Why did I wait so many months to play and review Pikmin 3? Ironically itís because I got tired of waiting for it to come out.
Youíll recall that Pikmin 3 was slated to launch with the Wii U. It was a key part of the E3 conference that year, and while I wasnít convinced a huge Pikmin presence made a lot of sense from a business perspective - if the original Pikmin couldnít sell the Gamecube, why should we expect Pikmin 3 to sell the Wii U? - after getting some time with a demo at a local Wii U event, I was pretty excited to get to play it. The buttery IR controls instantly resolved my beef with the original games.
Then Pikmin 3 got pushed back. And not just a little push - Nintendo pushed it back 9 months. Thatís not just out of the launch window, thatís past the window for reentry. You could have conceived and had a baby in the extra time we had to wait for Pikmin 3. (And extra points if you named him Olimar.)
(And triple points if you named her Olimar.)
Eventually, I couldnít wait to play Pikmin with that control scheme any longer. I went out and bought the New Play Control version of Pikmin 2, which was already on the shelves, and played through that with IR controls. Ladies and Gents, this is how Pikmin is meant to be played - not dragging around a circle with an analog stick like a dope, but with a simple, intuitive, mouse-like point-and-click. Lovely. The NPC Pikmin 2 is a pure joy in its own right.
But it also sated my thirst for Pikmin. When Pikmin 3 finally dropped a few months later, I felt I could wait on it. Iíd just played a bunch of hours of Pikmin!
Well, Iím here to tell you, I shouldnít have waited because Pikmin 3 is a masterpiece. Perhaps you already know that, but Iím here to repeat the truth. Itís the greatest entry in the Pikmin series and you should play it.
Say, have you ever played Pikmin before? If so, have you played it with IR Wiimote controls? If the answer to either of those questions was ďNoĒ then itís time for you to play Pikmin 3. Because Pikminís time is now.
And for this lucky monster, Pikmin Breakfast Time is now.
In this Miyamoto-produced game you control a team of 3 intrepid explorers from the planet Koppai - characters wryly named Alph, Britney and Charlie. Right away anyone familiar with the series will notice the absence of Captain Olimar, the venerable scientist-hero of the previous two games and representative of the series in Super Smash Bros. Heís nowhere to be found, here. At first this seems disappointing, as Olimarís a likable presence in the first 2 games, but as the story unfolded I grew to sympathize with these three new characters and their desperate mission, which is nothing less than to harvest enough fruit seeds to feed the dying population of their war-torn planet. Sure, that means youíre mostly collecting fruit rather than artifacts of human civilization, but it also means the stakes are higher than before. Itís a different storytelling angle and one that suits a new cast. Itís also heavy stuff for a game that co-stars cute little guys with flowers growing out of the tops of their heads.
Pikmin come in several different varieties at this point. Youíve got your Reds, which are invulnerable to fire. Your Blues, which can swim. Your Yellows, which can dig fast and hold an electric charge. Pikmin 3 introduces Rock Pikmin, which can be used to bash glass or the hard exoskeletons of some enemies, and flying Pikmin, who can get to and from your ship by the most direct route possible, damn near breaking the game at some points. But who cares? Theyíre all fun to collect and utilize!
A witty script propels the story along. Our team of explorers crash land on a far distant future Earth, which they dub PNF-404 (a reference to the common internet Page Not Found error?). Humans are long gone, though the team encounters remnants of their presence on the planet in the form of pottery, neon tubes and miraculously still-active cell phones. (Battery life in the near-future must grow by leaps and bounds, because Iíve got a Nokia from 2002 that wonít power on, and yet these phones have made it millions of years while exposed to the elements.)
Anyway, as post-apocalyptic games go itís all pretty cheerful. In fact, thatís one of the miraculous features of this game - it manages so many different tones and yet never feels like a mish-mash. Pikmin 3 delights in contradiction. It appears on the surface to be one of the cutest games in the Nintendo catalog, with its hoards of cutesy Pikmin growing little flowers out of the tops of their heads. And, yet, thereís a dark undercurrent of survival-of-the-fittest throughout the game, as you watch dozens of your beloved little Pikmin get devoured at once.
ďHi, boys and girls. My nameís Piki the Pikmin. Iím here to teach you that life is cheap.Ē
With such a nice blend of different tones, youíd think Pikmin 3 would have universal appeal, and yet it seems to languish as a cult series for the Nintendo faithful. I wonder why. Many of Nintendoís properties appeal across gamer demographics. Everyone likes Mario. Most everyone likes Zelda, Metroid, Tetris and, to a lesser degree, Barker Billís Trick Shooting. But universality is something that seems to have eluded the Pikmin series, so far.
Why is that, I wonder?
Well, in trying to review it, Iíve found that it IS a hard series to describe in a way thatís universally appealing. Here, Iíll give it a go:
At its core, Pikmin is about the twin joys of exploration (hooray!) and building supply chains (what?). You take the role as a leader of a team of dozens of various Pikmin, assigning them orders: Carry this apple back to our ship. Fight this killer monster. Open this gate. Stop drowning yourself, you idiot. It sounds complicated. It may even sound like the workload of a bored corporate middle manager. But itís actually quite fun in practice.
