A word heard often enough begins to sound like nonsense. Something about repetition bores our restless heads, and reduces a term to what it truly is: the emanations of a fat tongue slapping against teeth while food-scented wind blows past. By all rights, The Wonderful 101 should let us guess what its voice actors had for breakfast within the first hour - you're unlikely to have heard "Unite" more cumulatively within the rest of your life.
Those two syllables burst from your speakers roughly once every two minutes as you play, but never sound nonsensical. Unity is everything to this game: a high concept that saturates story, themes and even its bombastic theme tune. Not that you'll have time to ponder such things; the way Platinum works the notion into a genuinely new, and initially baffling combat system will take every ounce of concentration you have.
The Unite system is, at a base level, a snazzy way to switch weapons in a Wii U action game: draw a circle (on the GamePad screen or with the right analogue stick) and your followers form a fist, draw a wavy line and they conjoin into a whip. It's efficient, memorable and enables the player to carry the game's entire arsenal with them at all times, but that's not necessarily the exciting bit.
No, it's in the way that system is stretched and expanded throughout, even built into the many cutscenes, that begins to break the mould. While the way the game spools out fenced-in battles spread over levels joined with light platforming and puzzles will be familiar to anyone who's played Hideki Kamiya's games before (Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta are all his) the presentation is wholly new for the developer.
The Wonderful 100 (you - yes, you - are the additional '1') is a group of superheroes united by their mission to fight off an alien invasion and you play as every one of them, simultaneously. The approach to control is similar, but more ambitious than Pikmin's: pick a weapon and its wielder becomes the leader of the group, with every other member automatically swarming behind him or her as they move.
This has a huge impact on the rest of the game's design. Firstly, to fit that multitude of characters onscreen the camera takes a roughly isometric position well above the battlefield. It leaves your group as a flitting set of fairly ugly specks, albeit dwarfed by beautiful worlds rendered toy-like by the scale and a neat tilt-shift photography effect that accentuates depth of field. Secondly, and more importantly, the focus on the sheer volume of characters you have adds seemingly endless layers of strategy, exploration and collection to a game otherwise about stumpy men and women in masks punching robots. It's all, well, united by the Unite system.
Combat, you see, isn't as simple as picking a weapon form and bashing away. The Wonderful 100's superpower sees key members (to your right) fusing the remaining ninety-something into objects. Imagine Green Lantern's constructs, only made of jellified humans, and you're pretty much there. The clever bit is how this 'people as fuel' concept is woven into your strategies.
You're constantly on the lookout for recruits to join the team, both named members of the 100 scattered throughout the game and the citizens you're trying to save, who can be corralled and instated as temporary team members. Heroes are enlisted by encircling them with the Wonder Liner, the tool usually used to sketch the weapon symbols. A larger team benefits these weapons: the more members fed into a Unite Fist, achieved by drawing a bigger circle, the bigger the hand becomes. The bigger your group, the bigger the stockpile of fleshy green shells you have for the Unite Gun, the longer the Unite Sword and so on.