Platform: Wii U
Genre: RTS (?)
I always love original and refreshing gameplay where you can’t simply put it into a category because of its unique elements.
As the years have passed, finding a game where you question which genre to associate it with is becoming more and more barren in the vast fields of gaming. It’s not to say games have become boring. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If anything, many developers have learned from past mistakes while bouncing ideas off each other to build a game where $60 is begging to evacuate your wallet and into the cash register.
To this day, Pikmin still stands the test of time with its unique gameplay despite being a 12-year-old series. Although it resembles RTS’, categorizing Pikmin as one still doesn’t quite hit the head of the nail, and it’s what makes the series so great and worthwhile to play.
Unlike its predecessors, Pikmin 3 has a sadder tale to tell. As the population of the planet Koppai only keeps booming, the planet’s food supply only keeps dwindling, starving out much of the inhabitants. Space explorers from Koppai are sent to planets across the universe to find sources of sustenance to save their homeworld. All hope is lost until the crew members of the S.S. Drake – Alph, Britanny and Charlie – discovers PNF 404, a vast and rich planet filled with bountiful fruit located at the edge of the galaxy. Things become hairy though when the S.S. Drake crashes while they attempt to land and the crew is separated from each other.
While on your quest to reunite the crew of the S.S. Drake, gather food and recover the Cosmic Key Drive to return to Koppai, you will utilize little – and admittedly cute – creatures called Pikmin. Pikmin follow your every command and undertake responsibilities from fighting PNF 404’s deadly creatures to gathering fruit and building your own Pikmin army. From a top-down camera perspective, you lob Pikmin at creatures to attack them or picking up and carrying objects to the S.S. Drake. Whether you’re trekking the lands of the planet or collecting, any task you set for yourself must be done before the sun sets because the creatures swarm the lands at night, making it too dangerous for any mission to face accomplishment.
Herding your Pikmin before nightfall is only one of the many challenges. Because the game’s centric plot is accumulating food, the fruit you take in from the lands of PNF 404 acts as your food supply where it diminishes with each passing day. You’ll likely never comes close to running out of food, but this survival element has trace amounts of the first Pikmin where you only had 30 days, adding a dash of intensity knowing you don’t have all the time in the world unlike Pikmin 2.
Aside from plot, those who have played the series are likely thinking “Well this doesn’t sound different from the other games at all.” Overall, it doesn’t break the fourth wall, but it does in no way stale the experience. The gameplay in Pikmin 3 may be over 12 years old, but it has passed the test of time with flying colors, and it’s more refined with small, yet noticeable improvements.
The first of these improvements are two new types of Pikmin: black-colored Rock Pikmin and pink-colored Flying Pikmin. They may replace Pikmin 2’s burly Purple Pikmin and light White Pikmin, but I prefer Pikmin 3’s new additions. The Rock Pikmin move at normal speeds unlike the slowpoke Purple Pikmin. In exchange, they’re not as strong nor can they carry as much as Purple Pikmin, but they can still dole more damage than the average Pikmin when they directly hit an enemy. Flying Pikmin, much like White Pikmin, are weak in combat, but they excel in brawling aerial foes. To take the cake, Flying Pikmin can hover above water and carry objects in mid-air, which is incredibly useful when you don’t want to suffer casualties since you can’t always escort your Pikmin.
Aside from the Flying and Rock Pikmin, you have the series veteran Red, Yellow and Blue Pikmin. Between the original three, Red Pikmin serve as the tougher Pikmin and can withstand fire; Yellow Pikmin are lighter and easier to throw while being resistant to electricity; Blue Pikmin are balance of the two in terms of strength and are the only types of Pikmin who can survive in water. Each of the Pikmin are useful in different areas, and how you utilize your infantry in multiple aspects is what separates the series from others, which makies it such a joy to play.
The GamePad is put to great use by displaying a map of the area you’re in. The touchscreen allows you to stop time and scout the area ahead, allowing you to plan your next move. You may also use the touchscreen to command Alph, Brittany or Charlie to travel to certain points while you remain in control of one of them, allowing you to perform multiple tasks at once before the sun flips its off switch. At the end of each day, you can review how the day went to plan your next day with caution, but it’s ultimately pointless because instead of using direct footage, it displays your movements on an overhead map while using icons to display the characters. The transition of bringing your game from the TV to the GamePad with the tap of a button is also quite slick.
