The third title of the Pikmin series released two weeks ago. I was a huge fan of the first game, and I always thought the series was the quality I’ve come to expect from Shigeru Miyamoto. I actually bought my Gamecube when Pikmin released on December 2, 2001 as it was the first title I was interested in enough to buy the console. It is still to date one of the only Real Time Strategy games I enjoy. Though it is hard to compare it to other RTS games, which might be why I enjoy it.
Pikmin 2 came out three years later on April 29th, 2004 and I was very excited to get it. I had mistakenly believed that the game would feature co-op story mode so that Ken and I could play together. In actuality the co-op mode referenced was a multi-player battle mode only, and story mode could still only be done solo. The extra character ‘Louie’ was just to add extra game-play elements by allowing the player to split their Pikmin groups into two areas and accomplish more complex tasks. The idea was solid on paper, but I always felt it added to much complexity to a game that I had always enjoyed for it’s simplistic design. They also added two new Pikmin types, Purple and White. However neither new pikmin type came with their own Onion and would sit on your ship instead. It never really felt like the new pikmin types fit very well, and I would usually just ignore them in preference of the regular red’s, blue’s, and yellow’s. Ultimately however, the major disappointment in the game for me was the lack of time limit. The first game had a maximum time limit of 30 days to get as many ship parts as possible, and if you failed to get a necessary component, the ship would crash back to the planet and you would fail.
In Pikmin 2 you were only there to collect items to make money for your employers failing business. You had as many days as needed to do anything you needed, and even after the games “ending” you could continue to collect items for high scores. I remember having to constantly reset days on the first game because I failed to secure a piece, as each day was precious. In Pikmin 2 I could spend a week amassing huge pikmin numbers and nothing else with no consequence. It took all the excitement out of the game. Ultimately a combination of gameplay changes and Final Fantasy XI never made me spend much time on Pikmin 2, and I never rated it very high.
Over nine years later Nintendo finally released the third game, and as I don’t have any Wii U games, I was pretty excited to get it. My initial impressions of the game were good, but I immediately noticed the lack of C-Stick. In the Gamecube titles you could use the C-Stick to ‘herd’ your pikmin group around which was extremely useful when engaging or moving around obstacles. In 3 you have a limited roll option for getting your group out of the way of an incoming attack quickly, but the lack of C-Stick hurts.
This time around Nintendo ditched the purple and white pikmin which I felt was a good move. The white pikmin were poisonous which basically made them only valuable to run up to an enemy and get eaten. Instead they added a new rock type pikmin, and a flying pikmin. Additionally they added puzzles that required the new types of pikmin, and each got it’s own Onion so it didn’t feel like they were just kind of tacked on as an afterthought.
I also like that instead of keeping each color Onion separate, each time you encountered a new one it would meld into the other so that you could pull all your pikmin from one single hub. It made getting the desired troops on the ground much easier than running to three different Onions.
Nintendo still didn’t add a time limit into the game, however they did add in the necessity to gather fruit for your home planet that was running out of food. Additionally your crew would consume juice each night, so if you failed to collect enough fruit your crew would end up consuming it all, and game over. It wasn’t the kind of time requirement I was hoping for, but it did seem to make it more urgent to succeed than Pikmin 2.
I enjoyed the game quit a bit right up until the last area/boss fight. The entire area was a multi-day labyrinth that required me to carry an unconscious Olimar through caverns just steps ahead of the large boss to stop it from consuming him. Once I had completed the labyrinth and confronted the boss, almost 200 pikmin of the Red Army were sacrificed to see it defeated. It was almost as many as I had lost on my first victory over the Emperor Bulblax on the first Pikmin. I think I could do exceedingly better knowing what I do now of the fight, but I don’t feel the need to immediately replay it like I did the first game. It was a fun title to play, but when it was done I was content to turn it off and put the game on the shelf. That may be because I’m older now and don’t have all that free time to spend analyzing every corner of each game, or it may be because I just didn’t find it as fun as the first game, who knows. Either way I did enjoy my return to the series and I’m hoping for future titles as it was sad to think it would never make it past the first two. Here’s hoping Nintendo starts to use the IP for more than Super Smash Bros sequels.