The Wonderful 101 is an action game for the Wii U, developed by Platinum Games in partnership with Nintendo and was directed by famed Japanese designer, Hideki Kamiya, of Okami and Devil May Cry notoriety. It was released in 2013 and has since developed a small cult following among Wii U owners.
The game follows the adventures of The Wonderful 100, a team of superheroes, as they fight to defend Earth from an alien menace known as the ‘GEATHJERK Federation‘. Despite being released almost a full year into the Wii U’s lifespan, the project had, in fact, been in the works for a few years prior. As revealed by the staff who worked on it over the course of its development, its direction underwent some considerable shifts along the way.
Video Game All Stars, Unite Up!
As disclosed by Hideki Kamiya at Gamescom 2013, The Wonderful 101 began life as an entirely different entity. Kamiya’s involvement with the project started a few years earlier, when the President and CEO of Platinum Games, Tatsuya Minami, tasked him with creating an action game with a cast of some of gaming’s biggest icons. It was set to feature Nintendo characters primarily, as well as guest stars from third party companies.
The project in this form dates all the way back to 2010, when it was planned to be developed not on Wii U, but on the Wii.
“At that time it wasn’t necessarily based on any specific platform. But when we took it to Nintendo, the discussions went from there, and we decided to put it on Wii.” – Hideki Kamiya, on the first iteration of The Wonderful 101 project.
Although it has been never stated which characters from companies outside of Nintendo were planned, Kamiya did elaborate on the main cast of this original vision at 2013’s Penny Arcade Expo. During an interview with Siliconera, he mentioned that Link and Mario were among those featured. This suggests that the two might have been the basis for the ‘Unite Hand’ and ‘Unite Sword’ moves, based upon the traits of either character.
“Initially, the idea was proposed by Mr. Minami, to create a game featuring Nintendo characters or other popular characters together in one game. With the idea of putting characters like Mario and Link into the same game, you end up with a situation where fans of Mario are forced to play as Link.“
Moreover, during Platinum’s panel at the event, Kamiya described one piece of concept art for the project, involving other Mario characters. He gave the example of a portion where Peach, Luigi and Yoshi attempt to grab hold of one another to form a bridge, with Mario hopping across the top of them, allowing him to traverse a large bottomless pit. One artist, Kibbles, has put together a sketch for us to illustrate what this roughly might have looked like.
It appears that this idea might well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The director went on to to say that the people at Nintendo viewing this concept in particular was the point at which they decided the project could not be realised.
Unite Master Sword?
In October 2013, Nintendo released an Iwata Asks interview on The Wonderful 101, discussing the game with some of the team’s key members and the director described how Platinum’s Nintendo all star concept informed the direction of the overall project. He explained that The Wonderful 101’s ‘Unite Morph‘ ability was born out of a desire to balance out the amount of screen time each of the characters would have, in order to please the fans of each respective series. Just as they did in the final product, the characters would have joined together to form large structures, such as a sword or a hand.
Kamiya’s inspiration for this ‘Unite Morph’ mechanic came from two books he had read as a child. One of these was a story called ‘We Turned Into Monsters‘ (Kaibutsu Ni Nacchata) by Japanese author, Yasuko Kimura. The short novel was about a group of forest critters, who huddle together to form the shape of a giant monster, in order to fend off an actual monster, inhabiting a mansion.
On the other hand, he also recalled ‘Swimmy‘ by Leo Lionni. Similarly, this children’s tale focuses on a black fish called Swimmy, whose friends, a group of little red fish, are eaten by a large tuna. Swimmy, lonely, explores the ocean until he finds another group of small red fish. He teaches them to swim together, mimicking the appearance of a bigger fish, and eventually scaring away the malevolent tuna.
“As a kid, the idea that small, separate things could join together and become strong was really exciting for me. I feel like that’s where the core of this whole project came from.” – Hideki Kamiya.
Platinum’s vision for this video game all star title was never put into full development and not even a test prototype for it was produced, JP Kellams told us. According to him, conceptual documents were all that was ever created. When the developer presented their plan to Nintendo, Hitoshi Yamagami almost immediately declined the proposal, describing it as “impossible”, under the belief such a game would be overambitious; among other reasons.
“Setting the contents of the game aside, I’ve learned from experience that trying to squeeze in so many characters into one game to the point where they practically change shape, was impossible.” – Hitoshi Yamagami on Platinum’s Nintendo all star pitch.
As a result of not being able to get permission to use Nintendo’s characters, the project was shelved.
