There are very few games that are able to portray the increasing sense of scale relative to the player, as translating this change on a flat two dimensional screen can be challenging.
But one game stands out and has gained a cult following since an unfortunate launch on a failing platform that is the Wii U. It was an unassuming game called The Wonderful 101.
Released in 2013, the title has recently seen a resurgence with a remastered version that was kickstarted by the community back in February; resulting in the game’s second release on May 15 officially on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC.
Platinum is an element that maintains its lustre forever – this is the motto for The Wonderful 101: Remastered’s prolific developer, Platinum Games.
The premise of The Wonderful 101 is unusual, and best described as an action game where you control 100 characters on screen.
The game takes inspiration from the Super Sentai series, known better in the west as Power Ranger.
While some parts of the gameplay is messy, the majority of the gameplay is satisfying.
Controls feel on point and tight, with the player controlling a character who leads 99 others on screen, some are civilians who are temporarily recruited into the team serving as a way to ‘save’ them from the crisis, which in turn can enable the player do large-scale moves called ‘Unite Morphs’.
Of course, a game taking inspiration from Power Rangers has to take some point on team cooperation; and The Wonderful 101: Remastered does so with these ‘Unite Morphs’. Having the controller’s right stick focussed solely to that function, players can draw a myriad of patterns to access various abilities, from a giant fist to punch foes with a circular pattern; to more exotic weapon of punishment in the form of a whip via a wiggly pattern.
While one might think that the game might boil down to repeatedly defeating enemies using this mechanic, this is where the game throws a curveball in its equally numerous genre-switching.
It can suddenly change from being a ‘beat ‘em up’ to a shooter, all the way to a wrestling one-on-one match like Punch Out, which serves to add variety to the gameplay and keep players guessing as to what will come next.
In addition to the gameplay, gamers get to enjoy characters’ introduction moments.
It is similar to the transformation scene found in Power Rangers.
Sure, having the right stick restricted to the ‘Unite Morphs’ mechanic means that camera control is abysmal, but it’s is very hard to not grin as each chapter moves along at a steady pace, revealing the plot while interjecting with humour that is not intrusive but rather very fitting for each character it’s directed at.
This steady pacing also serves another purpose that I alluded to earlier, which is the change of scale. The player is always fighting enemies that are larger than they are, hence necessitating the need to combine into giant weapon or fist. This means that the boss fight in one chapter that took your team a significant amount of effort to beat is now fodder in the following chapter, and the player is then tasked to defeat another larger enemy that has taken its place.
While it might seem daunting, like heroes in the Power Rangers, their perseverance in continuing to fight with the whole planet at stake is what drives the player and the characters to fight ever larger enemies, and before they know it, things are taken to a planetary scale. All this, along with the various Quick Time Events, culminates in the game being a treat for the eyes, with particle effects and flashy combos if pulled off correctly, and epic combat finishes which use Quick Time Events.
It makes each end to a boss fight as satisfying as the last.
In essence, this is gameplay that the community lauds as the ‘Platinum Standard’, though the Platinum Standard is not for everyone, with a punishingly steep learning curve that depends on the players adapting their play-style to what is expected.
Nevertheless, the game is a rewarding journey which sees players traversing the smallest crevice at a microscopic level during one point of the story to intergalactic wrestling ring-style fisticuffs.
Every one of these encounters outdo each other in terms of sheer intensity in both gameplay and story. This helps ensure that there is a driving force to continue playing the game until the very end, with replay value coming in the form of trying to outdo rankings achieved in previous levels purely from the knowledge of the game mechanics that are gained by the player, which are not dependent on numbered restrictions such as being under-levelled or under-geared, that are imposed by other games of the genre.