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Game Review: Pikmin 3

August 10, 2013

This review is intended to be spoiler free. Any discussion about the game’s plot will not spoil major parts of game. Gameplay photos are from the game’s Amazon page, which you can check out here if you want to buy the game.

Pikmin 3 is the third game in the fan-favorite Pikmin franchise. The first game came out for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2001, and was one of the first games available for the system. It was popular enough with Nintendo Gamecube owners that Nintendo decided to make a sequel, Pikmin 2, which was released in 2004. Unfortunately, while the game was loved by critics and Nintendo fans alike, the Nintendo Gamecube was not as popular as previous Nintendo systems. So fewer people had the chance to play a game in the franchise. The third title was originally planned for the Nintendo Wii, but time passed and it never released for the system, as the team making the game decided it was best to bring it to the Nintendo Wii U, the company’s first HD system. However, the first and second Pikmin games were re-released on the Nintendo Wii with new motion control support, something that was utilized in this title as well. It has been almost 10 years though since a new title in the Pikmin franchise has been released, and more than a decade has passed since the first Pikmin title was released.

Now, the third title in the franchise has been released, and is the first in a series of Wii U titles from August 2013 to December 2013 to be released back-to-back from Nintendo in order to ensure Wii U owners and perspective buyers have games to play on the system, as the Wii U has lacked many 1st party titles this year. This game carries the burden of being one of the first games to convince those looking at the Wii U that they should buy it. It is also one of the few franchises receiving new games this year that doesn’t have a 3DS Counterpart. It also has a massive amount of hype behind it, as fans of the Pikmin series have been waiting almost a decade for the next title to arrive. I myself was one of those fans, as besides the Super Smash Brothers franchise, I consider this to be one of my favorite franchises of all time.

Does this game live up to the hype? Is it a great game for Nintendo Wii U owners to buy? And is it worth getting a Wii U if you don’t own one? Let’s take a look!

The Basics: Gameplay and Graphics

For those who have never played a Pikmin game before, allow me to explain the basics. The game is, as described by Nintendo, an AI action title. What that means is that you’ll be controlling/directing characters and telling them what to do in order to complete certain tasks. In this case, the AI are little, ant-like creatures known as the Pikmin. Using simple commands such as moving objects, throwing them onto enemies/objects to attack/break, swarming enemies with your Pikmin to defeat them, collecting items, ect. You’ll need to use your Pikmin to defeat foes that may be a threat to you and your Pikmin, have them collect pellets/defeated enemies to obtain more Pikmin or get special power ups, collect special items you need in the game, solve puzzles, ect. There’s also five types of Pikmin (in Story Mode at least) that you can use, each with their own special abilities and weaknesses that you’ll need to take advantage of to complete certain tasks or fight special enemies. While all of this sounds complicated, once you play it and try it out (the story mode very quickly and easily explains each pikmin type and how to play the game), you’ll find the gameplay to be very simple to learn/use. How you solve harder puzzles/collect items in difficult areas to get though will require you to think on your feet at times though, but never to the point of being too frustrating. Also, please be aware that the game operates on “in-game days”, in which you must complete any action/objective you want to do in a certain amount of time. If nightfall comes and your Pikmin aren’t under your command/in a safe area, you will lose your Pikmin. (Don’t worry about finishing Boss Battles in one day though, all bosses will keep the damage you inflicted on them for the next day.)

By the way, you are able to use the Wii’s Wiimote + Nunchuck controller, Wiimotion Plus + Nunchuck controller, for those used to the Wii’s special version of Pikmin and Pikmin 2, for those wanting to play the game that way. For those who played the first two games on the Nintendo Gamecube, you can use the Wii U Pro Controller (sold separately from the system) or the Gamepad, which plays just like the Gamecube’s controls. When using the TV as the main screen, your Gamepad will be used as a map for the most part. You can also use off-tv mode for this game, either playing this just the Gamepad with the TV off, or using the Gamepad as your TV (except for multiplayer features) while using the Wii U Pro Controller or Wiimote/Wiimotion Plus + Nunchuck controller. While it is generally recommended to use Wiimotion Plus + Nunchuck controller, as it gives the most amount of accuracy, I found myself using either the Wii U Pro Controller or the Gamepad itself just fine. Use the play style that best fits you.

As seen above, the game’s graphics are very colorful and bright, as seen by the art style. It looks even better when you play it on an HD TV (although the gamepad looks just as nice as well), so if you think it looks beautiful now, wait until you try the game out in person.

Story: What are you trying to do?

Objects below the helmets are whistles used to call the Pikmin, in case it is not clear.