“As far as PlatinumGames was concerned, the project was all about the characters, so we stopped the whole project for a while, because we knew it would be difficult if we couldn’t get permission there” – Atsushi Inaba
Given Nintendo and Platinum’s continued reluctance to show any of the concept images for the game at this stage, even in their Iwata Asks segment; it is possible that the aforementioned third party guests were a part of the main team of characters and that there were pictures of them created strictly for internal purposes, without the permission of the license holders. When asked if he thought these images would ever be released publicly, JP Kellams replied simply with “nope“.
We also got in touch with Kamiya via his Twitter, where he revealed that the main character of this planned game would not have been Mario or another established all star, as you might expect. In actuality, the designer had in mind a brand new character created by Platinum. Upon being asked whether or not this enigmatic hero evolved into Wonder Red, the central protagonist of The Wonderful 101, he clarified that this was not the case and that the character was “lost forever“.
One user pushed him for more details on the concept’s character line-up, to which he had this to say:
Everyone. RT @RosaUrquhart Which Nintendo characters did you want in your pitched All Star game before TW101?
— 神谷英樹 Hideki Kamiya (@PG_kamiya) October 18, 2014
On another occasion, he was also asked about whether or not Captain Falcon was a part of his ideas for the title:
Unite Blue Falcon. RT @Garamtron Back when TW101 was a Nintendo all stars game, what did Captain Falcon play like/what did you plan for him?
— 神谷英樹 Hideki Kamiya (@PG_kamiya) August 1, 2014
The Wonderful… 5? A Darker Superhero Concept
Several months later, Hideki Kamiya had just finished development on another ultimately cancelled concept and Platinum was keen to set him on a new project. After much insistence towards producer, Atsushi Inaba, that he wanted to resurrect the shelved all star game in some form, he was given the green light to work on it once again. Despite Nintendo taking issue with the first proposal, Kamiya was still determined to work on a title using that central conceit of separate, smaller beings unifying themselves to become something stronger.
The director devised the idea of using original superhero characters of Platinum’s own design and drew plans to present a second pitch to Nintendo. He made a special request to employ the help of Mai Ohkura, Bayonetta’s UI designer, to draft concept art for the protagonists of his new game; having been satisfied with their previous work together.
In the beginning, Kamiya’s vision for the superhero title involved a team of only five characters and was reasonably darker in comparison with the finished project from a visual standpoint. Ms. Ohkura and Kamiya were heavily influenced by “US comic book art” when imagining the initial look of the game, according to him at his PAX 2013 presentation.
The first character designs put together were for the game’s main hero, Wonder Red, and were considerably different from his final appearance. One included a large blade placed on his back and a white helmet with a green visor. Another featured a machine gun under his right arm and noticeably less hair.
Wonder Red’s weapons were removed soon after and the character’s hair was changed too. According to Kamiya, during his aforementioned panel at PAX, he personally suggested that Red “needed to have more hair” to Ohkura. The artist defended her decision, but Kamiya’s insistence won out and the hero was redesigned with a bigger head of hair. The mock-up which followed was much closer to the final product, though still embodying the darker tone of the project at this early phase.
Concept art of the initially envisioned ‘Wonderful Five’ group is sparsely available, but they can be glimpsed upon in one render, which shows the team gazing out over a dark urban landscape, under siege by the invading alien forces in the distance. Upon closer inspection, they appear to be equipped with different weapons from the finalised Wonderful 100 crew and one of them even appears to be levitating, suspended above the ground.
The Wonderful 100 Begins! Cut characters & more…
Not long after conceiving of his new squad of heroes, Kamiya increased their numbers drastically, making a change that would impact the direction of development fundamentally. Up from the mere five of before, he imagined a team of one hundred defenders of justice, known as ‘The Wonderful 100’.
In the early conceptual stages of The Wonderful 100, Platinum considered each member of the squad having his or her own completely unique character design and gameplay ideas; many of which, ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. Furthermore, around this time, the superhero titles of each were stylised as ‘Wonda-ONES’, as opposed to ‘Wonder Ones’, as they would later be referred to.
Kamiya’s early comic book inspirations are evidenced in a number of these concepts. Some of them possessed special abilities, such as ‘Wonda-FIRE’, who, clad in a fire fighter’s helmet, could conjure flames from his hands. ‘Wonda-RIDER’ was a motorcyclist, similar to Marvel’s Ghost Rider and ‘Wonda-STONE’ looked to be a large, muscle-bound warrior, whose body was composed of rock; similar to The Thing from The Fantastic Four.
Many of them border onto more zany territory. There was a centaur hero named ‘Wonda-CENTAURUS’, ‘Wonda-WING’, a pterodactyl-like creature; and even ‘Wonda-SATAN’. ‘Wonda-TIMER’ was a floating hourglass with disembodied, Rayman-esque hands and ‘Wonda-P’ was simply the ‘P’ from Platinum Games’ logo, donning a Wonder Mask.
