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LTTP: The Wonderful 101 - This utterly incredible game... isn't very good

Griss

Member
Sep 26, 2013
11,685
13
515
Dublin, Ireland
So I've been playing through The Wonderful 101 this past week and the whole time I've wanted to make a thread about it, because I rarely feel this conflicted about a game.

I mean, I absolutely love it. The visual design; the smoothness of the action; the silly saturday morning cartoon capers; the pervasive attention to minute detail; the constant and astonishing set-pieces - this is a dream game. The amount of sweat and love that went into this game is incredible, and it's a pleasure to play an old school game that feels like it was crafted out of nothing but love for videogames. I'm so happy Gaf and elsewhere turned me onto this game, because it really is right down my alley.

There's only one problem: The game is fucking terrible.

I realise I might have just lost a lot of you there, but that's my unavoidable conclusion at this stage. Okay, maybe not terrible. But mediocre. Medicore at best. I have a boss battle paused right now for the 3rd time, and the first two I quit because I was just too bored and frustrated to continue. I've never found myself browsing Gaf during a game as much as this one, and eventually you have to admit to yourself that you just aren't enjoying playing the game at all, and are actively trying to avoid playing it. If you really desperately don't want to keep playing a game, isn't that a sign of a terrible game?

So, what are the game's problems? It has tons, but let's try to go through them in a logical way so that this doesn't seem like a clickbait post:



1. The core gameplay / action
There are tons of problems here, tons, but the main one (and 90% of my problem with the game) is blindingly obvious from the off: It's impossible to see exactly where your group leader is and what he's doing. He's far too small on a screen filled with action to be sure of where he is in 3D space at any time, and the problem is doubled when he's in the air / jumping. The fact that he is surrounded by a group of 30-100 other tiny characters, a group that is of variable size and shape makes it impossible to pin down where your particular guy is half the time. When you get hit, you're never quite sure you'll be hit until you see your guy go flying.

This is the core thing that makes the game a drag to play. I'm no expert at character action games, in fact I probably suck. But I made it through Bayonetta and MGS Rising without any problems or many deaths, and even tried a couple of levels on hard in those games and had tons of fun. Here, I get hit constantly. I don't feel like I can function correctly, I don't feel like I'm properly controlling the game. I initially thought that after a few levels the game would start to make sense. The mechanics themselves did, but my sense of my avatar's position never got better - in fact, as the levels became crazier and the camera angles shifted and more enemies filled the screen, it actually became harder and harder to tell where I was. Countless deaths and even ledge falls have been caused by this.

This is a different problem to other character action games. There, you feel overwhelmed by enemies' attacks: their patterns might be hard to read, they might be too fast, you might not be sure what move is the right one to use against them. This is the point of the genre. That is the challenge you're looking for. Here, the problem is that I can't read what's going on at least 50% of the time. I can figure out the enemy patterns and what I need to do, I'm just not sure exactly where I am relative to an enemy so I can 't do it. That's not the point of the genre, and it's not fun.

Not only that, but there are far too many game systems layered on top of each other here. The worst is the battery system. This means that if you want to draw a new weapon, block or dodge, you need battery. In practice, this means that you will often find yourself running around an arena, unable to attack or defend until your battery recharges a sufficient amount. In a game with this much going on already, this isn't really acceptable, or necessary. How does this restriction on your core abilities make the game better?

The item system is tucked away on the gamepad and never explained. Good luck figuring out which of those un-named icons does what in the heat of battle! Good luck surviving for a single second if you take your eyes off the main screen! Good luck steering a missile (if you can figure out how to get them or what they're for) into one of your nimble opponents!

Another huge mistake is making you have to collect your men every time you get hit. This leads to a constant loop of getting hit, collecting your men, getting hit, collecting your men, and so on. It's not fun. Surely the game designers expected players to get hit at least some of the time, right? Then why make such a frustrating ordeal out of it? Why make it so that you are so hamstrung when you only have half your team with you?

What really bothers me about all of this is that in the non-campaign trial missions, where you tend to be in a simple, open, purple room, the core combat systems absolutely shine. Each weapon is distinct and feels fantastic, as tactile and fun as you'd expect from Platinum. Drawing them out is great. Getting an enemy stunned and tossing it in the air for a combo is just an awesome feeling. It's just a shame that in practice in real levels it seems impossible to use these systems consistently. An editor would have been great to just pare back the idea into only the best and more important ones. To strip out the ridiculous amount of different overlying systems you have to struggle with and leave just the best part of the game (the combat) intact.