The planet Koppai is having a problem. They are running low on food and having a very large population. In an attempt to save the planet, satellites were sent out to find a planet that had edible food in order to collect seeds from it, so that they can bring it back to the planet and feed the population. A planet is found to have the food they need, Planet PNF-404, the planet that (unknown to the people of Koppai) is where the Pikmin live. A team of three explorers, Captain Charlie, the botanist Brittany, and engineer Alph are sent to PNF-404 to collect the seeds from the local food on the planet and bring it back to Koppai at once.

Unfortunately, as they approach the planet, the ship malfunctions, causing the three explorers to be ejected from the ship and land at different parts of the planet. It also causes the Cosmic Drive Key, which they need to return home, to fall somewhere on the planet as well. Following Alph, you must get back to your ship, collect fruit with the help of your Pikmin in order to both obtain the seeds you need and create juice for you to survive on, and find your missing teammates along with the Cosmic Drive Key. The fate of Koppai, its people, and the three explorers on the planet are in your hands, as well as the tiny hands of your army of Pikmin.

For those wondering if the game hammers certain moral issues too hard, no it doesn’t. Besides one or two lines here and there about food supply, it won’t come up too often.

Also, for those who played Pikmin and Pikmin 2, Captain Olimar is not the star of this game. He is not from planet Koppai either, nor is he the same species as the people from Koppai. The game does take place after the events of Pikmin and Pikmin 2. That is all I will say without going into further spoilers.

Issues: Does it have any major flaws worth noting?

This is going to depend on your preferences. Some of these could be major issues, some of these things might not be problems at all. First, let’s talk controls. If you are using the Wii U Pro Controller or Gamepad to control your game, you will not have some of the freedom that Wiimotion Plus (and to an extent, Wiimote users) have when targeting enemies/objects to throw Pikmin at. Wiimotion Plus owners can do things like throw Pikmin right on, for example, an enemies eye, as well as lock-on to that part. Wii U Pro Controller/Gamepad people will not have that luxury. You can easily live without it though (I am ok with the game auto-locking on to the enemy, although some may not prefer it.) Wiimotion Plus controls will depend on if you like using motion controls or not. They can be a great help in many games, as you don’t need to stand or do any crazy movements. But it is up to you on whether or not you are ok using this control option. Off-TV players should also note you won’t have access to the map at all times (since obviously, you are using the screen that would have the map as the main screen.) Just note that pressing down on the control pad will bring the map up.

Speaking of the map, there are some issues with it. It can be a tiny bit annoying moving it around, but you’ll get used to it. One of the major problems I found was that it was difficult to tell where your Pikmin are at times. Enemies, fruits, and your captains are ok. But the Pikmin locations can be difficult to notice since their dots are so small (for individual/small groups of Pikmin). This can get annoying if you’re trying to locate a few Pikmin lost before the in-game day ends. However, I wouldn’t consider it a major issue.

I do have a few problems with the game though that aren’t story wise or control wise. First off, you can only have one save file when playing the game. This is ridiculous, as the first two Pikmin games allowed you to have three save files. So, in order to have a sibling play Pikmin 3, they’d have to delete my (thankfully completed) data. That is ridiculous, and needs to be corrected for a potentially fourth game. (EDIT: I have been informed that there is one save file per account on your system, meaning you can have multiple people make save files for Story Mode. My apologies, I wasn’t aware of this until after the review.) First off, despite having three captains, and having the game promote using each captain to split up tasks for strategy (which, with a few exceptions, isn’t necessary to do), you can’t have Multiplayer in story mode. This is only available in Mission Mode/Bingo Battle (we will get to that in a moment…), and only with two people. I don’t mind the game not being online (although some people might. The only online feature is a Global Leaderboard on how long it took you to complete the game/did you get every fruit?), but I felt bad for a sibling who wanted to play Pikmin 3 with me during story mode and could not (And I’ve only convinced him to play one other Wii U title with me… this is the first Wii U title he’s been very interested in seeing without convincing him to watch/play!) I feel that’s the one major flaw this game has, and I hope local multiplayer can be allowed if a fourth game is made.

Also, one issue some may have is the game’s length. It took me approximately 8 hours (game time) to be it, but I’ve heard others take 8-10, although that’s for those who aren’t experts in-game. Some have reported the game to be shorter. I’m giving you a heads up about this, but I assure you, this doesn’t make the game not worth the full $60. The gameplay/story mode is a blast, and Mission Mode/Bingo Battle (plus collecting all items/replay ability) makes it feel just as lengthy as any AAA title. You’ll get more enjoyment out of a shorter title like this, than some of the longer AAA titles out there.

The Recommendation: Is This Game Right For You?

There’s a lot of people and a lot of reasons why people enjoy playing video games. From those looking for a solo experience, to those looking to entertain. Let’s see whether or not Pikmin 3 can appeal to you.

