Everybody is kinda bored with sequels. The collective sigh of game critics present at E3 last week - and of gamers watching coverage online - was felt around the world. And yet, Pikmin 3 is amongst the releases that consumers and press are most excited about. Don’t think about the irony of that too much - for a start, it’s been nearly eight years since the last Pikmin game landed on the Nintendo Gamecube.
is bloody ace. The first game, inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s love for gardening, is a perfect example of how Nintendo create engaging, vibrant and memorable gaming experiences. While that could be said of many of Nintendo’s franchises, it’s probably fair to say that we’re all experiencing something of a Super Mario
Fatigue. Visually, Pikmin
is the perfect candidate for a Wii U launch day killer app.
For those who have never played the previous two games (either in Gamecube or Wii form), here are the basics - you potter around a ‘mysterious world’ (which bears an uncanny resemblance to Earth) as a tiny little spaceman, collecting spaceship parts in order to travel home. To help find and carry such lost equipment, you enlist the help of Pikmin, colourful little creatures with flower buds on their heads.
Usually, you collect these Pikmin by either plucking them from out of the ground or by gathering large colourful Pikmin tokens. In the Pikmin 3
demo stage, this wasn’t the case - small groups of Pikmin were sitting at various spots in the level, waiting for me to whistle at them and command them to follow my side. This change was most likely to do with ensuring players could get as much time with the game as possible without fannying about with Pikmin-building.
Different coloured Pikmin can be used to help you overcome various environmental hazards. Only the red, fire-resistant ‘strong-min’ return in this demonstration, but no doubt the yellow, blue and others will be present in the final version. The stage did introduce us to a brand new type of Pikmin though - the Rock Pikmin, which can be used as a blunt projectile at hostile creatures and tough surfaces.
The immediately striking thing about Pikmin 3
is just how the improved high definition graphics make a difference. The grassy environments look absolutely gorgeous, and seeing each individual Pikmin mill around as they react to your command is simply delightful. For veterans of the series, the core gameplay hasn’t changed - whistling your troops is still an important part of lining up your Pikmin army, and using different kinds of ‘min is vital in tackling bosses and armoured enemies.
One particular example was within a playable boss battle, where your Pikmin leader (who isn’t Captain Olimar from past Pikmin
games - what has happened to him, apparently, is a secret) has to face off against an Armoured Mawdad. This big beetle-like monster digs underground and crawls around the walls in the battle arena to avoid your assault, protected by a diamond-tough shell that requires constant lobbing of Rock Pikmin to crack.
Once exposed, Red Pikmin can latch onto it and start biting away at its soft skin for ultimate victory. But if you are careless enough to leave your Pikmin lying around without calling them back, you leave them open to attack - and once the Mawdad traps a bunch of your Pikmin with its front claws, it will begin to eat them unless you beat it down a few times.
Control will feel familiar to anyone who has played the Pikmin
and Pikmin 2
re-releases on the Wii a couple of years ago. Using a Wiimote and Nunchuk combo, you can guide your spaceman around the environment with the analogue stick and direct your Pikmin using the Wiimote’s pointer. It’s very intuitive.
The Wii U GamePad sits in front of you and acts as a top-down map for now. I’m told that Nintendo hasn’t exactly figured out what it wants to use the GamePad for right now, so its specific uses could change by the time the game is released. But, after completing the level demo, the touchscreen displays the route you took and how you played, which offers a really good opportunity for players to plan another run and play better the next time around.
There’s no doubt that Nintendo have many other exciting franchise games in development for Wii U that haven’t been announced yet - but the long-awaited return of Pikmin
might just be the most welcome one. If it’s ready for the console’s launch, we’ll all be in for one hell of a Christmas.