Pikmin 3 made up a big a big portion of Nintendo’s 2012 E3 press conference and was expected within the Wii U’s launch window. Though we are now the better part of year past the console’s launch, Pikmin 3 is finally here. Better late than never for a console that desperately needs software.
This real time strategy game is hardly a mass market title and is actually somewhat of a mixed message for the Wii U’s new touch screen GamePad. That being said, there is a lot to love about Miyamoto-san’s latest Pikmin game which I did get an opportunity to play for a short period of time at this year’s E3 Expo in Los Angeles.
Now that I have had some real time with Pikmin 3, I can tell you that the first thing anyone will notice is that it looks really good. The Bug’s Life view of the world is beautifully rendered on the Wii U. The rich world Nintendo has presented will make you lament the fact that you have very little time to really enjoy it. Timers will do that (I had the same comment about Capcom’s zombie slaying Dead Rising). The water looks inviting and the colors and shadows change as your time gets short in the late afternoon. Whatever you’re doing, you need to be done before darkness falls. Otherwise, your Pikmin minions will become snacks for the planet’s larger creatures.
The basic premise is that the planet Koppai has run out of natural resources, specifically food. As you would expect, they have sent thousands of ships looking for food to bring back. Of course, most of the ships fail in their mission. One ship, crewed by Alph, Charlie, and Brittany, crash land on the planet PNF-404. Luckily there is plenty of fruit on this planet, but because the fruit is much larger than expected, they cannot retrieve it. Actually, they are barely able to navigate the planet themselves. There is, however, a willing to help species called Pikmin. The space travelers can find and grow Pikmin to help them harvest the fruit and return the seeds to their home world as well as use the seeds to sustain everyone throughout the mission.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of puzzles to overcome within your 20 minute day and many may require you to replay days, once you have an idea of what you’re supposed to do. Ironically, the best method of control is the last gen console’s Wiimote. A Pro controller as well as the Gamepad can be used, but aiming with the analog sticks is decidedly inferior to pointing with Wiimote to order around the Pikmin. The game can also be played exclusively on the small screen of the GamePad, though the level of control is compromised. Otherwise, the GamePad serves as a map which works like a GPS and can be used to set navigate the map and set waypoints.
Pikmin 3 introduces two new variations of helpers, with black rock-like Pikmin used for smashing and flying pink ones that are best used for securing your treasures. Along with these additions, the crew offers some new wrinkles. Crew members can be tossed to otherwise unreachable areas and can command their own squad of Pikmin. Truthfully, this does take some getting used to unless you’ve been on a recent RTS binge. It is also the point where the GamePad shows its usefulness as you can navigate the entire map on the secondary screen. Unfortunately, there are some path finding issues which can result in the Pikmin getting stuck in corners.
It seems like a missed opportunity that Pikmin 3 doesn’t offer multiplayer in the story mode, though the mission mode can be played co-op and there is also a Bingo Battle offering. Where many other games eschew the friends-on-a-couch option, Nintendo seems to take the opposite view. Personally, I’d like to see both choices offered and co-op in the story would ease some of the control issues. Those complaints aside, Pikmin 3 is a must have for Wii U owners. No, it’s not just that there isn’t much else available, Pikmin 3 really is an enjoyable game that deserves the 20-some hours that you’re likely to put into the game on a single playthrough and dabbling with the other offerings.
Pikmin 3 is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.