A Perfect Example of Nintendo's Weirdness
Nintendo, for the most part, is very much different from most of the other major developers out there. They're more akin to indie-developers; creating these weird, quirky, titles - that despite being so much different than the "mainstream" titles ~ they're still fun and refreshing. In fact, that's what most of their titles are based on; being fun, refreshing, memorable experiences.
That's one way to define this Wii U instant-classic: Pikmin 3; a fun, refreshing, memorable experience. Well, more can be added to that; a fun, refreshing, STRESSFUL, UNORTHODOX, CHALLENGING, and memorable experience.
After returning from the pits of the nether-regions after over a decade on hiatus; Pikmin 3 is one of the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto's latest creations. We were supposed to see this game from since the prime-days of the Wii; but for whatever reason, Nintendo decided it would be best to save this for their new system - the Wii U. As to why this decision was made, we may never know the full story - but I can say for sure:
It was worth the wait.
The storyline of Pikmin 3 is, interesting, to say the least. It manages to merge real-life situations and challenges in a fantasy-like world, in a very neat way. That's what gives it its charm.
Three explorers from their home-world of "Koppai" set out on an intergalactic adventure, when the food resources of their home planet have been nearly completely exhausted - leaving the inhabitants on the brink of starvation. They locate another world, not too far from theirs that they believe to be a viable source for food - thus the reason for their escapade.
Upon approaching this alien-world; their ship malfunctions and they end up crash-landing on the planet. Here, they meet a number of strange life-forms - whom are mostly hostile. But, there's this certain species of little creatures that, for whatever reason or another, are quite friendly to these alien-visitors. The creatures are called Pikmin - which are best described as being a weird mix of little insects with plant-like qualities (what was Miyamoto smoking?) Despite their small size; they pack a big punch, literally, as there are different kinds (5 in total) of these creatures, while all have unique abilities and different strengths.
The Koppai-Explorers use these precious little lives to traverse the surface of this alien world to find a large sum of food to carry back home to their own starving planet. That doesn't only mean scavenging for food; that also means taking down giant monsters with these very creatures - by HURLING them at the beasts.
Regardless; one must say that the storyline of the game does come together quite nicely. As was mentioned before - the game cleverly merges real-life situations (food deprivation and being stranded in an unfamiliar area, looking for a way to survive) within a fantasy world.
As previously stated - Pikmin 3 is a fun, refreshing, memorable experience. That's looking at it from a positive viewpoint. When you really want to be truthful; this is a game that will keep you on your feet almost all the time and put you in very stressful situations regularly. There's this constant sense of urgency and action. This isn't like the Zelda titles, or something similar, where while you do have objectives almost all the time - you can run around the overworld and just goof off for basically as much as you would like to, before you actually want to move on to the next major point in the game.
Pikmin 3 is the opposite.
As mentioned before - you're on a mission to search for food. That's your main objective. As you go through the many zones across this alien-world; you will find many kinds of fruits, which are your main (and only) food source. How much fruit you collect at the end of the day is essential. You don't really die in this game; not in the way where you'll lose a life if you mess up. The amount of fruit you collect judges how long you can continue going through the in-game days.
Yes, I said in-game days.
That's the system Pikmin 3 runs on; you must collect as much fruit to keep going through the in-game days. These days are in real-time, meaning that all of the actions that you do throughout that specific day will have an effect on what happens in the next day. These days are time-limited, basically lasting 13-minutes. That means you have 13-minutes to find fruit, defeat enemies (not bosses; thank goodness) and complete other activities.
That's more stressful than it sounds.
At your aid are your trusty Pikmin. These little creatures will do just about anything you want them to do. Collect fruit, solve puzzles, break down a wall, take down an enemy by being hurled at them; yeah - they're cool with all that.
They're your mindless army who act at your beck-and-call.
As inhumane as it sounds - the attachment that you develop for these little things is almost like that of a special pet. You feel for them. When you put them at work; you tend to begin keeping a close eye on them. Each zone is quite alive; alive with creatures that want "Pikminion" - and they won't hesitate to attack your little friends at any opportunity they get.
That's the sense of urgency that you have in Pikmin 3; you're given an objective and you must complete as much as possible in the 13-minutes you are given, while at the same time - trying to manage all of your Pikmin at once. When you send a squad to collect a piece of fruit or move some objects; you better send someone with them, or else you'll just hear their little whimpers of death erupt and your Pikmin Counter decrease steadily and that's a feeling that begins to hurt, very, VERY, quickly.
OH, THE HUMANITY!!