2. The encounter design
This game is best when it's at its simplest. When there's just an open, visually clean street filled with big and small enemies to move through and kill. The action is readable, containable and perfectly fun at these moments, yet still challenging. Drawing your weapons works perfectly, the action is smooth, combos feel good - all of that stuff works when the game is operating at a simple level. The problem is that this lasts for all of 5 minutes before the game decides that throwing hordes of enemies at you in rapidly destructing levels would be the best way to proceed.

I love the fact that the game wants to show you something new every five minutes. I love that, and my jaw has dropped multiple times as the street I was on caved away or I slingshotted onto the back of a jet plane or what have you. But it's not conducive to the implementation of the action at hand in the slightest. It doesn't go well with their core mechanics.

Secondly, the way enemies are thrown at you is terrible. Single large enemies are difficult but can be fun. They have an extremely annoying habit of attacking right as you're finished drawing a weapon but you can manage them, because you only need to read them and you at the same time. But the game constantly throws more than you can handle at you, seemingly intentionally.

A perfect example is the turtles. This is an enemy you've never seen before. You've just gotten a new weapon you will obviously need to use to destroy it. Drawing said weapon is tricky at first, trickier than the old ones, but manageable. Add all of this together and good game design would be one turtle on its own, so you get used to drawing the new weapon while you learn the attacks and weaknesses of the turtle.

But no. The game throws two turtles at you. So whenever you get close to one, the other one clips its neck through its friend, knocking you away and scattering your men. You then need to drawn the sickle again, draining your battery. Soon your battery is gone. On top of this, the general difficulties in judging depth due to the camera angles make for one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had. It's obvious you need to block a turtle's 'stomp', flip the turtle over and kill it. But because of the difficulties in telling where you are, the fact that there are two large enemies in a small-ish space with long range attacks that can clip through one another means you simply spend 30 minutes being hit, being shocked that you just got hit considering where you were, gathering men, getting one or two small shots in and dying until you prevail. This describes one half of my experience with the Wonderful 101 perfectly. It just hasn't been a fun time at all. It's a slog, a tired zerg rush of getting hit and doing chip damage while wishing you could read the action better.

All of this is without mentioning the utterly terrible platforming parts. Guys, your game isn't Mario Galaxy. Stop with the platforming. Please. Stop.



3. The non-core gameplay systems / unlockables etc
So I've established that the game throws more at you than you can reasonably decipher, read or handle. But what's really frustrating is that it holds back a whole bunch of tools as unlockables that would make things easier on you. In other games this is acceptable - as the difficulty ramps up you gain access to new powers to keep things fair. Here, much of what is locked feels like essential stuff that should be part of the base gameplay.

In particular, things like the faster draw speed or ability to hold A to increase weapon size would have massively increased my enjoyment of the game so far. Putting the block and dodge behind the in-game paywall rather than in a tutorial as the base mechanics is just bizarre as well.

I'll add the total lack of a functional tutorial in here as well. You've made a hardcore action game with a visual exterior that will obviously attract kids and other not-so-hardcore players. Would it actually kill you to teach these people how to play the game? The opening level is a nightmare of invisible walls, loose controls, bad explanations and horrible audio mix. The opening 30 minutes of a game are the most important. In their rush to impress people, Platinum absolutely butchered the opening of this game, and the repercussions are felt throughout the rest of the adventure.

4. The mini-games / genre switches
The game has a solid action system at its core. It's let down by the camera and other issues I've mentioned, but it's solid. Why then is the game so insistent on taking you way from the base action Platinum have worked so hard to craft only to put you into poorly designed, terribly explained out-of-genre sections? (What I mean by that is turret shooting sections, rail jumping sections, flying sections, basically broken hang-gliding sections etc).

This stuff feels like it comprises about a third of the game, and it's sadly uniformly garbage. Again, an editor would have been great here. "I love your passion, guys, but this does not make the game better and needs to be cut." They desperately needed someone to say this to them.

