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'Pikmin' as stunning as it ever was

May 26, 2009

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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It's not shocking to find a select number of games every year that are completely underrated. These releases aren't usually given a lot of fanfare compared to other AAA games, but are critically acclaimed and loved by the relatively small number of people who end up playing them.

What is shocking however is too see a game as nearly perfect as 'Pikmin' be re-released and not be given so much as a whisper on the Internet. Forget Marcus Fenix. Forget Solid Snake. Forget Link - play Pikmin, and it won't take long to realize that the little creatures the game is named after are some of the most memorable video game characters to come out in a long time.

New Play Control! PikminTo start from the beginning though: Pikmin was first released in December, 2001, mere weeks after the Nintendo GameCube was launched in North America. Though it was the latest creation from 'Super Mario' mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto, it didn't garner nearly the attention it deserved - quite possibly because it was a brand new IP for a company that already had its share of established creations, from the aforementioned Mario, to Metroid, to Donkey Kong, and many, many more.

Despite not setting the gaming world abuzz, 'Pikmin' impressed reviewers and was - and is - widely known as a masterpiece. The game now gets re-released on Wii with new controls that are tailor-made for a real-time strategy game like this.

The game has the player controlling a tiny spaceman named Olimar who has crash landed on a mysterious planet that looks curiously similar to Earth. Because the planet's atmosphere is toxic to Olimar, he has only 30 days to gather the parts for his ship (the Dolphin) that were scattered after the crash and leave.

How is he going to gather these heavy parts, you ask? Well, it doesn't take long for Olimar to discover strange, plant-like creatures he names Pikmin. Whenever he plucks one from the ground, they follow him everywhere, obediently doing his bidding without question and with barely a peep. They may seem like soulless blobs of colour at first glance, but you'll find yourself caring about the hundreds you'll eventually control like they were your own children.

And this is where the fun and the magic in this game happen. Olimar can control up to 100 Pikmin at a time. There is a neverending flow of tasks that need to be completed in order to get around the planet's different areas and bring the ship parts slowly but surely back to the Dolphin. Large walls need to be broken down. Bridges have to be built. Enemies have to be vanquished. And of course, more Pikmin have to be created.

This is a real time strategy game at its most adorable, but don't let that fool you. Not only will be constantly thinking, plotting and planning days ahead of where you actually are, but you will be losing plenty of the cute little Pikmin. The enemies on the planet you've crashed on are none too kind and love nothing more than to eat, squash, burn, or drown as many Pikmin as they can.

Oh, but there's so much more to think about. There isn't just one kind of Pikmin, there are three. You start with the strong, fireproof red ones, but soon find the high-flying, bomb-carrying yellow Pikmin, and shortly after that you'll discover the gilled Blue Pikmin. Some walls and bridges can only be built by taking several blue Pikmin across a large pond. One level has a no-man's land full of geysers that shoot fire, so it's in your best interests to take only your red troops across. You'll really have to strategize your resources and your time. Fret not, RTS newbies - as confusing as this all may sound, everything is introduced in an easy-to-understand way, and you'll be a pro at controlling your Pikmin in no time.

There's also the 30 day time limit to consider. Normally, we find time limits of any sort in games (besides sports) annoying, but in Pikmin, it just adds to the challenging atmosphere. There will be very few days that pass where the last seconds are ticking down and you aren't hurrying back in a final effort rush to gather your lost troops (any Pikmin left unattended after dark will sadly be eaten by the nocturnal creatures).

New Play Control! PikminIn terms of motion controls, the Wii improves slightly on what was previously a surprisingly fluid dual analog-controlled RTS. When throwing Pikmin at enemies, barriers, items, etc, it's simply a matter of pointing the Wii pointer at the point on the screen you want your Pikmin to land and pressing the A-button. The little Pikmin are smart and will almost always do exactly what it is you desire. Considering the speed and consistency with which you throw the little plant-creatures, it's a good thing the player isn't required to physically flick the Wii Remote. No one would want to play past the first stage.

The game is almost perfectly paced. You'll be discovering something new almost every day, and even on days when you're just stockpiling your Pikmin for future battles and tasks, it's rarely boring. There are a few choice bosses in the game and each and every one is memorable for the challenges they present, their sheer size and creativity, and the feeling of accomplishment they provide once they are defeated.

The New Play Control! Pikmin looks exactly the same as the GameCube version, which is to say - beautiful. As with most Nintendo games, the graphics won't be as pixel-heavy as something on an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, but they needn't be. You'll still revel at the lush vegetation, shimmering water and vibrant colours that make the world you play in so darn hard to leave.

Every gamer who hasn't played this game owes it to themselves to check it out, and even fans of the original on GameCube will surely be smitten by it's endless appeal in short time.

There's no subtle way of saying it - Pikmin really is one of the greatest games to come out in the last decade and the New Play Control! version really can be considered an 'instant classic'.

 

New Play Control! Pikmin
Format: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://pikmin.com

Rating: 9.5 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.