Since the announcement of the Wii U, Pikmin 3 has been one of the main topics when it comes to software – but for good reason. Back in 2001, Pikmin provided us with one of the freshest experiences seen in years from the famed publisher, delivering a large dose of strategic gameplay that was hidden by an endearing plot and lovable characters. After 12 years, one sequel, and a ton of teasing, we finally have a proper follow-up for the franchise, along with three new protagonists and a bit of a new direction so to speak. While fans are certainly already going to be drooling over this release, is Pikmin 3 the first all out blockbuster title for the Wii U, or just another safe move by Nintendo in order to make more first party fare come available? Let’s find out.
If you haven’t played either of the Pikmin releases seen back on the GameCube (or their Wii counterparts), you should know that this sequel is from a series that has never been strong on narrative. In the past, we have had Olimar racing to get off a strange planet and Louie joining in to help pay off a large debt, and while those tales were suitable – they certainly don’t come to mind when thinking about some of Nintendo’s releases that have grand storytelling. Pikmin 3 is no different in that sense, but still manages to hold its own with charm and clever dialogue sequences in order to keep the player thoroughly entertained throughout.
Pikmin 3 introduces us to three new characters that come from the planet Koppai. Back on their home planet, food sources are running low and the survival of an entire race depends on their findings and research. It wouldn’t be Pikmin without a disaster however, which means of course that landing on the Pikmin-inhabited world comes in the form of a crash with all sorts of danger running a muck on the surface. With a shortage of food and other hardships rearing their head, our new heroes must work together to overcome the odds, and with new, undiscovered species of enemy and Pikmin alike joining in, the player is sure to find this journey to be one grand adventure.
Brittany, Alph, and Charlie bring a new flavor to the franchise compared to Olimar and Louie, as this trio is far more talkative. Sure, Olimar’s own journal entries did a lot to give his character some depth, but Pikmin 3 goes the extra mile and includes that old format of recording thoughts of the lead character – while still delivering a good number of clever and genuinely humorous dialogue sequences in order to bring out the best in three all new faces. I could even go out and say that after finishing the campaign, I feel that Pikmin 3 is the strongest release this humble little franchise has seen thus far, as it has a hidden depth in underneath what seems to be a general, quirky plot – where three survivors don’t panic, yet band together to find a solution to every threat they encounter. While it isn’t a all out epic piece of storytelling, Pikmin 3 proves that Nintendo still know how to implant heart into a game without pasting the underlying message in front of our faces while we try to enjoy the experience. In my opinion, that is a special quality that many western developers need to start capitalizing on – but then again that whole argument is for another article entirely.
When I first heard Pikmin 3 was going to be arriving on the Wii U, my mind lit up with possibilities. The Gamepad controller has proven in other first-party fare that touchscreen controls can be introduced subtly and still provide a brand new experience – and while playing the Pikmin romp on Nintendo Land, we got a first taste of what could have been utilized for this release with the device. Getting the bad news out of the way first, I was a bit saddened to learn that the Gamepad is far more limited in this installment. Players can use the method of control we seen in the re-release for Pikmin 2 on the Wii, use the Wii U Pro, or settle for the Gamepad to control their squad. Even with that extra layer the screened controller brings to this installment, you won’t be touching the screen to control anything other than the “KopPad” – which is essentially an in-game device that handles all communication between squad-mates, as well as maps and statistics that display performance. Did we want something more? Sure, but these controls are still highly polished, and for a game that has been in development for years – I guess the lack of Wii U specialty features could be expected for a game that was developed during the time of the Wii.
With that out of the way, we can now talk about what is different. Pikmin 3 allows the player to control three party members at once. Yes, we did see this utilized a bit in Pikmin 2 with Olimar and Louie, but the role of alternating protagonists serves a greater purpose that makes this title very distinct from its predecessors. Aside from the glaring fact that you can now separate your team of 100 Pikmin into three individual parties for exploration purposes, the player can also take advantage of many pieces of the world in order to progress further. This means that not only is teamwork critical for getting your daily tasks finished in time – but literally mandatory if you want to get that coveted 100% completion mark.
There is no AI control over Brittany, Alph, or Charlie – only for the Pikmin themselves, who must be thrown into battle or at a target that needs to be collected. This means that multitasking will be a good part of each in-game day – where each character has their own chores to partake in. For instance, say a wall needs to be demolished- but there are two fruits in the area and pieces of a bridge can be found in a cave across the level. Since we are on a timer, this means that the best way to go about the situation would be to have Alph rally a small squad to hammer out the wall, while Brittany takes a team to finish that bridge and Charlie handles the fruit. That is just a minor example that doesn’t carry many of the elements such as enemy encounters and so on with it, but was used mainly to show how much strategy is actually needed to beat the clock. Just because there is a timer doesn’t mean you need to come out of a state of relaxation that the game’s world offers however, as if you don’t complete a task, you can always go back to a previous day or onto the next. If the player exhausts their fruit juice, well – it will be a grim end, but in true Nintendo style, that end does not come too easily as long as a little effort is applied by the player.
