Feature: A Weekend With Pikmin 3
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Our staff share their thoughts on the major Wii U release
It's been quite a while since we could discuss a major Wii U exclusive, in terms of a title with the potential for strong sales and capturing the public imagination. Game & Wario has its supporters, of course, but it's been a long summer short of eye-catching new content to grab headlines and attention for Nintendo's home console. As the first of a number of titles coming in the next few months with that very goal, Pikmin 3 has arrived on the scene in Europe, earned a great deal of critical praise and made its UK all-format chart debut in second place. It's a Wii U game that people are talking about, which is a welcome turn of events.
Ahead of its arrival in North America this weekend, a group of Nintendo Life staff have decided to give their personal initial perspectives of the game after a weekend of familiarisation. For some this is their first game in the series, while others are veterans of gathering fruit with cute little minions; you shouldn't forget that if you want to know what we officially think, you should check out our Pikmin 3 review.
This is a chance for some of the team to share their own impressions, and what they feel makes this an important release on Wii U.
Has it really been nine years since the last Pikmin game? I absolutely adored the first two Pikmin games on the GameCube all those years ago, so it was with great excitement that I downloaded Pikmin 3 for the Wii U. I’m probably about halfway through the game at the time of writing and am having a whale of a time with it. Bringing back the time limit from the first Pikmin game was a sensible move to restore some of the energising tension that Pikmin 2 lost, I think Pikmin 3 gets it just right by using fruit to control the number of days you can explore.
It’s no secret that the Wii U’s software library has been a bit lacking since the console’s launch seven months ago. While I would have loved for this to be ready for the Wii U launch window, I think the extra time that Nintendo has spent polishing the game has been put to good use (based on the early previews I played last year).
The game looks absolutely gorgeous of course; this was always going to be a game which benefited from HD. In terms of the controls, I think the right balance has been struck with the use of the GamePad. I prefer playing the game with the Wii Remote as it’s so much quicker for aiming your Pikmin around the field. Having the GamePad next to me on the sofa as a handy map that I can quickly jump on to set new destinations is great. Also taking photos in first person mode to share on Miiverse is pretty neat too. It’s also a nice bonus to be able to play the entire game on the GamePad screen if a family member commandeers the TV to watch their favourite show. Some commentators have said that more could have been done with the GamePad in this game, but I’m thankful that features weren’t just shoehorned in for the sake of it, that was one of my pet hates with the Wii Remote in the last Nintendo gen (Yes DKCR waggle to roll, I am looking at you!).
On the whole so far my impressions of Pikmin 3 are entirely positive and I hope it helps shift a few more console units. While it obviously won’t be a system seller like a Mario or Zelda game, it should assist the cause. It would be a crying shame if a game of such outstanding quality were to be overlooked.
I'm a bit of a latecomer to the Pikmin series, having only played the games for the first time thanks to the New Play Control Wii releases. I enjoyed them, but I get the impression that I'm only really understanding the full appeal of the series now that I'm playing Pikmin 3. It's an adorable micro-adventure that's clearly had a lot of Nintendo's weight thrust behind it, full of lovely little touches, a few great effects and tangible upgrades over the previous entries.
This, to me, signals the beginning of Wii U's comeback. Without a big in-house first-party game released since launch, the system has fallen foul of the sales charts despite the release of titles such as LEGO City Undercover. Pikmin 3 is the first in a slew of titles that can rebuild momentum for the console; the fact that TV and print advertisements for Wii U have resumed alongside its release gives a positive indication that Nintendo is about to give its HD machine the push it deserves.
I'll start off by saying that this is my first Pikmin game, but I know the franchise from various cameos, including my struggles to figure out how to use Captain Olimar effectively in Brawl. I also knew from videos and write-ups what the series was all about, and despite a spectacular failure on a demo last year — I made a fool of myself because I didn't know the controls and had no explanation given to me — I've been excited about its arrival, plonking a pre-order down a while ago. It's possibly also due to my last "retail" game on the system being Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate; it's been a drought, and Game & Wario just didn't appeal to me enough to buy.