5. The tone / story
I won't go into this too much because this stuff is far more subjective than the rest and less interesting to debate but what starts as a fun, whimsical adventure becomes one-note and dull a couple of hours in. The female characters were what swayed me, their portrayal is borderline sexist at best, and more importantly just tiresome and cringeworthy. The jokes start to fall flat. I can only watch Blue punch Green after an off hand comment so many times before it loses its charm. I can only watch Pink act like a moronic valley girl so many times, you know?

Conclusion
I could go on, and I guess maybe I should leave some points for the replies. All I know is that I'm looking at the pause screen here as my guy has fallen off the edge of this platform while fighting a boss for the third time in a row, and I'm really thinking I'm done with this game. Maybe someone could tell me how far Operation 005 is from the end? Feels like I'm only halfway there.

Roll on Bayonetta 2, and mark this one down as a beautiful failed experiment. God bless you Platinum, it was an incredible idea, and you went for it with everything you had. It just didn't come off properly. I won't hold it against you.

inb4 "tldr: it was too hard" lol
 

EhoaVash

Member
Aug 20, 2012
4,517
1
455
lol too hard? i disagree

game had the right amount of difficulty
..i played first half on normal, 2nd half on super easy :p
 
Jan 14, 2014
2,583
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I agree that some of the abilities should be unlocked from the get-go, especially the spiky shield thing. That is invaluable.
 

OrbitalBeard

Member
Jun 2, 2013
24,901
5
0
It took quite a few hours for the game to click for me, but once it did, I was in love.

The Wonderful 101 isn't for everyone, that's for sure. And I'm totally fine with that.
 

bananafactory

Banned
Nov 6, 2013
26,335
3
0
Don't feel bad, OP. I gave this game a real shot and couldn't get good at it either. I know the gameplay is supposed to be amazing once it "clicks", but I watched a ton of tutorial videos and I still just plain sucked. Put in a good 5+ hours but just wasn't having fun with it.

I agree with everything else you said - the visual design and story was awesome and fun but I couldn't get over how frustrated and bored I became.

I understand why people love it but it wasn't for me. I might give it another chance down the road.
 

cleveridea

Member
Mar 7, 2005
5,257
1
0
Saw screens...want to play game even more

(I have this game but not the Wii U, waiting for big price cut on Wii U or X whichever is first. Been picking up heavily discounted games in preparation such as this and ZombiU)
 

Allegrian

Banned
Apr 12, 2013
336
0
0
3. The non-core gameplay systems / unlockables etc
So I've established that the game throws more at you than you can reasonably decipher, read or handle. But what's really frustrating is that it holds back a whole bunch of tools as unlockables that would make things easier on you. In other games this is acceptable - as the difficulty ramps up you gain access to new powers to keep things fair. Here, much of what is locked feels like essential stuff that should be part of the base gameplay.
That's the main problem of the game, once you've unlocked all the skills it becomes "playable".

A battle against 2 turtles without any of the hammer especial habilities is just wrong.
 

Rockk

Member
Mar 17, 2014
887
0
0
the first playthrough is the tutorial. You have to invest the time to get the rewards.
 
D

Deleted member 125677

Unconfirmed Member
I think you raise some fair points, and I even agree with most of them. But I grew out of -- as in: they stopped annoying me -- most of them as I got better at it, or it clicked with me or whatever.

The game isn't perfect, but I still love it. It's a flawed, modern master piece IMO.
 

Razzorn34

Member
Mar 19, 2014
1,708
49
375
I generally hate this phrase, but... "Git Gud!" really does cover it. This is a Bayonetta esc Platinum action game with a super hero skin. Don't treat it like a casual adventure game. If you were expecting to run in and smash X to win, you are playing the wrong game. Learning complex mechanics and learning how best to implement them is the name of the game.
 
Feb 9, 2006
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Paging Saur to this thread. Seriously, after watching his vids it all clicked. It's a brilliant, deep, crazy game. We need more of these.
 
Jul 31, 2013
19,517
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Kentucky
hummingbird.me
I think you raise some fair points, and I even agree with most of them. But I grew out of most of them as I got better.

The game isn't perfect, but I still loved it. It's a flawed, modern master piece IMO.
More or less this. This is one of the worst Platinum games on a first playthrough, Bayonetta did similar things that were annoying, causing many, many continues on a first time through.

