Shigeru Miyamoto has always been a rather quirky gentleman and all of his many gaming creations have been received in good spirits – except maybe the still puzzling Wii Music. When he announced Pikmin for GameCube, stating that it had been inspired by his garden, it was hard to see how such a title could be so appealing – yet it won hearts the world over. With the Wii everybody hoped that a new Pikmin title would surface, however Nintendo decided to port the 2004 Pikmin 2 over to the console instead. So, when it was announced that the Wii U would be getting Pikmin 3 my heart may have skipped a beat.
The thought of gathering up an army of little flower people – along with the newly announced rock Pikmins – and seeing them work together to kill enemies and collect precious treasure was just too irresistible. Factor in that this is going to be in HD, with shiny graphics and an engine that packs a fair bit more of a punch than the Gamecube did, and you can see just why I could hardly contain myself. Perhaps this is why I found my Eurogamer Expo experience with Pikmin 3 to be rather underwhelming.
This isn’t a bad sign though; it’s just my expectations – this is Pikmin: of course it’s brilliant fun. The huge sense of scale is present; the childlike wonder of exploration can still be found; the pride found in besting a huge beast still swells up; the joy of finding precious treasure still excites; and as always it’s still unusually hard to stomach the site of your Pikmin dying at the hands of your foolhardy tactics. Sadly though, it’s these very factors that mean I have a problem with Pikmin 3 so far – not an awful lot has changed.
Having waited eight years – probably nine by the time it finally arrives – it would have been great to see some real innovation from the single player game. From my experience it, surprisingly, doesn’t even use the GamePad at all – a Nintendo representative continually informed me that I could only use a Wiimote and Nunchuck as the GamePad is only for displaying a map. Surely you can see why I felt let down by Nintendo. This essentially felt like the Wii game that didn’t release in time so they pushed it onto Wii U instead. I could have well been playing Pikmin 2 if it wasn’t for the HD visuals and the addition of rock Pikmin.
It’s these rock Pikmin that really differentiate this entry from the last. Unlike previous new Pikmin – purple and white – these stony fellows aren’t just a different colour, they have completely different properties. Their tough frame and gravely looks mean that they’re pretty excellent at breaking things – especially glass and shells – and so pack quite the punch when being used against enemies. It’ll be interesting to see how well Nintendo manage to implement them into gameplay; hopefully they won’t be reduced to puzzles and harder enemies that can only be solved/defeated by their toughened skin.
Miyamoto may have wanted to create a window into the world beneath your feet with the original Pikmin, but thanks to the Wii U’s clout his vision can finally be realised. Water shimmers, wet stones glisten and – in a rather impressive boss battle – enemies shells glimmer, appearing glasslike and fragile. This is truly a stunning adventure to experience; an adventure packed full of some rather tasty looking fruit to boot.
Despite my slight twinge of disappointment with what I found, Pikmin 3 is superb fun and a delight to play. It’s got plenty of time for improvements, as it’s not even a launch window title for the Wii U, so all my current hang-ups can be solved. If they allow players to use the GamePad controls in a style akin to the GameCube original, and introduce some functionality with the touchscreen itself this could be an absolute gem – even though it’ll be a must buy title anyway. Ultimately this just really needs something new and different to differentiate it from previous Pikmin titles, and I don’t just mean rock Pikmin and pretty visuals.