Yes, it’s another entry into the ‘Wii U port to the Switch’ category but because it doesn’t feature the moustachioed plumber or another of the Big N’s more notable characters, it’s likely that this title reached an even smaller audience than usual on Nintendo’s last doomed generation. And that’s a pity. Not only was Pikmin 3 critically acclaimed it’s also arguably one of the most accessible RTS-style games out there. And while it could be argued that the move to the Switch and the ‘Deluxe’ moniker are getting a little tired now, Pikmin 3 Deluxe definitely offers enough to welcome new players and there may even be enough little extras to entice those few that did experience the original on the Wii U to double-dip.
A tiny adventure into a giant new world
Although, I had tried Pikmin before – I couldn’t even remember which game I had played – it’s been that long ago. So perhaps like many of you out there – this was my first proper experience controlling a squad of the colourful and lovable, plant-like beings of PNF-404. The story is simple but cute. A crew of three intrepid explorers from the planet Koppai crash-land on a new resource-laden world filled with creatures called Pikmin. Creatures that apparently love being ordered around, are just about the most helpful and skilled friends you could ask for and are more than happy to tag along with their alien friends. As Koppai has almost used up all their food supplies, it’s up to the adorable Alph, Brittany and Captain Charlie to collect as much fruit as possible and return home safely.
Sending each of the three crew members and their horde of Pikmin in opposite directions to achieve different goals while swapping between can be a little mind-breaking – and the new map set-up doesn’t really help.
The visuals as you can tell, rely heavily on the series’ cartoony style. However, as a Wii U game that has virtually seen no major upgrading (other than some possible texture work and perhaps upscaling to 1080p when in docked mode), it’s still pretty as a picture. And some of the water and fruit effects are rather impressive. I really enjoyed having this blend of charming big-eyed characters backdropped by what looks like a rather realistic pretty garden or snowy tundra. The music, on the whole, is equally delightful. However, I couldn’t bear it for extended periods of time – mostly because it would often be interrupted by a shrill whistle (a feature of the gameplay that calls your Pikmin to attention) A sound that eventually begins to bore a hole into your soul.
In terms, of gameplay, this is a game about controlling a legion of several different Pikmin in variety of tasks mostly aimed around collecting fruit, defeating monster-bug-like enemies and returning to your ship before the sun sets. It’s dangerous in the dark on PNF-404 and any Pikmin left on the surface perish in the night. I’ve got to be honest and admit that time management and multi-tasking in games are not my strongest skills. Hence, the initial part of the game – especially once levels get a little more complex and you can (and sometimes need to) send each of the three crew members in opposite directions to achieve different goals while swapping between them became a little mind-breaking.
Throwing your Pikmin at a Peckish Aristocrab or a Pyroclasmic Slooch or even a piece of Scaly Custard (the hilarious names of actual enemies and recognisable fruit) is also made easier with a new lock-on system
Thankfully, as this is a pretty light RTS game (especially on Normal difficulty) and after a while, my brain ‘clicked’ in and the task-switching and time constraints become a little easier to manage. Swapping between the different coloured Pikmin and figuring out the optimal way to solve the different puzzles (each Pikmin has a specific strength and weakness) and ultimately strategizing the best way to use your day – becomes a lot of fun. And thanks to their pleasant and helpful nature you become quite attached to the Pikmin hordes that follow you around.
Map missteps and useful upgrades
After finishing the Story mode, I’m still not the biggest fan of the day/night cycle mechanic. Of course, it adds a layer of tension to the narrative and gameplay – but if you like exploring, the ability to toggle this on and off would’ve been a nice optional feature. Perhaps even after finishing the game. Unfortunately, I did sometimes find the goals a little obtuse, although this could be chalked up to being a newbie to the series. But, what I do think would’ve helped would’ve been a clearer map. Upon thinking about what frustrated with the map I decided to see how it appeared on the first game. On the Wii U – the map was available on the Gamepad screen and was very useful (you can check out a 2013 GameExplain video I found detailing this here). Having the map always open and available – I’m assuming would help you make sense of the world’s locations a bit better. And sending crew members off to different locations using the touch screen seems like the perfect use of it.
Unfortunately, although the map is easily accessible now via a button press, I found the icons on the map to not be very informative (just a bunch of green dots and such) and therefore sending Brittany or the Captain off to do their own part of the mission felt a lot like juggling several plates. And a lot of the time – I seemed to lose track of them, or have them idly sitting around for longer than you’d want. Again, I got better with this as time went on – but considering the main story took me just under eight hours – it did feel like I missed out. Happily, a few upgrades in the Deluxe mode help you deal with these issues. If you ever do get stuck – you can ask for a hint. These actually provide the path you should take and are a little hand-holdy but because they’re optional I was happy that I could use it when needed. And since there are three difficulty options (including the super tough Ultra Spicy mode) you can easily up the challenge if you’re a returning player.
The basic mechanic of throwing your Pikmin at a Peckish Aristocrab or a Pyroclasmic Slooch or even a piece of Scaly Custard (the hilarious names of actual enemies and recognisable fruit) is also made easier with a new lock-on system using the ZR button. I know it was a gripe with some from the original games. The system is quite good and the ‘pointer’ can be controlled either by using the right analogue stick or gyro controls. However, I still found facing multiple enemies a bit of a challenge. It seems that the first target will always be the enemy closest to you. In the heat of a boss battle though (that are a lot of fun – except when the giant creatures land on your beautiful Pikmin destroying tens at a time) smaller enemies that have already been taken care of still lock on – so it can still be a pain to send your Pikmin off in strange directions. However, thanks to ZR this happens a lot less I’m assuming.
Multiple marvelous modes
However, where I feel the game really comes into its own – is the multiple modes and the addition of a two-player co-op. While I tackled the main story on my own – and sometimes struggled through, my wife joined me for some of the Mission mode and Side Story levels and we absolutely loved playing as a team. The Mission modes are single-level, single objective timed areas that slowly ramp up in difficulty. You could be collecting as much fruit as possible in seven minutes for example or ridding an area of all enemies or facing Bosses once again. Based on how you do, you get a rating and if you’re good enough you are awarded a medal which then unlocks new areas. Missions also have an ‘After Hours’ no-time-limit option too – but areas are smaller so I do wish they added this to the Story mode too. The Side Missions are similar as Missions but also function as a prologue and epilogue to the main story and star returning Pikmin protagonist – Olimar and his hungry and bumbling partner Louie – in their search for treasure and spaceship parts.
It is this new 2-player co-op feature, that I think may seduce Wii U Pikmin 3 owners to get the game again on the Switch. Yes, it’s that good.
Sharing the funny names, listening to cute gibberish language together and tackling objective as a pair – really upped my enjoyment. Having a thinking person controlling a second horde really removes a lot fo the task switching frustration I experienced and really it just felt really fun and satisfying to accomplish a goal together or unlock a new achievement. Plus, it is a split-screen game and I’m always a fan of those. It is this new feature, that I think may seduce Wii U Pikmin 3 owners to get the game again on the Switch. Yes, I enjoyed it that much!
And plus, if you’re feeling a little competitive – the Bingo Battle mode gives you yet another version of the game to dive into. Here two players go head to head in an enclosed, themed area and use their army of Pikmin to fill out a line in a Bingo card before their opponent does. Of course, they add several layers of strategy and randomness to make things a little more interesting. For example – some bingo slots may require you to both collect a strawberry. The only problem is there is only one strawberry on the map. Also, there’s a roulette wheel. A fun randomiser – which will suddenly give you new abilities to shock your opponent into inaction for a few moments or send a rockslide their way. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun and I can definitely see my wife and I return to all these modes again.
Worth a trip to space
I’m not the biggest player of RTS games. And I wasn’t a longtime Pikmin aficionado. Yet, I found this game quite rewarding (eventually). Sure, the story is short and there are some irritations that may even mean the Wii U version was better in some ways. However, the introduction of co-op in particular, as well as smaller additions like the lock-on targeting, the hint system and the multiple difficulties make this feel like its own package. Then you think of the multiple modes and the smaller additions like the online leaderboards (for your mission and Side Story scores) and the Piklopedia (a quite funny comment-filled encyclopedia about the Pikmin’s world) which are simple but perfect ‘nice-to-haves’ that really make the experience worthwhile. Sure, like all these ports, players of the Wii U game may not really feel like spending big on ‘the same’ title again, but for someone like me – it’s something different that I’m happy my collection now includes. And for those that are on the fence, I’d at least suggest downloading the demo and giving the co-op mode a try.