Nintendo’s action/strategy hybrid franchise is as charming as ever.
You’ll hear this at one point in every Pikmin 3 review, so I’ll just get it out of the way first. There’s still nothing quite like Pikmin. Nintendo’s long-running action/strategy hybrid is still one of the most unique games around. Moreover, it’s full of charm, extremely intense, and a whole lot of fun. Pikmin 3 is one of the most creative games I’ve played in a while and one of the best titles on Wii U, even if it doesn’t reinvent the Pikmin wheel.
Our story begins with three young space travelers – Alph, Brittany, and Charlie – who need to find some sort of food supply for their starving planet Koppai. They end up landing on a strange Earth-like planet, and with the help of the native plant-like creatures known as Pikmin, they set off to find as much food as they can. The story is very basic, with some twists and turns here and there, but it does the job, even if it’s not as exciting as one would hope.
Playing Pikmin 3 is much the same as any other Pikmin game. Players control the three heroes and a band of 100 Pikmin in search for fruit and items to aid you on your quest. Along the way you’ll encounter new types of Pikmin, each with different abilities. For example, Red Pikmin are resistant to fire, while Yellow Pikmin can conduct electricity. Deciding which Pikmin to use is as important as the Pikmin themselves; for example, throwing Yellow Pikmin at a fire-based enemy will defeat the Pikmin rather than the enemy.
Pikmin serve much more than just weapons of destruction though. Like little ants, they also play a role in transporting items back to your ship. Fruit, ship upgrades, and bugs are littered across each map, many of which can be very helpful on your quest (dead bugs, for example, eventually spawn new Pikmin). Other puzzles include collecting stone slates to create a bridge or transporting bomb rocks to destroy a wall.
All of that may sound simple enough, but it’s how Pikmin 3 combines elements together that makes it so engaging. As you may expect, using 100 Pikmin in battle can be somewhat chaotic, and trying to control them and avoiding hazards at the same time can be a challenge. Ironically, it’s this chaos that gives this game life; ordering your Pikmin is like ordering an army – you expect casualties, but it’s so satisfying to see your Pikmin triumph over the greatest of enemies. The feeling of empowerment once you overcome a large obstacle is what keeps you on your toes, excited to see who else dares to step in the way of your goal.
Progression in Pikmin 3 works on a day system. Each day starts off with you and your ship, as well as your “onion” which stores all your Pikmin. Your job is to do as much as you can before sunset, anything from collecting fruit and exploring new territory to finding shortcuts and solving puzzles. But before the sun sets, you need to make sure all of your Pikmin are somewhere safe – that is, either currently in your party, or near the onion. Otherwise, night will come, and you will see your little Pikmin eaten alive by the creatures of the dark.
Of course, losing Pikmin is quite painful, as you’d expect. This is especially true when you encounter a boss enemy, which usually has some sort of sweeping attack that is capable of wiping out half your Pikmin in one swoop. Hearing their pleas for help and being unable to do anything about it is pretty upsetting, and at times you’ll feel compelled to press the restart button just to correct your wrongs. Thankfully, the game doesn’t punish you for retrying days, and you can even return to a previous day to better prepare yourself for upcoming boss battles.
The boss battles are intense, to say the least. Because most of them are quite large, fighting them requires more than just flinging your Pikmin at them as quickly as you can. Each boss has some sort of weakness, and it may take a few tries until you finally come up with a strategy. Sometimes, these battles can span multiple days, but luckily bosses will retain the amount of damage you gave to them to the next day. That’s one of the great things I like about Pikmin; there really isn’t much of a rush to complete everything as quickly as you can. Once you want to stop, you can end the day and come back doing what you were doing later. It adds an extra layer of complexity that you wouldn’t expect from a simple design mechanic.
Of course, one wouldn’t want to waste too much time loitering around and doing nothing. Pikmin 3 features a brand new “multitasking” mechanic that allows players to split their party into three different groups, each led by one of our three brave heroes. Using the Wii U GamePad, players can then direct each group to a desired destination while the other teams work on something else. It’s a surprisingly useful feature that ends up being a life-saver on many occasions, especially when you’re trying to round up your last few scattered Pikmin at the end of the day. Though it certainly isn’t revolutionary, Pikmin 3 does show how the GamePad can greatly enhance the gameplay experience.
Naturally, one would ask with a game like Pikmin 3 which control scheme works best, and I must say both the GamePad and the Wiimote/Nunchuck work well. While I far prefer the Wiimote for accuracy, traditionalists may find the GamePad more convenient. No matter which way you decide to play though, utilizing the GamePad in some form is advantageous, so be sure to always keep it near you.
Visually, Pikmin 3 looks great. Some textures may look a bit blurry when zoomed-in, but overall the environments are quite pretty and the Pikmin look fine. The music is also very good, but hardly memorable, say for one or two specific tunes. Still, some added details like hearing the Pikmin singing the game’s theme reminds me that like many Nintendo games, Pikmin 3 features the same magic touch that we’ve come to know and love from the company.
In total, the game took me about 12 hours to complete with about two-thirds of the fruit found. Of course, Pikmin 3 also has a few other modes that you can mess around with, including a mission mode and a new multiplayer mode called “Bingo Battle.” Mission Mode is basically an extension of the main Story Mode, but with the goal of bringing back as much fruit as possible by the end of the day. Bingo Battle is the game’s main multiplayer mode where two competing players try to collect as many items on their own randomized bingo cards until they get four-in-a-row. Both modes are a lot of fun, and should provide for several more hours of entertainment. However, it’s still admittedly a bit on the short side.
As an overall package, Pikmin 3 is hardly revolutionary. It won’t blow minds and it likely won’t surprise anyone. But it is a very good, intelligent, and charming game in its own right. At times it can feel intense and chaotic, but in the end it is almost always satisfying. Pikmin 3 is one of the best titles on the Wii U right now and yet another success for Miyamoto and his team.