It feels like it's been an age since Pikmin was first introduced back on the Gamecube. At the time it was a completely new IP that introduced many new gameplay mechanics to the scene - something which Nintendo has gained quite a reputation for. Now, many years later and after a tease as part of Nintendo Land, owners of the Nintendo Wii U are able to get their mitts on Pikmin 3 and boy has it been worth the wait.
Let's jump right in to the story as you won't be playing as Olimar any more. Instead, you're following the story of three intrepid explorers called Captain Charlie, Alph and Brittany. Their mission is to seek out food for their home world where supplies have dwindled to the point that their race from planet Koppai is on the verge of extinction. However, on their way to their next mission they crash on a planet, and the three of them are split up from one another. Shortly after the player meets the Pikmin and thus their adventure starts.
The Pikmin are essentially your army. You can lead them around the map and send them to attack dangerous foes, retrieve items (usually fruit) to bring back to base and to increase their number among other things. The key to the success in each mission comes down to two factors: finding the cosmic drive key which is their only way to return home and collecting fruit so that they can turn it into daily rations in order to keep searching. The Pikmin are key to doing all these things and as you progress through each area you'll uncover new types of Pikmin, unlocking routes on each of the four main areas on the planet.
Each of these Pikmin has specific traits making them more suited to each environment, be it water, electricity, fire or just being squashed (a task for the Rock Type Pikmin). Enemies will usually give a hint as to what they can do before engagement, but using the incorrect type will result in many more Pikmin being lost. But doing it correctly can make a battle completely one sided, this is even more apparent in the boss battles that surface throughout the story of the game, and many different types of Pikmin are required to beat these.
However, the game isn't just about strategy and tactical use of the Pikmin at your disposal. Each time a you start exploring an area you are presented with a timer. This goes through various stages and warnings throughout the day to help you keep track of the time, but when that Sun goes down, the Pikmin and the three explorers must leave. This means that those Pikmin not at the base will be left to fend for themselves (or rather you'll be forced to watch them perish). It's a mechanic that has been in the game since the series started, but it introduces a time management challenge aspect which can really dictate just how badly or well you can do.
If you've got it in you, multi-tasking is extremely possible. You essentially have the ability to have each team member control their own squad of Pikmin and for people who love micro-management this could be quite easy to do. However, for those of us who can't focus on two many aspects at once it can become extremely demanding even with the ability to auto-tell each squad member to move to a certain point.The game for the most part isn't particularly challenging, most of the puzzle aspects and combat are extremely intuitive. It means players won't really find themselves getting stuck. Some of the bosses can be brutal, but they don't reset their health so you can always try again the next day. Though oddly despite it not being too hard, it's extremely rewarding in almost every respect. Obtaining 5 pieces of fruit in a day gives you a feeling of success, and dragging that boss back to the Pikmin Nest is equally as satisfying.
There is of course a way to make the game harder and that's to challenge yourself to beat it in the least amount of days possible, which really takes thing to a whole new level.
For the most part the controls in the game work well. Playing on the Wii U GamePad felt a little bit clunky at times and some of the controls can be skipped over for quite awhile. However, for the most part it works well enough to not become a problem. Trying to call all your Pikmin back to you in a boss fight gone wrong can become more frantic than it needs to be, but that's half of the fun, right?
Aside from the story there are actually two more modes available. Both have multiplayer functionality, one specifically so. Mission mode allows cooperative play using specific Pikmin types on smaller maps, and Bingo Battle which allows players to go head to head to compete at collecting items to form a bingo. This mode also includes a bunch of special powerups to give more advantages or disadvantages to the players. Both of these modes are quite fun and add a bonus to the rest of the story's approximate 11 hours. However, it's worth noting that these modes are offline only for 2 players.
Graphically the game really holds up extremely well. It's impressive throughout and certain battles feature terrain deformation which looks absolutely beautifully implemented. Nintendo did an amazing job of theming each area to a climate and on the whole everything is presented so well, including in the music and other sound departments. The fruit ironically is equally impressive, especially when it's analysed and turned into daily rations, as each fruit is juiced and if mixed the colour changes accordingly. It's a very odd sensation and usually leaves one wanting the concoctions being poured in front of them.
On the whole if you've played the previous two games, or even just one of them then Pikmin 3 is a perfect sequel. If you've never had the chance to sample the game before then this is easily one of the best games out on the Wii U right now, and definitely one of the most fun games of all time. The combination of gameplay and story, with the additional modes thrown in too, just creates a rather nice blend.
|Graphically outstanding and beautiful.|
|Time management and strategy make for an great combination.|
|Leaves players wanting more.|
|Could possibly have been a bit longer, though what's on offer is sufficient.|
|Controls can be a bit stubborn and over sensitive.|
|Having to hear the sounds of Pikmin dying.|