Iíve seen it categorized as a Real Time Strategy game, and while thatís not completely off the mark, itís also not a bullseye. Yes, much of the game is concerned with resource management and yes it all happens in real time. But I have to confess to not liking most RTS games and yet I adore Pikmin 3. So what is it if not an RTS? Puzzle elements abound, but itís not super cerebral, with tasks built largely around having the right pikmin for the right job. So itís not really accurate to call it a puzzle game. Is it simply an action game? Nah. Control is too indirect for that. How about adventure? WellÖ thatís a very stretchable genre, but Pikmin 3 seems to lack the prerequisite swords and fairies and wizards.
Iím beginning to think itís simply a genre unto itself - a version of RTS that breaks the mold as much has Zelda breaks from your standard RPG or Smash Bros breaks from other fighters. Thatís probably the best way I could hype it.
To extend the core game, thereís a pretty incredible set of Mission Modes accessible from the main menu. There are three types of challenges for the custom maps, here - to collect as much fruit as you can in a time limit, to kill as many enemies in a time limit, and to defeat as many bosses as you can. In truth, I had as much fun with the fruit collection Mission Mode as in the main game, partly because it introduces co-op control. My wife and I became quite addicted to collecting fruit in this mode and I can say, with my hand on my heart, that itís the most fun Iíve had playing coop on the Wii U. Thatís high praise for a console that has Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and NintendoLand. Seriously, if you have the game and havenít tried this mode in co-op, dig it back out. Itís a pure delight.
They have different toppings on pizza in Japan.
What complaints can I dig up? Well, theyíre mostly the usual Nintendo things. Why no online, Nintendo? Why is co-op its own mode when it would work so wonderfully in the main game? Why no voice acting? Those sorts of things you can fault most Nintendo games for not including. But those complaints are simply asking for more from a well-designed game. They donít describe deficiencies in the game itself. Pikmin 3 doesnít require those features to be excellent, so it seems a little trifling to hammer the game because it doesnít check all the possible boxes. However, if I were looking toward a Pikmin 4, I would throw those ideas in.
I do have a small complaint about the final level, but itís spoileriffic. So Iíll now cover up my thoughts in giant bricks of black: Initially, it wasnít clear to me that the final level is designed to take several days to complete. So I was furious at the tightness of that level. How the heck was I expected to do so many tasks at once? Well, Iím not. It may seem impossible, but thatís only because it basically is. There may be some miraculous players who can rescue Olimar in a single day, but I think itís clear, on your first playthrough at least, youíre supposed to fail the rescue on the first day. What youíre expected to do is set the rescue up for success on the next day. So, in retrospect, my anger at the game wasnít really justified - the level isnít impossible, it just requires the gamer to stick with it and celebrate making progress over the actual achievement of the goal. Iím cool with that now, but I was hopping mad at the game for a few hours when I thought it looked impossible. Iím not sure if the script should have telegraphed this better for me, because it would give away something that Iím glad I had to learn by doing. But in the moment of learning it, I was legitimately furious. Maybe thatís to the gameís ultimate credit, too.
Iíve had a hard time finding sales numbers for Pikmin 3, but I did come across a quote from Iwata that suggests it underperformed. That could be because there were some hopes it could turn around the Wii Uís sales problems at the time. To me, that was always a longshot. But letís take for granted for a second that Pikmin 3 underperformed its goals. Thatís a shame.
Personally, I think Pikmin 4 is unlikely. Nintendo has other unexploited properties that have a greater opportunity to sell the Wii U. Iím on record as being a bit grumpy about the direction Nintendo went this generation, but from my perspective, if thereís any game out there that single-handedly justifies the Wii U, itís Pikmin 3. If you have the console, you really ought to try this game.
Because this game is a masterpiece, as far as Iím concerned.
Nice review, as usual. I always enjoy reading your contributions to NW, Kris.
Pikmin 3 is an excellent title. The single-player was good fun and really stepped up the tightness of the series' design, but the real value came in the Mission Mode challenges, which really tested players mettles. I'd gladly pick up any additional DLC for these challenges, because they were more than worth the price of admission for me.
That said, I really didn't like how players were restricted to a single file in 1P mode. I really wanted to keep my old file while trying again for less days, but I can't replay the game without either nixing my old save (which I don't wanna do), or switching users on the Wii U (which is a lot of trouble, especially when it comes to mixing up Miiverse posts). Also, while the pointer controls were brilliant and the GamePad's features were used nicely, having to rest the GamePad in my lap was a fairly cumbersome setup and I'm hoping that sort of thing doesn't mar future Wii U titles.
Otherwise, absolutely one of my faves on the Wii U.
Perfect timing: I only just got around to starting the demo last night. It was my first* sit-down with the series. And my first impression was...not good.
The intro presentation had that wonky Nintendo Slow pace to it, and more exposition than I'd want at the beginning of a game, let alone a demo. And cripes, the controls! Why Nintendo thought it would be a good idea to saddle us with those cumbersome stylus controls, I couldn't say. As soon as I had the option, I switched to "Classic" style. It was an improvement, but it still felt weird.