It appears they also experimented with the possibility of duo characters, such as ‘Wonda-DOG & CAT’, two anthropomorphic animal fighters. Others include ‘Wonda TAMER & TIGER’, as well as ‘Wonda-MAGICIAN & RABBIT’.
During his PAX panel, Kamiya mentioned that out of the long list of rejected designs, ‘Wonda-GIANT’ was his personal favourite. This enormous character can be glimpsed at in the below collage of the concept art renders released, which shows that it would have been so large, that its boots alone were the size of a regular Wonder One.
Between the beta character designs recovered, we can get a look at some of the very earliest drafts of the main characters, as well. In the final game, the core cast of Wonder One heroes number a total of seven, but in these early iterations, it was as high as twelve. Not only were five of them removed, Platinum’s artists completely reworked the majority of the retained characters. Among them, Wonder Red is the only one whose appearance didn’t undergo another big transformation and was more or less untouched from this point onwards.
As you can see, the initial drawings of Wonder Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow, White and Black were vastly different from their finished versions. Blue was later given a longer hair style, a trench coat and, of course, his trademark ‘valiantium sword’. The original Wonder Green was replaced with another character model from pre-production named ‘Wonda-FRENCH’. Although, neither of the two designs included the final Wonder Green’s beloved gun, who he affectionately dubs “Christine Daae”. Likewise, Wonder Black’s earlier sketches portrayed him as a pale-skinned white male with dark hair. This was eventually switched out with another character concept called ‘Wonda-DIGITAL’; a small Indian boy, regularly seen holding a handheld gaming device.
Wonder Pink’s first appearance was completely dissimilar from her look in the released build, too. At this stage, she was represented as a short-haired brunette woman, with a little more tomboyishness about her, by comparison. We can observe some slight changes to White’s model, who was given robes, large claws on his hands and a golden Japanese character on his forehead, which translates to “hundred”. Wonder Yellow, on the other hand, wasn’t altered an awful lot. The team maintained his bulky appearance, only building around it with his timid personality, Russian background and the addition of his hammer weapon.
The cut members of the main Wonderful 100 heroes appear to be very much emblematic of the edgier tone of the project at this phase. Three of them: Brown, Gold and Green all are shown smoking cigarettes; a feature that none of the characters would flaunt in the final game. It is known that the script, from its early prototype beginnings, went through a plethora of revisions, as specified in the Iwata Asks interview. It’s likely that these scrapped heroes were simply dropped as the story became more focussed, and to make room for the other characters to be introduced.
Beta / Prototype 001
As Platinum prepared to present their new superhero title to Nintendo, they put together two playable prototype builds. According to Atsushi Inaba, the ideas for the core gameplay of the all star pitch remained fully intact during its revival. Work on the prototypes began initially without Nintendo’s knowledge, and it wasn’t until Inaba was later invited to view it that the publisher’s involvement restarted.
The first beta / prototype was shown to a modest audience at Penny Arcade Expo 2013, during Platinum’s postmortem panel on the Wonderful 101. Filming of the show was reportedly prohibited by Nintendo, but we have been fortunate enough to receive this exclusive footage of it, as captured by the folks over at 1upisland.
Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of the video is how dark the colour palette used in the environments and enemies is, in comparison with the game we know today. The game had a graphic style that somehow reminds of one of Kamiya’s classic, Viewtiful Joe. The different animations and overall slower pace of the gameplay are noticeable, too.
As described by Kamiya himself, the in-game models in this build for the heroes were very similar to one another, but used a variety of colours for uniforms. The large number of characters on screen each have one of three attacks: punching, firing a gun, or swiping a blade. The player could command the crowd to simultaneously barrage enemies with their individual moves. This would eventually evolve into into the ‘team attack‘, in which the heroes charge forward and cling on to them, attacking repeatedly.
In a quite considerable contrast with the final game, the amount of characters the player can recruit into their party can exceed one hundred in this prototype. In The Wonderful 101, of course, you are able to recruit civilians by fitting them with Wonder Masks. However, there is a maximum capacity of 100 heroes total during standard gameplay. The limit of Wonder Ones present in this version, on the other hand, appears to be indefinite. During this video, the number of team members grows as high as 112, as indicated by the digit in the top-left corner of the HUD.
At this point in development, Platinum had begun to implement their proposed ‘unite morph’ attacks. Although at this point, only unite hand, gun and sword were playable. The appearance of the morphs is reasonably different from how they would ultimately turn out here. The hand shape is noticeably longer, the transformation animation is slower and the colours are not nearly as bright as they are in The Wonderful 101 either. 3D movement during a unite morph looks to have been noticeably stiffer, as well.