But, the way this game is designed is that you CAN move at your own pace and take your time; you just have to make sure you don't get side-tracked - and keep your main objective in focus at all times. This is a game that will not only teach you how to manage, strategize and multi-task; it will FORCE you to do so. You can't just go wasting time; neither can you go slinging your Pikmin everywhere. It will make you observe and think, as that basically is the only way that you will achieve your goal properly.
From defeating enemies, to collecting fruit, to solving puzzles; Pikmin 3 is truly a real-time strategy game and a finely crafted one at that. You will encounter many challenges that you'll have to learn to overcome. Thankfully, the learning curve isn't too steep, not like a game such as "The Wonderful 101". The managing of several characters at once is much simpler here - but still, quite stressful.
You will find yourself in times in dire need of Pikmin; most likely after defeating a large, main boss or even a medium-sized mini boss. Sometimes even a fairly-larger, normal enemy can pluck more Pikmin than you'd hope. But when you learn to use each kinds of Pikmin to their strengths; you should be just fine. As mentioned before - there are a total of 5 types of Pikmin, which all have different abilities and strengths. These a Red (Fire) Pikmin, Yellow (Electric) Pikmin, Rock Pikmin, Blue (Water Pikmin) and Pink (Winged) Pikmin.
As you progress through this game, you will obtain these different kinds at a steady pace, thus creating new paths and strategies for you to use when you back-track to the older zones; something that will happen normally throughout the game, and as well as the times you might need to stock up on food or get a replenishment of Pikmin.
Being on the Wii U; this game of course uses the second-screen features of the Gamepad. Even so, it was emphasized mainly here that this really was a title designed with the original Wii Remote in mind. The controls of the Gamepad and Pro Controller aren't broken, but the Wii Remote-Nunchuk combo truly feels more natural, responsive and accurate. This is probably the first Wii U title I've owned where I'd rather play with a controller OTHER than the Gamepad. That isn't to say it goes unused, though.
The Gamepad is used as the "Kopad" here in Pikmin 3; an in-game device similar to the Gamepad that is used for many cool things. All of your information is displayed on the Gamepad's screen; a fully detailed map that shows the location of places you've explored, radar signals, fruit, items and crew members, information on your Pikmin, notes (that you collect throughout the game that act as hints), journal entries from Captain Olimar, a fully functional camera (which you can use to upload pictures to Miiverse), as well as a fruit database.
Having this little data-filled device at your side is truly an amazing little feature; something that couldn't be done on the original Wii. While the game would certainly still be playable - the layer of depth that the "Kopad" provides certainly wouldn't exist.
In all; Pikmin 3 isn't a blood-pumping, action thriller kind of game, but that doesn't mean that there are times where you're probably just going to want to put the controller down and take a break, simply because you're actually tired and need to catch yourself. This game WILL keep you in check, more than you'd imagine - and that's kind of a good thing.
To compliment is intriguing story and even more interesting gameplay; is a dazzling art-style. Say what you want about the Wii U and it's lack of power compared to the XBOX One and PS4; but despite outputting at 720p and running on the weakest system of the 8th-generation - Pikmin 3 looks outstandingly beautiful. My goodness, even the title screen is gorgeous:
This was the first game from Nintendo to really take advantage of the HD prowess that the Wii U has, and for a title this originally designed to be on a standard-definition system - it's changed quite well.
It doesn't have the hyper-realistic aesthetics of titles like The Last of Us, GTA: V, Crysis 3 or Battlefield 4; but by no means does that make it an ugly game. Instead of having the washed-out, dark and gritty look, like some of the titles that were previously mentioned - Pikmin 3 boasts a wide array of bright colors, mixed with the realistic-looking world.
While Pikmin 3 is indeed a fantasy game; the world around it is anything but. It's like taking an adventure through your back yard through a magnifying glass; similar to that of the movies like "The Secret World of Arrietty" and “A Bug's Life" - where the every-day world that we live in is magnified to a great extent, because you're seeing it from the eyes of a creature that’s barely a few inches off of the ground.
The attention to detail is so great - that even the fruit that you collect looks almost real. Yes, it's that serious.
Pikmin 3 doesn't just make great use of color; it equally makes great use of other graphical treats like, amazing lighting effects, bloom, depth of field, and reflections.
There were many "Oooh-ahhh!" moments I had in Pikmin 3. Yes, I've seen titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Project Cars - which are bent on having a highly realistic artstyle; but Pikmin 3 still managed to tickle my fancy.
