Nintendo are a funny lot. They like to neglect a lot of their properties whilst flogging poor Mario like an Atlanta stripper. For every Star Fox or Donkey Kong you’ll usually get a hundred or so Mario games and, whilst Mario games are generally quite good, it’s forgivable for even a hardcore fan to say they’re getting sick of them. Every so often, Nintendo will go back to their dungeon and have a look at their catalogue and go “hey you. Yeah you, Kid Icarus, we need ya for something.” They then pump out a game but when it doesn’t sell like crack to Charlie Sheen because all the old fans have moved on, they are quick to brush the series aside and let it rot once again. This time around, it’s Pikmin’s turn to face a trial by fire.
Pikmin started out on the Gamecube in 2001/2002 and spawned a very successful sequel in 2004. Both games were ported to the Wii but no new additions were made except the use of the Wii’s motion controls. Now, am I the only one that finds this a bit odd? Both games sold like mad but the last new addition to the series was 2004! With exception to some background homages in Smash Bros. and Nintendoland but that doesn’t count in my book. So when they announced Pikmin 3 for Wii U, people were quite surprised but it took them almost a year after the consoles release to finally bring it out. Was it worth the wait? Can it save this console that’s slowly dying of game starvation? Will it find the love it deserves? Let’s read on, shall we?
Honestly, it’s kinda hard to properly review Pikmin 3 because its strong suit, besides the eye-popping gorgeous graphics, is it’s never ending endearing charm. It’s so hard to convey the attachment you generate with these little creatures in words faithfully. But you did click that link so, dagnabbit, i’m gunna try.
From the second you start up Pikmin, the graphics are what hits you. Specifically the environment graphics. It doesn’t just look real, it IS real. Leaves have proper texture and you can almost feel how coarse their surface is just by looking at it. The water moves with a realism I have not seen in a video game. Even Uncharted’s water looks wrong after playing Pikmin 3. Fire’s flames lick the air appropriately and, my god, you have to see the sand moving in one particular boss battle to believe it. The perspective is as if your characters are an inch tall in your aunty’s back garden, hence why ordinary items are huge here. So, presentation wise, this is amazing.
After a bit of exploration and trial and error, you find the little plant like creatures called Pikmin. There’s different types to find through the world that have different attributes and figuring out their strong suits and where to use them is a must. Red ones are immune to fire and are the best fighters. Yellow ones are immune to electricity and can be thrown higher than the others. There’s 5 different types all up in the single player mode and you’re gunna need them all to help you traverse this familiar feeling landscape. Whilst it may sound strange at first, the way you utilise these little carrot looking things is by throwing them at what you want interacted with. Doors, enemies, puzzles and fruit are all manipulated by a certain number of your army, sometimes by only a certain type so strategy and tactics come into play pretty quickly.
Then you are introduced to your motivating conundrum and by jeebuz, this had me tense as a pig in a bacon convention. You have to collect fruit in order to keep a supply of rations so you and your crew don’t starve. The game time is split into days, lasting about 15 minutes, and at the end of each day, you must have at least 1 canister of juice to feed your characters. Doesn’t sound big but you don’t start off with much and me being used to Pikmin 1 and 2, went about the tactic of “get your army numbers up so you can tackle the hurdles ahead first” but in Pikmin 3, you really want to have a ration buffer before trying to increase your minion population so you don’t die. There were quite a few days early on where what I retrieved that day, was what was only used to stay alive. Nail biting stuff, I can assure you.
The controls are surprisingly simple but this is where I find my only gripes with the game and whilst minor, they should have been dealt with during the game’s long development time. Selected Pikmin stay in your group. Once you throw them, they’re no longer selected and run on an autopilot to do tasks nearby to their location. This is fine but when you want them in your group again, you use a whistle to get them back into your party. Pikmin 1 and 2 players know this mechanic and it doesn’t really need a change either. My gripe is that if your view of the Pikmin you are trying to select is obscured, it won’t respond to your whistle, even though it’s depicted as a highlighted area and the little bugger is inside the whistle circle. You have to fiddle with the camera to put the Pikmin in view OF THE CAMERA to get his attention and sometimes, the reticule for the whistle will get “blocked” by something overhead like a plant or branch and you’ll only whistle at that instead of the floor area that you want. It can make for some annoying screw ups and since any unselected Pikmin die at the end of each day, you can lose many a minion to this gaming flaw.
Sadly, I can’t comment on the multiplayer since no one else in my house will game with me because of Goldeneye, Rockband and Street Fighter making them hate me. Yep, I’m “that guy” in my close circle of mates.
Pikmin 3 is a visually stunning action puzzler that perfectly fits between Lemmings and Command and Conquer. The tactics and strategy involved are never too perplexing and stay fun right throughout the game. Even with some niggly camera and control problems, the game rarely gets frustrating but it can certainly get tense to find adequate sustenance for you crews survival. The real winner here is the Pikmin themselves which are animated beautifully and are so damn cute, you just don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them but bad things will happen and you will feel like an utter monster for it. Captivating, addicting and amazing fun. It won’t save the Wii U single-handedly but it’ll definitely keep us going until that title comes.