain power. Like they can stretch across a gap to form a magical bridge, or a half-circle to activate Wonder-Red’s Unite Hand to become a huge red fist made of heroes connected by Wonder-Energy. Look, this is the main gimmick of the story, and you just have to go with it. Maybe this short instructional video will help.
Maybe not. They do use it for cool effect though, like how Unite Gun fires heroes as bullets. And then they cling to enemies and keep beating them up.
So yeah, aliens invade and strike at Blossom City, USA, and Will Wedgewood aka Wonder-Red is the first on the scene, though several other Wonderful Ones quickly show up, including Eliot Hooker aka Wonder-Blue. As they fight their way through the aliens they pick up more Wonderful Ones, including the rest of the main cast.
Let’s look at the checkboxes so far. Team of colour-coordinated heroes, check. Alien invasion, check. Little robot helper, check. His name is P-Star, because Platinum Games.
Unique powers, check. Self-aware fun-poking, check. Overly elaborate transformation sequences…
Check. Diverse cast, check. Immaculate presentation, check. Just look at how every enemy gets its own bio chart when it first appears.
And every main cast member.
And every other Wonderful One.
As you might tell, the facial animations are hardly amazing, but I believe that’s to be able to fit such a high number of characters on the screen at one time. The impressive art direction and use of colour more than make up for the overly cartoony visual in my opinion.
Now I had a look at the list of voice actors, but I must admit I am out of my depth here. The only ones I recognised were Tara Strong as Wonder-Pink, Yuri Lowenthal as Wonder-White and Steve Blum as the big bad. But I must admit I don’t recognise the names Charlie Schlatter (Wonder-Red), Roger Craig Smith (Wonder-Blue), Kari Wahlgren (Wonder-Green), Gideon Emery (Laurence Nelson) or any of the rest.
I’ll give a short introduction of the main cast.
Main power: Unite Hand. Good for up-close-and-personal attacks, fairly fast and good damage. Also used for grabbing and manipulating things too big for normal humans.
Secondary powers: Good leadership skills. Low self-esteem. American. Easily flustered by the ladies. Photographic memory. Weak imagination.
Main power: Unite Sword. Excellent short-to-midrange AoE. Slices just about any material. Can also be used to fit any keyhole.
Secondary powers: Low patience. High ego. American. Anti-authority. Lone wolf. Bit of a dummy. Completely inept at technology.
Main power: Unite Gun. Excellent against flying enemies. Can be upgraded to a bazooka. Uses Wonderful Ones as ammo.
Secondary powers: Always has food. Gun nut. French. Named his gun. About as dumb as Blue. For some reason understands everything Black says.
Main power: Unite Whip. Great midrange damage. Can deal with anything spiky. Also functions as grappling hook.
Secondary powers: Scary. Transylvanian. Possibly a vampire. Takes no shit. Shopping. Most likely to strangle you for being an idiot.
Main power: Unite Hammer. Can crack the toughest shells, but a bit slow due to the rocket-powered strikes needing a bit of charge time. Also provides a nice umbrella against falling projectiles.
Secondary powers: Diligent. Super-modest. Stutters. Russian. A bit cowardly for someone his size. Excellent hat. Probably befriends bears.
Main power: Unite Claw. Fast, but low damage. Can freeze enemies. Excellent for prying stuff open, and climbing on most any wall.
Secondary powers: Japanese. Racist accent. Disciplined. Knows a lot of verses and saying. Possibly a poet. Ninja.
Main power: Unite Bomb. Slows down time, as well as doing damage. Immensely useful in combat and even helps with certain obstacles.
Secondary powers: Mumbles. Videogames. Indian (as in, from India). Tech know-how. Mysterious. Possibly also a bit racist. Tiny. Never seen him smile.
I would say that the story starts out running, and ends up going at ludicrous speed. Emphasis on the ludicrous. I thought things were crazy from the beginning, and was delighted to see things ramping up consistently. And it seemed to follow my expectations for this type of anime to the letter.
Like, there was a point where I literally went “oh, this is the part with the tragic backstory that is gonna make me cry”, and so it was. Didn’t cry any less for that, mind you.
We have hot alien chicks, bishi alien men, rivals that are clearly supposed to become future allies, mind-blowing enemy motivations, crazy enemy designs, big robots, bigger robots, even bigger robots, jaw-dropping displays of awesome and more. Does it make sense? Er… probably not, but I was too entertained to really notice. To me it all seemed to fit together pretty well by the end. Though for a good part of it, it feels more like you’re just going along for the ride. Personally it was more than entertaining enough for me to stay invested.
So if you have a Wii U, I thoroughly recommend having a look at The Wonderful 101. And if you don’t, and don’t plan to ever get one, maybe a Let’s Play could be worth a look? I might even be willing to do one.
So how much did I fail at this supposed anime review? I’m gonna guess by a lot. I had fun writing it, though. I probably won’t get a chance to try again.