I have to be honest about one thing here: this is my first time playing any Pikmin game. I know I’m pretty late to the party, but I never got a chance to score a copy of the first two titles, despite the overwhelming urge to try them out. But now my chance has finally come with Pikmin 3, and I’ve got to admit that it was well worth the wait.
Developed and published by Nintendo
Available on the Wii U.
*Review copy provided by Nintendo
Pikmin 3 is very much the game you know and love, albeit carrying a number of additions and improvements. While the first two Pikmin games told the story of Olimar, the loveable spaceman from the planet Hocotate, this time around you play as Alph, from the planet Koppai. His teammates and he crash land on the mysterious planet known as PNF-404 and are separated, so it’s up to the player to become acquainted with the colorful local fauna known as Pikmin and survive long enough to reunite with his team and perhaps solve the massive food shortage back home.
This latest edition in the series plays just like you remember, with a couple of differences here and there. Using the Wii U Gamepad (or Nunchuck and Wii Remote, if you prefer), you control Alph from a third-person perspective and guide him around lush, natural environments full of danger and obstacles. Alone, you wouldn’t stand a chance, but thankfully you get the help of the titular Pikmin, small humanoid creatures with flowers on their heads. Using a whistle, Alph can gather them to his side and make them follow closely behind, and with a blow he can command them to do a number of actions, like gathering objects, fruit, and more, breaking down barriers, and attacking enemies. Certain Pikmin types can even preform special abilities, like conducting electricity through their bodies or fly. Using the Pikmin is key to getting things done.
The first order of the day was to obtain food for a hungry planet, but due to the crash you must now search for the ship’s missing Captain, a bigheaded fellow named Charlie, and the botanist Brittany, who are both alone and vulnerable. Thankfully, the Wii U gamepad serves as an overheard map that shows you the layout of the land, and also pinpoints where the ships signals are coming from, leading you in the general direction of your teammates. That’s where the Pikmin come in, as they will take on any opposition, and clear the path from any blockades.
The first Pikmen you encounter are the Red Pikmin, who are fierce fighters and are immune to fire. They aren’t immortal or innumerable, so you’ll have to take care of the ones you control and keep producing them by either feeding their ship fallen enemies or colored capsules found in the environment to produce seeds that can then be plucked to gain more of them. Soon after you’ll encounter the first of two new types of Pikmin, the rock Pikmin, who’s deadly in battle and can tear through crystal or glass. In total you’ll be able to take control an army of up to 100 Pikmin from five different types, provided you can keep them alive for that long.
There are many hazards in PNF-404 that can ravage your party of Pikmin, so you’ll have to carefully navigate the terrain if you want to get to your objective safe and sound. There are many enemies of various shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to strategize and select specific Pikmin to attack them, like reds for general monsters, rocks for armored enemies, etc. Then there are environmental hazards, like ponds or geysers of molten lava, so players have to carefully maneuver around or risk their precious supply of Pikmin. There are also boss battles, which feature even bigger foes that require multiple strategies to take down, but yield greater rewards.
And there’s also one hazard I forgot to mention: nighttime. Stages play out in days, and when commencing a stage players have only a limited amount of time to complete the objectives they wish to undergo. If time runs out and stray Pikmin are lost in the stage, they are killed by lurkers. While I know this is a key feature from previous games, I wish that the amount of time permitted to play a stage was longer, because time goes by really fast in this game. You’re doing a couple a tasks, and then suddenly you’re racing to get back to your ship. I know it’s necessary, but it’s also a bit annoying.
Then there’s food, which Alph and his team need to survive daily. After discovering that fruit from PNF-404 is a tasty and completely edible treat, Alph and Co. must gather it from the environment and carry it off to the ship for processing. Each day one container of fruit juice is consumed, so if players don’t have enough food for the next day, then it’s game over.
Once Alph reaches his partner, that’s when things get a little more complicated. Players can switch control between any of the three characters, and can divide any number of Pikmin between them to take on different challenges or work together as two separate teams. The controls to execute this flawlessly take a little bit of work, but it eventually becomes second nature, so you’ll be able to coordinate actions between two or three captains easily.
If the main campaign isn’t enough for you, the game also carries a mission mode and Bingo Mode, a multiplayer mode. You’ll mostly be doing the same things you do in the campaign, but it’s fun nevertheless to take on the challenges you want and perhaps beat up a friend or two.
While Pikmin 3 comes with a nice list of improvements, it does bring some issues as well. One is that the camera can occasionally get stuck in bad spots, so if you’re fighting a boss and you can’t see it well, then you’re probably going to lose a lot of Pikmin. Another issue is that Pikmin still have a tendency to get stuck around corners or on objects, so if you aren’t careful enough, you’ll start noticing that you have fewer allies then you started out with, which is always disappointing. And then there’s the dreaded time limit, which I cannot mention enough. I dislike it.
Despite the problems the game carries, you’ll realize that Pikmin 3 is a fine sequel and solid addition to your Wii U library. It’s got great puzzles, addicting gameplay, beautiful visuals, quirky characters and a storyline that’ll keep you coming back for more. It seems that the Pikmin are back once again, at least for a little while.