After a couple Exploration Days, I tried the Wiimote/nunchuk setup. The difference was astounding: it instantly felt nearly perfect, almost like the series was designed specifically for it. And yet I still had to keep the Gamepad handy to use the map, which is just silly. It's senseless limitations like this that will soften the blow when Nintendo inevitably drops the Gamepad with its next console.
But once the controls were mostly fixed with the Wiimote/nunchuk, the demo was pretty enjoyable. It's not the kind of game I'm comfortable spending over forty bucks on -- very few games are -- but for the right price, I could see myself relaxing with it sporadically. And knowing it's got the Original Kriswright Seal of Quality goes a long way, too. Unfortunately, Pikmin 3 doesn't seem likely to hit the bargain bin any time soon.
*Ten years ago, I borrowed the first Pikmin from a friend but got distracted shortly after I started and loaned it back with maybe an hour of play time.
You guys brought up a few good points that I should address.
- I rarely used the map, to be honest, because I felt like it was a bit of a crutch and took away a little from having to remember what Pikmin I gave orders to and where. I did use it some, to locate fruit and remember levels I hadn't been back to in a few days. But I didn't feel I needed it in my lap at all times, so mostly it just sat in the charger while I played. I'm not sure how unconventional that is - and I don't want to sound like I never used it - but I wouldn't have wanted to play with it in my lap all the time, either. So I didn't.
- To me, the Wiimote is the only control method worth playing. And by that I mean, the other methods may be fun, but the game is so perfectly suited to Wiimote control that I'll never know the joys of playing any other way. There's no reason to even bother with the other methods, in my humble opinion.
- I played the original Pikmin games but wasn't very impressed because I never liked moving the circle around with the analog stick. So if you've played a little here or there with previous games, Nate, and didn't really connect with it, try this one with the Wiimote control some more. That control scheme is what really won me over to the series.
- Agree with T-Bun about the lack of extra save files. That's a general complaint I have with Nintendo's approach to saving, to be honest. When I was a kid playing King's Quest I'd have like 50 different save files. Nowadays, games act like we need to ration save files out for some reason. I don't get it.
- Also, not sure why I didn't squeeze it into the review, but the boss battles are really cool in this game. Another great feature to look forward to.
Nice review. I just finished it for the first time a few days ago and it was a joy from start to finish. I actually didn't play with IR, I played with the stylus. I still felt like I had total control over the little guys, although I did mis-fire on a few throws.
I agree about the last area. I didn't understand it at first either, and there were a few things I didn't do because once I figured out the layout of the level, I didn't have to (bomb the rock wall in the first area or finish the red bridge in the second area, plus I skipped a few walls completely). I think I lost roughly half of my little guys on that area.
The closest thing I have on sales is that site about video games and charts. It said 820,000 worldwide.
Yeah, Pikmin 3's co-op is great. My sister-in-law and I have done quite a few of them ourselves, and it's the perfect level of challenge. It's sort of a different challenge in single-player, since the stages and layouts are the same, while you have access to three captains instead of two (but can only control one at a time). Makes doing 1P and 2P in the missions both feel fresh and unique.
Like many of you, the lack of save files is a big gripe. But not my biggest gripe. That would go to not being able to play around in the story mode maps after the game is completed. They could have made it where after you beat the game, you don't use up fruit juice. In Pikmin 2, you could just keep playing, building your army, fighting enemies, and taking in the beauty of the game.
Well, I hear you. In fairness, you can simply roll back the clock to before you tackled the final boss. Yeah, it means you don't save the record of your previous completion but that was never a priority to me.
@kriswright Well, my 4 yr old has taken over my save file, so in essence, I don't have a save file any longer :) Still, I LOVE this game. My wife actually plays Bingo Battle with our son. That's saying something.
Awesome! Pikmin 3 is definitely one of my favorite Wii U games and in fact one of my favorite games in awhile.
I have to disagree on Pikmin 4 though, I think it will definitely happen eventually. Miyamoto is clearly in love with this franchise more than some of his others. He wouldn't make videos for a franchise he is going to abandon!
I got this as the free 'gift' after MK8. Quite the deal and Pikmin 3 has been the only game I"ve played in the series. I've been playing with the Wii U pad mostly but I think I'm going to go back to wii mote IR controls the next time I boot this game up. It's on my to do list....
I kind of just went through this game again, twice in a row.
From 39 days to 29 to 22.
Going from Pikmin Wii Play Control to Pikmin 3Ö I won't say they're completely different games, because obviously there are more similarities than not, but Pikmin 3 not only controls better, it's just plain better designed.
The first game's challenges seem to revolve around the fact that your Pikmin WILL fall off ledges, trip and otherwise get lost. There doesn't seem to be much strategy or puzzles to it, you mostly find yourself looking for nectar to upgrade the little guys so they'll keep pace.
Pikmin 3's three protagonists enable actual puzzles and ressource management, which is much more satisfying.