- Street Date:
- August 4th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- October 24th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
This game features multiple control schemes. The reviewer used the Nunchuck + Wii Remote combination, which additionally allows for use of the Wii U Gamepad's touch screen as an interactive map. While he considers this scheme the optimal setup, the GamePad, which forgoes the Wii Remote's pointer for less-accurate joystick aiming, allows for immediate access to the map and off-TV play.
Nintendo all-star designer Shigeru Miyamoto brings his 'Pikmin' series into the HD era with this third installment, enabling the truest fruition of his original gardening-inspired vision. In what is essentially a real-time strategy title, players control three tiny space adventurers as they search a newfound planet for food sources in order to sustain their deteriorating homeworld.
Along with them are the native Pikmin army – even tinier helpers who come together like a pack of ants to fell larger foes, build bridges, tear down walls and even carry fruit back to your ship. Few games really attempt to capture nature in such a way as 'Pikmin,' and none do it with Miyamoto as its director. 'Pikmin 3' may very well be the first must-have title on Wii U.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
It's been an odd journey for latest entry in the 'Pikmin' series. After numerous delays and a mid-production jump from the Wii to the Wii U, 'Pikmin 3' not only represents a massive visual upgrade, but a true evolution to a formula unmatched in both its conception and execution throughout the industry. There are nearly no games to compare the series to, (the 'Overlord' series being an exception) except of course within itself.
The basic setup is this: as a commander of up to 100 tiny Pikmin, whom you can toss into peril or direct to perform tasks, you must collect a set of objects while opening up new paths in a set number of expansive, environmentally unique areas. The first 'Pikmin' followed Captain Olimar as he collected the pieces of his crashed ship. With only 30 days total, and short per day time periods during which the player must complete his or her tasks before the night forces a retreat to Olimar's ship, condemning stray pikmin to the mercy of nocturnal beasts.
It's worth mentioning that the series has always maintained a wrenching juxtaposition of kid-friendly adorableness and intrigue with almost philosophical renderings of sacrifice, mortality and the price of loyalty. Many of the pikmin you toss into battle will not come back, wisps of their spirit visually risen from their body upon death, a whimper to signify their demise. When it happens, players with even a modicum of empathy will feel the loss, at least before prolonged battle numbs the sensation. It's one of those many small touches that separates 'Pikmin' from the pack, reminding us that Nintendo and Disney often belong in the same sentence together. Another is the overarching win condition separate from simply completing the narrative.
And at the end of that 30 days in the first 'Pikmin,' failing to collect all ship parts meant total failure, the harshest of video game penalties. 'Pikmin 2' eliminated that endgame altogether, allowing for a more open-ended experience alongside a heavier narrative stream, but tampering with the sense of urgency meant to compel players onward. In comparison, the design of 'Pikmin 3' reflects a refinement on the design aspects of both preceding titles with a compromise between the two prior endgame mechanics.
Individual days, as always, force the player to condense potential tasks into a 15 minute plan. But survival and the continuation of the story depends on more than getting back to your ship each night. Fruit collected outside is processed into vials of juice, one of which the captains consume together every single night. Run out of juice and your game is up. Failure again, only this time players can extend the clock through diligence and efficiency. Build up enough of a fruit buffer and the tension dissipates, allowing the player to concentrate on completing the story and building up the pikmin army. Veteran players will find themselves well-stocked within just a few days, yet always the looming threat of failure maintains a certain strong motivation.
And so detractors of the first game's harsh penalties are appeased while those encouraged by the restriction will find themselves satisfied as well. To be sure, the 'Pikmin 3' campaign isn't nearly as challenging as either of the previous titles, save a specialized final area, which is a bit disappointing. But additions and refinements to the day-to-day tasking and battling make this title the most enjoyable.
First and most importantly, we have two new pikmin types. In addition to the fireproof reds, swimmer blues and electro yellows, rock pikmin and winged pikmin make their highly affecting debut. Unlike the whites and purples from 'Pikmin 2,' which are absent in the new campaign and served mostly perfunctory purposes, rock and winged pikmin are as integral to area progression as they are to battling and collecting.
Winged pikmin, in addition to upping the cute factor with their pink hue and bulbous blue eyes, can fly. Duh. Though weaker than other types, winged pikmin transport items at much less peril than others, avoiding ground enemies and hazards, and lift specialized gates accessible only from the air.