Thankfully, my excitement for it doesn't seem to have been misplaced, and I've really enjoyed the 4-5 hours I've put in so far. While the visuals are a treat and it's incredibly cute and charming, the greatest triumph for me is the pacing and level design. As a complete Pikmin n00b, it's felt like a natural learning process, and one where I've learned quickly from my mistakes. There were doubts in my mind about playing with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk and keeping the GamePad relevant, but I actually really like the dynamic of sitting the second screen nearby and occasionally looking across to scan around the map or watch a message. We live in a two-screen society now, where many (including me) check their phone while watching TV and so on, so it feels natural to glance away from the TV to interact with the GamePad.
The exploration and puzzle solving also feels right on the money, with my steady progress not necessarily impressive, but suiting me perfectly. Balancing out searching for a new area and solving puzzles with grabbing fruit supplies is an enjoyable challenge, and I don't mind the fact that the difficulty, to date, isn't too steep. I keep seeing areas I can't access — because I only have the first couple of Pikmin types — and again it feels like excellent balancing, teasing me to come back in the future.
This feels like a game that'd only put together all of these pieces so well on the Wii U, utilising the hardware's control and display options effectively. It's also relaxing and compulsive, both at once, and typifies a perfect Sunday afternoon game; it's shaping up to be my favourite game on the system so far, because it feels impeccably structured. Pikmin 4 in a few years, please.
I think Pikmin 3 definitely marks the beginning of a new and exciting period for the Wii U, giving us our first glimpse at what Nintendo has in store for us with its core franchises. And, it's fair to say that Pikmin 3 is a most certainly a fantastic start, both visually and in terms of gameplay. Although I personally believe the game to be more of a refinement of previous ideas, rather than a giant evolutionary next step, that's not to say that it still isn't brilliant. I like that Nintendo has managed to create a living, breathing world — teeming with exotic creatures and vast, lushious landscapes — while still ensuring there's still a ton of in-depth gameplay elements. That may seem like a a fairly standard thing to expect from a video game, but it's very rare nowadays that a game actually gets both these things right.
It was my intention to dabble sparingly in Pikmin 3 this weekend, but two play sessions later that were spread over 20 hours, including exploration distractions, and I impulsively completed its story mode. Pikmin 3 evokes a feeling of my younger days, but the detailed ground level viewpoint of a garden expedition resonates more vividly than a movie like Disney's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. When I went to bed I could still picture worker ant Pikmin busying themselves in my brain, similar to a snapshot from The Numskulls comic strip in The Dandy. The accuracy of swift Wii Remote pointer controls, complemented by a GamePad map with an invaluable "Go Here!" touchscreen option, compensated for a few unhelpful camera angles. I would have preferred it if the game entrusted the player with more Pikmin types to manage during earlier levels, but a drip-feed of new skills ensures that it is accessible to less experienced gamers.
I was engrossed in the GameCube era, I amassed a decent collection of games, but my knowledge from reading about the original two games in CUBE and NGC magazines does not compare to experiencing my first Pikmin. The atmosphere and attention to detail is expertly realised in HD on Wii U, with butterflies fluttering between flowers, alongside the pitter-patter sound of astronaut feet. I did not expect such style in how it presented its world, not just is in the depiction of PNF-404's environments, but I was impressed by a clever sci-fi juxtaposition between space planet trotters and natural habitats. There is one boss battle that is particularly memorable, as it flexes Wii U's graphical grunt by using environmental physics, and it remarkably manages to reference a cult 1990 American monster movie. You may play Pikmin 3 expecting to be charmed, and you will definitely coo-coo over its adorable disposition, but it could still surprise you at how attentively it has been crafted. I am smiling right now when I think of Captain Charlie's zero gravity floating Rubber Ducky.
So, what do those of you in Europe or Japan think of Pikmin 3? Let us know below and worry not, North American gamers, it's merely days away from landing in local stores.