The Wonderful 101 is out in a couple days in Europe and Japan (next month in the US), and already it's done well with the games press, scoring a 39 out of 40 review score in this week's issue of Famitsu. To director Hideki Kamiya, the launch brings him equal measures of happiness and anxiety.
"I always like to be in the trenches of game development," the Platinum Games designer told Famitsu, "so my biggest worry right now is how many people are going to try it out. To be honest, I think that working on a new IP requires a sort of bravery that you don't need with a franchise. At the same time, I think it's a vital part of the experience that you play the game right at the time that it's born. I wanted this game to be a good thing for people to run into, and I think that if you try it out, you'll definitely be satisfied."
That "bravery" was certainly necessary to come up with a game like The Wonderful 101, an action title with seven main characters and a supporting cast in the dozens.
"The game's set in a world with 100 heroes," Kamiya said, "so of course the group chemistry and solidarity are going to be themes. For example, Wonder Red is the leader of this mission even though he a new guy who's just entered the force. That's the idea of Nelson, commander of CENTINELS, but the game also depicts the other team members resisting this idea. Eventually, though, they build up a trust with each other and literally come together as one. It's a story I think is deep enough for lots of people to enjoy-not just 'Go beat up these invaders,' but also showing the drama between your allies."
"The story was meant to be a lot more compact in the beginning," added producer Atsushi Inaba. "As it got put together, it just kept getting larger. Oftentimes you set up a lot of backstory that's just meant to flesh out the character, but getting every bit of this backstory into the game itself isn't a style you see very often, so it was a challenge. Compared to Bayonetta... Well, that game has only one hero so the story was written with her at the center, but in this game we've got seven heroes, so that in itself makes it huge."
Speaking of Bayonetta: compared to the rest of Platinum's game library, The Wonderful 101 seems awfully approachable-something both kids and adults can enjoy. You probably couldn't say that about titles like MadWorld or Anarchy Reigns. "Along those lines, we definitely were aiming to make a 'game with no blood,' similar to Viewtiful Joe and Okami," Inaba said. "The Wonderful 101 has really fresh, invigorating visuals, and I think the visuals are really approachable to all walks of gamer. The hero-like look adds a nice balance to things, and you can enjoy the look for what it is and also for what lies under it."
Kamiya echoed Inaba's analysis. "Hero-oriented stories like this one don't have blood," he said. "I think it's important instead to depict how people are really bashing their souls against each other in the story, not just shedding blood but sending literal sparks and flames flying all over the place. That's why we put that sort of focus on the game content."
It's a wholly new direction for Platinum, and both Kamiya and Inaba have high expectations about what the game will do for their company's reputation in game-dom. "This is the first action game we've made at Platinum with a CERO B rating [ages 12 and up], so I'm hoping that we can expand the userbase here," Inaba commented. "I feel like this is a chance for people who usually don't play Platinum titles to come up to us, and I think the quality is up to snuff to make that happen. It'll be fun to see what new gamers think of it."