Pikmin 3 for Wii U
Pros: Fun gameplay, relaxing to play, beautiful graphics
Cons: The main story is a little short
Shigeru Miyamoto, the mastermind behind Mario and The Legend of Zelda, usually bases his new game creations on hobbies in his personal life. So what happened when this legendary game designer took up gardening? Pikmin, that’s what. The series began on the Nintendo Gamecube and only saw one sequel. The games were never as popular as his other creations, but Pikmin managed to gain a devoted fan base. After the second game fans were left clamoring for a sequel, and though part 3 was announced for the Wii console it never saw the light of day. Just when fans had given up hope Nintendo announced the new installment for their new Wii U console. Though it failed once again to set sales charts on fire it’s one of the best games for the system.
This is a direct sequel to the second game. Pikmin 3 takes place in a futuristic world where small humanoid creatures have mastered the ability to travel through space. The citizens of the peaceful planet Koppai have exhausted their natural resources and send three pilots to a nearby planet in search of food. Unfortunately the landing doesn’t go as planned and the trio is separated after their ship crashes. Soon each discovers that the native bug-like creatures, Pikmin, are capable of being controlled. Not only can these little guys fight off predators but they can also carry food and other items and return them to each pilot’s pod. The three set out to find each other as well as procure food for the inhabitants of their planet. It’s a cute story with likeable characters, and it’s perfectly suitable for youngsters.
Pikmin 3 is a real time strategy game with a heavy emphasis on exploration. You command one of three pilots and start out by amassing an army of Pikmin. This is done by felling large enemies or gathering organic supplies with the little critters and bringing them back to your pod (or ‘onion’ as it’s called) to transform the energy into additional Pikmin. Flowers and other items generally hold pellets which display a numeric value which shows how many you will gain from collecting them. You will need a large army of these little guys to be successful in this game, and will constantly lose them through various hazards. Predators roam the surface of this planet and gobble the Pikmin up. It feels at times like you’re sending your henchmen to their doom which is a little dark for a kid’s game.
Despite the micromanagement that this game requires Pikmin 3 is surprisingly intuitive. You have an on-screen reticule which displays the path you are targeting. After selecting the type of Pikmin you want to send forth (using the L button) you throw them (with the A button) at the area highlighted by your cursor. At this point the little guys interact with whichever object you targeted. If it’s an enemy or barrier they will attack, but if it’s a collectible item they will pick it up (provided you have the required number of Pikmin to lift it) and carry it to where it belongs. After being thrown your Pikmin will work until their task is completed, or stand idle if you weren’t targeting anything. Calling them back is as simple as highlighting them and pressing the ZR button. The basic gameplay is very easy to learn.
When the three different captains in the story meet up gameplay becomes a little more complicated. You can only play as one of these protagonists at a time while the other two follow along with your squad. In a rather interesting twist you have the ability to not only throw your Pikmin, but your inactive captains as well. Pressing the Y button allows you to switch over to another captain, and the game makes use of this in some interesting ways. You can throw a captain and some Pikmin over a chasm, or up on to a ledge and then switch over to them to progress.
What’s cool is that pikmin come in multiple varieties, and each has their own abilities. The standard type is red which can resist fire, but there’s also yellow pikmin that are immune to electicity, and blue pikmin that are the only type able to travel through water. The game introduces other more specialized pikmin as well. Rock pikmin are slower but can break natural barriers, and flying pikmin that can reach areas others cannot as well as fight airborne foes. While each type is quite different from one another they can all dig holes, fight enemies, and work together to carry heavy items back to the onion. Half the fun is simply in choosing from the various types to bring in your squad.
Progression in this game is handled mostly through exploration. The planet is divided into ‘levels’ if you will and your goal is to make it through collecting fruits and fighting a boss at the end. This isn’t as easy as it sounds; barriers and broken bridges stand in your way as well as a plethora of predators that have a taste for pikmin flesh. The game uses a real-time clock wherein day turns to night, but before the sun sets you have to return to your onion. Any pikmin that did not make the trip back are consumed by nocturnal predators. At the end of each day all collected fruits are converted into juice and are consumed by the crew. Without juice the game ends which makes it extremely important to keep a look out for fruit throughout the various environments.
Despite the game’s violent nature Pikmin 3 is quite a relaxing affair. It’s focused mostly on exploration, and the natural environments are extremely well done. Nintendo did a fantastic job of designing areas that are actually fun to traverse. There’s something extremely Zen about completing menial tasks with your pikmin as they function similarly to ants. Taking your time in these environments is rewarding; I frequently found hidden fruit or other items that I would otherwise have missed. Usually I can’t be bothered to check every nook and cranny in a video game but this was certainly not the case here.
Pikmin 3 isn’t the most technically advanced next generation game. It looks like something that could have easily been done on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Fortunately the art style is amazing. Pikmin 3′s outdoor environments are extremely well done; they feel more alive and organic than in just about every other game I’ve played. Unlike most modern games Pikmin 3 is extremely colorful and the characters are all cutesy and charming. It may sound odd, but the best looking elements in this game are the fruit. Pears, oranges, kiwis etc. all look extremely juicy and feature amazing texture work. It’s enough to make me hungry. Overall Pikmin 3 is a beautiful game regardless of its technical attributes.
The music fits the laid back themes of this game perfectly. Composed mostly of serene ambient pieces the soundtrack is extremely enjoyable and well done. The music changes as an enemy approaches which is a really useful function for those off screen predators that you wouldn’t otherwise know were close by. The controls are also extremely well done, and Nintendo did a fantastic job of incorporating just about every controller here. You can use the gamepad (which allows for off-screen play), the Wii remote and nunchuck (easily the best method) and even the pro controller is compatible. Controls for each method are responsive and work extremely well.
Pikmin 3 is a special game. As a real time strategy adventure game it’s very unique, and it has that classic Nintendo magic in spades. The relaxing gameplay is a nice change of pace compared to the fast paced shooters that have flooded the market in modern times. The only problem with Pikmin 3 is that it’s short. The game can be completed in under ten hours easily, and that’s kind of a tough sell for a full priced game. Despite that it’s still worth every penny.