koopamaster's Wii de Asobu: Pikmin (Wii) review

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NPC: Pikmin Review

Shigeru Miyamoto. One of the most prolific and unique video game designers of all time. It's easy to think not so positively of him though, but don't be fooled. Before moving onto a questionably simple series of games known as the Wii series, he worked on some very great and influential games. The New Play Control range can now give new gamers, and gamers who just missed out on the first release, a chance to play a critically acclaimed game series called Pikmin.

In Pikmin, you control Captain Olimar, an astronaut from the planet Hocotate. While taking a vacation in outer space, his spaceship; the S.S Dolphin, is struck by an asteroid. The S.S Dolphin plummets down to a strange planet, distant planet. All 30 of the S.S Dolphin's parts have been scattered across 4 different areas in the game. The only problem is that the oxygen contained in the planet is highly poisonous, and Olimar's life-support system can only last for 30 days. Olimar cannot do this alone. Fortunately for him, small creatures called Pikmin inhabit the area, and are willing to help Olimar find the missing parts of the S.S Dolphin.

There are three different types of Pikmin, all of which have certain strengths, and are very handy to have. There are red, yellow and blue Pikmin. The red Pikmin are stronger than the yellow and the blue Pikmin are, and can go through fire without being damaged. The yellow Pikmin can carry bomb rocks, which are very useful when battling monsters and breaking down walls. The blue Pikmin can survive while in water. Unfortunately, you will have to stand on the sidelines while the Pikmin are fighting, as Olimar can be damaged by enemies.

When Olimar stumbles upon new types of Pikmin, they appear in things called 'Onions'. To make new Pikmin, a pre-existing Pikmin will have to get pellets or defeated enemies, and put it into the onion. The onion will then shoot out a Pikmin seed, which will plant itself conveniently into the ground.

The different strengths of the Pikmin require you to think things through before you go to do certain tasks. The tasks will include defeating an enemy and breaking down walls or building bridges to clear a path for Olimar and the Pikmin. The Pikmin can be split up by colour, and they will remain separated unless you call them with your whistle. This is a very useful feature in the game, which will allow the Pikmin to carry out several different tasks at once very easily. Each in-game day lasts for around 15 minutes, which is plenty of time to plant more Pikmin, while going with another group of Pikmin to retain a ship part. New to the Wii version of the game is the ability to replay in-game days. So, if you have a huge Pikmin 'wipeout', in which all of your Pikmin are killed, you can go back to the start of the day before the Pikmin wipeout. While it's rare that you will have to do this, it's a useful addition to the game.

Pikmin, over time, will evolve. The different stages are shown on the Pikmin's heads. The Pikmin will, at first, have leaves on their heads. Then buds, and then flowers. After each stage, the Pikmin will gain strength and speed. Pikmin can gain a flower on their heads by allowing them to drink nectar.

The level design in Pikmin is great. The areas that Olimar can explore with his Pikmin (except where he crashed his ship) are huge, and a joy to explore! There are parts of the map and obstacles perfectly suited for specific types of Pikmin. This highlights the well thought-out strengths and weaknesses of certain types of Pikmin.

There's also a Challenge Mode featured in the game, which will be unlocked early in gameplay, assuming you manage to get a decent amount of ship parts. The challenge mode feels like it was just tacked on to the game to make up for how short the game is. In the challenge mode, you can go through the different stages to see how many you can collect before the day is over. It just feels like a lazy attempt to increase the games replayability, and a failed attempt. What makes this more of an annoyance is that it could have improved the replayability, had the mode provided you with different challenges.

As a result of being a port of a Gamecube game, the graphics don't look that great when compared with some of the other games on the console. A 16:9 widescreen format is added to the game, which is always fun. But, for a Gamecube game, the graphics are good. Not great, but good.

While there are not many songs in the games soundtrack, the music is great. It's mostly soothing and relaxing, but the music doesn't quite fit the environments. This is a very minor problem, but I feel it's something worth mentioning.

My final problem with the game is the Pikmin AI. The AI is not bad by any means, but it's not great either. They can definitely get the jobs that are required done, but they often struggle. The Pikmin, when carrying items and ship parts, go straight to the area where the different onions and the ship is. They are completely oblivious to any nearby enemies, and refuse to go on alternative routes, which are provided. This can make getting to the ship incredibly frustrating at times.

Another example of not so perfect AI is when a lot of yellow Pikmin were on a high up level where a ship part was located. When there were enough Pikmin to carry the item, they completely ignored a perfectly laid out path which eventually led to the ship, and went into the path that the blue Pikmin would normally take, straight through the water. Because the yellow Pikmin don't have gills, they drowned.

+ Beautifully crafted level design

+ Contolling the Pikmin is easier than ever with Wii controls

+ The music is beautiful

- The Pikmin's AI isn't too impressive, to say the least.

- The Challenge Mode feels tacked on.

- The game is a bit short

Pikmin is an incredibly unique, surprisingly engaging and charming  RTS game. It's one of the lost classics of the Gamecube era, and you should definitely pick it up if you missed it the first time around.

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