Since this is Pikmin 3, it would definitely be wise to talk about the Pikmin themselves. Returning to the party this time around is the rather standard yet still flame-resistant red Pikmin, the waterproof blue, and electric inducing yellow. That does mean that the white and purple species introduced in Pikmin 2 have been left out of the main campaign, but they do find suitable replacements. The rock Pikmin are the first new breed that the player will discover among the lush campaign, and as their name implies, they’re indeed able to pack a punch. These little guys (or big compared to the rest) awkwardly walk and are not built for speed, but are able to lunge their bodies at enemies for a great deal of damage and smash through both glass walls and shards of crystal. The winged Pikmin are very weak, but are able to gracefully flutter over water and other obstacles which makes them one of the preferred groups for the player to obtain. This advantage over land comes at the cost of strength, but with the right balance on a squad – having this flying breed makes life much easier for our heroes.
As with the entire game, strategy is the main focal point when choosing which creatures to come with you. The wrong Pikmin can lead the player to wasting an entire day or to massive extinction if disaster strikes, so keeping that balance and a bit of planning must be utilized in order to taste the sweet victory of fruit and the other goods that are up for grabs. Going back to controls for a moment, the methods are still the same, but some features have been removed in order to let the game’s more basic offerings shine through. No longer can the player actually control where the Pikmin go, as now everything is much more manual. As a bit of a trade-off, the player can now use a dodge whistle to have the hero and their squad quickly roll out of danger if needed – which works at its finest during the hectic boss battles found within the game. Aiming is one of the only problems I have really had on the control front to be honest. Sure, there is plenty of polish to be found, but aiming with the left stick and controlling the camera while figuring out which squad-mate goes where can be a tricky motif to master. The right stick is used, but serves as a supplement to the left stick rather than an entirely new option of control. I would imagine this was done to make all control methods fair across the board, but it actually makes the much more precise WiiMote & Nunchuck setup stand out as the most adequate scheme.
Throughout the game, players will explore, fight off enemies, and gather fruit while utilizing the abilities of their Pikmin to progress onward. The boss battles in Pikmin 3 are brilliant as they take all of the life lessons learned and apply them into one grand battle, where the player must stay on their toes while coming up with a strategic gameplan for victory. Not one boss feels like the next, as each have a unique weak point that has to be revealed with your current squad. For instance, the first boss has a hard outer layer on its body, and the player must bash and break the shell with rock Pikmin in order to start tossing those red workers to go in and do the dirty work. There is a lot of cleverness going on during these battles, and the intelligence of the player’s skills is only tested to provide great rewards after one of these large foes goes down. Boss Rush Mode acts as a brand new way to experience these epic fights, with the inclusion of co-op to get a friend in on the action.
Other co-op centric modes include exploration based romps that will have players seeking a particular treasure or going on an all out hunt for monsters. Bingo Battle is the finest of the multiplayer fare however, as much like Pikmin 2, this mode allows players to choose one of five maps and go after an opposing player, with an option to fight in a two on two format. Making these modes more special is the re-inclusion of the white and purple species, as well as some exclusive beasts and scenery that can only be found in the multiplayer. With all of the secrets, multiplayer modes, and lengthy campaign, Pikmin 3 is not a game that will be put away after a week, and that is what makes this sequel feel like the fullest experience we have seen from the franchise to date.
Visuals and Audio
Pikmin 3 is a beautiful game. Sure, it doesn’t really change a lot of scenery that we are used to with the franchise, but it improves upon every aspect with HD visuals that make these worlds pop with color and life. Everything – and I do mean everything looks better this time around – as the fauna is more detailed, the water is more realistic, and our Pikmin friends are more animated than ever before. Nintendo didn’t need to change the gameplay mechanics to cement Pikmin 3 as one of the greatest installments, but they did need to make sure it stood out visually – and that was accomplished with the large variety of dazzling characters and environments that the player is left to encounter and explore for hours on end.
The soundtrack is equally as inviting as it is in quality, with tunes that can instantly calm the nerves during the most frantic situation. It kind of ties together with what I said earlier in a way. When you are at your worst, sit tight and think of a solution – and that theme of the game has been capitalized on with the many melodies found in Pikmin 3. That doesn’t mean that there are not a fair share of beats that up in tempo during boss fights – as the game definitely can make the player doubt their own skills to set up a chaotic boss battle with its music, but it does mean that no matter which way the tide turns, you will always have some peaceful and quaint earworms to go back to if that day needs to be restarted.
When I first started playing Pikmin 3, I was blown away by the character and life found in the game, but I felt as if something was missing. That feeling continued on for around ten hours before I realized it was only being caused due to my own selfish expectations of what a new console could deliver. Pikmin 3 doesn’t try to make new fans with some kind of tacked on gimmick. It is a Pikmin game through and through, and cares to do nothing more than improve upon the attributes of its predecessors. The experience is a better one as a result, as this installment is the finest example of the concept to date, and one of the most enjoyable and strategic releases the platform has seen thus far. Nintendo have made a bold statement with Pikmin 3, proving you don’t have to make a game that follows the route of success, but instead lay the bricks of that road in order to keep the franchise fresh and entertaining. Pikmin 3 continues its franchise’s legacy well by effortlessly delivering a wonderful experience, while leaving plenty of growing room for future installments on the Wii U and beyond.
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