Pikmin 3 (Wii U) Review
Shigeru Miyamoto is most probably best known for creating franchises in the likes of Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda. But there’s another franchise that’s often left out of the conversation which deserves as much respect and devotion as the others. That is, of course, the Pikmin franchise. So now, nearly ten years later, can Pikmin rejoin the conversation with an instalment on a console that’s being left out of the conversation? Has the long development time paid off, or has Nintendo still got something to prove on the Wii U? Let’s find out.
Pikmin 3 tells the story of a trio of intrepid explorers from the planet Koppai. Our explorers – Charlie, Alph and Brittany’s planet is running out of food and they’ve looked all over the galaxy in search of nourishment. Luckily they found one with a ton of it. It’s never that simple though, as the trio crash on the planet and is separated. As such, you’ll spend the first portion of the game getting your crew back together and soon after that, the team realize they can’t carry all of this fruit back to the ship and enlist the help of the friendly Pikmin to help them get them home.
The core Pikmin gameplay you know from originals is back again and spread over three different modes. The main story mode has the bulk of the game’s content and is for solo players only. The story will see you explore the Pikmin planet over several different regions. There’s only a handful of regions to explore but each region is like an onion, as you collect a new Pikmin type more and more layers of the level will open up and you’ll have more fruit to collect to keep the team along. The level design here from Nintendo is top-notch.
Each of the Pikmin available has its own strengths and weaknesses. Red Pikmin is the fighters, they can take on fire and even a beating. They’re easily the most versatile of the bunch. Yellow Pikmin are lighter, so they can be thrown further as well as conduct electricity. Blue Pikmin are the water babies and can swim (unlike the other Pikmin). The newest Pikmin types are Rock and Flying. The Flying Pikmin are great for lifting fruit and other objects for convenient transport, while the Rock Pikmin are heavy enough to smash crystal-based obstacles and dole out heavy damage to enemies.
As the game progresses, you’ll need to strategically split up your team and your Pikmin to get the most out of each of your Pikmin. Some of them will be completely useless in some situations, so you’ll want to keep them working on another task as time is quite limited. Pikmin isn’t just used for battling either, you’ll be able to use them to retrieve fruit, build bridges and carry other resources around levels.
There’s no thirty-day limit here anymore, which will please some fans but no doubt annoy some others. The tension that the thirty-day limit created was great but also quite limited for some people. Each day still lasts only fifteen minutes, so you’ll want to be as efficient with your time as possible. Inefficiency, after all, leads to no juice, which leads to game over. To be fair, the game is quite balanced and isn’t quite as unforgiving as it sounds.
The game is played using a large variety of controller configurations. You can play with the GamePad and the TV, just on the GamePad without the TV or with the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk (with the GamePad acting as a sort of second, optional screen). While on paper, it sounds like the GamePad may just be a superficial map – it’s much more than that. Splitting up squads and directing them to different areas is done with the GamePad and is almost entirely necessary to get the most out of each day. It provides a greater level of multi-tasking that isn’t available with the other control schemes, and most won’t realise just how much easier it is with the GamePad until they don’t use it.
The majority of the game, I played with the GamePad both with the TV and without. At times it felt this configuration was definitely a step back from the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination. The pointer controls for the Wii Remote are simply way more precise than that of the GamePad’s analogue stick controls. The only thing players really lose with a Wii Remote is a precise camera control. Instead, one button snaps the camera behind the player rather than the free movement a second analogue stick would provide.
Pikmin 3 also has quite a few great boss battles too – each of which will test your Pikmin planning skills and you’ll lose many Pikmin unless you bring the right troops to the battle. The boss battles were much more challenging on the GamePad when compared to the Wii Remote, however. This really raises questions for me about the GamePad in Pikmin 3 – it’s not really needed to play the game to completion and isn’t really as good as playing on a Wii Remote, but the multitasking abilities that are lost without it are noticeable too. It’s a strange dichotomy.
The story mode itself isn’t the longest – the game can be completed in about ten hours if you really rushed it. Taking your time, collecting everything and such will easily take players many more hours than this though. Luckily, Nintendo has added more than just the story to the game with a few more different modes. Mission Mode will see you play against the clock with a friend, or just by yourself to collect items which have point values in order to accrue the highest score. This was incredibly fun with a friend, as you’ll constantly yell at each other to work out the best strategy to get the highest score. You can check out online leaderboards for both single-player and co-operative play, but unfortunately, there’s no online play.
The only competitive mode is the new Bingo Battle mode. Each player has a team of Pikmin, and a bingo card of items to collect, enemies to destroy or fruit to retrieve. Essentially, you’ll have to race against a friend to get a line on your bingo card. The game is really fun with a friend, especially if both players know exactly what they’re doing. But, unfortunately, this means the game is once again only playable offline and there is no online functionality.
Pikmin 3 is the first game from Nintendo that’s really looked like a high definition game. Sure, NintendoLand and New Super Mario Bros. U looked fine, but they weren’t really pushing the system at all and both were quite stylised. Pikmin 3 does a great job at taking something from the real world, your garden and putting it in the game. There will be certain times where you’ll use the in-game camera to take a screenshot, which can then be uploaded to the Miiverse if you like as well. There are some low-resolution textures here and there, but nothing screams too ugly.
The soundtrack that accompanies the games is good enough to put you to sleep – but I don’t mean that as a pejorative by any means. Instead, it’s a very soothing and relaxing score. There are a couple of tracks that annoyed me, including the report screen that players at the end of the day, but overall the composers have done a great job.
Pikmin 3 really took forever and a day to get here, but it’s one of the first games from Nintendo that feels like it was properly made for the system – although it’s evident that, at the same time, it isn’t. Playing with just the GamePad isn’t the ideal way to play – but having the added benefits, when combined with the Wii Remote pointer controls, feels a lot more complete. The game looks beautiful in high definition too, but with the graphical niggles that remind us that this game didn’t start off development on the Wii U. These things are incredibly minor though, and the overall Pikmin 3 experience is still fun and can’t be disputed.
Just don’t leave the Pikmin out in the wilderness to die at the end of the day, their cries are nothing short of heartbreaking.