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The Wonderful 101 remaster is welcome – but console performance disappoints

The Wonderful 101 is part of a last handful of Wii U exclusives to get a remaster, this month landing on Switch, PS4 and PC thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign from creator Platinum Games. It’s game that presents many challenges in migrating away from home turf. To begin with, it’s famously built with second screen play in mind – not an easy fit for today’s consoles. Secondly, The Wonderful 101 pushes the Platinum engine hard. Although targeting 60fps, frame-rates could collapse on the Wii U original – and unfortunately, these issues are still a problem on Switch, with even base PlayStation 4 falling short at points.

The thing is, this is a special game, well worth the remastering treatment. Released in 2013, The Wonderful 101 offered one of the most inventive uses of the Wii U’s GamePad with the player using the bespoke controller for dual-viewing of the play area and for touch controls. The set-up felt fresh too. The player is tasked with saving the Earth from an alien invasion, taking charge of a bunch of heroes from The Wonderful 101, initially Wonder Red and Blue. Shapes are drawn on-screen via touch (or the right analogue stick) to change abilities. As the game progresses, more heroes enter the fray until you’re in command of a huge cluster of characters with a range of different abilities, taking on ever larger and more dangerous foes. There’s a brilliant comic-book style to the action, taking cues from cult classic Viewtiful Joe – and visually at least it translates wonderfully to Switch and PS4.

Before we start on comparisons, it’s worth stressing the original host platform – Wii U – was something of a technical curiosity for its era. While its CPU couldn’t match up to Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, its AMD GPU design was more more modern and in theory, more performant. The Wonderful 101 targeted native 720p, but so often fell beneath – but it wasn’t clear whether CPU, GPU (or indeed both in concert) contributed to its highly variable performance. Switch delivers the expected upgrade, remaining at 720p in portable mode, while running natively at 1080p docked. The surprise is that both PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro also operate at the same native 1080p figure, with no added enhancements on Pro. Visual features are a match for Wii U all round, though the bump in resolution delivers additional clarity, while PlayStation 4 machines enjoys a pass of anti-aliasing absent on Switch.

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