It's hard to believe that it's been nearly nine years since the last original Pikmin game. Until now, fans have had to make due with the "New Play Control" ports of Pikmin and Pikmin 2 on the Wii and Pikmin-themed minigames in NintendoLand to make the wait less scathing.
Pikmin 3 may not be the struggling Wii U's savior, but it's definitely the game that longtime Pikmin fans have been waiting for.
What Is It?
Pikmin 3 puts players in control of a trio from Koppai, a planet facing possible extinction because of a food drought. In traditional Pikmin style, the trio go out on a space mission in order to save their struggling planet, only to crash land and become separated on a distant planet.
During the process of reuniting the three–Alph, Brittany, and Charlie (A, B, and C… very funny, Miyamoto)–they come across colorful plant-like creatures called Pikmin that assist them in exploration by clearing out and forming paths where they eventually find giant fruit.
Of course, as small as these adventurers are, there's no way they can transport the food back home without the help of the friendly Pikmin. But just as the three begin to get the hang of things, they find that they aren't the only intelligent lifeforms on the planet.
Pikmin 3 features your average, run of the mill, unimpressive and simple Nintendo plot, but on the surface, Pikmin is an action-adventure game with strong strategic elements. Players are thrown into unique uncharted territory where it's neccessary to explore each level and plan each action accordingly, as work in the game is obligated to be done over the course of a day (13 real-time minutes) in order to avoid the predators that roam the area at night.
When each day ends, everybody retreats to the ship, has their rationed sustenance in the form of juice, and prepares for the next day–which hopefully is more productive than the last.
Why Should I Care?
There are a lot of features that make Pikmin great, but the biggest standout throughout the whole series has been its level design along with its gameplay mechanics. As stated, the game is all about exploration. As players make their way through the nature's high-definition goodness, a map will be charted on the GamePad's screen, which players can also use to make their characters immediately traverse to specific areas on the map in the quickest way possible to save time.
In order to properly progress through a map, careful use of Pikmin is required. Over the course of the game, players will come across Pikmin in different colors. Each Pikmin features different abilities depending on its color. Red Pikmin are resistant to fire and are among your explorer's best in combat; yellow Pikmin can be thrown higher than any other Pikmin and are resistant to electricity, and the amphibious blue Pikmin can travel and attack underwater.
Pikmin 3 also feature two new types of Pikmin, the little pink flying Pikmin and the heavy rock Pikmin that can break through glass and crystal barricades and obstacles. And for those wondering, while the heavy purple Pikmin and poisonous white Pikmin don't make an appearance in the game's main story, they're included in the game's addictive Mission Mode and are still summoned by throwing any colored Pikmin into rare colored flowers.
Like Pikmin 2 before it, in order to make the most of a day, players not only have to multitask using different Pikmin to perform different tasks, but it's also essential to split your group of three into smaller groups to get even more things done. For example, there will be a few times where you spend the entire day fighting a boss, and unless you're really fast, it'll be hard to bring the boss' carcass, dropped fruit, and ship part back to the ship all in the same day. Since the game saves your day's your progress, the next day you can have one of your characters go back to the site where the boss was and have Pikmin bring the loot back while the other two can be working on killing enemies and grabbing fruit elsewhere.
That's an example of spreading responsibilities out, but there are also going to be times where all three characters are required to further explore an area. Since the trio of explorers have no jumping capabilities, sometimes you'll have to throw people on top of elevated areas the way you'd throw a Pikmin up some place. And then with the press of a button, you can switch to the character that was thrown.
None of these exploration puzzles are overly complicated, but there's still a sense of pleasure in accomplishing certain tasks within the 13-minute time limit. It's not exactly the single-player cooperative play that Rockstar is boasting with Grand Theft Auto V, but it shows that it's not out of the ordinary either.
One of the things that really turned players off with the original Pikmin was the fact that on top of the 13-minute day system, they also only had 30 days in order to accomplish Captain Olimar's mission. This problem was alleviated in Pikmin 2 by doing away with the 30-day time limit and by having untimed exploration of cave levels. While there is no stopping of the clock in Pikmin 3, the game also does away with the original's 30-day limit and instead tries to motivate players to keep going quickly with its juice ration system.
In vain of fetch quest adventures like Super Mario Galaxy, the true sense of success in the game is when you collect fruit–it's basically the same thing as getting a Power Star in the 3D Super Mario games. At the end of the day, the fruit is then juiced into bottles, where a single bottle is then consumed, essentially keeping your trip alive by constantly buffering the group's food supply. Should you run of juice, you'll see the Game Over screen.
While the game is challenging at times, it certainly isn't punishing. Players have the ability to replay any day they've gone through in the game. So with that in mind, the main story's length varies. Depending on how you play, it can take anywhere from 20 or so days to actually finish the main story. Without ever going back a day, I didn't actually finish the game until Day 40, and I still left some fruit behind in certain levels.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If there's anything Pikmin 3 has that the previous two lack, it's replay value. Pikmin 2 had a taste of it with its cooperative and competitive Challenge Mode minigames, but Pikmin 3 steps it up. Included in the newly branded Mission Mode are Gather the Fruit, Battle Enemies, and Defeat Bosses. All three of these modes score the player depending on how fast and how productive they are with each 10-minute task.
The most fun of these new multiplayer modes is Bingo Battle. In Bingo Battle, a card on your screen shows various fruit spread throughout the level, and it's your job to collect a bingo line of each pictured fruit before your opponent. It's a cause for some really hectic action, and the fact that the map on the GamePad is there for everybody to see creates all sorts of havoc when playing. It's essentially "capture the flag" on crack.
In addition, whether you're a purist or not, the developers have given players the freedom to use virtually any method of Wii U control that they choose. For those used to the "New Play Control" Wii ports, players can use the Wii Remote (Plus) and Nunchuck which is probably the most accurate control method due to the motion sensitive cursor, or keep things simple by using the Classic Controller Pro U or even the GamePad. It's also worth noting that players who want to can play the game off-screen by using the (-) button on the GamePad. When using this control method, pressing down on the D-Pad activates the map.
Aside from all that, Pikmin 3 is just what fans should expect it to be, and that's a solid Pikmin adventure with new species, great levels, fun puzzles, and awesome boss fights. Plus it's in HD. That's really nothing to brag about, but Nintendo games in HD truly are a sight to behold.
Whether Miyamoto created another masterpiece is up to you. It may not be a system seller, but Pikmin 3 is a game that no Wii U owner should be without.