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Pikmin 3 Review (Nintendo Wii U)
Pikmin 3 on the Wii U
Review by 
9.22/10 from 31 user ratings

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.

Pikmin's time is now. Don't miss it.

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Posted: 11/20/14, 20:09:33  - Edited by 
 on: 11/20/14, 20:44:12    
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@Guillaume Pretty good score. I should probably give this game a replay and see how far down I can get the days as well. Usually I like to take my time playing games though, so it might be tough to get into that mindset of "gotta go fast!"

Posted by 
 on: 07/08/15, 23:17:46  - Edited by 
 on: 07/08/15, 23:18:25
@Mop it up

I wasn't trying too hard, but I definitely restarted days a few times when I lost too many Pikmin or brought back too little loot. Getting through the story/getting all three captains together and all colors of Pikmin as fast as possible seems essential.

You can see on that bell curve a small bump at 20 days. I assume that's what's possible for a normal human to achieve without obsessing too much over shaving off time.

Some mistakes I made: created way too many Pikmin, didn't use the spicy juice as much as I could.

Posted by 
 on: 07/08/15, 23:58:06
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