If you look closely at the crowd following Red, you will see that the the previously mentioned ‘Wonda-FRENCH‘ design for Green with purple hair was included, as well as the early version of Wonder Pink. In addition, the Wonderful 100’s robotic assistant, P-Star, had still yet to be created and is therefore absent from this demo.
Towards the top-right corner of the screen, you will see a radar, which tracks the units on-screen. This aspect was something experimented with throughout development and ultimately dropped. A similar feature is available on the Wii U gamepad in The Wonderful 101, although it doesn’t display enemy signals like this one.
According to Kamiya, the enemies seen in this beta demonstration were not ever planned to be part of the final game. You can see the player taking on several mysterious reptilian creatures at various points of the clip. In actuality, these were nothing more than placeholder models taken from Platinum’s archives, which are used for prototype development only.
Platinum, at this preliminary stage of The Wonderful 100’s lifecycle, had not yet conceived of the idea of drawing around civilians to recruit them, as you do in the released game. Instead, players were forced to approach each character separately and push a button on the controller. Kamiya described this early factor of the gameplay as “not fun“, during his explanation for why it was altered.
Around the same time that work on the prototypes began, the director himself began putting together posters for The Wonderful 100 to, in his own words, “cheer on” the developers. One piece, which was created in close collaboration with Platinum’s artists, was posted on the company’s Twitter shortly after the game was released. This movie-style poster was reportedly part of the developer’s proposal to Nintendo, as a means of conveying its style and concept.
Beta / Prototype 002
Crucially, this version of the game, as well as the other prototype, were not running on the Wii U. They were being developed with unspecified HD Nintendo hardware in mind, but were in fact running on PC. The prototypes had entered development towards the very end of the Wii’s lifespan, but the Wii U (then codenamed Project Café) had still yet to be announced, and Platinum was not yet aware of its nature. The team had no knowledge of the planned gamepad controller, and instead created the demos around a more conventional controller; the Xbox 360’s. You will see that towards the start of the footage, the game prompts the player to press “RB” on the controller. Later, the ‘A’ button from the 360’s controller appears to dismiss an on-screen notification, as well. This prototype marks the introduction of some of the game’s side characters. The first versions of Alice MacGregor and P-Star, two allies of The Wonderful 100 in the final game, are visible in the video when Platinum demonstrates how the beta’s conversation system worked. It appears similar to how it works in The Wonderful 101, although rarely do these exchanges take place during active gameplay, as they do here. There are some slight differences between the appearances of these characters, such as Alice’s uniforms, larger forehead in the prototype and the design of her communications headset; as well as the fact she wears it on her left here, instead of her right. Concept art for these designs are unlockable in The Wonderful 101 in the ‘Art Gallery’ menu, allowing us a clearer look at these renders. There is also an early, alternative look for Commander Nelson in the same art style from around the same period of the game’s development.
The stage played through during the demonstration appears to be an early iteration on ‘Operation 001-A’ from the final game, taking place in the urban setting of Blossom City. Gameplay at this point looks to have been steadily nearing the released version, but is still noticeably more sluggish. Wonder Red’s running speed and the pace of his attacks both are visibly slower. Kamiya explains towards the start of the clip that they still had yet to come up with the idea of “drawing the Unite Morphs”, as you do in The Wonderful 101. Instead, these moves were apparently chosen by “selecting an icon” using a button on the controller. The concept of drawing them wasn’t conceived of until months later, when he was introduced to Wii U’s gamepad and its touch screen.
“In this version, you can kinda pick the punch, the sword or the gun based on an icon and use it, but it wasn’t any fun, so we ditched that and went with the drawing mechanic”
A first look at the ‘Unite Sword’ attack is shown in the clip. In an interesting contrast, it was originally a move initiated by Wonder Red, as opposed to Wonder Blue, as it is in the final game. It appears as though, regardless of the characters in your party, all of the morphs would have emanated from and been controlled by Red instead. This suggests that the idea of each of the core Wonder One heroes having their own unique morph (e.g. Black’s bomb or Pink’s whip) wasn’t realised until later on. The director also mentions that ‘Unite Gun’ was a part of the beta, despite it not being shown here. ‘Unite guts’ and ‘Unite Spring’, the evasive maneuvers in The Wonderful 101 were not yet added, however.
