Return to the planet of the Pikmin 9 years after the last installment into what I would consider to be Nintendo’s best franchise, with their hybrid of strategy, survival, puzzles and ladles filled with the adorable factor.
A lot has changed in these 9 years. Nintendo’s made the leap to HD, for one. And that’s where i’m going to start.You can look at pictures, watch videos or listen to it, but the charm of the game leaks out of every single graphical and audible aspect that it has to offer. The theme of Pikmin has always been mystique and wonder as you explore an alien world with these little helpers who you’ve named as Pikmin. However, the wonders of this game are now even more evident as the true dose of Nintendo that has been given to it shines through in the tiny details you don’t expect.
The environments are huge, gaping and beautifully designed, and they just add to this feeling of exploration and awe that the player is put through, with all these puzzles being dotted around the landscape to help you get to where you want to go. No expense has been spared in the world that you traipse around, trying to find fruit and seeds to cultivate on your home planet. I previously mentioned that it’s the little things that count, and I stand by that.
The first time you first see the weather system rain, and as the rain shimmers off the skin of wild beasts. The first time your army of Pikmin gets ambushed by a Desiccated Skitter Leaf. The first time you hear their destructive cries as the Pikmin run from an explosive. I could go on and on about the experiences and the wonders that you’ll experience, with the electrical circuits and the flowers in the dark…but I feel that I really need to move onto the main subject – the characters and the story.
Last time we were at the Pikmin planet, we were under the control of our beloved Captain Olimar, and his sidekick, Louie. We return this time with a different cast of characters; the engineer, Alph, the botanist, Brittany and the military man, Captain Charlie. After discovering the Pikmin Planet, which they named PNF-404, they head off to explore it. It’s packed full of delightful tributes to the games of past, but none more delightful than the diary entries of Captain Olimar.
He bears a much smaller role, but it’s an amazing comfort to the fans and myself to know that him and Louie do appear in the game, and they have a real role in it. Without wishing to spoil the storyline in any way, i’ll break off here, but this is the one place where it leaves something to be desired, as our explorers appear to forget their mission halfway through and try to accomplish something else. However, thankfully, the story bears resemblance to a classical Disney story; the young will understand it and enjoy it, and the adults will appreciate the adult humour and the things which they’ve not so sneakily hidden in there.
The best thing about our three new explorers is actually their personalities. The creator has gone to extreme length to ensure that the three faces are not just nameless people, and this is shown through diary extracts, actual dialogue appearing within the story, and little conversations that occur between the people aboard the SS Drake before starting the exploration for the day. They really grow on you, and before you know what you’re doing, you’ve picked one of the captains and are having them as the dominant force in the group.
That’s not even beginning to touch onto the mission mode, where you get a set time and a set amount of Pikmin and are told to clear a level with the highest score. With online ranking boards, it’s something which should occupy most people who enjoy that kind of thing for a fair amount of time, and even for those who aren’t big on it, there are platinum medals to collect in all the boss modes. Going alongside this is the Bingo Battle mode, where two players take an army of Pikmin and compete with one another to collect things before the other player does. There’s a competitive aspect of things, but it’s a battle nonetheless, and my brief glimpse into the mode is far from complete.
With all that I’ve said, however, the game is missing some things to stop it from being perfect. There are apparently ten things called “Secret Memo’s” hidden throughout the game, and i’m not sure if they unlock the true ending, but the ending which is there after gathering all the fruit and completing the story is oddly unsatisfying, nothing at all like Pikmin 2’s glorious departure upon collecting all the treasure. However, the Secret Memo’s are, as the name indicates, secret, and horribly difficult to hunt down all ten. It may be a mild complaint, but it’s something which hampers the game for me, and when you also consider the total playtime (takes you 20 hours maximum to clear story mode), you’re left with that feeling that it could have been better. It’s an absolutely outstanding game, sure, but it’s fallen just short of the hurdle named perfection.