The “Pikmin” franchise is one of Nintendo’s most oddball series, with gameplay that’s unlike anything else that company, or any other company for that matter, creates. Playing “Pikmin” offers gamers the wholly unique experience of controlling large groups of tiny creatures that do your bidding for you. However, there hasn’t been a fresh “Pikmin” game since the release of “Pikmin 2” on the GameCube back in 2004, so, when Nintendo announced a new entry into the series it’s fair to say that gamers got excited. That reveal was at E3 in 2008, and the game was supposed to be on the Wii… then it was supposed to be a Wii U launch title. Five years after its initial announcement, “Pikmin 3” has finally been released, and even with development delays and a change of platform, it’s fair to say that the wait was worth it.
“Pikmin 3” follows a very similar formula that was created by the earlier games in the series: aliens land on a foreign planet looking for something (in this case it’s fruit), and they employ the skills and dedication of tiny plantlike creatures to assist them in their exploration. This intergalactic voyage sees three travelers, Alph, Charlie, Brittany, as they try and save their starving home planet of Koppai by collecting seeds from the mysterious planet that houses the Pikmin. The story mode is basically a series of giant fetch quests. Whether Charlie, Alph, and Brittany are looking for more fruit to keep themselves alive, or for lost members of their party, they’re constantly exploring this new planet, using their new-found servants, the Pikmin, to help make sure that everything is returned to their ship before it gets dark at the end of the day.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Pikmin are creatures that dutifully serve their masters, and cooperatively work together to help transport objects and attack enemies. They are highly obedient, and can be easily controlled by blowing a whistle to wrangle them in, and throwing them at something to put them to work. The more Pikmin you throw at something, the faster it gets destroyed (this includes enemies), and the faster it is carried back to their Onion (the Pikmin’s home) to be ingested and create more Pikmin – that’s how you can amass an army. However, if you’re not careful, your Pikmin can fall victim to predators and less than favorable environmental conditions, and can die, to be lost forever. “Pikmin 3” sees the introduction of a couple new kinds of Pikmin classes, Rock (grey) and Winged (pink), which are added to the well-established Red (fire-resistant), Blue (water-friendly), and Yellow (electrical) Pikmin classes. The Purple and White Pikmin only return for the multiplayer modes.
Both the characters and the Pikmin are very easy to control, whether opting for the “New Play Control!” option (Wii controller and Nunchuck), or using the Wii U’s GamePad to control our troops. The Wii controller method affords the player the ability to basically point and click where they want their Pikmin to go, whereas the GamePad requires you to be accustomed to dual-analog controls, similar to the GameCube controller. It’s well worth noting that the latter option also allows for Off-TV Play, moving all of the game’s single-player action to the GamePad’s screen.
“Pikmin 2” was the first game in the series to introduce multiplayer, but “Pikmin 3” seems to be the one to have mastered it. This time around, the game features a couple different multiplayer options, which includes both co-op and competitive modes. While the story mode is strictly single-player, you can opt to take on a series of missions with your friends, and try to collect treasures, battle enemies, and defeat bosses together. Alternatively, if you want to go head-to-head, you can try out the new Bingo Battle mode, which tasks players with trying to fill up a bingo card with collected items before their opponents. Both are great takes on the unique gameplay of “Pikmin,” but Bingo Battle is likely to really bring out the best (and worst) of you and your friends.
For all that “Pikmin” offers, there is one small flaw with the series, and it goes all the way back to the first release: it’s easily the most complicated title in Nintendo’s first party catalog. Since it is one of the company’s “newer” I.P.s, it takes advantage of the more advanced controls that have been available since it was introduced, and when you boil it down, it’s basically an action game that relies heavily on resource management. These are, unfortunately, things that cause a game like this to be less of a pick-up-and-play game, and more of a thinker. That shouldn’t cause anyone to avoid the game, but it should help set some expectations. If you’ve never played a “Pikmin” game before, don’t expect to get too far into this game without going through the tutorial. There is a learning curve that comes with this series, but, on the plus side, it isn’t steep. It’s just a different curve than most other games, because the gameplay is so unique to this series.
Even when there is a new “Mario” or “Zelda” game on the horizon, it’s clear that the “Pikmin” franchise is Shirgeru Miyamoto’s pride and joy, and if you’ve ever played any of the titles, it’s pretty easy to see why. The gameplay is compelling, the characters are entertaining, and the Pikmin are adorable. When you have those kinds of elements in the mix, it’s pretty easy to appreciate a game like “Pikmin 3.” With the all of the new elements that are introduced in this title, everything from Pikmin classes to game modes, “Pikmin 3” is easily the most well-rounded title of the franchises, and seemingly justifies its delayed release. Even if there (still) wasn’t a drought for retail releases on the Wii U, “Pikmin 3” would be a standout title, and something that everyone with a Wii U should sit down, figure out, and enjoy.