Without mechanics what do you have in a game? Not much, really, except maybe a book. Mechanics are celebrated just if a game includes them regardless of quality. Cinematic experiences, romance, Wii fit motion board enabled, the list goes on. They are all ingredients in the soup of games, which is why when you mess one of them up you can spoil the whole thing. It’s like overusing bad and/or convoluted metaphors to fill out space. I doubt any of these mechanics are going away any time soon so we might as well get more critical of them so they can at least start moving in a better direction.
Last week I gave the general overview of the game. But I’m not satisfied with simply telling you people to buy the game. Oh no, I’m going to hammer this game into you. In these cynical times when the games market is flooded and our options of what to sink our time into are many, we often overlook content in favor of simply gorging through games as fast as possible so we can get to the next one, never truly understanding the games we play or what makes them good. I savored this game. Every minute of the 90 ours I plunked into this I digested with glee. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the game like some of the people I’ve seen on YouTube who pull off perfect scores in each level, but I definitely feel like I’ve got some skills to pay the games bills and I’ve grown in my gaming experience because of it.
(Unrelated: Last week I quoted web comic author John Campbell of Pictures for Sad Children. Since then he has apparently gone completely insane and lashed out in all directions. Had I known about his depression fueled breakdown I might not have been so eager to sing his praises. Let us hope that he/she gets the help they need to get through this.)
Sometimes a game comes out that connects with you on such a level you’d swear it was made just for you. Even those of us who play games heavily know that this happens once, maybe twice in a lifetime. I’ve made no secret of my unwavering love for Platinum Games in the past so I felt it was a little unfair of me to review this as I would lack objectivity. But what the hell, its been so long since launch what effect can I possibly have on the games sales?
Platinum always brings their A game when developing, probably because each game is a manifestation of their passions. Kamiya loves the silly, the arcade, and the unflappably confident. These make for memorable and charismatic games that tragically don’t get the attention they deserve. But they must be doing something right, half the damn Capcom side of “Marvel vs Capcom 3″ comes from games he made.
Viewtiful Joe won huge praise when it debuted back in the day for its unique approach to side-scrollers by adding in an action flair and a colorful story. Kamiya really worked well with the masked superhero setting because he knew that superheros weren’t about darkness and seriousness, they were about taking down two dimensional villains in outrageous ways and getting people to pump their fists in the air while cheering. The Wonderful 101 is that kind of hero story.
Set in a Super Sentai world of futuristic masked superheroes, each with their own theme , who join together to like ants to form giant working weapons to battle aliens and save civilians. If they don’t have enough heroes they recruit everyday citizens from nearby, give them a mask, and make them deputy superheroes. A lot of reviewers have said the game is like Pikmin because you control a mass of characters but really its nothing like it.
Kamiya and Platinum games have consistently done an excellent job of creating new and interesting game play with each game they release, usually taking a somewhat familiar system and twisting it around into something new. With that in mind it’s really hard to pin down the fighting system in Wonderful 101. The zoomed out camera angle certainly gives people the impression of Pikmin, especially with the amoeba-like mass of people you are controlling. But that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. W101 actually does a commendable job of utilizing the WiiU gamepad but only IF you choose to. In addition to the basic jumping and moving you’ll be doing with the controls the meat of the game play comes from drawing shapes with your mass of people to form giant weapons that you’ll be using to crush your enemies and interact with the environment. You can use the stylus but its much faster, and better in my opinion, to just use the second joystick. It sounds like a weird and confusing concept, and in all fairness it is. But it makes sense once you start using it and before long it’ll be second nature to you.
And if nothing else the games towering charm and charisma will encourage you onward to keep trying. The game is just so damn likable. Like all Platinum games the game takes cues from familiar settings and makes sure you are truly experiencing it. In this case its the Super Sentai/Power Rangers setting I mentioned earlier, but also acting as a deconstruction of the genre. Wonder Red, arguably the main character, is the fearless leader prone to lengthy over introductions. Wonder Blue is the cocky, wreck-less cool guy. Wonder Pink is the fabulous female fury. Wonder Green is the fat kid. Wonder Yellow is the musclebound foreigner who is also adorably bashful. Wonder White is the noble ninja who never shuts up. And Wonder Black is the silent tech wiz. W101 isn’t breaking new ground in terms of characters with this cast. Hell they are the kind of cliches places like TVtropes and the like bitch endlessly about and are unable to look past. And that’s a damn shame. At this point cliched characters don’t exist for no reason, and Platinum is well aware of that. They exist here to make fun of the Super Sentai genre, but with love. Think Hot Fuzz.
And once again Platinum sneaks in some breakups to the game play with some sequences referencing Kamiya’s favorite games. In this case shoot-em-ups and Punch-Out! The shoot-em-up parts I’m not wild about but holy damn are the Punch-Out! parts an absolute blast. It’s hard to say why, maybe because Punch-Out! is such a well made game to begin with or maybe because I’m already familiar enough with the game that I had no problem transitioning to it. Overall the game is a great experience, only losing momentum for a few moments and ending in the most satisfying way possible, with the final boss having 7 stages followed by a playable “credits” level that also has hidden sections and contributes to your final score. When the game was about to come out people were panicking that the game was only 8 hours long, Well by the time I %100ed the game I was clocking in at over 90 hours. This was the first Platinum game I %100ed too, I just couldn’t get enough until I got it all.
If you are one of the few, the proud, the WiiU owners, then this game is a must have. If you want to improve as a gamer this game is also a must. Yes I’m biased but for good reason. Filet Mignon isn’t popular for no reason. I’m not done with this game yet though. Next week I’m going to go in-depth for you fine people. Stay Tuned…
February is the snowiest month here in the glorious American Midwest. This year has been a particularly crappy winter here and a week after the last blizzard the snow has packed into an impenetrable sheet of ice over the roads thus tripling the suckage factor of life. So since its not safe to go outside what better time to sit in the relative safety of the great indoors and fritter away time playing video games while you wait for the city to thaw. And while you are at it why not belt out a few zingers about how “winter is coming/has come” so we nerds can maintain out insufferable status. I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. The cold is getting to me and I’m lashing out in all directions. So to make good on my pledge to play my steam backlog and to vent some anger with fictional violence, I whipped out Typing of the Dead: Reloaded.
People don’t choose the developer life, the developer life chooses you. It’s a difficult life where people get screwed over and good men are devoured whole by the likes of EA and Activision. A cruel, cutthroat world that millions seek to enter but few make the grade. And those who do face the insatiable maw of the fans who gobble up games like pigs stopping only to verbally abuse you. Some say this toxic cycle is the reason why nobody outside of nerd culture respects video games, and they are probably right. But you know what? I’m not here to join the endless cavalcade of lowlifes who write about video games and condemn these people for their ugliness of character. As a hater of many things myself, I feel compelled to defend my rotten people.