Enjoy the fruits of your labour.
While doctors recommend that we eat five pieces of fruit a day as part of a balanced diet, I’ve managed to consume no less than 66 pieces – freshly squeezed – in just four days.
Using a colourful army of petite, plant-like workers known as the Pikmin, a steady stream of fruit has made its way back to my crew’s spaceship, each successful haul accompanied by a jolly productive chorus of “hut, hut, hut!”
After a hard day’s work of strategic planning and efficient surface activity, the S.S. Drake’s crew of Charlie, Alph, Brittany – and myself – kick back against the starry backdrop of a glistening galaxy, and reward ourselves with a carefully rationed portion of delicious fruit juice. *Glug* *Glug* *Glug*
At least we think it’s fruit… You see, we’re not exactly sure what these vibrant, fleshy, seed-associated structures actually are. But our ship’s botanist, Brittany, has done her best to conjure up some creative names based on their characteristics and taste. And believe me, some of them sure are tasty!
I can’t help but lick my lips at the mere thought of gorging on a handful of juicy Dawn Pustules, or stop myself from salivating over the prospect of biting into a soft, watery slice of Crimson Banquet. It’s difficult to contain the rush of excitement that comes with discovering the hidden glowing, green surprise that’s concealed inside a Disguised Delicacy’s fuzzy exterior. And I still can’t prevent myself from giggling whenever I see a Mock Bottom: a fruit which closely resembles a baby’s bum!
But our mission isn’t as gluttonous as it sounds. The S.S Drake was one of many exploratory spaceships sent out from planet Koppai with the hope of discovering a new and sustainable resource for the planet’s inhabitants – who were suffering under the looming threat of a food shortage. With all the ships reporting no signs of food after a couple of years of desperate searching, the situation was looking bleak to say the least.
Thankfully, though, the S.S Drake detected a positive signal from a mysterious planet known only as PNF-404. However, upon entering the planet’s atmosphere, a disastrous, unforeseen complication occurred; the S.S Drake suddenly lost control, jettisoning the ship’s crew members across planet PNF-404’s foreign surface. And that’s when we discovered the indigenous, diminutive creatures known as the Pikmin. Oh, and the yummy food, of course.
Still, it would take 44 in-game days to repair the damage done to the S.S Drake and gather enough seeds to take back home to planet Koppai for our mission to be complete. During this time 1152 courageous Pikmin would perish for the cause. Thankfully, their sacrifice was not in vain.
Back Down To Earth
After playing through the gorgeous Pikmin 3, I genuinely felt like the fourth member of this intrepid trio of endearing explorers.
Regrettably, I was never actually part of the Koppai crew that crash landed on planet PNF-404. That much is obvious. But after playing through the gorgeous Pikmin 3, I genuinely felt like the fourth member of this intrepid trio of endearing explorers. I cherished the customary evening toast that came at the end of each day. Perhaps I even poured myself a glass of fruit juice to celebrate… “Here’s to us! The awesome Koppai crew!”
Awkward imaginary toasts aside, I literally can’t remember the last time I’ve been this compelled to play a game for such long, uninterrupted bursts. And I certainly can’t recall the last time I’ve reviewed a game without any urge to quit playing prematurely or felt dogged by the pressure to continue on unwillingly. In fact, every time I was forced to relinquish control of the scurrying mass of pretty little Pikmin, my thoughts were always preoccupied with how I’d approach my next play session.
Although I’ve plucked, thrown, corralled and watched in excess of a thousand Pikmin carry countless caracasses and pieces of fruit to their oddball home, the Onion, I find myself pining for more. And that, in itself, is Pikmin 3’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness: it’s a brilliant game, but it’s far too short.
The Power Of The Past
From the moment the title screen blooms into view, set over the backdrop of a tranquil flowing stream, an uplifting chorus of whimsical wonder takes over. But just as Miyamoto’s magical new game is about to begin, an important and slightly unnerving decision must be made: do you play the game using a Wii Remote and Nunchuk? The Wii U GamePad? Or the Wii U Pro Controller? Without question, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is the way to go.
Though it admittedly feels rather peculiar reverting to last generation’s controller input, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk work so intuitively and responsively that it’s hard not to feel like the Wii’s original control scheme got a bit of a bad rap. Using the pointer to highlight and direct objects for your Pikmin to attack, collect or destroy works flawlessly. Shaking the Nunchuk to disperse your units and team into distinct, manageable groups works brilliantly. And pressing that big old A button to throw your Pikmin and the trigger-style B button to blow your whistle feels just right.
But what about the GamePad, the Wii U’s prized asset? Did it run off into another room, slam the door behind it and sob into its pillow due to the unexpected rejection? Well, not exactly. The GamePad takes a secondary role in Pikmin 3 and transforms into the KopPad, the crew’s device for taking communications, checking stats, snapping in-game pictures and displaying a real-time interactive map before and during missions. It might not sound like much, but the GamePad’s integration is far more pleasing than originally promised – though it’s still noticeably underwhelming.
While the GamePad may be lacking in true innovation, the awesome and almost secretive feature of using the GamePad as a primary monitor with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is an exceptional addition. It’s a surreal experience to say the least, pointing at the GamePad’s six-inch screen, but one that I hope to see more of in games that allow it. (Future Wii Off-TV backwards compatibility, anyone?)
Pikmin 3 is more than just a showcase for a variety of fancy input devices to shine.