It’s less cumbersome to throw Pikmin now. Rather than stopping, separating your Pikmin, then picking the type you want to use, you now simply have to click the L button to shuffle through which Pikmin will be tossed.
Other simple additions include all Pikmin being converged in the same Onion (the Pikmin’s ship), new dodge mechanic, target lock-on and random pieces of data giving a variety of tips scattered throughout PNF 404, which is provided by a familiar face
Combined, each of these improvements make the game flow smoother than any previous title in the series.
As Uncle Ben from the first Spiderman movie once said, “With great improvements, come a couple of errors.” Okay, so he didn’t actually say that, but some of the problematic ghosts of Pikmin’s past still haunt the series in Pikmin 3.
The Pikmin may not be intelligent and need your guidance to survive and fight in the world, but after 12 years, they should be smart enough to move around obstacles when they’re stuck.
One of the other problems deals with Pikmin gathering parts to a bridge. Each of them grab a piece to eventually assemble a bridge so you can reach your next destination, but instead of coming back to you when they’ve used all the pieces, they return to the spot where the pieces used to be, making it a hassle to keep track of them.
The game’s aesthetics, clever level design and the four lush environments – technically five if you count the last stage centered on the final boss – you’ll visit help to ease the nuisance a little bit. Pikmin 3 is by far the prettiest game to grace the Wii U to date. All of the character models, reflections from lighting effects and vivid colors in the world around you are simply gorgeous. Each of the four area’s expansive sizes combined with the eye candy visuals make the game enthralling to simply look at. It only brings me further excitement to imagine what future high-def Nintendo game will look like.
Outside of the story mode, which will run you at a solid 10 hours or more depending on how much you explore, are multiplayer modes called Mission and Bingo Battle.
The three modes within Mission can be played solo or locally with one other person, but Mission is clearly meant to be played with someone else because it’s difficult to play it on the lone wolf route. In each mode – Collect Treasure, Battle Enemies and Defeat Bosses – you’re given a set time limit to complete the objective, a preset number of Pikmin and multiple, large stages to play in. Each mode is entertaining to play, especially since the game has such epic boss battles, particularly the final boss. I can’t remember the last time I took a fight in a game so personally since it annihilated so many of my Pikmin.
Bingo Battle, on the other hand, requires two human players. With a bingo card, you must gather objects and fill in a full row vertically, horizontally or diagonally before your opponent. Alongside 12 compact stages compared to those from Mission, you have a bit more freedom with what you can do using several options. The player without the GamePad, however, is at a huge disadvantage because they don’t have a map on their side of the screen. It’s a strange design choice to disallow the second player from accessing a map, especially when the GamePad displays where objects are, allowing player one to snag victory with ease.
Pikmin 3 may not have made any drastic changes to the series, but this game snuggles neatly into the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If anything, Nintendo only upgraded the experience of Pikmin with small niches that make the unique gameplay smoother. Pikmin 3 also holds the best-looking visuals on the Wii U so far, and I can only imagine what games such as Super Smash Bros or “Zelda HD” will look like. It was hard pressing for me not to explore the world of PNF 404 despite its frightening creatures – especially the bosses – craving my Pikmin pals at every moment and knowing they could get devoured, which remains heartbreaking to witness. I dare you not to feel somewhat bad as you’re watching a Pikmin drown to death.
I only have two wishes post Pikmin 3: Pikmin need to be slightly more intelligent, and Pikmin 4 won’t take another 9 years to come out. You owe it to yourself to buy Pikmin 3 if you own a Wii U, even more so if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing the series.
- Small improvements smoothen already fantastic and unique gameplay
- GamePad innovations
- Gorgeous visuals
- Epic boss fights
- Fun extra modes
- Pikmin are still ditzy at times
- Strange disadvantage for second player in Bingo Battle
Robbie Key is a reviews & news editor for Analog Addiction, entertainment editor for the Pine Log newspaper at Stephen F. Austin State University, news editor for Worlds Factory and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos, and view his LinkedIn profile.