Pikmin is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, with many people calling for another Pikmin game all throughout the life cycle of the Wii. Nintendo answered that call with the Wii U, with Pikmin 3 originally scheduled as a launch title for the new console. Despite the title repeatedly being pushed back for more polishing, it’s been a worthy wait.
The core aspects of gameplay between Pikmin 3 and the rest of the series hasn’t deviated too much from what fans of the series are familiar with. Sure, you have the return of classic Pikmin and the hunt for juice for survival, but new additions to the series include the ability to replay a day if you’re not happy with how it turned out, as well as controlling three characters and their Pikmin troops instead of just one.
The core gameplay experience of Pikmin 3 is more closely related to the first game than the second, which is a good thing because the refined aspects of gameplay that we loved from the first in the series truly shine in all their polished glory in the third.
Players take control of Alph, Charlie, and Brittany who have undertaken an interstellar mission to find food for themselves and their home world as their home world is teetering on the edge of annhiliation. You can find survivor journal entries littered across the planet that give you some idea of what’s been going on in the world. For a Nintendo game, the world of Pikmin is surprisingly dark.
Of course, the main draw of the game is using your various Pikmin to overcome the cute but tricky obstacles as you progress through the game. The traditional purple and white Pikmin are not available in campaign mode, but two new additions more than make up for their absence. The rock Pikmin look like tiny stones and will willingly smash themselves against glass barriers and your enemies. They’re effective tools at teaching the massive bugs you encounter a lesson.
Winged Pikmin are the second type of Pikmin you’ll encounter and in my experience they were decidedly less useful than the rock pikmin, but their ability to absolutely murder bird-bees was a welcome addition to my squad. Of course, the mainstay yellow, red and blue Pikmin are still in the series, with blue Pikmin being able to swim and yellow Pikmin offering support for jumping higher than reds and fiddling with any electrical components you find in the world.
Boss fights in the game are the real feature, as some of them are downright nasty and learning when to use the correct combination of Pikmin in the fight can mean the difference between victory or seeing tons of tiny ghost frowns floating up as your Pikmin needlessly kamikaze themselves at your poor direction.
Boss Rush mode in the game features co-op, which adds a completely new dimension to destroying all the tricky bosses you experience throughoug the campaign.
Graphics & Audio
For anyone questioning how good a Wii U game can look, Pikmin 3 is your answer. The delightfully lush environments you encounter are gorgeous, and the detail is surprising. When I first started the game, I marveled at a group of yellow Pikmin sitting on an old rusted tuna can that actually looked pitted, as if it had been sitting there for a decade, waiting for me to happen upon it in my search for food.
As always, the audio is a treat as well, with the alien jargon that the characters speak in having an almost sing-song quality. The boss tracks are some of the best and most frantic compositions in the game and I found myself revelling in the music just as much as I was the strategy of taking down something like the Burrowing Snagret.
Pikmin 3 also includes four co-op modes that reside outside of the campaign. There are five treasure hunting stages, five monster-hunting modes, and over twenty Bingo Battle maps that see you duking it out against other players in one vs. one or two vs. two matches. Most of the bosses from the campaign make reappearances here, but there are some new creatures. As previously mentioned, the white and purple Pikmin from Pikmin 2 make their appearance in these modes.
The challenge modes are certainly a great addition after finishing the campaign mode, and playing with others means you’ll not have the same experience twice, but I can’t help but feel the multiplayer aspects of the game are a little lacking compared to the single player. It’s not surprising, since Pikmin 3 is built to tell a story after all, but many are hoping Nintendo will embrace DLC for the title. I can’t say I blame them, since I’d love to see more treasure hunting and boss battles.
Wii U Features
Of course, since Pikmin 3 is an exclusive Nintendo title the GamePad can be an integral part of gameplay if you choose to use it that way. It supports Off-TV play, but I found commanding my Pikmin to be a lot easier using the standard Wii-mote and nunchuk combo. That’s not surprising since motion control allows for more precise selection of Pikmin, but I feel that if you get used to the analog sticks on the GamePad, it’s not too bad.
There’s no touch screen aiming for tossing your Pikmin either, so you’ll have to get used to using the stick for that as well. I found this omission a bit strange, considering touch input is a natural way to select targets for a game like this and Nintendo always seems to lead the charge in innovation with their new products.
I’d say that Pikmin 3 does an admirable job of standing up to the previous two titles in the series, especially considering they’ve set high expectations for fans. The game is absolutely gorgeous and some of the puzzle elements will have you scratching your head as you figure out how to proceed. The multiplayer mode is a welcome addition even if the challenges seem a bit sparse, but here’s to looking forward to more, should Nintendo decide to produce them.
+ A great storyline that gets surprisingly deep
+ Challenge modes are a nice distraction to play with friends
+ Collectibles, collectibles, collectibles
+ Gorgeous HD graphics
+ An amazing soundtrack
- Challenge modes seem a bit short compared to the length of the campaign
- Analog stick controls take a bit to get used to