Way back in June 2012, we had the chance to play Project P-100, an exuberant new IP from PlatinumGames being published by Nintendo. It's had a name change, and its arrival has been delayed to such an extent that it's done the rounds to appear at this year's preview events; we've gone hands on with what's surely a near-final form ahead of its arrival in August / September, depending on your region.
About a minute into the latest 10-minute demo of The Wonderful 101, it becomes abundantly clear that despite the lack of over-the-top violence and suggestively dressed witches, Nintendo's upcoming action title is very much a PlatinumGames creation. This pop-superhero confection is truly a sight to behold, with action bursting from all edges of the screen and creator Hideki Kamiya's unique, slightly bizarre style constantly shining through. It's a little too soon to say if the substance matches the style in this manic game, but it absolutely needs to be on your radar when it arrives.
A quick primer for those who aren't familiar with The Wonderful 101 (and at this point, you should be!): players control a group of little superheroes, collectively known as The Wonderful 101, and take on giant alien robots and monsters while saving citizens and collecting new heroes along the way. When fighting massive enemies, the heroes can morph into several giant weapons and tools (known as Unite Morphs) with a swipe of the GamePad. At first glance the game may resemble Pikmin, but the core gameplay and tone are completely different.
The demo began with the heroes on a rooftop in the game's colourful city, with them making their way down a large water slide to confront their first enemy and rescue some citizens. As enemies were defeated, several items were dropped, including batteries to sustain powers and "O" parts to spend on power upgrades and items in the in-game shop. Drawing a circle on the GamePad and moving the heroes towards citizens expanded the heroic team, most of them nameless; however, every so often "new data" would appear on screen and a new, permanent heroes would be recruited among the citizens.
Different powers are unlocked based on the heroes collected throughout the game. Drawing a squiggly line on the GamePad morphed them into a purple whip that could latch onto objects and pull them, including enemy armor. A straight line on the GamePad produced a massive blue sword that was not only helpful in battle but useful for picking locks and activating environmental changes, like the running water for the water slide or starting up a ferris wheel.
Each level is divided into multiple bite-sized missions, with a comic book-like newspaper headline showing the player's score and performance following the completion of each smaller section. Most missions are combat-based, but there are several environmental puzzles along the way that require the use of the GamePad, such as opening locked passages and finding a way across various buildings.
The demo's boss fight was fun and challenging. After several slashes of the sword proved ineffective, the whip proved to do the trick as it weakened the giant alien robot and pulled its armor off. The boss operated on a pattern, which made it easier to fight, but the pattern did deviate from time to time so as not to make the player comfortable. At one point the heroes were defeated, but thanks to the arcade-like nature of the game the heroes were dropped right back into the action to finish their task.
We also briefly saw co-op in action, which will apparently allow up to five players to join in locally at once. In our case we took on a mission with two players, one on the GamePad and one on a Wii U Pro Controller. Thankfully gestures can be replicated with the right analogue stick (which needs practice) and each player had a separate team running around on screen. The chaos of the gameplay suited co-op in our brief session, as it's the kind of game that seems well suited to playing with friends.
With aliens and robots crashing into buildings, citizens turning into flashy heroes and assorted chaos occurring all around, The Wonderful 101 retains the signature PlatinumGames sheen present in games like MadWorld and the upcoming Bayonetta 2, just without the blood, guts and bosoms. The action title launches in Europe on 23rd August and North America on 15th September, beginning a season of high-profile Wii U titles. Put this one at the top of your list and get ready for a treat, because The Wonderful 101 is unlike anything you've played on your Wii U yet.