masterherox's Pikmin 3 (Wii U) review

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A fantastic game that may be the first real "must have" on the Wii U

Pikmin 3 was supposed to be a system seller. It was supposed to be that one big game that came out around launch that really sold people on the idea of the Wii U. Now, just a few months short of the Wii U's one year anniversary, it's finally here and I can tell you that even if it doesn't have any effect on the already ailing console, this may well be the first game that Wii U owners really need to have.

In Pikmin 3, you take control of three residents of the planet Koppai as they travel to the Pikmin's home planet in search of food for their starving home. As you near the planet sudden disaster strikes, separating the three crewmates, and stranding them on the planet. From there, the game plays just as veterans of the series would expect from a Pikmin game. You travel from region to region, putting your small team back together, and finding new breeds of Pikmin to use and abuse through your quest to save your starving world.

From left to right: Brittany, Alph, and Charlie. Not pictured: your glorious army
From left to right: Brittany, Alph, and Charlie. Not pictured: your glorious army

If you've played the previous games in the series, you should find yourself instantly familiar with Pikmin 3. You're still running around with groups of Pikmin, solving puzzles, and crying whenever they die. This is, however, not to say that everything plays just like the last games.

The most obvious difference is having three separate characters to control. After getting the three characters back together, you can send them off to do their own things with their own smaller groups of Pikmin, or use them to get each other around obstacles in the environment.

While Pikmin 2 had you managing both Olimar and Louie, it never quite found a way to make using them concurrently very feasible. Here, however, is where the Wii U gamepad shines. Using the minimap on the gamepad, you can temporarily pause the action and plot courses for whomever you want to send somewhere. It's quick, simple, and doesn't take you out of the game, leading it to go from a feature that I was dreading the thought of having to use, to becoming something that, by the end, I was getting a lot of use out of (And is probably the main reason I rarely used the off-screen play here). This method of multitasking allowed the developers to make the environments more open, giving you more chances to try out your skills in multitasking. It also opens the game up to speedruns more than the last two have, as now figuring out who to send where and when means you can always be doing something.

Rock Pikmin may have a hard shell, but they still feel pain.
Rock Pikmin may have a hard shell, but they still feel pain.

Of course, also on display are your new Pikmin types. While you still have access to the classic red, yellow, and blue varieties, the purple and white Pikmin of 2 have been relegated to challenge maps. In their place, you have the hard hitting rock Pikmin, and the self-explanatory flying Pikmin. Whereas the purple and white varieties were useful in their own ways, they didn't do a whole lot to set themselves apart from your normal Pikmin.

Your new two types, however, each bring an entirely new factor to the game. Rock Pikmin do a lot of damage when tossed and can break crystalline objects, but lack the Pikmin's signature ability to grapple onto enemies, leading them to be treated almost as ammo rather than soldiers. Meanwhile, the flying pikmin are useful for navigating the environment, carrying objects and generally avoiding trouble, but won't be of much help in most fights and are given a couple hazards they they, specifically, need to avoid. I ended up using each far more than I did the white pikmin

As a side note, while the ability to control your Pikmin with the C stick is no longer here, it has been replaced with the ability to lock onto enemies and objects, giving you the option to strafe around them, and send all your Pikmin in at once in a mighty charge.This ends up proving very useful in a number of cases, and makes combat easier here than it's ever been before.

Now, it wouldn't be a Pikmin game without treasure, and this game is no exception, even as it proves to take it's own spin on the premise. Unlike the last two games which left you collecting junk, fruit is the target this time around. As you make your way through the game's myriad of puzzles and encounters, you will slowly gather a number of different fruits with funky names (Such as "Dawn Pustules" or "Cupid's Grenades", grapes and cherries respectively) that, upon reaching the end of the day, are juiced and stored for consumption. This juice ends up serving as the new timer in Pikmin 3. While Pikmin 1 had a hard number of days to finish in, and Pikmin 2 eschewed time limits entirely, with Pikmin 3, each day of work costs one container of fruit juice, taken from a finite reserve that only grows back up as you collect fruit. While this doesn't give you the same stressful realization of just how much time you're wasting that the first game had, it serves to keep the game moving and discourage days of just doing nothing, as I may have possibly done a few times in Pikmin 2. Additionally, it changes treasure from just something to collect, to being something that serves an actual purpose in game.

This thing is still just as horrible as you remember
This thing is still just as horrible as you remember

Now, back when Pikmin 2 was released, it was thought of by some as an expansion pack to what Pikmin 1 did: It did the same things, but moreso. With Pikmin 3, however, the word "Refinement" seems much more appropriate. While he environments and puzzles are just as interesting and colorful as you'd expect, and the new bosses are certainly on a scale above what the other games had in terms of scale and tactics required, everything just feels that much more solid here on all fronts. To give an idea of what I mean...

  • The new charge ends up making sending your Pikmin to destroy or grab things much simpler.
  • Instead of having to weave them around objects, Pikmin will now follow your walking path, meaning fewer Pikmin are going to be falling off ledges here.
  • The onions are now all compressed into one, mega-onion which stores all of your Pikmin, so there's no more running from onion-to-onion trying to muster your forces.
  • The multiple captains make multitasking easier, yes, but they also make doing small things simpler as well. Sending one to gather Pikmin at the end of the day, make and pluck new Pikmin, or exchange types you don't need for ones you do lets you keep moving along with your other characters, and keeps the menial work you have to do to a minimum. I recall one boss fight where one captain was sent off to grab bomb flowers while the other two continued to fight.
  • On that note, bomb flowers can be held by any pikmin now, lessening the amount of specifics to remember.
  • The minimap allows you to see if enemies have respawned, keeping you from bumbling into a new nest of creatures that you thought would still be gone

And those are really just the most obvious things. While things like making it easier to switch what type of Pikmin you want to throw, letting you see where fruit is on the map, or just giving you the ability to hide in bushes with your Pikmin aren't game changers, all factor into making this the most complete-feeling Pikmin of the three.

Worst feeling of 2013: Watching your Pikmin die
Worst feeling of 2013: Watching your Pikmin die

On top of all that, the game still looks beautiful. While one has to wonder how much of that is the Wii U's graphical abilities and how much is just plain gorgeous design, it's hard to deny just how charming this game looks. All the Pikmin are still downright adorable, the creatures are more varied and interesting than we've seen in the past, and even the characters themselves manage to look distinctive, even from a distance.

All in all, Pikmin 3 is more than just a solid showing for Nintendo's new console: It's an altogether great game that makes use of the system's controller in just the right ways to make it that much better. It uses what it has better than almost anything else that has come out thus far for the system. If you have a Wii U, buy Pikmin 3. If not, while I don't know if it'll get you to buy one, it certainly sold me on the system in a way that none of the other games have.

That's... kind of a system seller, right?

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