When was the last time you had a horde of ridiculously adorable plant creatures murdering and harvesting corpses for you? It doesn’t matter, because that’s exactly what you need now, and exactly what you’ll get with Pikmin 3 for the Nintendo Wii U. It had been nine years since the last Pikmin entry, and nine years since everyone’s hearts violently melted from how damn adorable those games were. Despite remaining one of Nintendo’s last original intellectual properties to date, Pikmin 3 still feels just as fresh as it did over a decade ago, if not moreso. This time around, gameplay has been streamlined with several new mechanics and innovative scenarios all wrapped up in a stunning high-definition package. But, most importantly, it’s now more than cute, it’s cute in HD.
It had been a while since I last played a Pikmin game, so when I booted up Pikmin 3 for the first time, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was getting into again. Now, imagine if some giant hulking beast made of cuteness just grabbed your face and smashed it until it was the consistency of applesauce; that’s what playing Pikmin 3 is like. Of course, this is already practically evident from the box cover, and cuteness alone won’t take a game very far. Luckily, this is also a phenomenal game.
The biggest difference from the third game and its predecessors is the inclusion of three separate characters to use simultaneously. This may not be totally new to the franchise as a second playable character was added in Pikmin 3, but three’s company. Sweet company. The Wii U’s GamePad offers a simple and fantastic way to easily micromanage the three characters with by operating as a map and database to help clean up and streamline the gameplay in a huge way. Honestly, the best way to play Pikmin 3 is through remote play as the game pauses when you bring up the map, which you should do frequently. Whenever I played through the TV, the game continued while I checked my map and issued orders to separate characters, which can make things unnecessarily hectic when you’re possibly leaving another character and their assigned Pikmin completely vulnerable to enemies and hazards. Just so you know though, there are five different control schemes, so you’re bound to find that perfect one for you anyway.
Regardless of how you play, Pikmin 3 provides satisfying and challenging overhauled gameplay that tests your skills as a tactician when figuring out which type of Pikmin is the right one for the job, where to send them, how many to send, where to aim them, and when to retreat. Some of the newest mechanics include providing weak spots to aim for on enemies, such as throwing Pikmin specifically at a monster’s right eye if you need to. Just as well, the creatures’ behaviors have been improved, making them follow you in a more realistic swarm-like fashion, including following your steps rather than running at you, which helps prevent the previous problems of a Pikmin getting stuck behind a corner and also to just help evasive maneuvers.
It’s evident that the developers really went for a more immersive experience this time around, now allowing objects like fruits or boss corpses to remain in the same location overnight, so you’re not forced to endure the work all over again the following day. The fruits, by the way, are a splendid addition to the gameplay, as they work like lives. For the first half of the game, food will be especially scarce and tension will be especially high as you much comb the lands for various fruits that give you the sustenance to explore another day. I never found out what exactly happens when you run out of fruit, nor do I ever find out. The characters’ logs after each day feel so personalized and real that I wound up sharing their deep concern for a lack of food, and things got very intense when I nearly ran out.
Now, let’s talk for a second about Pikmin and how terrifying it is. As I mentioned, this was my first time playing Pikmin in years, so I completely forgot how horrific and devastating it is to lose one of my Pikmin. During one of my very first levels (days) of the game, I found this out the hard way when I hadn’t quite gotten used to checking the map often and accidentally left a couple of little friends behind. The game then forced me to watch in horror as the character(s) and the surviving Pikmin hop aboard the spaceship at dusk and get the hell off that planet only to see the ones that were left behind run after the ship in fear, only to be prey to the merciless predators that apparently stalk this disgusting planet at night. The scariest part, however, was how by the end of the game, I was cold and calculating. “Sacrifices have to be made,” I probably said to myself at some point. Pikmin 3 turned me into a monster.
But enough about that. I had a delightful time becoming a terrible human being. So did one of my best friends who joined me on some split-screen multi-player adventures. The standard co-op modes are lovely, but can be really damn hard, at least, if you want the best possible medal for your achievements. We started out going for gold on every mode, practically becoming machines, each with our own duties in synchronization; Pikmin 3‘s multi-player is pretty accesible but was likely made for veterans.
When you’re feeling competitive, Bingo Battle is there for some head-to-head Pikmin action that pits you and a friend/stranger/enemy (I don’t know who you play Pikmin with) in a frantic scavenger hunt. Personally, I never thought I would be fighting my friend over an apple before. By the way, let me just talk about the fruits again for a moment: the fruits are beautiful. Seriously, it’s like the developers put 120% of their efforts at making many of the fruits look so surprisingly life-like and delicious; it’s strange, but I love it so much. Fruits aside though, the game is still gorgeous. In camera/snapshot mode, where you are in a first-person POV, it’s easy to see how the textures a bit uglier once you’re close up, but in the general action of the game with the regular intended camera, it’s a sight to behold, mostly in part to some very clever visual effects with lighting and blurs to make this world come to life so spectacularly on the Wii U.
While not perfect, Pikmin 3 is something any Wii U owner must play, especially if you’re itching to play a revamped and improved modern classic. New mechanics rejuvenate the Pikmin series in the best ways to make things tenser, prettier, and more immersive than ever. Whether you’re playing alone or with a friend, Pikmin 3 has a lot to offer with rewarding and challenging gameplay to keep you coming back for more. You may become a monster along the journey once you’re relatively okay with making sacrifices, but the transformation is well worth it. It’s very clear that a lot of respect and effort went into this project to make Pikmin 3 such an epic and endearing adventure with excellent writing, characters, gameplay, and visuals. Plus, it had an ending so cute, I seriously wanted to just break down manly-cry, once it was all over. As cute as it is though, be prepared; Pikmin 3 is as metal as it is adorable.
[+Overhauled and improved gameplay and mechanics][+Five different ways to play][+Challenging and satisfying][+Epic and intense boss battles][+Witty and charming dialogue][+So. Damn. Cute.][+Clever visual effects][+Backtracking done right][+Surprisingly elegant presentation][+Camera/Snapshot mode (see slideshow below)][-Very random final boss feels a bit out of place]
Along the journey, I took various snapshots with the camera mode that I must share with you all. Enjoy: