It’s just under three weeks until the next edition of the Wii U’s (actually surprisingly great) library’s continued journey on to the Switch. This time, however, because it is not the famous moustachioed plumber or one of his equally recognisable cohorts making the jump onto the new system, it could be that the critically acclaimed Pikmin 3 will actually reach an even larger audience than any of the previous ports. We were lucky enough to get an early look at the game and try some of the new additions the ‘Deluxe’ Switch version will include and while we can’t reveal our final thoughts just yet – here’s a quick preview of what new players and even those that played the Wii U version can expect…
Newbies: Pikmin 3 – the basics
So what’s Pikmin all about? Well, in this third game in the series you find yourself playing as “three intrepid explorers” that have crash-landed on a planet, not unlike our own Earth called PNF-404. You’re after some much-needed food resources to take back to your planet, but rather than gather these on your own, you’ll meet some adorable, plant-like beings who are more than happy to do your bidding. Pikmin come in a variety of colours (red, blue, yellow.. you get the picture) and each has its own special skill and accompanying weakness. If you’re tackling an electric fence for example you’ll need to summon a horde of yellow Pikmin to get you through. However, if there a juicy strawberry lying underwater – you’ll have to rely on the crowd of plucky blue Pikmin to save the day.
In a more traditional RTS-style, as you explore this delightful world you’ll also have to tackle buggy, monster-like enemies and solve puzzles all while controlling and caring for your new and cooperative companions. And while it all looks rather friendly – picking the perfect lineup of Pikmin, task-switching and a limited time period to explore each day bring a fun level of strategy to this weird and wonderful outing even early on. In the Story Mode, you’ll traverse the various worlds from this rather tiny perspective while you fling your mindless-yet- wonderfully-cute-critters at each new target, collecting and solving as you go (and also doing your best to lose as few of the polite Pikmin you’ll definitely grow attached to along the way as can) as you try to find a way back home with enough fruit to save your people. And if that’s not enough you’ll also be able to try the smaller but seemingly tougher Missions. Levels where you’re given a specific target and a tight time limit and it’s all about racking up the points.
While it all looks rather friendly – picking the perfect lineup of Pikmin, task-switching and a limited time period to explore each day bring a fun level of strategy even early on…
Returning Fans: Deluxe – So what’s new?
The much-hyped new features include a new targeting mechanic, additional side missions featuring Olimar and Louie (from the first two Pikmin games), new difficulty settings, a hint system and two-player co-op play in the Story and Mission modes. Playing the first few levels of the Story Mode… I’ve got to say that I suspect I’m going to wish I had a second screen displaying a map at all times. And while I can’t remember playing Pikmin 3 very much (or possibly at all) I know targetting was a common complaint. I did find that the ZR lock-on mechanic does help a bit – but I still didn’t quite get the hang of it early on. I often threw Pikmin to all corners, especially when tackling multiple enemies at once. So it may take some more tweaking to find the optimum gyro controls vs analogue stick setting for me personally. And having the ability to change that in settings is really cool.
However, what has me most excited so far is the two player co-op stuff.
Also, since multitasking isn’t my strongest suit – I’ve got to say that the new hint system (even though it seems to simplify things rather a lot – it’s not some much a hint as guided directions) did come in handy. And while I didn’t desperately need it early on it’s probably good that it’s there for new players. Those that are thinking about making a comeback will be happy to see the different difficulty levels (including an Ultra-Spicy extra tough mode that will likely prove a challenge even for Pikmin veterans – available once you complete the story in hard mode). The Side Story stuff with Olimar (only unlocked after a certain point in the story) feels similar to slightly bulkier ‘Missions’. However, we’re quite early in, so may need to see how much content is actually there when we get access to it all.
However, what has me most excited is the two player co-op stuff. As mentioned – I’m not the best at task-switching and having an extra brain to help along the way has been very fun so far. It also seems like the perfect game to tackle with my wife – and having a split-screen game these days is seemingly very rare and while the map is still a little more confusing than I like and we sometimes lose each other – this is for short bursts and I can’t wait to jump back in to tackle the Story Mode as a pair. Of course, the Bingo Battle versus mode returns – but not having a separate gamepad may actually even things out nicely, so again I’m rather keen to try more of that.
Keep your eyes peeled… and close to the ground, Pikmin are tiny, you know!
So we hope that gives you some idea of what’s in store both for people that have never tried a Pikmin game and those that are deciding whether it will be worth a second purchase. It’s still early on, but I think it’s looking like a great way to perhaps try out a RTS game in a very accessible way and I’m even optimistic about several of the Deluxe features (particularly the two-player co-op stuff) being a big enough addition to entice a repurchase. Until then – keep an eye for our final review and try out the Demo – it’s available on the eShop right now!