By listening carefully, you will be able to hear an alternative version of the song “ST01 Roll Out, Wonderful 100! Battle in the Blossom City Burbs” from the game’s musical score. This track was omitted from the final soundtrack, according to Kamiya. Based upon comments made in his blog post about his work on the game, it looks as though this was created by The Wonderful 101’s lead composer, Hiroshi Yamaguchi.
“I worked on The Wonderful 101 for around two years of its development. When I first joined the team I was the only one in the BGM section. While experimenting with various directions to take the music, rough design documents and in-progress screenshots were my only reference.”
Early incorporations of two of the enemies from the finished title are shown at various points of the video. We can see GEATHJERK infantry units, the ‘Dough-Goo’ foot soldiers, as well as an untextured ‘Diedough-Goo’ robot towards the end. Their designs are more or less entirely consistent with their final looks, disregarding the lack of textures on the latter model.
Midway through the demo, a ‘results screen’ appears in the top-right corner of screen, displaying the points accumulated during that portion of gameplay by the player. However, as specified by Kamiya, these notifications were, in reality, “fake”. They did not yet actually measure player performance or score, and were instead put in for demonstration purposes and as a note for the developers to add them in further down the line.
The first versions of the unite morphs, ladder and chain, are also shown. Given the way the chain is visualised, with a bridge shape briefly flashing as the characters cross it, it appears as though ‘Unite Chain’ was the only traversal morph of this nature and ‘Unite Bridge’ was not a part of the game at this stage. In the final game, the Wonder Ones choose between a chain and a bridge shape to cross large gaps, based upon the situation at hand.
A Visual Overhaul
After work on the title had been underway for some time, Platinum Games presented their efforts to Nintendo once again. The publisher came on board with the project this time, on the condition that the game’s visuals be reworked. The Iwata Asks interview on The Wonderful 101 gives us a behind-the-scenes explanation as to why this quite considerable alteration to the art style was made. Apparently, it was felt by Nintendo that the darker art design being used at the time would limit the potential reach of the game, and alienate children.
“Matsushita-san loves action games, so I showed it to him, and asked, ‘This project will be really interesting. Won’t you work on it with me?’ And right away, he said something like ‘The images are too dark. Elementary and middle school kids won’t go for this.'” – Producer, Hitoshi Yamagami.
Nintendo and Platinum initially had some back and forth on whether or not the beta’s vision should be changed.
“I’d heard that the folks at PlatinumGames were very particular, so we had a lot of discussion within the company about how we could get it across to them, and whether we should just prioritize PlatinumGames’ concept and move forward with it.” – Shingo Matsushita, a Nintendo director who oversaw development.
Ultimately, the developer folded and became more open to changing it after coming up with the idea for an alternative visual style.
“The ‘realistic figure, realistic toys’ concept was born then. The look is both pop and realistic at the same time.” – Hideki Kamiya.
Kamiya was once asked which audiences he was trying to reach with the game in the beginning and he responded with this:
“It was originally aimed at me… [laughs]. When I make games I never really think about who I’m targeting the game for. I just want to create something that’s fun and enjoyed by the audience.”
A Group of Fearless Warriors
With Platinum Games’ second pitch accepted and a fresh art style settled upon, The Wonderful 100, as it was still being referred to internally, went into full development around late 2011. Kamiya began to work on the script for the game more intensely, and finally made the decision to have seven main heroes at the centre of the story. The lighter visuals in tact, lead artist, Mai Ohkura was soon at work on assembling new designs for their finalised team. Near completed drafts of the group met the director’s approval and the character modelling staff began implementing them.
The looks of the characters used here are almost identical to their appearances from the released game, but keen eyes will detect a few contrasts, such as Wonder Black being slightly taller here and Green carrying a sniper rifle over his shoulder, instead of his “Christine Daae” weapon.
It was around this time that Platinum came up with the idea of them each having their own unique Unite Morphs, which explains the addition of their individual weapons, like Blue’s sword and White’s claws. It’s possible, albeit unconfirmed, that the concept of having seven main heroes stemmed simply from the necessity for a device to pace out the of the Unite Morphs. By assigning one to each of them and gradually introducing the characters, it allowed them to disperse them throughout the game, without overloading the player.
Heir To The Throne of The Roaming Rhullo
As the in-game narrative progressed, Kamiya and Inaba began throwing more characters into the mix, including an antagonist for Wonder Red, who was tentatively referred to in draft simply as “Rival”. This would later turn out to be the space pirate leader, Prince Vorkken. When first drawing him, Ms. Ohkura based his design around Red’s, as you can see here.
Unlike most of the other characters brought to life during the project, Vorkken’s look evolved little over the course of development. Some minor details, such as the size of the ridges on his clothes were changed; but this was one character design that stayed roughly the same throughout. Although, the floating cubes revolving around him in this concept were removed from any future images. The nature of these blocks is unknown.
