The Pikmin series has always struck me as a great basic concept (little ant-guys having adventures in giant alien gardens) in search of the proper framework. The first Pikmin dropped the adorable little veggie-men into a surprisingly harsh, stressful strategy game. The second game dumped most of the strategy, transforming the series into an aimless dungeon crawler of sorts. Point is, I’ve always really liked the Pikmin themselves, but I’ve never been crazy about the games they appeared in.
Until now that is.
Pikmin 3 finally finds the right framework and is a game worth checking out even if, like me, you’ve been turned-off by the series in the past…
On the surface Pikmin 3 may seem like it’s mostly a return to the style of the original Pikmin. The large open maps and randomly generated caves of Pikmin 2 are entirely absent and the purple and white Pikmin have been quarantined to the game’s challenge mode. Daily time limits are back in force.
That said, once you dig in, you’ll find a game that has more Pikmin 2 in it than you might think. This is a far more laid back game than the original Pikmin. The 30-day time limit of that game is gone, replaced instead with a need to collect fruit to keep your alien explorers fed. Fruit usually isn’t terribly hard to locate, and beyond that it’s actually rewarding to find and collect. Collecting fruit is just far more satisfying than toiling to beat an oppressive, ever-present time limit.
Notice the little blue Pikmin pathetically crying out from inside his mouth. The game’s not that laid back.
Obsessive planning and Pikmin management is also much less of an issue in Pikmin 3. The first game required exacting planning — how many of each kind of Pikmin you sprouted and the number you took on each expedition had to be managed down to the individual carrot-man. Not so in Pikmin 3 — this latest game is more about exploration. Each of its areas almost feels like a miniature Zelda dungeon, full of twists and turns, locked doors and shortcuts.
The message of the first Pikmin was essentially “plan ahead or we’re going to KILL YOU DEAD.”
The message of the second Pikmin was “sure, wander as far as you want, but if you go too far IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT.”
The message of the third Pikmin is a much more friendly, “eh, f–k it, just have fun.” And so I am!
Aside from the better-tuned gameplay, Pikmin 3 has received a personality infusion. The dull Olimar has been replaced with a trio of new explorers with some actual character. Hell, these may be the best characters Nintendo has created in, I don’t know — decades? You’ll have a hard time not immediately finding yourself attached to the academic, yet softhearted Brittany, or the wide-eyed, fish-out-of-water hero Alph.
The game’s graphics are, for the most part, top-notch. Granted the game does occasionally look like and up-rezed Wii game, but most of the time it looks beautiful and really gets your mouth watering for future Nintendo games, now that they seem to have a handle on HD technology.
They’ve certainly got fruit skin textures down to a science.
Pikmin 3 isn’t perfect — the game’s single player mode feels kind of small scale. More a gentle reintroduction to the series than a triumphant return. Some may chafe at having to pull out their old Wiimotes in order to utilize the game’s optimal control scheme. Also, the game’s GamePad map system can be temperamental and hard to handle at times. Ultimately though, these complaints don’t detract from the overall experience in any major way.
The Pikmin have been clamouring, searching, digging for that game that’s perfect for them for over a decade now, and I think they may have finally found it. At long last, the Pikmin are at peace and you will be too as you play through the relaxing, finely crafted, cute-as-s–t Pikmin 3.