Pikmin (NPC) for Wii Review

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Pikmin is a series that has always intrigued me. I remember seeing the commercials for the first game and thinking it was bizarre. I had no clue what I was looking at but I wanted to try it. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a GameCube at the time so I didn’t get the chance to try it back when it was in its prime. Pikmin 3 was the first game in the series I played and I enjoyed it so I’ve been looking forward to playing through the first two games. Developed and published by Nintendo, Pikmin was released for GameCube in October, 2001. It was re-released for Wii as part of the New Play Control! series and does feature some changes and that’s the version I played for this review.

The story centers on Captain Olimar, a tiny extraterrestrial. After his ship crashes on an uncharted planet, he must recover the ship parts within thirty days. After thirty days, his life support system will stop functioning and he’ll die from the poisonous oxygen on the planet. It’s a pretty simple plot and there are multiple endings. The one you see will depend on how many ship parts you acquired and if you acquired all the necessary ones.

The Wii game is the New Play Control! version which means it does support the Wii Remote and Nunchuk which I think is a great way to experience the game. This version also features some positive changes or enhancements including a new save system, widescreen support, and some small tweaks to the gameplay. I think the new save system is great. You can now restart from any previous day allowing you to try a day again and/or correct any mistakes you made.

I think Pikmin is one of the more interesting strategy games I’ve played. It’s a strategy game with some puzzles to solve and it’s single player only. You have thirty days to find and collect all the ship parts. Each day is also timed so it’s wise to at least try for one ship part a day. Collecting ship parts also unlocks new features like the area map for example as well as access to new levels. That said, there’s only five levels in the game and if you know what you’re doing, you can beat the game in a single sitting.

Olimar can run around and attack enemies but you want to build up an army of Pikmin, which are little creatures that can be generated by Onions. You need Pikmin to carry things like pellets, dead enemies, and ship parts to the landing site which is where the Onions and your ship are located. You can command them to move and dismiss them and even throw them around. They will attack enemies but can also die easily. They can extract nectar from grass, rocks, and Wisps and consume it to become fully mature or in other words, stronger and faster.

Pikmin come in three colors which also means types and each type has it’s own traits. Red Pikmin hit harder and are immune to fire, blue Pikmin can move around in water and yellow Pikmin can carry bomb-rocks and be thrown higher than normal. You will need to utilize all three to solve puzzles, acquire ship parts, defeat enemies and bosses, and gain access to new areas. You can command Pikmin to destroy walls, build bridges, and push boxes. Pikmin die easily but you can get more by having your Pikmin carry Pellets and dead enemies to their Onions. Doing so generates new Pikmin which you can pull out from the ground to join your army. Any Pikmin not at the landing site or with Olimar by the end of a day will be left behind and die.

I like Pikmin but I do have some gripes. First, the controls. They’re a little wonky and take some getting used to. The pointing and telling Pikmin where to go works great. I did fumble around with the camera controls in the beginning and it’s calling Pikmin back that was usually the most problematic function. You can whistle to create a circle around the Pikmin you want to call to you but sometimes the circle doesn’t call all the Pikmin. It can be finicky. Second, Pikmin can trip and there’s nothing you can really do about it and it can be annoying. And third, the Pikmin are very stupid.

Pikmin will always attempt to go where you tell them to go but often get stuck on things or behind things and fall off ledges and are often terrible at staying out of harm’s way when left alone. You have to babysit them constantly. It also appears that when they grab something, especially a ship part, they take very specific paths to get back to the landing site and you can’t tell them where to go while they’re carrying something. Even though it may appear like there is an obvious and safe way to get the part back to your ship, they’ll start turning and moving in odd directions, sometimes in the path of enemies if you didn’t clear them out beforehand. The result can be deadly for them.

Success in Pikmin will come down to planning. Planning out how to get to certain areas and which ship parts to collect and when. You could say the ultimate objective is to collect all the parts in as few days as possible. It’s often wise to deploy multiple groups of Pikmin to complete different tasks like have one group work on building a bridge while the other clears a path of enemies. Enemies you defeat will respawn after a certain amount of days and any bridges the Pikmin build, walls they break down, and boxes they push will remain in place.

I think the biggest challenge in Pikmin is the day limit. You have thirty days to find all the parts and without that day limit there would be almost no challenge. It also makes the gameplay a little more stressful because there’s thirty parts so if you finish a day without collecting a part, it’s kind of like a waste of a day unless you’re already one or more parts ahead. It’s wise to plan things out and the gameplay can be trial and error. But thanks to the new save system, you’re not screwed if you make a mistake or die or fail to get a part. You can always just try again.

Pikmin features a decent variety of enemies spread across the levels from ground types to flying types to bosses. Enemies can typically be found sleeping or moving around an area, and some even come out of the ground. Certain enemies won’t actually harm your Pikmin but many are dangerous and others are just straight up assholes like the Swooping Snitchbug. This motherfucker flies around the level and will snatch your Pikmin and just plant them somewhere. My least favorite enemy is easily the Breadbug. The best way to kill it is to wait for it to grab something like a Pellet and then command your Pikmin to swarm it and grab the Pellet so they carry the Pellet and Breadbug to their Onion which will inflict a lot of damage to the Breadbug. There are several boss-types in the game, most of which are large and can kill multiple Pikmin easily if you’re not careful. There are even some secret boss enemies which can only be encountered in certain levels and on certain days.

In addition to the story is the Challenge mode but despite its name, I never actually felt challenged. The goal is to collect as many Pikmin as possible in any level of your choosing. I guess the idea is to set records and try to beat them. But the mode lacks let’s call it “motivation”. I just didn’t find the main objective particularly enjoyable. Some levels feature new or different enemies and even a lack thereof in some cases and in most levels, I ended up getting bored.

When I saw the commercials for the GameCube version way back when I remember thinking the presentation looked really good. For it’s time, it wasn’t really a bad looking game. The presentation does a good job at making Olimar and the Pikmin look tiny. The levels themselves look very let’s say “Earthly” so there’s a lot of brown and green but it does help make everything else like Olimar, the Pikmin and enemies pop a little. The presentation definitely shows it’s age now but, overall, it doesn’t look terrible. The soundtrack is alright and I felt it actually helps convey a sci-fi tone. On the technical side, the game ran smooth and I did not encounter any major bugs or issues.

I like Pikmin. It’s different. It’s not like a lot of other strategy games I’ve played. There’s a simple quality about it but it also has depth. Thinking is required to succeed. Despite the fact the game is adorable, it can kick your ass if you don’t know what you’re doing. My biggest gripes with it are that the Pikmin are often too stupid and I feel it lacks content. Even though it took me several hours to get through, it’s really not a long game. Once you’ve mastered the mechanics, you can get through it fairly quickly. It certainly has replay value but I just wish there was more to it. There’s no difficulty levels, I found the Challenge mode to be more boring than fun, and there’s no multiplayer of any kind.

I would absolutely recommend Pikmin and I do think the Wii version is the way to go. I think all the changes are for the better and pointing with with the Wii remote works great. Pikmin is a unique and charming strategy game that’s easy to jump into and also challenging enough to keep you engaged. Definitely check it out.

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