Pikmin 3 Review
It’s been nine long years since Miyamoto’s Pikmin series last had a new installment, that means it skipped an entire console generation. Pikmin 3 has finally landed on Wii U, and at a time where Nintendo’s latest home console is struggling with low sales; is Pikmin 3 enough to pick the Wii U up out of the dirt?
Pikmin is a strategy game series with heavy action-adventure elements, and no other game is quite like it. You play as three small space adventurers, Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, and they are scouring the universe in search of a reliable food source to return to their home planet of Koppai. A crash landing brings them to down to an unusual plant, which may seem rather familiar. They soon after discover the Pikmin, incredibly helpful creatures with a pack-mentality, which are willing to assist the space travelers in any way they can. Of course, the only thing our protagonists really want is some fruit for their home planet and a way to return.
Pikmin 3 is quite beautiful. What was originally supposed to be a Wii title has been sharpened repeatedly until it was a game fit with graphics capable of standing up against other HD consoles that have been on the market for a while now, and it does a great job. Pikmin’s miniature insect-sized world looks glorious, making for a great adventure that at points feels like being a part of Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Everything from the Pikmin’s animations, to the fruit and environments just looks beautiful. The enemies I want to give a special mention to, as enemies from previous Pikmin titles return, like Bulborbs, but some of the larger and more impressive boss creatures are truly a sight to behold, and the sense of scale and danger is something I’ve only experienced before in Shadow of the Colossus. Truly, impressive.
Accompanying these beautiful vistas is a beautiful soundtrack. The background music plays away in the background, and in true Nintendo style, a soundtrack that you originally paid little-to-no attention to eventually becomes familiar enough to hum along to. Anyone that has played Pikmin before will know that the creatures themselves are rarely quiet, each time you throw a Pikmin at an enemy (which will be often) they make a tiny ‘yelp’, and each time you attempt to call Pikmin back to your squad, you blow your whistle. For some these sound effects can get repeated all too often and can become annoying, but for others, this all contributes to the Pikmin experience. To share a small anecdote from when I was playing; I was marching an army of 100 Pikmin (the maximum amount allowed in your squad at any one time) towards a boss, and the background music went silent, and for a few moments, all I could hear was the Pikmin army I was marching making tiny singing sounds in unison. Tiny, almost insignificant details like this give the Pikmin you lead a real sense of carefree personality, and they’re very willing to follow their leader to the death.
Which is just as well, because some will die. It’s never easy losing a comrade in battle, but in Pikmin, it has to happen. Some boss monsters have sweeping attacks that can easily tear half of your Pikmin army apart if you’re not vigilant, and it’s certainly frustrating if one second earlier you could’ve potentially dodged the dangerous move. But it’s okay, Pikmin understands your qualms. You only get a Game Over screen if Alph, Brittany or Charlie lose all health, and I’m happy to report that I never even came close to losing any of my spaceman protagonists, thanks to them all having fairly high health.
Controlling your Pikmin is a mixture of simple and challenging, a cursor on-screen shows where your throw is likely to make your Pikmin land, which more often than not will be on an enemy or on a piece of fruit. Unfortunately this control method feels somewhat awkward whilst using the GamePad, as moving the cursor and moving your protagonist is the same analogue stick. Very annoying if you or your Pikmin are placed on a precarious ledge. Luckily, Pikmin 3 caters to all playstyles, and gives you a variety of control schemes to choose from.
Think the GamePad is too unwieldy? Try the Wii U Pro Controller. Don’t think that’s accurate enough? A Wii Remote and Nunchuk can be your replacement, and since we’re on the subject, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is by far the most accurate control scheme, but you lose the benefit of the GamePad map screen. Regardless of your preferred controls, it’s nice that Nintendo are really giving us options with the Wii U Pro Controller, and not making it compatible with a very select number of games, like what we saw with the Wii’s Classic Controller Pro.
One thing that I’m leaving quite late to talk about is the Pikmin themselves. Yellow, Red, Blue, Rock and Flying Pikmin are the main types you will encounter during the course of the story, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Flying Pikmin can carry your prizes back to your base more quickly, flying directly over certain obstacles, but are weak in battle. Rock Pikmin do high damage against enemies and can smash glass or crystal, but unlike other Pikmin, they can’t effectively mount and cling onto their enemies whilst attacking, making their attacks more infrequent than other Pikmin.
When elemental advantages come into play, things get interesting. Red Pikmin don’t feel pain from fire, Yellows can use their bodies to conduct electricity and Blues can breathe underwater without a problem. You, as the player, must utilise all these strengths and weaknesses whilst collecting items and creating shortcuts throughout the levels.
But wait, there’s more! Pikmin 3 also comes with Mission Mode and Bingo Battle. Bingo Battle is a new multiplayer mode, all about collecting items competitively with a friend. This new mode is loads of fun, but if your friend isn’t experienced playing Pikmin, then the battles are going to be rather one-sided. Mission Mode is nice, as it extends the rather short Pikmin 3 Story mode, giving the game that bit more replayability.