A late arrival on the Wii U-to-Nintendo Switch pipeline, Pikmin 3 Deluxe largely succeeds in bringing the fantastic original game over to a handheld and, importantly, to a new audience. While the controls take a slight step back and the added content mostly amounts to bells and whistles, the original game is as addictive, wondrous, and exciting as ever. With every mode a success, every in-game day an adventure, and every little moment prone to pleasant surprises, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a must-try if you never played the Wii U original, but the port’s meager additions and slightly worse control scheme will unfortunately not incentivize many old players to double-dip.
Unearth a gem
The Pikmin series sometimes feels like Nintendo’s best-kept secret. These colorful, quirky RTS titles have won a devoted fanbase with their unique gameplay loop and mesmerizing, bite-sized portrayals of an Earth apparently reclaimed by nature. Pikmin 3 Deluxe plays just like its predecessors — players assume the role of various intergalactic explorers who are tasked with raising an army of strange half-insect half-plant creatures called Pikmin. With their loyal Pikmin swarm, players brave a harsh, unforgiving world called PNF-404 (Earth). Different types of Pikmin have their own environmental affinities and weaknesses, and the dangerous creatures and traps of PNF-404 necessitate a diverse, well-managed squad of up to 100 Pikmin.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe also gives players a trio of crew mates, allowing strategically-minded players to split up into groups and quickly work their way through areas. While individual Pikmin are small and weak, they are also fiercely loyal and cooperative; with the right leader, you can bring PNF-404 to its knees. And it’s a damn wonderful feeling.
The best of both worlds
If you haven’t played a Pikmin game yet, but want to thanks to that intoxicating description I just wrote, have no fear: Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a great place to start. It excels behind an excellent campaign, addictive optional challenges, and a fantastic multiplayer mode.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe finds a happy medium between the claustrophobic time crunch of Pikmin‘s divisive 30-day limit and the lackadaisical, endless expanse of freedom in Pikmin 2. It boasts a tight, focused single-player mode that still manages to provide leeway for the player to progress at their own pace. The campaign expertly balances a host of environmental puzzles and objectives with good, old-fashioned scavenging.
When you aren’t hunting for lost crew members or pieces of a damaged spaceship, you’ll be building up a stash of fruit juice so that your crew doesn’t starve; so long as you have some fruits saved up, you can complete objectives and raise up Pikmin at your leisure. Most players should easily be able to complete the game without vigorously hunting down every piece of fruit, but even if you do run out, you can simply rewind a few days and get back on your feet instead of starting the whole game over like in Pikmin. While some players might prefer the arcade-like, speedrunnable first game or the complete freedom of Pikmin 2, Pikmin 3 Deluxe finds a satisfying compromise.
Those who miss the tight time constraints of Pikmin will, however, find a lot to love in Mission Mode, which tasks players with brief, five-to-15 minute challenges to collect treasure or defeat enemies as efficiently as possible. Grabbing high scores is very fun. There is not a lot to explain outside of that. Mission Mode is an unexpectedly addictive excursion that eats up a lot more time than you’d expect, in the best of ways.
Bingo Battle, the multiplayer mode, also earns a shoutout. In Bingo Battle, you and a friend face off in a field full of enemies and treasures. Each of you gets a randomized bingo card loaded with said enemies and treasures. You get the gist by now: All while maintaining your army and fending off threats, the first player to fill out a bingo row of enemy carcasses and other battlefield spoils wins. It’s fast, fun, and very tough to put down. Even though Pikmin 3 Deluxe is primarily a single-player experience, you’re missing out if you never pick up Bingo Battle.
Not your Wii U’s Pikmin 3 — or is it?
Pikmin 3 Deluxe necessarily makes a few changes to the Wii U original in order to make the experience work on Switch. Some changes work fine, and others are a bit of a step back, but the game is perfectly playable and remains a ton of fun.
On Wii U, the best way to play Pikmin 3 involved a convoluted setup where players used a Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play the game while directing traffic (other crew mates) and watching the map with the Wii U GamePad sitting on their lap. That’s obviously not possible on the single-screen Switch. Instead, the map — and all of its useful delegation powers — are tied to the minus button, so you’ll have to pause the game if you want to send a crew member somewhere or think about the best plan of attack for your day. This is unfortunate, as the GamePad made the “real-time” part of real-time strategy quite compelling in the original Pikmin 3, but the change ultimately does little to dampen the experience.
Furthermore, while pointer controls are now the premier way to play Pikmin, handheld mode and Pro Controllers are perfectly usable in Pikmin 3 Deluxe thanks to the new lock-on feature. The lock-on is occasionally clumsy when trying to switch between targets in crowded battles, but it’s still easier than trying to perfectly aim your Pikmin with the right stick.
What ultimately results from the minus-button map and lock-on is — portable Pikmin 3. That’s pretty darn awesome, even if it doesn’t quite match the freedom of the Wii U version’s multistep control setup.
Unfortunately, returning players probably won’t find enough reason to pick up Pikmin 3 Deluxe if the base game alone does not already convince them. The port’s main selling point for returning players is a handful of new missions starring Olimar, the protagonist of Pikmin and Pikmin 2 who was conspicuously absent from Pikmin 3. While it’s fun to see Olimar again, the missions are over quite quickly, a bit too easy, and largely don’t add a whole lot to the game unless you really want to climb some high score leaderboards.
Additional changes, such as co-op for the story, the new Ultra-Spicy difficulty mode, and the return of the Piklopedia (a compendium with information on treasures and enemies) are nice, but they don’t transform the experience in the way that online co-op or multiplayer would. Thankfully, the original game is so good that the port doesn’t need to change much, but Pikmin 3 Deluxe will underwhelm returning players who want more than just a retread.
A winning adventure
Pikmin has not taken off to the extent that it deserves, but Pikmin 3 Deluxe just might change that when paired with Nintendo Switch’s software momentum. It’s the perfect entry point for the series with a wonderfully balanced campaign that is structured to the player’s liking. Challenges are tons of fun, this time slightly bolstered by the additional content from Olimar’s Assignment, and Bingo Battle makes for some deceptively fun competitive multiplayer. Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a reminder that this game (and trilogy) succeeds at just about everything it tries. If you have not played Pikmin 3, you really, really should, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the perfect opportunity.
A review code was provided by the publisher.