MGR was much easier, which helped make the first playthrough smoother. Also RULES OF NATURE.

OP's feelings were mine my first time through, but with practice comes appreciation.
 

jblank83

Member
Feb 13, 2013
7,921
0
620
Play more and get better. The beginning is slow until you get all characters.

Watch Saur's videos.

/topic
 

Mupod

Member
Jun 12, 2011
16,402
3
530
Toronto
1. Watch Saur's videos
2. WATCH SAUR'S VIDEOS
3. there's an upgrade you can get which makes successful dodges slow down time just like Bayonetta. It made the game waaaay more manageable (although you didn't even get to the hard parts yet).
 

Marjar

Banned
Oct 17, 2012
2,468
0
0
Some aspects of the game are certainly not well thought out, even terrible at times, but overall I really liked it.

My main problem would probably be the excess minigames. They make such an awesome battle system, but then seem to completely forget it halfway through the game and shove a bunch of dumb, unfun minigames in your face that seem to take up way more space than they should. It felt like padding.

And of course the game does an absolutely shit job at explaining things. Even with the little tutorial messages, it can be hard to understand what the fuck they're actually trying to say. I had to look up how to do some moves for example because the game did a really half-ass job of explaining them.

It's a great but extremely flawed game. Metal Gear Rising was the better Platinum game of last year.
 

Falawful

Member
Jan 7, 2014
489
0
0
Just so you know, you never actually have to collect your scattered guys after you get hit. They all return to you after a few seconds, which you can then spend gathering a few of them back to help defend yourself until your whole army recovers.

As for visibility of your main character among the crowd, I never once had an issue with this because I was almost perpetually holding the dash button - which in addition to giving you much faster mobility, has the side effect of bunching all of your troops together into a tight pack around the guy you're controlling. It unites them into one moving mass, which at least for me solves that problem right away.

Hope this helps you. Everyone should be able to finish this game.
 

Neff

Member
Feb 6, 2012
12,737
1,632
1,080
UK
I didn't suck at it and I loved it, I think that's all I can add to this.

game's proper hardcore, doesn't lend hands, but as usual, practice makes you better. keep playing and you'll soon see it

That's the thing though, it's really not hardcore at all. With a few simple tips, nothing can significantly hurt you, and you can destroy the game in return.
 

jackdoe

Member
Jan 16, 2011
6,132
1
0
the first playthrough is the tutorial. You have to invest the time to get the rewards.
As someone who's time is becoming more limited, having a game where the first play through is a tutorial is a big turn off.
 

Burt

Member
Nov 8, 2012
7,765
0
470
Geez man, stop being so casual. Everyone knows that a truly good game doesn't get good until at least 30 hours in.

Goddamn casuals ruining everything with their demands for "tutorials" and "readability" and "sensible encounter design".

OP makes me physically ill.
 

Mendoza

Member
Apr 3, 2011
856
0
0
Chicago, IL
I agree with your 2nd point.
The game is truly at its best when I'm fighting core enemies in a regular environment. The second I'm on the back of a jet plane fighting enemies 40x my size with moves I have to get hit by before I know how to block them.

Every time I go through a grandiose set-piece where I'm playing a half-baked shooter, or a cool, but terrible Punch-out throwback, I'm glad to get back to a standard fight to utilize the amazing battle system.

It's still a fantastic game though.
 

GungriffonEX

Member
Nov 17, 2013
184
0
0
Sounds like you wanted to be good right away with no time commitment. I replayed the first stage at least 3 times to get a good grasp of the mechanics before moving on.

It also encourages exploration and using different tactics.
 

Mesoian

Member
Mar 23, 2012
27,244
5
0
The People's Republic of Cambridge
Seriously, git gud.

I really hate this rationale as it mostly seems reductive but...yeah OP, most of your complaints feel like they would be solved by sitting closer to the screen.

Honestly, your entire article makes it seem like you just haven't gotten used to the combat options. I'm just gonna link to you Saur's tutorial.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdHbPXNJvVE

This game's learning curve is step, but it is, by no means, insurmountable.
 