It appears that in some of the first script iterations, the title of the aforementioned antagonistic space pirate band from the final game, the “Guyzoch“, was previously “Gaizork“. This is indicated by a number of other concepts produced by Ohkura, such as one of Vorkken’s right hand man, Chewgi. Chewgi’s name at the time was instead spelled “Chugi“, as well. You can also get a glimpse at early designs for The Meizerr, the Guyzoch’s space vessel, and the Virgin Victory ship.
The Road To E3
In early 2012, the game’s main mechanics began to go through an experimental phase, as the team were honing its strengths and figuring out what would make it more enjoyable. Platinum was set to debut their new project at the fast approaching E3 Expo in June, but still quite hadn’t honed in on the direction they wanted it to take.
As Revealed by Shingo Matsushita during the Iwata Asks, elements of strategy were implemented and tested around this time:
“We had a few versions before presenting at E3. The superheroes were fairly scattered around in the version we had then, and there were some strategy1 elements to it as well. Also, we put a lot of emphasis on having the heroes bump into something to make a shape, and there was a time when their unite attacks weren’t the focus like they are now.”
Kamiya, reflecting on this stage of development, described the early gameplay as “boring” and added:
“It is a game where you bring a large group of characters around with you, so we tried a lot of different things to see what the possibilities were. We would make the game and dismantle it again and again, to try and figure out what pieces to put together to get the right gameplay”.
Fortunately, Platinum was able to resolve some of the game’s problems for its first public showing, but others would still remain for some time to come.
An early form of the game was officially revealed at E3 2012, under the codename of ‘Project P-100‘. It was made up of a mission redone from the first two betas, ‘Operation 001-A’, set in Blossom City. Nintendo unveiled the title on the show floor to journalists, following their press conference. The ‘P-100’ title was a blend of the word “Platinum” and 100, in reference to its true name at the time, The Wonderful 100.
During the event, Nintendo released the first official trailer online and by this point in development, both the visuals and general framework of the game had reached their near final form. Although, there are still many changes we can distinguish between this build and the one released in 2013.
To begin with, the general graphical fidelity of ‘Project P-100’ is visibly below the standard of The Wonderful 101. Just about everything, from the character models to the environments, are marginally less detailed. Whether or not these slightly more simplistic visuals were implicit and not just a result of the game still being over a full year from completion is uncertain, but the difference is clear. In the image above, a comparison between P-100 and The Wonderful 101, we can see a number of the tweaks made. The overall lighting and aesthetics in W101 are darker, for one, and just about every feature of the graphics appear to have been polished up. This is especially evidenced in Wonder Blue’s hair, which was a blurry, pixelated muddle in the E3 demo; later given more defined textures. The amount of polygons on the models was raised noticeably and subtle details, such as the wrinkles on Red’s jacket were added. The ‘Wonder-Pendants’, the badges embedded on the chests of the heroes, took on a different design in the E3 version. Instead of the ‘W’ logo, it was an image of a Wonder Mask with a white background. For your reference, we have put together some side-by-side comparisons of P-100 concept art, alongside artwork from The Wonderful 101; offering a closer look at these distinctions in the models and more.
In spite of this, the game was always planned to take on these new ‘Wonder-Pendants’. They were changed specially for the E3 demo, purely for the sake of perpetuating the mystery surrounding the title at the time. Its true identity was being kept under wraps by Nintendo as a marketing ploy. By careful analysis of the P-100 demo, we noticed that in one of the results screens, you can see an image of a Wonder One model that Platinum and Nintendo neglected to change. Assuming this wasn’t an intentional, hidden hint, this appears to have been a mistake. You will, however, notice the E3 badge added to the bronze medal.
At a glance, the core gameplay of ‘Project P-100’ looks almost identical to The Wonderful 101, but this was apparently not the case. Hideki Kamiya himself labelled this early form of the game bluntly as “not fun at all”. Fundamental to the director’s issues was the simplistic nature of how it played. In previous builds, P-100 included, there were only two main attacks the player could perform at a given moment. One, of course, was the ‘unite attack’ and the other was called a ‘lock-on/rush combo’.
Although this ‘rush combo’ mechanic might, on the surface, appear to function no differently from the ‘team attack’ seen in The Wonderful 101, the opposite is true. Mapped to the gamepad’s ‘X’ button, this move would propel a group of the Wonder Ones forward en masse to briefly beat up enemies in the immediate area; leaving the leader to move around freely. They would then return to the commanding hero after a short moment.
