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Pikmin 3 [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Honestly, waiting 9 years for a sequel I just thought there would be more to Pikmin 3 in regards to new mechanics and features. Sure there are new Pikmin types and the WiiU GamePad gets it use (if you use that control scheme), but it’s still the same Pikmin game once again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as there’s nothing else out there quite like Pikmin, I just wish it felt newer since we had to wait this long. 

The Pros: 

+ Deep strategy elements when utilizing the WiiU GamePad

+ Multiple controls schemes and options to suit your preferred play method

+ Off-TV play support with WiiU GamePad

+ Challenging and rewarding boss fights

The Cons: 

- A 9 year wait and it’s still just Pikmin once again

- Only two new Pikmin types

- Short campaign with no co-op or online options Rating : 

It’s been almost a full decade since we got to play a Pikmin game last. That’s quite a long wait for loyal Nintendo fans that have been clamoring for a sequel to the popular 2004 GameCube game. It was originally teased a few years back about being released on the Wii, but with the WiiU releasing, development was pushed back to launch on the new hardware instead. Now the wait is finally over, but has the long wait finally been worth it?

Pikmin’s core is purely a strategy game and Pikmin 3 merely expands on the gameplay from the previous games in the series rather than a drastic new outing. Just like previous games, Pikmin 3 will have you learning the strengths and weaknesses of your various types of Pikmin across five different locations.  While the core mechanics stay the same, Pikmin 3 does change a few things up, as you’re no longer looking for ship parts, but fruit instead, as that’s how you’re captains will stay alive day to day; by making juice.

It seems the population of planet Koppai is facing a massive and critical food shortage, to the point of having to send probes into space to find other planets with food resources they can harvest. Things look bleak as all the probes return negative, but just as all hope is lost, one returns with coordinates to an uncharted planet, PNF-404, which is believed to have an abundance of food. Three explorers are sent to retrieve the necessary food back to the home planet, Alph the engineer, Brittany the botanist, and Charlie the captain of the ship SS Drake. As they enter PNF’404’s atmosphere, the ship has a critical failure and crashes on the surface, though not before ejecting the three explorers randomly across the planet.

Charlie wakes up alone and stumbles upon his first batch of friendly Pikmin. Alph wakes up elsewhere, discovering Red Pikmin that helps him on his mission to find the SS Drake. And Brittany finally awakes elsewhere as well defriended by the new Rock Pikmin. Once Alph and Brittany reunite, they must find Charlie and fix a piece of their ship to get back home, but the more pressing matter is that they’ll need to control the Pikmin to help them gather as much fruit as they can so they don’t starve each day they are out on missions.

I was actually talking to a friend today about Pikmin 3 and asked if he’s ever played them, which the answer was no, but he didn’t even know what the game was about. I was actually stumped for a minute, as I tried explaining that you control a horde of these little flower-like creatures, each with their own abilities, to help you meet your objectives. Needless to say, I’ll expand a bit more on that here. Just like in previous Pikmin titles, you control up to 100 plant-like creatures called Pikmin with your trusty whistle, each of which have special abilities that allow you to explore and uncover hidden secrets on the foreign planet.

While in Pikmin 2 you were only able to control two different leaders, in Pikmin 3 you’ll eventually be commanding all 3 explorers while being able to instantly switch between these groups in order to solve puzzles and accomplish your tasks much more quickly and efficiently. Just as you get a firm grasp on controlling your single explorer and how to use the Pikmin properly, you’re then given a second explorer to command simultaneously. Once you’re comfortable and getting the handle on control two squads, you’re then given the third commander and will have to seriously test your skills and multitasking abilities if you want to survive and find all the fruit. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending a commander or two with a heard of Pikmin to a set location, and other times you’ll need to actually do some thinking and solve some puzzles that will require you to actually throw the other characters to reach certain areas. Time management is key, as you’re constantly battling the clock before dusk hits, but more on that shortly.

Your Pikmin can be commanded to fight enemies, build bridges, break down barriers, and more, but learning the abilities of each type of Pikmin is how you’re going to be an efficient and quick commander. The various types of Pikmin differ in color which relates to what type and abilities they possess at your disposal. The three returning types of Pikmin are Red, whom are immune to fire, Blue which can enter water without drowning, and Yellow, who can conduct electricity. Pikmin 3 introduces two new Pikmin variants though, both of which you’ll need to learn quite quickly if you want to be successful in foraging the coveted fruit. Black Pikmin are of the rock type and are used to smash through barriers, ice, and glass. Pink Pikmin are the new winged flying type that can attack airborne enemies and carry things back to your ship much quicker than others. Rock Pikmin look very unique and like jagged pebbles rather than your typical plant-like Pikmin (though they still have the flower stem on their head) and are great for fighting against enemies as they can do massive damage if thrown correctly. The Pink Pikmin are notably smaller and can fly over many hazards, but are very weak in comparison.

While you may notice some features from Pikmin 2 missing, you are given a new set of skills to help you in battle against the enemies. You’re able to lock on to an enemy and instantly send on your whole Pikmin army at them with a rush command if you need something killed quickly. You’re also able to now (eventually, once you learn it) dodge which becomes a necessity in the later boss fights. While it never feels like you’re in complete control of your Pikmin army, it does feel like you are commanding them appropriately.

