Pikmin is a Nintendo franchise that has a loyal following. The last Pikmin game was released on the GameCube in 2004 and for fans it’s been a long wait for the next game. It was not until E3 2011 that fans were informed that Pikmin 3 was in development for the Wii U, and since that time the wait has seemed like an eternity for those diehard Pikmin fans. Well the wait is almost over, as Pikmin 3 is about to hit store shelves, and we had an opportunity to play the retail version. So what did we think?
Pikmin 3 wastes no time as it begins with a crash landing. Brittany, Alph and Captain Charlie are immediately separated and lost on a foreign planet. A tutorial helps you learn to guide your Pikmin commanding hands during the first half hour as you learn the ropes. After a very brief segment of gameplay with Captain Charlie, Alph takes the reins and proceeds to explore this mysterious planet in hopes of finding his lost companions. The gameplay from this point on revolves around exploration and fruit acquisition. During Pikmin 3 you’ll find yourself commanding five different types of Pikmin – peculiar little creatures- each with their own unique abilities and attributes.
The Pikmin series has always at its core been about strategy. Much like the previous Pikmin installments you quickly discover the strengths and weaknesses of each type of Pikmin. Red Pikmin are fierce fighters and immune to fire but they immediately drown when they come into contact with water. Rock Pikmin can be launched at either enemies or objects for massive damage, but they are slow. Flying Pikmin are terrible fighters, but they can discover areas that others cannot. Finally, white Pikmin are agile and are able to shuttle fruit and bits and bobs back to your spaceship twice as fast. When using all these Pikmin to further explore the planet, one can’t help but grow attached to all these little guys.
This bond, along with the adventure, is what Pikmin 3 is all about. The game isn’t a flat strategy game with nothing else going for it though. Nintendo’s goal this time around is to make something more than a strategy game. Pikmin 3 is a game that has so many nooks and crannies to explore, and for the first time in the medium’s history, it is rendered in a brilliant high definition aesthetic that is absolutely wonderful to look at. The sound design is great too, with elegant tunes that are thematic and pleasing on the ears always floating around in the background during every moment of the game. You’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised with how good this game looks, a testament to the hidden power of the Wii U.
The more I played, the more I fell into an addictive and pleasurable groove. During the in-game morning I would land on the planet, scout about and make goals for the following day, all while collecting little goodies to keep my crew and I (virtually speaking) alive. All of this had to be done before the in-game nighttime rolled around. If you forget any of your Pikmin they will not make it through the night. It adds a sense of attachment to those you must manage and care for. The controls feel natural on the GamePad, and having the map available at a moment’s notice on the GamePad is great. It’s also nice to have the option to play the game entirely on the GamePad screen, and I should add that Pikmin 3 functions wonderfully in this format too. You can also use the Wii U’s Pro Controller should you desire.
There are only four main zones to land in. Though this sounds small each zone has been designed with so much available to explore that each zone continues to offer up fresh scenarios over the course of the 15-hour game. Revisiting areas as you acquire new Pikmin types yields new routes and areas, all with their own increasingly challenging obstacles. Each area has unique characteristics, letting you use your new Pikmin to discover all kinds of intimidating bosses, unique fruits and beautiful vistas.
As mentioned earlier, at the end of each virtual day it is vital to make sure you have stowed away your colony of Pikmin. A full Pikmin 3 day lasts 15 realtime minutes, and you need to use this time wisely, because as each day passes your crew will drink a bottle of juice at the end of the day. The more fruit you have stocked up to turn into juice the better, just in case you have trouble finding some when exploring the unknown. This time based system helps to give the game a sense of pacing and excitement.
As fantastic as the story mode is, the game does offer multiplayer madness with a versus mode and a mode called Bingo Battle, both playable in split screen. In regards to the versus mode, basic scenarios exist that involve either fighting or gathering. These require you to gather or kill a set amount or number in order to achieve bronze, silver or gold medals for each mission. The new Bingo Battle is much more creative, and is an awesome two-player addition. One player must use the Wii Remote while the other takes over the GamePad while they try to complete unique bingo cards of fruit and enemies that need to be collected. Power-ups are also available and these can add a bit of chaos in the mix. Both modes are a fun option for sure, and a nice addition, though I wouldn’t call them a selling point of the game, as the single player story mode is what Pikmin 3 is all about.
Nintendo has the amazing ability to craft a game that is equally entertaining for both children and adults alike. Pikmin 3 takes the elements that made first two games so much fun and adds to it. It does exactly what a sequel should do as it retains the roots of an already great game while expanding out into new exciting territory that still feels natural. At the end of the day Pikmin 3 is a rich and exciting experience that deserves to be added to any Wii U owner’s library.