So, then, this obviously isn’t the game that will convince potential Wii U owners that the GamePad is the controller messiah some were hoping for. But none of that really matters, because Pikmin 3 is more than just a showcase for a variety of fancy input devices to shine. It’s one of the best strategy games ever created and a must-have purchase for the Wii U.
The basic premise of Pikmin 3 is to complete your goals as efficiently as possible using the different types of Pikmin to overcome environmental hazards and circumvent obstacles. Each time you land on one of the three exceptionally designed and fairly distinct continents, you’re given around 15 to 20 minutes to accomplish your tasks for the day. Once the sun begins to set, it’s time to gather up your Pikmin, regroup and plan for the next day, or face the prospect of seeing your cuddly combatants being gobbled up by the night time nasties.
Making the most of your day is crucial, then, but it’s also key to your crew’s survival. At the end of each day, a portion of fruit juice will be drunk. It’s therefore vitally important, that fruit should tried to be obtained whenever feasibly possible, because without a stern juice buffer, you may just find your crew ending up in a sorry situation. Luckily, if you make a mistake, or are disappointed with how you performed on a particular day, it’s easy to go back and retry that day if you wish; though I personally never found the need to do so.
It’s this clever emphasis on speed, efficiency, planning and risk that brings Pikmin 3 into its own unique genre of real-time strategy with a clever twist. There’s a frantic rush that comes with every chime of the ever moving clock, knowing that you can’t rest on your laurels at any point, willing your Pikmin on to carry that carcass quicker, or break down the barrier before it’s too late. Oddly, you never feel rushed or cheated by the time restraints; they’re actually conducive to the game’s overall enjoyment.
Pikmin Power Up
Knowing how and when to use your array of Pikmin is also immensely satisfying.
Knowing how and when to use your array of Pikmin is also immensely satisfying. There are five subspecies of Pikmin to discover and control in Story Mode: Red Pikmin are best at tackling enemies and are resistant to fire; Rock Pikmin can smash crystalised walls and breakdown enemies with protective skins; Blue Pikmin can survive in water; Yellow Pikmin can channel electricity and can be thrown higher; and Flying Pikmin can, well… fly. Utilising the different Pikmin to reach pieces of fruit and uncover new paths is immensely satisfying and keeps your brain ticking over whenever you wander around the enchanting environments.
Players will have to expand their horizons quickly, though, as soon you’ll be asked to switch between your Koppai crew to tackle the challenges of a new day. For example, Alph may be required to throw Charlie onto an area that can’t be reached otherwise. With a shower of Pikmin as a parting gift from Alph, you’ll need to switch to Charlie and figure out a way to overcome the puzzle that stands in your way or obtain a particularly luscious piece of fruit.
Pinning all the adventuring together is a simplified yet strangely effective story. Alph, Charlie and Brittany will share an anecdote at the end of each day, offering a personal insight into the day’s events whilst gazing out into space. It’s a touching and unexpectedly poignant moment, and serves to strengthen the bond between the three characters. I never found myself missing Captain Olimar at all during my playthrough – a testament to the likeability of the new crew.
Bingo! More Content!
Once the story is complete, the game is given a much-needed after party in the form of multiplayer offerings called Bingo Battle mode and the single-player and co-op enabled Mission mode.
Bingo Battle is a surprisingly accomplished multiplayer affair, pitting you against another Pikmin pugilist in a race to find specific items or enemy carcasses to complete a line on your bingo card as quickly as possible. The action takes place in a number of bespoke areas with neat power-ups mixing up the formula. Online multiplayer would have been a brilliant addition, but Nintendo stubbornly decided to keep the action strictly local – perhaps somewhat understandable when you consider the amount of on-screen activity when two parties of Pikmin are going at it. Still, it leaves you with the same taste in your mouth after biting into a Face Wrinkler when you think long and hard about it: pretty bitter.
Mission mode is surely the area we’ll see expanded upon in the future with some DLC. You can battle enemies, defeat bosses, or, my personal favourite, collect treasure with the hopes of obtaining either bronze, silver, gold or platinum medals depending on how you do. Again, there’s not a ton of content to play through, but the morsels that you can feast upon will leave you hungry (or should that be ravenous?) for more.
A Glorious Garden
Pikmin 3 flourishes from a modest seedling to a grand oak of graphical amazement as the game progresses. The first area is initially worrying, due to it being covered in nothing but layers of obtrusive, bland white snow. But once you touch down in the game’s main continents and begin to explore the living, breathing world and all it inhabits, it’s an absolute joy to behold.
Pikmin 3 truly thrives on the upgrade to HD visuals, and it’s actually beneficial to the game, with each of your flowering fighters delightfully distinguishable amongst the vivid backgrounds and busy fauna. The boss battles are particularly memorable in their exceptional design; the incredible palette of colours, textures and special effects really stand out, too. And then there’s the pieces of fruit. Yes, fruit has never looked so real, almost breaking past the realms of photographic realism often reserved for driving simulators. Seriously, it’s stupendously good.
A review copy of Pikmin 3 was provided courtesy of Nintendo.
You’re Really Growing On Me
Pikmin 3 has a timeless, enduring quality. There’s still nothing quite like Shigeru Miyamoto’s adorable Pikmin, and his miniature, horticultural heroes have lost none of their exuberant charm. Few games will leave you feeling so rewarded, so at peace with the world, and so enamoured by mother nature. Your outlook on fruit will never be the same, either. A proud, beautiful flower; Pikmin 3 deserves to flourish in the heart of every discerning gamer.