For Solo Players: This is the perfect game for those of you looking for a great single player experience. The game provides a unique gameplay style, it’s easy to learn, and will allow you to use different strategies/make you think about the right way to obtain items/get them to your base. Both this and the game’s Mission Mode, which gives you objectives such as collecting items in a certain amount of time, defeating enemies, and fighting bosses you previously defeated in a certain amount of time will give you more than enough value to justify the game. It’s a unique game for the system, and among AAA titles being released this year, and one I highly recommend.

For Veteran Pikmin Players: Get this game. Don’t even stop to think about it, get it. Those that liked the time limit in Pikmin 1 will see the return of it. Those who loved Pikmin 2’s lack of a time limit won’t feel pressured, as you have up to 90-ish days and can even redo days as well. You can easily complete the game well before the 90 day limit. I took about 66 days, and even then, it was only because I did some extra things that really weren’t required to even get 100% complete. The new Rock and Flying Pikmin are also a delight to use. Don’t think about it, get this game now.

For those with more than one player: Unfortunately, as stated above, Story Mode does not support multiple players. However, that doesn’t mean you are out of luck if you have more than one person wanting to play (Unless you have more than three people, that is.) Two players can play either Mission Mode or Bingo Battle (You can not use off-tv play/play with the Gamepad though if you do this, as the Gamepad is used as a map screen.) Mission Mode has you and another player complete objectives (as stated above) in a certain amount of time. From collecting items, beating enemies, along with previously defeated bosses in Story Mode. Bingo Battle is a competitive two player match, in which you must collect items/defeated enemies to fill out your “Bingo Card” before the other player does. You’ll need to use strategy such as whether to go immediately after items or grow your Pikmin numbers first. You can also try snagging items your opponents need before they do to stop them from winning, ambush opponents bringing items/enemies back and steal it for yourself (the two side’s Pikmin will attack each other), and use cherries to activate a roulette wheel to cause additional actions in-game that either benefit you or hurt your opponent. It is extremely addictive and a blast to play. I highly recommend giving it a try. It is a great way to improve your Pikmin skills, just like with Mission Mode. Again though, this is only available for two people, which is the only draw back. Still, if you have a friend/sibling you want to play with, you’ll have a blast with these two modes.

For those looking for a good story: If you previously played the first two Pikmin games, without spoilers, a certain mystery in this game will keep you interested. In fact, I’d say even those who didn’t play the first two Pikmin games may be interested in solving this mystery. However, it’s a pretty simple story. Nothing too complex. The game’s characters are a little bit interesting enough to care about/want to see their mission be successful, but I don’t consider them to be as notable as certain characters from games like Zelda, or Star Fox. Again, nothing complex, but it gets the job done.

Overall: If you have a Wii U, get this game. You’ve had a drought of 1st party Nintendo titles on the system anyway, so that’s enough of an excuse to get this game. But even if you’re reading this in the future when multiple good titles are available for the Wii U, get this game anyway. If you played/loved the previous Pikmin games, you are obligated to play it. If you’re on the fence about getting a Wii U, and needed a little extra push to get it, this is the game you were waiting for. If you need a little more convincing about getting a Wii U though… that’s a difficult question to answer. The fanboy in me would say this more than justifies the purchase of a Wii U, along with upcoming hit titles coming soon. Heck, I was sold on getting a Wii U to play Pikmin 3 and the upcoming Super Smash Brothers game. However, the game’s length and lack of great support for co-op, and even local multiplayer for more than two people (when you use three captains in the game), makes me a little bit worried for those not entirely convinced on getting a Wii U to play with friends. There will be games in the future that will easily justify getting the console to play with more than a friend, but that isn’t Pikmin 3. And while the game will easily make the 8-10 hours (for average players, and don’t feel bad if you take longer, that’s perfectly fine. Trust me) feel just content heavy as games with much longer gameplay completion times… it’s still not a long game to play. (Although for those who are really busy, that may be a plus!) But considering it’s a fantastic game in general, especially for solo players, I’d say at the very least check this game out if you have the ability to. For some, this will absolutely be the motivation needed to get a Nintendo Wii U. For some, while a fun game, it might not alone be worth buying the system for. Regardless though, it is a high quality game that deserves, at the very least, your attention. I highly recommend getting the game, or at least trying it out, because it really is a game worth investing your time in playing.

Great job, Nintendo! You’ve once again made a fantastic follow-up to the previous Pikmin titles. Until the next time we return to planet PNF-404…

Thanks for reading this review of Pikmin 3! Please feel free to comment/critique this review, or say what you thought of the game as well! Your feedback will help future reviews on the site become a much higher quality. Thanks again!

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