Contrary to the ‘team/climb attack’ from the released game, which causes the Wonder Ones to cling to the enemies and attack them repeatedly, the ‘rush combo’ was a very basic light attack. It also required the player to keep pressing the ‘X’ button to stop them from withdrawing. Using Green’s ‘unite gun’ would not cause the heroes to attach themselves to enemies either. Instead, they’d drop to the floor and be momentarily knocked out after colliding.
This all meant that, in a title where combat plays a central role, the player had only two relatively straightforward offensive maneuvers at their disposal (other than switching between the other morphs). At this stage, Platinum had yet to include the ‘Multi Unite Morph’ feature either, which lets players perform multiple morphs at once. It wasn’t until almost a year beyond E3 that these issues would find resolution.
Aside from these contrasts, there was a number of features available in the demo that are locked behind special requirements in the final build. Wonder Green, for example, is not a part of 001-A and within the canon of the story, doesn’t join the group until the following mission, 001-B. Likewise, there certain combat abilities, such as the ‘Unite Charge’ custom block, which allows you to automatically increase the size of your Unite Morph by holding the ‘A’ button. In TW101, this particular unlock isn’t introduced until much further on in the story mode.
On the other hand, there is a variety of art assets used in P-100 that were later altered or removed. For instance, the analysis screens, which appear whenever you face a new enemy were completely different. As you can see, everything from the fonts used to the colours and the information included on these cards was almost entirely revised. The original screens recorded details of where they were typically found and even the material they were made of, which was in this case iron. These were omitted in favour of adding the name of the area in which they were first encountered. The spelling of this enemy, originally ‘DYDOGUH’ was changed to ‘DIEDOUGH-GOO’, as well. Examining it further, there are some inconsistencies in the weight and height measurements between the two images. The height of the Diedough-Goo in the P-100 demonstration was 292″ (the equivalent of 7.4168m), which was raised to 13.5m (531.49″). The weight, on the other hand was also upped from 2721 Ibs (1.3605 tons) to 307 tons (614000 lbs). It appears, however, that the figures were totally random in the E3 demo, as every enemy had these exact same numbers. For reasons unknown, it appears that Platinum went through the trouble of retitling almost all of the GEATHJERK units, like the Diedough-Goo. All of the ones that were a part of P-100, for example, were ammended to match this new naming style. In one instance, the Dough-Goo and the Chew Dough-Goo (then known as ‘DHOGUU’ and ‘SHUDOGUU’ respectively) were grouped into one card for the sake of the demo. This is because the Dough-Goo are introduced prior to 001-A, the E3 mission, in the prologue, which was not part of the 2012 build. For reference, here are the remaining enemy analysis screens from the demo, compared to their final appearances. You will see that they are all labelled “GEARTHJERK Invincible Planetary Federation Armada”. This title was later dropped in favour of “GEATHJERK Supreme Federation Armada”.
Assumedly for preview purposes, the layout of the E3 demo’s version of Operation 001-A is very different. It’s not only much shorter, but includes enemies that are not encountered until later on in the first chapter, such as ‘Diedough-Goo’ and ‘Hoedown’, as well as the ‘Gah-Goojin’ mini boss set piece from 001-B.
Aside from this, the HUD in P-100 is in many ways unlike the one in The Wonderful 101. It seems to function relatively the same, but includes a radar in the bottom left corner that displays GEATHJERK signals, in addition to team members. Furthermore, the first section of the battery bar on the left of the screen was blue here, instead of orange, and there are a few changes in fonts, like the mission number text. This typeface was not retracted from the game in its entirety, however, and was repurposed for the title of the in-game upgrade store, the Wonderful Mart, in the finished game.
Intriguingly, some of the terminology used for some of the attacks at the player’s was different here, too. ‘Unite Spring’, a move used in The Wonderful 101 to evade attacks and other threats, was tentatively dubbed ‘Unite Dodge’ here. Similarly, ‘Unite Chain’ was shortened to ‘U-Chain’. This ‘U-Chain’ worked more or less the same, except a red model of a chain would emerge, alongside a speech bubble labelled “Let’s Go!!” to indicate where to initiate it.
One stylistic choice on display in the Project P-100 build is speech bubbles that appear above the heads of the Wonder One in charge. For example, when Wonder Red initiates a ‘Rush Combo’, the words “GO!!” and “RUSH!!” emerge in front of him. This feature was removed from the game completely in May 2013. Another aesthetic detail that was shown in P-100, but omitted as time went on were manga-esque flames appearing above the lead Wonder One during combat. Upon successfully initiating a rush combo, these would trigger. Due to the fact the English dubbing cast for the game had not yet been assembled at this point, the dialogue in P-100 is not voiced. You are able to hear the grunts from the Japanese actors during gameplay, but cutscenes went without voiceover. Instead, every time a character speaks, it is accompanied by digital sound effects of gibberish bleeps and bloops.