Kai Dracon

Writing a dinosaur space opera symphony
Jun 7, 2004
19,552
1
0
47
Space is the Place
I will say this at least; there are plenty of polish issues to make fair criticisms about in the game, such as the genre convention of locking a few super basic moves like dodge behind a shop without explanation.

But one design decision I can't say is wrong, is the group system and dispersal when getting hit. While it may not be to everyone's taste, it's not wrong. It's supposed to punish the player for screwing up, and encourage proper use of dodging, countering, and eventually teching knockdowns. (Which is in fact so powerful it's arguably broken in favor of the player.)

It's also true that playthrough 1 is a tutorial. For the one-and-done gamer, this kind of game is not a great fit. If you're interested in sticking with one game purely for the sake of playing it and getting really good at it, it will be a lot more appealing.
 

Oberon

Banned
Aug 21, 2014
4,308
0
325
Switzerland
Don't feel bad, OP. I gave this game a real shot and couldn't get good at it either. I know the gameplay is supposed to be amazing once it "clicks", but I watched a ton of tutorial videos and I still just plain sucked. Put in a good 5+ hours but just wasn't having fun with it.

I agree with everything else you said - the visual design and story was awesome and fun but I couldn't get over how frustrated and bored I became.

I understand why people love it but it wasn't for me. I might give it another chance down the road.
5hours? That's nothing! At what boss did stop? That's like watching Gurren lagann and stopping just before ep 8!

the first playthrough is the tutorial. You have to invest the time to get the rewards.
I have to agree that some abilities should have been there from the start like counter and dodge. Yeah the learning curves is brutal, but that's the part of the fun! information secret from you. But when I found out how to really use the tombstone to combo in the air,that was so good.
 

NotLiquid

Member
Aug 30, 2012
17,950
5
0
I assume you're playing Normal difficulty and it should be duly noted that Kamiya's idea of Normal = your average person's idea of Hard. There's no shame in lowering the difficulty.

Other than that I hate to say it but it just sounds like you need to get good at the game. You shouldn't be paying attention to everyone surrounding you, you have a gigantic glowing circle that determines where your character is located, and that's where the focus lies. Every other character only dictates how large of a weapon you can form. Too much distraction going on? Hold the Y button to huddle up all your active members.

Use your unite assists. Handling multiple foes shouldn't be an issue if you've learned the patterns. Pay attention to your foes. Slow down with your assessments and don't be afraid to just stop and assess the situation.

TW101 is a very complicated game and not a game for everyone, but it's hardly mediocre. The encounter design and everything you describe is something that takes a page out of the Viewtiful Joe notebook of designing encounters. Treat them like those and you'll soon come to kick ass with style. I can't begin to list all the times I've been frustrated at Viewtiful Joe and this game for being merciless with enemies and combat, but once I took a deep breath and actually analyzed the designs and patterns at play it became one of the ultimate examples of learning through design, and having everything make sense in a giant "lightbulb" moment, making the rest of the game feel all the more understandable and ultimately satisfying. It's unforgiving but it's a game that wants you to do better at every turn.

It's a part of Kamiya's mentality in game design. He will throw design cues straight at you and treat you like dirt, but it's practically a tough love situation. It's not out of resentment, but his way of saying "impress me". And at the end of the day succeeding at doing that is insanely rewarding, all for those magnificent staff credits.
 

BatDan

Bane? Get them on board, I'll call it in.
Dec 10, 2008
40,511
0
0
Get better.
Watch Saur & Chip Cheezum
Get better.

Seriously, this game is amazing. But you have to learn it to understand.
 

PepperedHam

Member
Nov 11, 2013
1,237
0
300
Hey dudes, sometimes it isn't a case of someone getting better at a game that you like and it's simply a case of they don't like the game that you do because of reasons.

I spent about 15 hours on this thing, was moderately okay at it, and I just couldn't get into it no matter how hard I tried (and believe me I tried, being the first Wii U game I got besides Mario Kart 8).

Game has good ideas but I couldn't get a feel for it. I dunno.
 

Mesoian

Member
Mar 23, 2012
27,244
5
0
The People's Republic of Cambridge
5hours? That's nothing! At what boss did stop? That's like watching Gurren lagann and stopping just before ep 8!