Just like previous games, Pikmin 3 also has a time limit, though this can be extended based on how much fruit you gather, which is converted into juice reserves. Each day you play will consume a bottle of juice, so if you search and gather a mass amount of fruit early on, it won’t be so much of a worry later on when you are down to just a few bottles left. Early on you’ll worry about having enough juice to continue playing, but as you collect massive fruit, you’ll build up enough of a stash to not have to worry about it again. If you manage to mess up badly somewhere and don’t collect fruit for a number of days, you can restart the game from any previous day and try once again. Each of the in-game days you play last about ten to fifteen minutes each and end when nightfall is about to happen, as it’s dangerous to be on the surface when dusk comes. Any Pikmin not near the home base or in your squad when time runs out, and you’ll have to suffer, watching them being left behind as you take off from the surface, knowing you won’t see them again.

Pikmin 3 surprisingly gives you a number of different control schemes, based on what you own and prefer to play with. The default WiiU GamePad only, WiiU Pro Controller, or the Wii Remote and Nunchuck (with or without WiiU GamePad). Regardless of what control scheme you prefer, the GamePad will show an overhead view of the map with a lot of information and can also be used to command your leaders (more on that shortly), though the GamePad can also be used to Off-TV play, in which case you’ll see the main game screen instead without a map. I played the first half with the game solely with the GamePad as a controller to see how it hold up, and which it works, it’s nowhere near as efficient as its counterparts.

I decided to try playing with a Wii Remote and Nunchuck and was surprised at the difference in gameplay. Not only was using the Wii Remote far more accurate (as you’re pointing where you want to throw Pikmin), but everything in general was much easier and quicker to do. If you have this option I highly recommended it, as playing with only the GamePad feels very sluggish and not as accurate in comparison. Once you learn that the GamePad touch screen can also be used to command your explorers, a whole new layer of strategy emerges. Not only is the touch screen showing you an overhead view of the map, but you can select a point and tell your current explorer to  “Go Here”, which they will do on their own. In the later levels when you need to simultaneously perform tasks, this will make things incredibly easier and save you much more valuable time you can then use to search for more fruit and Pikmin.

If you have a friend to play with on the same TV, there are some interesting multiplayer options included in Pikmin 3 that I suggest you try out. Mission Mode contains 3 separate modes within that are very self-explanatory and make for some fun cooperative play: Collect The Fruit, Battle Enemies, and Defeat Bosses.

The real fun of multiplayer though is a mode called Bingo Battle, where each player starts with just a few Pikmin and have to earn a ‘bingo’ by collecting the appropriate items on their 4x4 card of items to collect. Once you get four items in a row collected that match your bingo card, you win. You might need to collect fruit, defeat certain enemies, or even collect items, but half of the game isn’t just collecting, but also preventing your opponent from getting the items they need as well. It’s hectic and chaotic, but incredibly fun if you play with someone with similar skill, though the game is very unbalanced if one player uses the GamePad to play and the other doesn’t, as the touch screen shows the locations of all the items on the map, so that player can see exactly where everything is. I truly wish this mode was available to play online, as it would have been a real reason to continue playing once you’re done the campaign.

The highlight of Pikmin 3 for me was hands down the engaging and challenging boss fights. The massive bosses not only will challenge everything you’ve learned up to that point but will seriously test your skills as a commander of a Pikmin army. You’ll need to know when to attack, retreat, dodge, and regroup, and the final boss will surely test all the skills you’ve acquired and hopefully mastered throughout the game. These battles are also how I learned about how hit or miss the lock-on system can be. You would assume that the spot you’re locked onto is where your explorer would throw your Pikmin, but sometimes he either missed or throw him in front of the enemy instead of on top of the locked on area. The problem with this is that the Pikmin aren’t always bright and if you don’t throw them precisely where you want them, they will most of the time just stand where they land, waiting to get stepped on or eaten rather than running or attacking.

At first I thought the GamePad mechanic was going to be a gimmick since it was essentially just an overhead map, but once you learn how to properly use it to give orders to your commanders, it becomes essential. In the latter half of the game, you’ll need to multitask as much as possible, and without the GamePad it would be a chore to have to pause the game, open the map, and issue the order, so I can see where its merit comes into play once you’re controlling three explorers. I still highly suggest using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck as your primary controls, leaving the GamePad on your lap or nearby so you can glance at the map at will. The option to play Off-TV though is a very welcome addition and you can instantly switch between GamePad and TV (and even controls) without any waiting or hiccups at all.

Pikmin will grow on you, as you’ll feel terrible for sending them to their death as they let out little squeals when they perish. Sure they’re meant to be disposable, but I still felt guilty when I knew I was literally throwing them into battle, knowing most wouldn’t survive. Even worse is watching the left behind Pikmin at the end of the day before you leave at sunset, as you have to watch them be devoured by the nocturnal hunters as you look out the window and say goodbye.

With a campaign that lasts around 10 hours, there is a good amount of replayability, as you can always strive to find all the fruit and hidden items. Bingo Battle will surely have you coming back for more multiplayer action, provided you have someone to play with on the same couch. I did enjoy my time with Pikmin 3 on the planet PNF-404, I just wish that after an almost decade wait that there would have been many new mechanics and features. That being said, Pikmin 3 has a solid base and there’s nothing else out there quite like it. If you’re a WiiU owner looking for a new game to add to your library, Pikmin 3 should be one of them. Let’s just hope it won’t be another 9 years before we get to play with some Pikmin once again. 

A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher

Pikmin 3
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo / Monolith Soft
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: August 4th, 2013
Price: $59.99