That isn't to say that ALL of it was outstandingly beautiful, though. Weirdly enough; for a world where you're so close to the ground - the ground wasn't given a heavy amount of graphical detail. The ground textures are mostly a collection of static, 2D, blotchy images:
The same goes for the skybox surrounding the area; which is also a static image. The technical oddities don't stop there, though.
When you look at some of the smaller enemies and the Pikmin themselves; their overall level of detail is not in the same vein as the main characters, large enemies and larger parts of the world. This was probably done for the sake of framerate, which for the most part, runs rather smoothly, although I did find that it did take a pretty deep dip when the Pause Menu is brought up, at certain points in the game.
Aside from some flat textures and menu framerate slowdown; Pikmin 3 is a rather beautiful game; one that makes good use of the Wii U's hardware. Seeing that this is a title that has been released very early in the Wii U's lifetime, it should be very interesting how much more advanced we will see the games become in the graphics category, for the system. Regardless; that doesn't change the fact that the game is easily one of the most beautiful I've ever laid my eyes on - hands down.
While the graphics do certainly help breathe life through the game; this is equally complemented by the overall sound-work in the game. The music was wonderfully designed; mostly consisting of original, laid-back "exploration" tracks. These tracks are usually quite low and slow for the most part, when things are going normally. When you encounter an enemy, extra (and quite louder) instruments appear in the background and create a new feeling of urgency and a sense of danger. When you go toe-to-toe with bosses, both mini and main; you will find yourself having some pretty serious and quite dramatic tracks playing in the background. Nintendo sure does love their orchestrated music and you better believe this one sounds as amazing as the rest.
But the soundtrack isn't the only part of the sounds of the game that help bring it to life. The world around you is alive; and the very same thing can be said for Pikmin 3. You will hear creatures chirping and screeching off in the distance; even the Pikmin make little squeaks and squawks of their own from time to time, regardless of what they're doing. You will hear the sound effects of the things around you (crunching of the ground, moving water) - which all add a level of realistic depth.
This combined with the addictive gameplay and beautiful graphics; truly make Pikmin 3 an immersive experience. Who knew sound could be so amazing? (/s)
Pikmin 3 is the perfect example of what Nintendo is all about. They're about creating these quirky, weird experiences that you simply aren't going to find anywhere else. Pikmin 3 is the pure definition of *weird*. Just the act of taking these innocent, little creatures and using them to survive the harsh world that you must tread in; is so unorthodox, but it soon becomes so natural - you'll find yourself enjoying it more and more.
But in all honesty - Pikmin 3 isn't a game for everyone, despite being rated E. This is indeed a "niche" title; something that only a certain group of people would genuinely enjoy. If you are a part of that group - prepare for an adventure that will make you pull your hair out, make you panic, nervous, angry, frustrated, hurt, and depressed - all in just a few hours of getting into it.
This is truly a game that teaches you some interesting skills, though. If you're the type who just likes to charge in, head-first and take on the objective with little to no forethought; you might as well walk away and don't even bother trying to complete this game, unless you submit to change. It WILL MAKE YOU learn to strategize, manage your resources, and multi-task - all to make sure you take care of your tasks properly.
In terms of gameplay; the game is a fun challenge. It challenges your wits, but it still allows you to have fun while doing it. It cuts you some slack where necessary and really pushes you at other times. The use of Gamepad is phenomenally well done, despite the native controls being lackluster. But, paired with a Wii Remote & Nunchuk - the level of depth that is added by that little screen is unreal.
This is accompanied by an overall beautiful art style; boasting a realistic-looking world, bursting with color, depth and life. The sound also creates a level of depth that completes the overall strong immersion, which you will more than likely find yourself experiencing, by the time you get into the first few hours.
Pikmin 3 is not a perfect game. Some parts are more frustrating than they need to be, some areas of the graphics spectrum aren't as spectacular as others, and the game ends rather quickly, even though an extensive amount of hours is put in. But still, it's truly a game that will go down in the Wii U's history of being one of the best games in its library.
After 10 years in development; this is truly a good example of Miyamoto's statement: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." While some Pikmin fans would have probably loved to have had this earlier - like, when it was SUPPOSED, you know, on the Wii; the wait is well deserved. This is a game of epic proportions - possessing some fun, challenging, memorable gameplay, with beautiful graphics and deep sound-work. Indeed - Pikmin 3 is an amazing experience like no other.
If there's ever a Pikmin 4; by all means, bring it on! If there isn't - well - this was truly a marvelous finale, to an amazing series.
+ Amazing, engaging gameplay
+ Beautiful graphics
+ Wonderful soundtrack
- Native controls are wonky
- Frustrating challenges in some areas
- Bland textures in some areas