During E3 of 2012, The Wonderful 101 was one of Nintendo's top games coming to the Wii U. Since then, either a number of delays at Platinum Games or some heavy handed rescheduling from Nintendo has pushed the heroic action game out of the Wii U's release window and into September 15 a year later. With what could have been a sleeper hit, Platinum must now lower its aspirations. Yeah, it's a bit of a shame.
See, The Wonderful 101's core features are designed to show off some innovative functionality on the Wii U GamePad. Titles like that, which showcase a console's tech, typically perform great close to a console's debut. The farther they're pushed off, the less people are looking for so-called tech showcases. The good news is that The Wonderful 101 is way better than just some tech showcase. The bad news is Nintendo's marketing up to this point hasn't really gone out of its way to prove that.
Case in point the demo for The Wonderful 101 I was able to play at E3 this year. 2012's demo focused on the basic functions of drawing circles on the GamePad to recruit civilians and heroes to your team. After recruiting a handful of teammates players could draw a line, an "L", or other shapes to summon their powers such as a gun, fist or sword. It was the only way to fight the giant-sized aliens invading the planet.
2013's demo added virtually nothing to the experience. Heroine "Wonder Pink" was added to the team, who allows the player to use the whip ability by drawing an "S" on the screen. Not to deflate Wonder Pink's ego, I mean the whip was a very impressive skill, it's just not what I was expecting a year of extra development to produce.
I'm selling the experience short, of course. There's now a Wondershop available where players can now purchase skills like the Wonder Spring, which is a dodge ability. We were also able to try out a couple of increasingly difficult fights which required a mixture of tactical maneuvering and specific skill usage. For instance, the sword wouldn't work on the giant robot, but the whip would, but the sword worked just fine against the giant blob.
This year's E3 demo also added the ability to play cooperatively, where players can take control of separate heroes and use their skills independently. I played solo, but the co-op seemed like an interesting feature for those interested in playing The Wonderful 101 casually. Myself, however, I'm all about racking up score and getting that Platinum Games S-Rank, so who needs friends to get in the way! Eh, upon further thought this game can be ridiculously hard. Carry me, please.
All in all, I can only really say the same thing I said last year. The Wonderful 101 has a great visual style and fluid, intense action that should be just what Wii U fans are looking for. Still, I'd love to see if the game has a bit more depth to the experience. Four or five skills and a dodge aren't persuasive to me for a full-priced game, despite the humor and innovation. I want to want this game, but less so in 2013 than 2012.
Just how did The Wonderful 101 get delayed so far out of the 6-month launch window? It could be been that game folk were recommending for months now. Instead we'll see Game & Wario in June, Pikmin 3 in August, Rayman Legends in early September, The Wonderful 101 two weeks later, followed closely by The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Talk about the roughest release slot in the line-up.
I'm still excited about The Wonderful 101, but less so. I really think it has a lot of potential, but it's going to be tough to find that considering its new release window. That said, Platinum Games' titles love being the under dog -- and they rarely disappoint. Look for more info on the Wii U exclusive The Wonderful 101 coming into its release September 15 in North America.