I have to agree that some abilities should have been there from the start like counter and dodge. Yeah the learning curves is brutal, but that's the part of the fun! information secret from you. But when I found out how to really use the tombstone to combo in the air,that was so good.

Absolutely, I think dodge and block having to be unlocked is super dumb. But the rest of the abilities are all about combat experimentation. This game is not supposed to be beaten by just mashing the X button.

Hey dudes, sometimes it isn't a case of someone getting better at a game that you like and it's simply a case of they don't like the game that you do because of reasons.

I spent about 15 hours on this thing, was moderately okay at it, and I just couldn't get into it no matter how hard I tried (and believe me I tried, being the first Wii U game I got besides Mario Kart 8).

Game has good ideas but I couldn't get a feel for it. I dunno.

There's a difference between a game not being for someone and it being bad because you don't want to learn how to play it or can't grasp the mechanics. I couldn't grasp a lot of the mechanics behind BlazBlue, that does not inherently mean that game is bad.
 

Currygan

at last, for christ's sake
Jul 7, 2012
34,740
2
0
London, England
I didn't suck at it and I loved it, I think that's all I can add to this.



That's the thing though, it's really not hardcore at all. With a few simple tips, nothing can significantly hurt you, and you can destroy the game in return.


hardcore in a sense it throws you right in the middle of fast paced action, complicated combos and intense fights without holding you hand; I agree once you get the gist of it it becomes a waltz, surely not like Dark Souls
 

Grisby

Member
Mar 4, 2008
21,378
0
0
I didn't like it as much as other Platinum games. I think they put you in over your head too much and too early in the game. Compound that with some of your team moves not working until you're in the right spot and it can get frustrating.

Game definitely gets a lot better halfway through but then the mini games come in and ruin a lot of the fun. They go on for too long and spoil some of the more 'epic' moments. Screw that punch out stuff.

A good game but one that I was sorely disappointed with.
 

Oidisco

Member
Dec 5, 2011
3,458
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0
Ireland
I finished the game recently and I agree with everything you said. The game was a frustrating mess at many times, boss battles in particular were often terrible. All the weird minigames were crap and annoying to control, except for one which I wont spoil. The Gamepad sections were absolute trash, each and every single one of them. I found the level design to be lacking too, especially the chase sequences. Platforming was poor, like you said. The plot also started to grate on me aswell.

But somehow I still ended up enjoying the game enough to finish it. And honestly, all the frustration was worth it to see the final battle. It's seriously one of the greatest I've ever played in a videogame.
 

Danneee

Member
Jun 12, 2009
5,934
1
665
Sweden
pici.se
A witch!


Seriously, I'm not that far into the game but feel that it needs a lot more effort that most other Platinum games, mostly because it's hard to do the symbols right all the time.
 

Griss

Member
Sep 26, 2013
11,685
13
515
Dublin, Ireland
I expected all the 'git gud' replies, as I said in my OP.

But I already watched the saur vids. I already understand the mechanics. As I said, I love the core mechanics. And I've beaten other Platinum games and enjoyed them without difficulty. I know you need to learn this stuff. I'm saying I find the actual action on the screen unreadable half the time, and I don't really believe that it's my fault.

What's interesting is that the other points about encounter design, genre-hopping and tone are all going uncommented on.
 

Oberon

Banned
Aug 21, 2014
4,308
0
325
Switzerland
Geez man, stop being so casual. Everyone knows that a truly good game doesn't get good until at least 30 hours in.

Goddamn casuals ruining everything with their demands for "tutorials" and "readability" and "sensible encounter design".

OP makes me physically ill.
I really dislike passive aggressive posts like this.Yes a lot of things are complicated and should have been better explained.But finding things out by yourself is something that we don't see much anymore, even though it might scare off some people you simply have to be patient.
 

Coffee Dog

Banned
Aug 23, 2012
14,437
1
0
I expected all the 'git gud' replies, as I said in my OP.

But I already watched the saur vids. I already understand the mechanics. As I said, I love the core mechanics. And I've beaten other Platinum games and enjoyed them without difficulty. I know you need to learn this stuff. I'm saying I find the actual action on the screen unreadable half the time, and I don't really believe that it's my fault.

What's interesting is that the other points about encounter design, genre-hopping and tone are all going uncommented on.

Well, I have some bad news for you.