A lot of people are wondering what the single game to ‘save’ the Wii U will be, the killer app so great people have to purchase a console to buy it. However, in my opinion the whole concept of a single game saving a console is nonsense; look at the 3DS, which went from an awful position to a great one in two years, but I can’t think of a single individual game which saved the device. Instead, the 3DS has steadily built up a great library at a decent rate, with Nintendo ensuring a good stream of releases to keep any 3DS owner busy. This is what I hope will happen with the Wii U, and Pikmin 3 may just be the game to kick off that trend.
Rather than following Olimar and Louie from the earlier Gamecube Pikmin games (although they do appear in a non-playable capacity), Pikmin 3 instead follows three explorers from the planet of Koppai, who have come to the planet of ‘PN4-404’ in search for fruit to feed their planet, which is suffering a food crisis. Their ship crashes, and the three crewmembers, Alph, Brittany and Captain Charlie are scattered to different parts of the planet. They are soon assisted by the adorable plant creatures known as Pikmin, re-join forces, and seek to repair their ship and gather enough fruit to save their planet.
Pikmin 3 is fairly beat you around the skull preachy, but it’s a good message so why not? The three protagonists are likeable, with an effort made to infuse them with character, with little details such as the Captain’s love for his rubber ducky and an awkward love triangle standing as entirely unnecessary, but still very likeable additions.
The Pikmin series is arguably the best experiment in console RTS gameplay, which succeeds by not attempting to imitate its PC cousins and provide instead a much more hands on approach to managing your squad. Gameplay wise, things are haven’t changed much since Pikmin 2; the focus is still on working your way around levels, using your different Pikmin for different tasks, building bridges and bringing loads of stuff back to your ship. The time limit from the first Pikmin returns, although it’s very generous, and I never even came slightly close to running out of time. Pikmin 3 definitely isn’t a revolution, but a refinement on the original game’s concept.
Of course, the most obvious change is the control method, although there are loads available. Various combinations of the Wii U Gamepad, Wii Remote and Nunchuck and the Pro Controller are on offer, but the general consensus is that the best control method is the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, with the Gamepad used as a map. The motion controls work brilliantly in Pikmin 3, offering a level of accuracy which completely surpasses the originals, with the ability to view the map on the gamepad, and assign orders to your squads, making multitasking and strategizing much easier. Whilst I was pointing at the screen with my Wiimote and poking at my tablet controller, I was struck that the multiple ‘gimmicks’ were actually reinforcing the gameplay rather than undermining it, and I then became thoroughly depressed trying to think of another Nintendo games that I could apply that to. The wacky new control methods are absolutely to Pikmin 3’s advantage, and convinced me of the Wii U’s potential better than anything else I’ve played on the system.
There are other shake ups to the formula, with the most obvious being the three team leaders. In theory, this means that you can have three squads doing things at once, to maximise efficiency. This would have been quite unworkable without the Gamepad, but the ability to send secondary teams off for other tasks works well. I never really used all three, unless a puzzle demanded it, and the game probably could have worked with only two, but it doesn’t take away from the experience. There are a couple of new Pikmin types to; the Flying Pikmin which are quite self-explanatory, and the Rock Pikmin which can destroy structures too tough for the other types. The fire absorbing Red Pikmin, the electricity conducting Yellow Pikmin and the water breathing Blue Pikmin make their return from the earlier games. The levels are very well designed, with an almost Metroidvania approach taken to the level structure. The earlier games did this as well, but I think that Pikmin 3’s levels are the most ingenious yet.
Pikmin 3 isn’t a particularly long game, and does end a bit before I was ready for it to, but this is made up for with the surprisingly excellent multiplayer. Any regular readers may have noticed that I usually completely ignore multiplayer, but after a highly enjoyable evening with a friend playing through Pikmin 3’s ‘Bingo Battle’ multiplayer, I can’t not mention it. Both players are placed on one of twelve maps, which contain a collection of fruits, items and enemies which can be collected. Each player as a separate ‘bingo card’, and when they form a line of collected items to win. The game ends up having quite strategic element as you have to choose between focusing on finishing your own lines or sabotaging your foes attempts. It’s a lot of fun, and an understated part of the package.
The planet of PNF-404, which Nintendo barely even attempt to hide being Earth in a vastly distant future, is unbelievably gorgeous. This is the first Wii U game that Nintendo has made which really shows off what they can do with the boosted visual power over the Wii. Pikmin 3 is a lovely looking game, with charming music and great sound design. Nintendo aren’t a company who skimp on such things, and the love poured into Pikmin 3 is clear.
Pikmin 3 is the best game for the Wii U so far, and one which I hope helps to lift the console’s flagging fortunes. I hope we see more Pikmin from Nintendo sooner rather than later, perhaps in the form of DLC.