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Pikmin’s one of those Nintendo series that I don’t keep in my mind’s eye at all times. But once it reappears, a grin flashes upon my face and I exclaim “Hell yes, I love Pikmin!” The wait for Pikmin 3 has been nearly unbearable, with rumors of its existence for Wii and 3DS abounding. But finally, Pikmin 3 rears its glorious head on Wii U, and everyone’s wondering if this is the game that makes owning a Wii U worthwhile. I say absolutely!
Pikmin 3 has a similar yet fresh premise to its prequels. Instead of collecting ship parts or treasures, your crew of three plucky adventurers are traversing the Distant Planet in search of fruit to save their starving world. Your characters collect seeds from the fruit and subsist on the juice. Your time limit is based on how much juice you have left. Run out and it’s game over. Olimar isn’t in the group, but his presence is felt throughout the game, which was a nice touch. Having Olimar still be a force in the story makes it easier for old players to feel more at ease with tutorial memos strewn about, but also adds a sense of mystery for newcomers to the series. Our three new heroes, Captain Charlie, Engineer Alph, and Botanist Brittany, are all full of life and absolutely adorable. Each character has plenty of personality that shines through their vocalizations and their dialogue. Their pre-level on ship banter is some of the best parts of the game and being able to split your workload among them is incredibly useful. There are also new forms of Pikmin. Purple and white Pikmin have been phased out in favor of the heavy-hitting Rock Pikmin and the weak yet airbourne Winged Pikmin. Both fit in with the original cast just fine, and are a delight to use.
If you’ve played Pikmin before, be prepared to feel a bit startled by the game’s new control scheme. The same point and throw mechanics from the GameCube games are present, but with plenty of differences in gameplay thanks to the new controller. C-stick movement of the Pikmin has been removed in favor of a lock on system, where you can separate your squad and direct them to obstacles and enemies with a button press. This is awkward at first for those of us who are used to older Pikmin controls, but you quickly warm up to it. The Wii U gamepad works just fine for this game, as does the Wii remote, which is a choice if you prefer. I had fun with both controller types, but in the end I played Pikmin 3 purely on the gamepad, switching between the map and gameplay as needed on the pad’s screen. It works amazingly and it was fun being able to lay in bed, rolling around lazily without having to keep my TV in view. Yes, I am that much of a lump. New features are implemented on the gamepad as well, such as a field guide, hints, and a camera for you to take in game screenshots and upload them to Miiverse.
Pikmin 3 is absolutely gorgeous. There are a few texture hiccups here and there but overall it’s hard to find a prettier game released this year. Fruit looks edible, the Pikmin look huggable, and god DAMN the water! The Pikmin series always had soothing visuals, but 3 sets a new standard for peaceful landscapes. If there wasn’t a time limit, I feel like I’d end up strolling along the game world and sightseeing. Plus the soundtrack is solid and compliments the atmosphere. Pikmin continues placing its stressful elements nestled in calming worlds, which is something I love about the series. You can sweat and scream through a boss fight but once it’s over, you’re back in the serene overworld and your worries dissipate until the next horrifying encounter. Boss fights are a bit wonky, you often end up taking large chunks of the battle regrouping your scattered Pikmin since they often end up thrown across the map. Pikmin AI seems improved, but they don’t like to re-enter battle unless you explicitly tell them to.
As a huge fan of the series, I applaud the changes and improvements implemented in Pikmin 3. It took a bit to get used to using the gamepad, but once I got it, Pikmin 3 was a challenging trek that felt good to play and even better to succeed in. If you enjoyed Pikmin 1+2 and have an itch for more, this is enough reason to sink money into a Wii U. I had an absolute blast with Pikmin 3, and hopefully with Wonderful 101 coming so soon, my Wii U won’t have time to collect dust.