Any game that has literally invented and popularized its own niche genre is worthy of at least passing notice. In the case of Pikmin 3, the first new Pikmin game in 9 years, it deserves far more than that. Pikmin 3 is a demonstration of the fact that while Nintendo may suck at bringing third party titles to their platform, and while Mario may play it far too safe with his releases, the remainder of their first party titles are produced with a great deal of love, affection and care for their franchises.
For those that have no knowledge of this series, which may be fair enough, Pikmin stars (in this case) three astronauts from a tiny planet suffering from a lack of resources. They scout out potential planets to gather resources from, finding only one candidate. Our heroes, Commander Charlie, Brittany, and Alph travel to this planet, upon arrival finding that they are significantly smaller than most of the vegetation and animals around, making travel very dangerous. However, soon after arriving, they find the mysterious race of Pikmin, plant like colour-coded creatures that are weak on their own, but when directed by our characters, find them able to do anything as a team.
The aim of the game is nominally to repair the spaceship that was damaged in the landing so that the astronauts can return home and report the good news of the bountiful planet. However, the teams food supplies were damaged in landing, and along the way, the player must make sure to gather enough fruit and vegetables to provide ample food for each “day” of exploration. This is more impressive as it sounds, as sending 20 Pikmin to pick up an avocado that is basically a hundred times their size makes the scale issue far more impressive. The “day” system works on the basis that gameplay is limited to 20 minute sections on the planet’s surface, before night returns. All actions the player makes during the day remain for the next day, but at night the player and his Pikmin must be in a safe place to return to the ship. It is also at the end of each day that another food capsule is eaten. In this way, the urgency of the quest is established but it is placed entirely on the shoulders of the player.
Players control Pikmin by herding them into groups with a whistle, selecting which type to use, and throwing that type at the object to be manipulated. The 3 captains can also be controlled individually with their own groups for advanced play. The player can have up to a 100 Pikmin on the field and Pikmin come in 5 varieties in this game, with each fulfilling a different function, such as swimming, withstanding fire, etc. Watching the Pikmin move as a team to build a bridge or attack an enemy is genuinely a joy to behold as you direct them with very effective AI. The only trouble is dealing is with the fact that many will probably die, mostly in combat with bosses. The loss of each and every Pikmin is felt personally.
The landscapes and areas in this game are gorgeous; the environments are varied and beautiful in a way that the player really does feel like they’ve been shrunk down to the size of our characters. When something like a strawberry can seem so awe inspiring, you become aware of how well this game has done. The different areas are also varied and each hold immense satisfaction as you complete a long section and succeed in building a shortcut back to base. The enemies are fun to try and destroy, and the bosses especially are well thought out and make for rather epic battles.
The entire campaign takes around 10 hours for normal play, and much more for 100% completion. There are also additional challenge modes and co-op modes that extend game time even more. Pikmin 3 is a worthy successor to any previous game in the title, and for players who have never tried it before, it’s definitely worth it, adding one more significant title to the rather slowly expanding Wii-U library.