While Nintendo’s Wii U was a commercial failure, it still had a bunch of great games that don’t deserve to be locked away on the doomed platform forever. Thankfully, that list is getting ever shorter by the day with re-releases of cult hits like Tokyo Mirage Sessions, and you should soon be able to cross one more off — PlatinumGames is announcing plans to remaster its under-appreciated superhero game The Wonderful 101.
PlatinumGames is best known for its high-octane action titles like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Astral Chain. They don’t always sell very well, but they usually have their hardcore fans. And that was never more true than with The Wonderful 101, an offbeat “unite action” game that sees the player recruiting dozens of heroes and bringing them together for powerful touchscreen attacks.
It’s a fun, inventive game that made the most of the Wii U’s hardware. It also sold extremely poorly, despite originally being published by Nintendo. So now, PlatinumGames is hoping to self-publish the game on modern platforms with the help of a Kickstarter campaign that reached its initial funding goal in less than an hour. The project has been a while in the making — I first sat down to discuss it with director Hideki Kamiya and executive producer Atsushi Inaba on the sidelines of Tokyo Game Show last September.
“The Wonderful 101 is a game that unfortunately didn’t reach the audience we hoped, so it’s always been a title that we wanted to revisit at some point in time,” Inaba says. “And we’d spoken with Nintendo about releasing it on the Switch and other platforms, and we wanted to try publishing it ourselves. Nintendo gave us the okay, so a lot of things came together — the timing and the licensing from Nintendo that gave us this opportunity to self-publish. However, as PlatinumGames is a developer and not a publisher, we want help to make this a reality, so we thought the best way to do this would be to create a crowdfunding campaign where the users unite.”
“The way we feel about it is, from a business perspective it was not a successful game,” Kamiya says. “But it is a game that we really like and that we have confidence in. So we spoke to Nintendo about it and Nintendo basically said ‘well, if it’s not a success in your eyes, it wasn’t the Wii U’s fault, so go ahead — we’ll give you the licensing rights to do whatever you want with it.’ So with this crowdfunding campaign, we hope to deliver this game to multiple platforms, not just Switch. That’s why we wanted to take it on ourselves, and the opportunity we received from Nintendo was a very rare one.”
The campaign is initially targeting the Nintendo Switch, with PlatinumGames aiming for an April 2020 release now that the $50,000 funding goal is met. That would suggest the work on this version of the game is more or less complete. A Steam release will follow if the campaign reaches $250,000 in funding, while $500,000 will bring the game to the PlayStation 4.
The Wonderful 101 will require some tweaks to work on systems without the Wii U’s unique dual-screen setup. Kamiya says that you’ll be able to use the Switch version’s touchscreen in handheld mode, but there’ll still be some affordances made to converge the UI onto a single screen. The PlayStation 4 version, meanwhile, will include touch controls through the controller’s touchpad.
Kamiya doesn’t believe any of this will fundamentally compromise The Wonderful 101 on new platforms. “Of course, the game came out for the Wii U, so I designed it to take advantage of the Wii U’s features such as the GamePad,” he says. “However, even if the touch features aren’t there, all of those commands can be carried out by a stick. And as it turns out, I actually prefer the stick controls myself. So I’m very satisfied with the content of the game.”
Controls aside, the new versions of the game will mostly be straightforward ports. “There are some cosmetic and technical adjustments that I would like to make,” Kamiya says. “When I think of the game now I think ‘Oh, I wish I could have changed that’ — I actually have a list. They’re not major issues but basically small changes to make the game more user-friendly for players of modern-day platforms.”
If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, we won’t have long to wait to see how The Wonderful 101 plays on the Switch, at least. 3,900 yen ($36) will get you a digital copy of the game that’s due to land in April, or you can pay 4,400 yen ($41) for a physical copy set to arrive at the same time. There are several higher tiers available that include various trinkets; the 11,000-yen ($101) level, for example, comes with a physical copy, a keychain, a t-shirt, a CD soundtrack, and — most prestigious of all — the chance to be permanently blocked on Twitter by the notoriously prickly Kamiya.
“Compared to other Platinum games I feel that The Wonderful 101 is one of the more unique titles that we have in our library,” Kamiya says. “It’s a little harder to identify than say, Bayonetta as a character action game. So I’m very interested in saying to people ‘hey, please try out this unique game that we love as a company that we have confidence in,’ and we look forward to your support in making this happen.”