Michael Leparc On August 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Pikmin 3 i_39912While there’s been an intense focus on the lack of third party support for Wii U, the first party offerings haven’t exactly been plentiful either. With Pikmin 3 coming out during the mid year break, Nintendo seeks to change that, but will anyone really flock to a series that while beloved by some, hasn’t seen an update in nearly a decade? Real time strategy is not a genre with deep roots in the console realm of gaming, needless to say, but Pikmin 3 does things its own way as it compensates with that, for better or worse depending on your tolerances for its deviations from the formula.

The plot isn’t too deep but it does tie into the previous games’ protagonist a little bit. This time three intrepid explorers take off from the planet of Koppai in search of food for their starving population. They of course crash land onto the planet they were sent to explore, PNF-404. The good news however is they happen upon some helpful little pikmin to order around, and to boot, the fruit on PNF-404 is edible and readily made into juice for storage. Your first task is to reunite all the crew members and then recover the cosmic drive key from Captain Olimar (of Pikmin 1 and 2 fame) so that they can return home.

Pikmin 3 plays a lot like its predecessors as well, with many of the same limitations that you’ll either find quaint as a fan of the series or possibility irritating as a newcomer to the franchise like I am. You only control up to 100 pikmin in the field at the time (though you can keep and grow many more inside their onion ship to recall as they die), throwing them at stuff you want to kill, smash, or harvest, and calling them back with your whistle when you’re done or want to change orders. Different color pikmin have different abilities. For instance the red pikmin are fire resistant but quick at taking down most enemies, yellow pikmin are shock resistant and can be thrown farther, and blue pikmin can enter water without drowning. In addition there are two new types of pikmin: rock pikmin which can bash through glass and damage armored foes, and pink winged pikmin that can attack flying enemies and carry items through the air. You can split these pikmin up among up to three crew members, allowing you to divide and conquer, or reach certain areas by tossing a crew member and some pikmin up to some previously unreachable plateau.

The game is divided into a series of days, each only 13 minutes long. Once night approaches you must round up all your pikmin or lose them. While better than the original Pikmin in that you do get an unlimited number of days to complete your mission (instead of only 30), it’s still annoying in that the only purpose it seems to serve is to drag out the length of the game. Many times I found myself discovering a key item or a boss only to have to turn tail and head back because the sun was going down. I guess it also adds some difficulty in that it forces you to harvest fruit along the way as well, as you consume juice at the end of each day, and if you run out you’ll get a Game Over, which really just means you have to go back to an earlier day (the game saves a snapshot of your progress for each day). Multiplayer consists of allowing co-op in a series of side missions involving collecting fruit or killing enemies and bosses, or versus action in something called Bingo Battle where each player has a small grid of items to collect and the first to get four in a row or column (or capture the others’ “flag” if you enable that rule) wins.

My other gripe with how the game plays is with the controls. Playing with the Wii U gamepad alone is a mess, as the left analog stick controls your movement and your aiming of your pikmin throws and summons. The right analog unfortunately only works your camera, which is mostly useless and redundant when you have a camera reset button. The onscreen map is useful for getting to specific areas quickly but is a bit quirky in functionality. What works better is having the gamepad as your map in your lap or on a table in front of you and controlling the action with a Wiimote and nunchuck, which allows you to aim with the former and move with the latter.

One thing I can’t complain about is Pikmin 3’s visuals, which while still sporting cartoonish looking characters and enemies, places them in lush and brilliant settings that only the Wii U’s high definition output does justice to compared to its prequels on the GameCube. The music straddles the line between sci-fi and bubbly quite well, too. Personally I find the combination of the pikmin’s incessant chatter and the whistle blows required to lasso them an absolutely intolerable cacophony after a while, and so will others living with you I guarantee. It would have been nice if they toned that down a bit or included the option to at least.

Those who just love the Pikmin series should take solace in the fact that Nintendo has done nothing here to ruin it or stain its legacy. For folks like me just looking for something to play on their Wii U that are not as familiar, it’s definitely a unique world worth exploring if you can get past some of the design decisions.


A unique brand of real time strategy that you just don’t find much of on consoles, wrapped in a cutesy package. The day/night cycle and controls can be a hassle.


Really gorgeous environments are what carries this score.


Great soundtrack but can we get the little guys to chill out a bit?


Yet another solidly executed title that just isn’t a system seller, unfortunately for Nintendo.

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