Of all of Nintendo’s leading franchises it’s arguably Pikmin that has been under serviced in recent times. Starfox may have cooled its jets but we’ve still had a remake on the Nintendo 3DS. Metroid’s first-person shooter experiences were left behind not long after the Wii’s launch but we’ve still had Metroid: Other M to flesh out the universe. Pikmin, however, has skipped an entire generation with nearly a decade since its last release.
Fans returning for Pikmin 3 however, will get past this absence almost immediately. As if a certain part of your muscle memory had been reserved especially for Miyamoto’s floral critters, the control scheme is a natural extension of the Pikmin philosophy. The movement of the player’s on-screen avatar is controlled via the left analog stick and the camera with the right, with the angle and distance of their cursor commanded by the distance and force of the travel of the right analog stick. This is important as your cursor is the key for commanding pikmin and allies, whether that be for collecting new minions or issuing commands to those already following you.
Two gameplay modes were offered up to Electronic Theatre to put this into practice, the first of which was entitled ‘Mission Mode.’ Standalone challenges (which may or may not have been lifted from the campaign) in which a time limit was active as the player is tasked to collect fruit and return to their base while also fighting enemies, the Mission Mode has clearly been designed well as a vertical slice of the typical Pikmin 3 experience. The key components of any level are here, and given that Mission Mode is also playable by two players co-operatively it’s easy to see how many hours could be invested here when the final build is upon us.
In this first taste Electronic Theatre was introduced to one of the first new additions to the series (bar the high-definition (HD) graphics and use of the Wii U GamePad, of course), the rock pikmin. Able to bash crystals and take down small enemies with ease, the rock pikmin are much stronger than any other kind. With this strength they are also able to carry heavier objects, demonstrated at a point where they could collect broken blocks and build a bridge out of them in an effect that is comparable to some of the puzzling challenges of the LEGO Star Wars videogames.
A second level of the Mission Mode was offered with the exact same concept, and once again introduced a new pikmin. The winged pikmin can be used to lift specific objects – in this case, a gate – to allow the player to travel beyond. This second mission also saw the return of poisonous pikmin and the heavy variety as you face off against new enemy types with multiple astronaut teammates.
All of the above prepares you adequately for the final available gameplay mode: versus. Just the single option was available Bingo Battle, in which players compete to gather the correct fruit to score a line on their random bingo card. Up to four players can compete on the relatively small maps, creating some tense battles for the rarer fruit types. A number of options are available to customise the experience, such as the number of starting pikmin and the available of a golden fruit (which can represent any fruit on your card), resulting in a multiplayer mode which does prove to be more appealing than the usual tacked on affair.
Set to launch on Wii U this summer, Pikmin 3 is easily one of the most anticipated titles not just this year, but of all those yet revealed for the console. And it’s time on hiatus has certainly been of benefit, as Pikmin is looking set to return on top form, proving that the Wii U can deliver unique and inviting gameplay experiences just as well as any other HD system on the market right now.