Pikmin is probably one of the most unique, and polarizing franchises in the Nintendo stable. Very few games crafted by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto find themselves in a position like this. I have never been a huge fan of the series, even though every time I sit down to review one, I find its charm and design overwhelmingly enjoyable. It is the type of franchise that never calls to me, making me feel like I needed more of it. Pikmin 3 does little to change that idea, but that doesn’t stop it from being massively entertaining.
Pikmin 3 feels lost at first: A game that wasn’t supposed to be designed for one console in mind, but instead honed over the course of several. The Wii U gamepad leaves much to be desired in terms of control, while the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo delivers the experience the way it was intended. This doesn’t help images of a Nintendo that can’t seem to figure out exactly what the Wii U is supposed to be, and also is a bummer for anyone who has parted ways with that particular control scheme.
There are three total ways to play Pikmin 3. As I mentioned the gamepad and Wii Remote combo are available, as is the Pro Controller. The gamepad and Pro Controller both suffer from the same issue, accuracy. Anyone who has played Pikmin knows that the core mechanic is tossing these lovely plant creatures at objects/enemies to get them to work. With the dual analog approach that becomes cumbersome, mainly because I had to stop moving to move the cursor forward and backward. With the Wii Remote I could simply point and toss, however camera control then became problematic.
What this boils down to is that no one control scheme is perfect. Each one comes with its own issues, which is a shame. Again this goes back to this feeling like a game lost between generations, with no clear indication if it was a late Wii game, or a rushed Wii U title.
I had to take a step back when I realized that Pikmin 2 came out nearly a decade ago. It has been that long since this franchise made an appearance, and thus the story was almost null and void in my brain. Thankfully, none of that matters. This is a new crew, and a new story, so knowledge of the previous games isn’t required. This time players embark on a journey with three Koppites (which are even a different species from the loveable Captain Olimar) as they explore the galaxy in search of food. Captain Charlie, Engineer Alph and Botanist Brittany they travel to a mysterious blue planet named PNF-404, 279,000 light years from home.
There are some unique twists and turns, and of course nods to the original game for those that have fond memories, but jumping in fresh is entirely possible. The core mechanics also remain the same. Pikmin is a pseudo-strategy title that involves managing these adorable creatures to perform regular tasks. Stepping back it feels like the Koppites are simply lazy, but it makes for a unique game mechanic.
The day cycle returns, but without the fear of running out of time like the original game. Players have the ability to go back to any previous area so long as they have enough food. Days are broken down into 15 or so minute intervals, giving players a chance to get everything done. Having three different characters doesn’t change things up much either. There are some puzzles that require splitting up Pikmin herds, but otherwise things keep pretty consistent to past entries. Levels are short enough that I was constantly feeling that “just one more” attitude while playing, again feeling that genius design philosophy that only Miyamoto can deliver.
Pikmin are once again separated by type. This time around there are two new types that change up the dynamic. Rock Pikmin are great for destroying objects such as glass, as well as laying a hefty beating on enemies. Winged Pikmin are precisely what they sound like. They give players the ability to traverse areas otherwise unreachable, or even aid in letting Alph, Charlie and Brittany bring specific Pikmin into other areas.
Story mode is the core experience, but Pikmin 3 does offer up some diversions. Mission mode consists of the fundamentals of the game including collecting treasure and defeating enemies or bosses. The second addition is Bingo Battle, and this is amazing. Bingo Battle is a two-player (local only) mode where players can face off doing normal Pikmin chores, all while filling up a Bingo board. I had a blast when playing this mode, but sadly it cannot be enjoyed alone against the computer.
Seeing Pikmin 3 come to life on Wii U was probably the best reason it waited until this console. The HD visuals really help define the world of PNF-404. The subtle touches such as water effects, and colorful locales really bring the Pikmin world to life. Seeing this Nintendo franchise finally in HD has been the one true blessing of the Wii U so far.
Pikmin 3 is a fantastic game that oozes with charm. The levels are short enough that they scream “just one more day”. It also helps that game play is so tight, and the design feels so good. While it may not be my most anticipated franchise from the Nintendo stables, I cannot help but fall in love with the quirky Koppites and their quest for food. Pikmin 3 is one of the best reasons to own a Wii U so far.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.