According to Platinum, The Wonderful 101’s script went through a total of 14 full drafts. The P-100 demo allows us a look at another one of those earlier iterations, where the English dialogue had not yet been finalised. Not many changes of note can be seen, although we can see that Wonder Red’s commonly used phrase of “Team, Unite up!” had not yet been conceived of. Red announces the slightly wordier “Team, prepare for battle!” instead. Lastly, as shown in the official trailer, P-100’s multiplayer had a slightly different HUD. As you can see, there were icons for each unite morph next to the individual point tally for each player. You can see an early version of the item select in the bottom left corner, too. Keen eyes would have also been able to spot the icon for unite hammer, which discretely revealed Wonder Yellow’s attack months before a formal announcement.
The Won-stoppable Wonderful, Wonderful 101
Around August of 2012, Hitoshi Yamagami was determined to change the name of the project, which was still going under the secret title of “The Wonderful 100“. Concerned that the number, “100” was “forgettable”, he sought to alter it in order to make it more memorable. Platinum felt very strongly against changing it, until Yamagami suggested during a board meeting that they call it “The Wonderful 101” instead. Kamiya, who had been putting the finishing touches on one of the first full drafts of the script, realised that renaming it “101” would fall in line with an idea he had for the one of the cinematics later in the game. Platinum and Nintendo once again reached an agreement and The Wonderful 101 was officially announced to the public in September, during a Nintendo Direct presentation.
A Gamble Late In Development
Following E3, Platinum was still hard at work on the game. In the eyes of Kamiya and many of the other staff members, the core gameplay remained troubled and it wasn’t until as late as May 2013 that the developer finished solving its cental problems. Towards the start of 2013, the team decided to scrap the aforementioned “rush combo” mechanic. As an alternative, they introduced the “climb attack”, also known as the “team attack”. Whereas the rush action made for a very simplistic light offensive maneuver, the climb move caused heroes to cling to enemies and attack them repeatedly. From Kamiya’s perspective, this brought in an interesting element of strategy to the gameplay. It meant that players would actively have to manage where their heroes were on the battlefield and choose how to divide them between the morph attacks and hurling them to attack independently.
“We should have already had that part done when we entered into production, but we weren’t clear on what to do with it so we kept on working that way.” – Hideki Kamiya
In another risky move for the developers, they also decided to introduce the ‘Multi Unite Morph‘ feature, as seen in the final game. This drastic change to the formula was brought about as late as May 2013 – less than 3 months before it was planned to be released.
“We really put in Multi Unite Morph at the last possible moment.” – Shingo Matsushita
According to producer, Inaba, the team was very skeptical about the technical side of implementing this concept, worried about how well the engine would cope with use of multiple simultaneous unite morphs during the story mode. It was thanks to their work on the multiplayer, which already supported up to 4 morphs one screen at a time, that programming this feature became easier. The addition of ‘Multi Unite Morph’ occured without the involvement of Nintendo or the higher ups at Platinum, who had been actively overseeing and supervising the project throughtout development. Completely unbeknownst to Matsushita, Kamiya impulsively had the team include it without the approval of his superiors.
“During one of the recurring debug meetings, I heard “We’ve actually gotten a request from Kamiya, and it’s already built in.” And we were like “Huh? What did you just say?” – Shingo Matsushita
The gamble paid off from Kamiya’s point of view, who thought this major adjustment made the game “a lot more fun“. Its issues of slower, repetitive gameplay from before E3 had finally been dealt with.
Spoiler Alert! “I’m thinking… Platinum Majin”
In the closing act of The Wonderful 101, the team joins forces with a giant mecha, who they dub “Platinum Robo” (in reference to Platinum Games itself). In the final game, the machine assembles itself out of the remnants of Blossom City. However, before Kamiya had come up with this idea, Okura had drawn another, very different concept for the robot.
On January 16 2014, several months on from the initial release of The Wonderful 101, Kamiya revealed that he had originally planned to make Miis playable in the game. You would have been able to transform your own Miis into Wonder Ones and fight alongside the main team. He added that he hoped to include them in a potential sequel, if ever the opportunity to make one arose.
We tried to make it possible to join your own mii with TW100 as a hero. We hope we can do it in TW102. — 神谷英樹 Hideki Kamiya (@PG_kamiya) January 16, 2014
We reached out to Kamiya to ask the specific reason as to why Miis never made it in, and he confirmed that it was due to time constraints.
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