A very fruitful adventure
It has been over nine years since a Pikmin game has been released. To put that in perspective, four brand-new Nintendo systems have been released — DS, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U (including redesigns of those consoles) — and Pikmin hasn\’t been seen on any until now for the Wii U. There have been ports of the first two Pikmin games on Wii, as well as a Pikmin mini-game included on Nintendo Land, but this is the first time a proper game has been released since. The question that needs answering is \”Was it worth it?\” The short answer is yes.
Pikmin 3 begins with a cutscene that details the story about a distant planet called Koppai. With the population booming and food running out, Koppai is on the brink of ruin. Their only hope is to find another planet that has a stable food supply. Scout vessels are dispatched and find nothing; that is, until the last one detects food on a planet called PNF-404. However, the ship crash-lands and ejects the crew to different parts of the planet.
Pikmin 1 had you play as one explorer and Pikmin 2 had you play with two explorers. If you\’re thinking that Pikmin 3 will let you control three explorers, you\’re right — Captain Charlie, Alph the Engineer, and Brittany the Botanist (who is incredibly greedy!). You first take control of Captain Charlie, who comes across yellow Pikmin before he is swallowed by a mysterious creature. Alph is next to control, followed by Brittany once they reunite. Their goals are to search for fruit, the missing Captain, and the cosmic drive key they lost and desperately need, otherwise they won\’t be able to return to Koppai.
The game uses a day system like the previous two games, meaning that you have a set amount of time to do as much as you can in that day. One thing the game does not do, though, is instruct you how to actually spend your days. You can do whatever you want, as long as there is food left over to allow the characters to survive. This allows each individual game to be structured differently. What you do each day is completely up to you. You could spend a day collecting fruits or increasing your numbers by either collecting coloured pellets or killing enemies and returning them to the Pikmin Onion, which houses all Pikmin gathered on your journey. Once a day ends, however, your Pikmin must either be in a squad with one of the three explorers or within the vicinity of the Onion or they will be left behind and devoured by nocturnal predators.
The Pikmin come in five different types — seven, if you include the mission mode types — which are unlocked as the game progresses. Each have their own unique abilities, which must be utilised in order to progress. Each type brings their own unique set of skills and abilities. Of the five types, three are returning — red, yellow, and blue. Red Pikmin are fire-resistant and have greater attack damage; yellow Pikmin are resistant to electricity and can be thrown higher; blue Pikmin can breathe underwater. The new types, rock and winged, are named after their abilities rather than their colours, but have been known to go by \”grey\” and \”pink.\” Rock Pikmin can smash glass, ice, and crystals, and cannot be crushed because of their sturdy exterior. As their name suggests, winged Pikmin can fly or hover but are weaker in terms of attack power.
All Pikmin have a leaf, bud, or flower (Bacopa) on top of their heads, indicating their current level in growth and development. Leaf Pikmin are weaker and slower than those who sport buds and flowers, and may hinder you because of how slow they travel. The Bacopa comes in three different colours — white, magenta, and lavender — that are now currently represented by all three Pikmin generations.
Once you start discovering new Pikmin types, you will be able to go back through levels you previously completed and find yourself able to do new things, like using blue Pikmin to cross a body of water and build a bridge to bring over other Pikmin or having yellow Pikmin destroy an electric fence. You decide how far you want to go each morning, but you cannot leave until the day has ended. If you do make this mistake, however, you are able to go back to a previous day unlike the other games. You are also able to restart the day via the pause menu, which is useful if you find easier, quicker ways to accomplish things.
The first thing to be noticed once the game has started is how gorgeous it is. It is Nintendo’s first showcase in what they can really do with HD graphics, as well as what the Wii U is capable of. The detailed environments are bursting with vibrancy, from the colourful fruit to the lush plants and sparkling water. You will even notice from time to time the weather changing from rain or snow.
The GamePad allows you to view and interact with the map (which pauses the game), and is very important for finding fruit and planning your route. It also utilises a feature called \’Go Here\’ that allows you to automatically send a squad to a certain area on the map without you controlling them. It’s the best way to multitask and is most efficient when using it on puzzles that require more than one explorer. You can also play the game on the GamePad without a TV, which is handy if you want to leave the room or if someone else needs the TV. The best control scheme to use, however, is the Wii Remote+ (or the regular Wii Remote) and Nunchuk, along with the GamePad. This works as the best control system because you can aim perfectly and precisely using the pointer controls. It’s far more accurate and faster than using the GamePad’s analogue stick.
Nintendo has made some adjustments from the previous game; for example, you can now lock on to enemies, walls, et cetera, and shake the Nunchuk to have the Pikmin rush it. It certainly helps and makes it much better than having to throw each individual Pikmin, especially while in a large group. Another change is that, partway through the game, you earn the ability to roll sideways to avoid enemies diving at you.
The game offers six uniquely designed and very brutal boss battles. You can lose 30+ Pikmin in a matter of seconds. It can make you feel awful, since all they\’re trying to do is help you the best they can. Bosses retain inflicted damage, so if night is falling, you can return in the morning to finish what you started. These battles may be awkward, since your Pikmin can get scattered. If you call them back, depending on where they are, they may run straight at the enemy rather than going around, leading to unnecessary deaths.
Aside from story mode, there is mission mode, a timed challenge with missions lasting between 7-10 minutes each. They are excellent ways to help hone your skills and they support both single player and co-op. There are three different challenges to face: Gather the Fruit, Battle Enemies, and Defeat Bosses.
In Gather the Fruit, each piece collected are worth points called Pokos. Some enemies will appear and killing and returning them to the base also result in Pokos. The number of Pokos gathered once the timer has ended will be converted into a medal; bronze is the minimum needed to open the next mission. Battle Enemies works in the same manner but, rather than points being tallied into a medal, it’s based upon how many enemies killed and spirits are collected. In Defeat Bosses, missions are unlocked as the bosses are completed in the main game; in this mode, the medal you earn is determined by how quickly the boss is defeated.
Another mode is Bingo Battle, a split-screen player vs. player mode. You can choose from 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2, which counts for how many explorers each player has. Both players get a 4×4 bingo card with random fruits and enemies on it. In order to win, you must match four in a row. It is at its funniest when you have to battle for a certain fruit because there is only one on the whole map, because losing it could easily cost you the match. Seeing Pikmin attack Pikmin is also pretty disturbing and feels wrong!
The game does still retain the old problem of Pikmin getting occasionally stuck behind objects, which runs the risk of losing them if not realised by the end of the day. The AI has improved and is nowhere near as bad as it used to be, though. It is a game that may look cute and innocent, but beneath that exterior lurks quite a dark game that makes you feel terrible for failing your Pikmin.
The bosses are challenging and unique, the graphics are beautiful, the music is calming, the Wii Remote+ controls are really intuitive, and each type of Pikmin feel well-balanced and useful. The mission mode is very addictive — it has that just one more go feel as you try to beat your previous score — and Bingo Battle is one of the best multiplayer modes seen in a long time. Pikmin 3 is a brilliantly polished game that retains the entertainment of the original Pikmin games, yet still feels as unique as ever. There really is not anything like the Pikmin series anywhere. If you have a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to get this game.