Rock pikmin, on the other hand, are basically pebbles with legs. Chuck them at crystalline structures to open up pathways, unlock trapped fruits and generally satisfy every destructive urge one might have. You can imagine how effective they are in battle as well, though their damaging impact is offset by the fact that they can't clutch onto enemies and continue hurting them. Calling them back into the pack and chucking them over and over again, while slightly tedious, is by far the superior strategy.
Almost as recognizable to the series as the pikmin themselves are the strange, sometimes grotesque, always fascinating bad guys. Alongside the classic bulborbs and blowhogs are new predators meant to counter new and old pikmin types. Choosing the right pikmin for the right job is at the core of the experience, like tossing a red onto a fiery slug or a rock pikmin to finish off something bigger and more terrifying. Then there is a major highlight in the form of six new bosses. These massive creatures often call for specific strategies while also courting chaos to exciting effect. After the first few, the anticipation for the next one grows quite large.
And in the end that's what 'Pikmin 3' is all about. Anticipation, followed by a desire to find the superior strategy. With three captains at your disposal instead of the two from 'Pikmin 2' and the lonely Olimar from the original game, players can reach a new level of efficiency, especially in conjunction with GamePad's always available map. Being able to set waypoints for individual captains and armies and step away, as they independently execute their travel orders, means getting more done in less time, should the player so desire.
With the less restrictive failure condition in place, players can effectively go at their own pace. And allowing the player to control the tempo is a blessing considering that each level is and expertly designed puzzle. Before long, jumping back and forth from day to day as uncovering new pikmin, fruit and more of what happened to a certain lost captain becomes central motivation. In fact, the intricacies and pure density of levels, coupled with the visual feast of it all, is as much responsible for the unadulterated success of 'Pikmin 3' as the simple pleasure of tossing the poor creatures into the fray.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Pikmin 3' is a storybook. It's a still life of perpetual movement. Every little detail, from the way brush wavers upon contact or rippling water drags behind your captain, builds a world only an artist could craft. For a company just now venturing into HD, Nintendo sure does know how to utilize it. Each of the game's five areas represents its own visual theme, whether it be the browns and oranges of autumn or the whites and grays of winter. Delve into a cave and the flicker of fire against the walls will immediately shift the atmosphere from explorative to creepy and mysterious. Simply put, no game can match how 'Pikmen 3' visually represents both the majesty and horror of nature so well.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
With every beautifully rendered creature comes a matching array of vocal affects. Pikmin yelp as they are thrown, cry as they're killed and hum as they follow you along the path. Enemies bellow a battle cry or lazily snore in their sleep. The three captains trade foreign blurbs with each other in a very Nintendo fashion. Much like the visual design, the audio is crafted with such fine detail as to immerse you in the very surface dirt of this natural little world. At the same time, the soundtrack excels with notes and movements that reflect both the inherent mystery and childlike glee of exploration.
Once you've finished the campaign there's not much reason to go back, other than to revisit the various enjoyable moments. But hey, that's just me. The bonus modes, detailed below, are an absolute blast, given you have another pikmin-literate friend to do some local play with you. There is no online play.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Outside of the campaign are two new modes: Mission and Bingo Battle. The former is a collection of timed challenges in small arenas, asking the player to either collect fruit, kill enemies or fell bosses. This is where 'Pikmin 3' becomes a true challenge, it's also the only opportunity for cooperative play. And it is worth it, if you're feeling up to the task. Bingo Battle, on the other hand, is a 1v1 mode where players try to collect fruits spread throughout a stage to complete a bingo on their individual cards. It's hectic and the opportunity for griefing is high, but good-spirited and evenly matched players will find a lot to enjoy here as well.
You can also take in-game pictures with your Gamepad and post them to the Miiverse. With a game this beautiful, you might as well.
While the series has always found charm in its highly organic and lush environments, not to mention the inherent adorableness of its titular creatures, the Wii U's high definition capabilities make 'Pikmin 3' a true spectacle of the eye. You'll be blown away by the environmental design. Though the campaign could be more challenging and a little longer, those looking for a more intense experience will certainly find it in the aptly named Challenge Mode. Even so, with a couple design tweaks on the formula from Miyamoto, including two new Pikmin variants, some fantastic bosses and tighter, densely-packed areas, 'Pikmin 3' takes the series to a new plateau of excellence.
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