|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Nintendo EAD|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Violence|
by Josh Engen
It's been almost a decade since Nintendo has promised to put another Pikmin title into our greedy little hands. And, although they made it pretty clear that there were no plans send those adorable little monsters to the Wii, the untrustworthy rumor mill known as the internet has consistently been churning out idiotic garbage and keeping our hopes up.
But as soon as Miyamoto took the stage at last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Pikmin fans around the world exchanged a collective high five. Now, obviously the Wii U hasn't hit the market just yet—we don't even have an official release date—but the fans have waited this long, so a few more months probably won't kill us. Either way, it'll be worth it in the end. You can trust me on this, because I got a little time in the driver's seat at Nintendo's booth last week.
One of the problems with putting a title on hiatus for so long is that there's a very good chance the developer will lose track of what originally made the game great. In recent days, Nintendo has maintained a pretty good track record in this regard, but it's always a source of concern for the solidified super fan. So, being a connoisseur of all things Pikmin, the first thing I wanted to investigate was the game's atmosphere. Happily, they haven't strayed far from the 2001 source material. The new environments are instantly familiar, and contain the same level of on-the-surface simplicity while retaining a depth that only the obsessive players will uncover.
The last two Pikmin games had a nearly perfect interface, so it would be a shame to ruin the control scheme in the name of hardware bravado. But, when Nintendo finally handed me a control pad, the tablet stayed on the shelf and I was given the standard Wiimote + Nunckuck combination. Now, during his press conference, Miyamoto made it clear that the tablet is a big part of the game's design. However, it's primarily used as a top-down map for the player to reference during the level. Pikmin 3 has a bit more complexity than it's predecessors, so the tablet acts as an RTS-like interface for keeping track of your precious little troops.
Pikmin 3 does support the Motion Plus controls that Nintendo used heavily in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The controls are tight and accurate, but they do change the feeling of the game a bit. And if you're wondering whether or not the tablet controller will support the classical GameCube controls, I don't know. If Nintendo knows, they're certainly not telling us and it's not supported by the tablet's current setup.
Even before you toss your first Pikmin, you'll be impressed by Pikmin 3's graphical environment. I hesitate to use the word "realistic," even though that's what Miyamoto said from stage, but it is incredibly detailed and intricate. This is the first Pikmin title that's been released in HD, so if it didn't look more impressive, Nintendo wouldn't be doing their job. The worlds are instantly familiar but graphically updated in a way that'll make you think that you just didn't notice how brilliant everything looked on the GameCube. But then you'll undoubtedly remember that nothing looked good on the GameCube.
This is the point in the article where I'm forced to give you a bit of bad news; our beloved Pikmin-tossing protagonist, Olimar, is noticeably absent from Pikmin 3. During their E3 press conference, Miyamoto made sure to mention that Olimar wouldn't be joining us, but then played coy about the reasoning. There's obviously some kind of top-secret Olimar-related commotion over at Nintendo, but they're not letting us in on it. In Olimar's place, players will actually be controlling up to 4 different characters which have different candy-colored hairdos for identification purposes. This new setup will allow players to toss other characters like Pikmin to unreachable areas of the map and then take control of them once past the barrier.
During stay at Nintendo's booth, I was able to play two separate game modes. The first was a time-trial mode that had me collecting fruit and killing enemies as quickly as possible. My performance earned me silver metal, which was apparently unimpressive to the Nintendo rep that was showing me around. I tried to remind him that this was my first time playing a Pikmin title in almost a decade, but he wasn't convinced. So I asked him if he were equally disappointed whenever his kids performed poorly at something, and suggested that he may need to get a handle on his narcissism.
After I collected my disappointing silver metal, I was shown a top-down replay of my performance. If I actually owned the game, this would allow me to evaluate my performance and find ways to improve the time. Then I was forwarded on to the real challenge, a boss fight.
If you'll remember, the boss fights in the Pikmin franchise actually tests of emotional dexterity. Many times, your adorable little soldiers are slaughtered by the handful, and all you can really do is sit back and regret the decisions you've made. Pikmin 3 is no different. During my fight with a gigantic, blue crustacean, I lost many Pikmin, and I can still hear their tiny screams when I'm falling asleep.
However, one interesting thing did come out of the boss fight; I got a chance to meet the newest race of Pikmin. If you'll remember, you each of the Pikmin has a special ability: some can climb, some are strong, and some explode. Well, the dark, geometrically shaped Rock Pikmin are used to break through surfaces. During the boss fight, I would use these to break through the creature's exoskeleton, and then toss in a handful of the red Pikmin who promptly started attacking the newly exposed meaty areas. They're actually cuter when they're violent.
As far as I'm concerned, Pikmin 3 is the best possible title for the Wii U's launch. It's simplicity and quirkiness basically embody Nintendo's overarching company philosophy. However, when I was chatting with the Nintendo rep, he seemed somewhat skeptical about it's readiness on launch day.
Don't tease us, Nintendo. It's been a very long time and we need our Pikmin fix.
Date: June 12,2012