Tech News on G4
Everything old is cute again in Pikmin 3
Aug 15, 2013
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Most gaming trilogies are rushed out in successive years to capitalize on their success and popularity, but from the genius mind of the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, the Pikmin series isn't your typical trilogy.
Pikmin 3 completes the series' trilogy, but despite having two predecessors, there's a good chance a lot of new gamers have never even heard of Pikmin, and that's because the first and second games came out in 2001 and 2004, respectively, on the Nintendo GameCube.
They were given the remake treatment - to great effect - on the Wii several years later, but the Pikmin was still tragically overlooked by many. Pikmin 3 takes all the great things about the previous games and adds a generous helping of new stuff to make what's arguably the best game yet on Nintendo's still-young Wii U.
For the uninitiated, Pikmin 3 follows the exploits of three space explorers who travel to a mysterious planet called PNS-404 for the sole purpose of gathering food to save their home planet of Koppai.
As they near their destination, their ship crashes, and the quest that follows sees the astronauts attempting to gather food and fix their ship so they can get home.
The hook here is the pikmin themselves - tiny little ant-like creatures who walk upright and follow you around like a crowd of lost puppies. You'll encounter five different types throughout your adventure, and each one - identified by their solid colours - has a different power.
Red pikmin, for instance, are fierce fighters and are immune to fire, while blue pikmin feature gills that make them the only pikmin species that can survive underwater.
You'll really have to put your brain to work as you traverse the numerous environments on PNS-404, earning enough food to keep your crew alive while also tracking the equipment that will help you get off the planet and back to Koppai.
The game is divided into days, each of which lasts for about 15 minutes. While there is technically no limit to how many days you can play (the first Pikmin only lasted for 30 days, which was a big sticking point for many people who played it), you have to constantly be resupplying your crew with a stock of juice that comes from food you gather throughout PNS-404.
It's a new feature in Pikmin 3 that seems like a compromise of sorts. It isn't nearly as stringent as the limit found in the first game, but the developers clearly wanted to put some sort of time restriction in the game so as to not make gamers feel too relaxed.
The problem is, there's a huge balance issue with how the developers handled this mechanic. Without giving too much away so as to avoid spoilers, something happens several days in that completely changes the flow of the game up to that point, and it feels like a bit of a cop-out. Up to that point, Pikmin 3 is admittedly quite easy, but the plot device they throw in flips that difficulty upside-down, and it just makes everything feel off.
It's not enough to ruin what's otherwise a brilliant game in terms of level design and pacing, but it does stand out as somewhat of a weakness in an otherwise superb single player campaign.
Pikmin 3 really pushes the strategy aspect of the series far beyond the original and its first sequel thanks to players being given three protagonists to control. While it's altogether likely that the majority of players will keep everyone - the three astronauts and all their pikmin - together throughout the campaign, it's amazing what can be done by taking advantage of the ability to shift between up to three people.
Not only can chores - such as breaking down walls, building bridges, or collecting fruit - be done much more quickly, enemies can be taken down much easier. It takes some serious finesse - and a lot of practice - to get good at flipping between characters, but those players who do work at this will be rewarded wonderfully, and are sure to get ahead in the campaign much faster than those who don't.
What's sure to frustrate many players is the behaviour of the pikmin themselves. They'll happily follow you when you call for them using your trusty whistle, but they can easily get caught behind a corner or a stray rock, and once you're far enough away, they simply sit there doing nothing until you come back for them.
Throw them toward a certain object in the environment, and they'll generally do what they're told, whether it's attacking enemies, carrying flowers back to your spaceship, or whatever numerous other chores that need to be done during the day. But they'll also do some frustrating things.
For instance, you may throw several of them at a pile of wood that can be used to build a bridge, they'll pick them up and dutifully bring them to wherever the bridge needs to be built, but even after all the pieces have been placed, the same pikmin will keep running (or flying) back to the original spot where the pieces original sat.
It's tempting to assume the pikmin were specifically given these peculiar traits on purpose to add to the challenge of the game, but we've all been told what assuming does.
Pikmin 3 has three different control methods (Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Wii U Gamepad, Classic Controller), but I used the Wii Remote and Nunchuk exclusively, as it not only allows for quicker and more accurate aiming of pikmin, but also lets you use the Gamepad to view your map.
Beyond the single player campaign, there are some multiplayer modes that are sure to add a lot of play time for Pikmin 3 fans. Bingo Battle is a competitive mode with a really neat twist. Each player is given a 4x4 bingo card that is filled with different objects, such as specific fruit and enemies.
In order to win, you have to collect four objects that sit in a row - horizontally, vertically, or diagonally - on your bingo card before the other player. Just like the campaign, there is a ton of strategy involved, especially when you add in the option that allows each team control two players. With several levels available and even an option to capture a macaroon to instantly win (haven't you ever heard that macaroons are the new flag?), there's no shortage of ways to play this mode.
Mission Mode can be played solo or co-operatively. In this mode, players can choose to either collect treasure, kill creatures, or defeat bosses. In the treasure and creature modes, you're attempting to get the highest score possible in the time limit you're given, while in the boss battles, you're trying to down the boss in as little time as possible.
Mission Mode proves just how fun Pikmin 3 can be when working with someone else who is on the couch beside you. Whether you have completely different play styles or not, it's a ton of fun working together as you try to beat your previous score.
Although there unfortunately isn't any online play, your scores are sent to online leaderboards, where you can see where you stack up against other players.
Pikmin 3 does play things a little safe with the formula that was molded during the first two games, but as alluded to earlier, that can be forgiven for two reasons. First of all, this is probably the first experience a lot of gamers will have had with Pikmin. Secondly, the formula is so charming, so addictive, and so well put together, it's tough to complain for very long.
This may not be the definitive Pikmin game - here's hoping more titles in the series are on their way so we can in fact get just that - but like the hilarious new creatures in Pikmin 3, it's rock-solid nonetheless. This is a thinking person's game, but it never forgets that using your brain can be a heck of a lot of fun.
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