I have spent several “minutes” (or hours) playing the latest Nintendo  title for Wii U over the past few weeks. I was given an advance copy by Nintendo – and to be completely truthful, I never played the first two titles in the franchise so I had no idea what to expect, or what improvements (if any) have advanced the game’s play and features over the previous iterations. I also had absolutely no idea how Pikmin 3  worked or what the premise was. I was also very ill-prepared for the “daily” time limit on exploration and task completion. Adding to that the fact is that we have not had a Wii U for very long, so new game, new platform – should be interesting.
|ESRB Rating:||Everyone 10+|
|Canadian Release Date:||4 August 2013|
One thing that continues to impress me about Nintendo’s titles, and this is even more pronounced with the Wii U – is the vivid colouring and detail of the publisher’s games. The art design in Pikmin 3 is very pleasing to the eye, with every creature, plant and inanimate object highly detailed in realistic, vibrant colour. The soundtrack is not irritatingly repetitive, although I have found on more than one occasion that the theme song has become lodged in my head. The storyline for Pikmin 3 begins with a team of 3 (coincidence?) space captains sent off on a mission to locate more food for the Koppai nation, which has eaten its fill of the food that was available on its own planet. Once a plausible specimen is located for exploration, our three heroes are blasted off to space, where they voyage for an incredible number of light years before arriving at PNF-404, their destination planet. Of course all does not go well, and being far beyond the service region for any type of spaceship in-flight recovery assistance, the team crash lands on PNF-404, thereby ending up separated in three different areas of the five zone map.
Players are walked through a brief tutorial with Captain Charlie which introduces the yellow Pikmin who lend Charlie a helping hand – until he has a dire meeting with a large shadowy beast that you will meet up with again later in the Story. Gameplay proper then begins, with Alph taking over as primary character. He has several tasks to complete – finding Captain Charlie and botany expert Brittany are at the top of his list, but first he discovers alien red Pikmin and their mysterious Onion, followed shortly by the new Rock Pikmin. Those who have played the previous releases will already be familiar with these bulbous little creatures and all they offer, however you must remember that I am a complete newcomer to Pikmin, so battles and the control of these little cuties has been a steep learning curve. I’ve been playing for 60 “days” and I haven’t even gotten the blue Pikmin yet. It took me 4 “days” and many Pikmin just to beat the boss that would give me the ability to get to the Twilight River zone, where the weak but useful Winged Pikmin reside. Actually, to be more honest, it’s been rather more than 60 “days” because I have made use of the Earlier Day re-play option (and the Start Day Over option). Once I manage to make it all the way through story mode, I believe I will go back and play through again, using the knowledge of the game I have gained through trial and error – emphasis on error.
Throughout my playing of Pikmin 3 I have used the Wii U gamepad exclusively, although you can opt to use the Wii remote and nunchuk as the main controller and the gamepad as your map and data reader. I’ve found the controls to be hard to work with – targeting is not always the best, nor is it precise. I’ve heard it said that using the Wii remote and the nunchuk affords better control, but I cannot attest to that being a proven fact. Perhaps on my next run-through I will give that a try. Another option is to use the Wii pro controller, but those doing so will have their HUD displayed on the TV, not on the gamepad. Still another option is skipping the TV altogether and simply playing the entire game on the gamepad.
One of the first tasks the player encounters, beyond making it through the tutorial introduction, is to reunite the three space captains. In order to accomplish this, regions must be traversed, fruit gathered, Pikmin obtained and puzzles solved. The hardest part of the game, at least for me – other than surviving boss battles without too many Pikmin casualties, is the “daily” time limit of just over 13 minutes. Being a completionist, I like to explore – particularly as there is map to “unfog” – and for me the day cycles are simply too short. I understand the theory behind these cycles, as they encourage a better use of time and resources to get challenges done, but for me this results in a disengagement from the flow of the game. Each end-of-day routine is almost exactly the same with limited skip function. Also, as the game’s original voiceover was done in Japanese, all of the English translations are done via text, so there is a lot of reading to be done, making this kid-friendly title a real challenge for those with lower reading levels.
In true Nintendo fashion, there are puzzles to be solved, and as some of them can only be solved with two or three captains present, the player needs to backtrack once additional parties are added to the mix. This is particularly true of obstacles such as gates, as each Pikmin can open a different type of gate. There are also specific enemies which each type of Pikmin fights best, and the player can be at a bit of a disadvantage until his or her collection of Pikmin creatures is complete. One also learns to be a bit of a sleuth in looking for paths across the map, as some are quite well hidden or require teamwork on the part of the captains to successfully traverse. There are also appearances made later in the game by characters who are familiar to those who have played the previous Pikmin titles, and finding them is an intricate part of making it through Story Mode to the end game.
For those who want a faster paced challenge and play with a friend, there is Mission Mode, which consists of short, timed segments with specific challenges and Bingo Battle. I found Mission Mode, which can also be played solo, to be somewhat useful in bettering my team and time management skills, but Story is still my favourite mode for Pikmin 3. In Mission Mode the plan is to make it as far through each obstacle course as fast as possible, gathering fruit and dispatching the enemies for points, otherwise known as Pokos. Your Pokos rank is converted to medals, and depending on your skill, you can earn bronze, silver and gold medals. One other note: purple and white Pikmin, which are not available in Story Mode, make an appearance in Mission Mode. There are three separate segments – one is collecting fruit while the other two are battling enemies and bosses. In Battle Bingo mode, players have a bingo-styled card that they must complete by collecting fruit, enemies and treasures before their opponent completes his or her own card. Gameplay here can be either 1 v 1 or 2 v 2, with 12 challenge stages and a Capture the Flag component tossed in just to keep things really interesting. Golden Cherries offer special rewards – collect these as fast as you can so that you can gain items designed to make progress difficult for your opponent.
Overall, Pikmin 3 is a very enjoyable game, it just (for me) has some really frustrating bits in the way of controls, targeting, and highly powered bosses – along with the Pikmin’s uncanny ability to not pay attention to the Whistle signal, along with their penchant for getting stuck in nooks and crannies or falling off of objects because they like to occupy the same space and push each other out of the way. That said, each species of Pikmin has its own character traits, and this again shows the level of detail that Nintendo’s game designers put in their games – right down to the dejected sighs of the Pikmin who don’t get to grab an explosive rock or carry a regeneration disk to the Onion. Brittany’s personality leaves a bit to be desired at times, while Alph and Charlie can come across as just plain weird. That said, I do like playing the game, and thus for me there is a high replayability factor. At the end of the day (no pun intended), I feel that Pikmin 3 is an 8.5 star on a scale of 10 stars. If the gamepad controls had been a bit tighter, if the bosses were a bit more reasonable in their power, and if the daily time limit was longer, I would have no problem in adding a star to my rating of the game.