Thursday 22 August 2013

Pikmin 3

In preparation for playing Pikmin 3 I played the first Pikmin a month ago and I fell in love with it, subsequently playing it for a day straight. I've always loved RTS games, Warcraft 3 being one of my favourite games of all time, the genre just resonates very well with me. With these two things in mind it should come as no surprise that I was super hyped for Pikmin 3 - not only because it is the type of game I love, it is also the only game until October that looked like it may justify my purchase of a Wii U.

Pikmin 3 is the best looking Nintendo game on the Wii U yet - I just had to mention that first. The vibrant visuals relay Pikmin 3's beautiful world perfectly and this alone makes it worth the way, extended by the hefty delays it encountered. Pikmin have never looked cuter, fruit has never looked tastier and the bosses have never looked so peculiar. Nintendo has outdone themselves and if future games for the Wii U look this good, or even better, it makes me truly believe that the U can compete with the next generation of consoles (in terms of visual fidelity at least).

As you would expect the game functions very similarly to the previous two. You command your Pikmin from a third-person perspective as you collect fruit, battle creatures and navigate your way through obstacles under the daily time limit. Similar to Pikmin 2, there is no overall time limit to completing the game itself, this allows discovery in the game to be more relaxing and laid back, without having to worry about the big picture. However at the same time this is one of Pikmin 3's biggest issues, the game simply lacks any overall difficulty. Although you do have a food supply which is used up daily and if depleted you lose, this is never really a problem due to the abundance of food you can find. By the end I had 30 fruit with me and had finished 27 days, meaning I could play for almost twice as long without worrying about losing. Bosses, however, are difficult and you'll have to figure out a way to beat them fast to minimize the number of Pikmin that fall in battle and taking down some bosses truly brings that feeling of accomplishment. Pikmin 3 allows a player to prosper if they are good enough, its true difficulty comes from completing the game and collecting all the fruit in as few days as possible, which is complimented by the new online leader-board. It is great to see Nintendo finally embracing the leader-board feature, however it still lacks some features, such as comparing your own score with your actual friends.

The biggest gameplay changes in Pikmin 3 are the addition of a third playable character and two new Pikmin types. This means that Pikmin 3 gets even more management elements as you try to juggle three characters at once, trying to be as efficient as possible. In reality I didn't use this a lot, although those racing to be the fastest at the game should be able to put it to good use. The new Pikmin types allow for new ways to play, blue Pikmin can traverse water and your rock Pikmin are durable enough to smash your opponent to pieces. These new types add a freshness to Pikmin 3 that makes this entry the best one yet. For new players to the franchise the game does well in teaching people all the gameplay mechanics over again, meaning if you didn't play the previous instalments 9 years ago you can still jump in and enjoy.

The Pikmin 3 also makes great use of the Gamepad, as you'd expect a real time strategy game would and should, by making the map easily accessible on the screen and providing quick access to other features. Tapping it will pause the game and bring the camera into an overhead view, drag the map around using your finger and get the full display of the area on your TV, all features that become incredibly useful later in the game when you're planning out where you will be going in that day. Quick links are also added at the bottom of the Gamepads display so you can check out in-game notes or, for example, how many rock Pikmin are currently in the field - an excellent feature that can ease some of the more stressful moments. Off-screen play is also possible (I spent some good hours lying in bed using the screen). While it is not as visually appealing and a little harder to perform well using it, it's still a nice feature for Nintendo to throw in there. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck provide a secondary way of playing and although they work just fine (albeit a bit inaccurately), it simply doesn't make sense to use them outside of multiplayer. Simply put, the Gamepad is the best way to play.

The story in Pikmin 3 feels a lot more streamlined, with a few very linear moments that feel out of place. Thankfully the game breaks away from these quickly and allows you to go off and return to previous areas with your new Pikmin types to discover new parts that you couldn't access before, a concept veterans of the franchise will remember. While the final boss design was genius and epic, the whole experience felt like it ended a bit abruptly, leaving more main story objectives to be desired. Nintendo also missed an opportunity to set you a goal to collect all the fruit with game progress left intact. Instead if you wish to continue collecting fruit you have to go back to a previous day, losing any progress previously made, an inconvenience that could have been avoided.

Fortunately Pikmin 3 has you covered when you desire more: a cleverly implemented “missions mode” adds greater value and competitiveness by offering three different modes. These consist of treasure collecting, battling enemies and defeating bosses, all of which are based around time and gaining points, offering tiered medals that will keep you replaying for hours on end. I'm not a big fan of DLC, but the chance that these modes could be expanded upon makes me very interested and would keep me coming back to the game. These modes and another mode, named Bingo Battle, offer a lot of local multiplayer options that will have you and a friend both working together as tightly as you can, and competing against each other like it's the most important thing in the world. Due to the Gamepad being the definitive controller for Pikmin 3, the person using it does hold an advantage over the Wii Remote player as it's essentially easier to use. These multiplayer features, along with story mode speed-runs, adds a lot of replay value to a game that already delivers a great package.

While it may not be worth purchasing a Wii U solely for Pikmin 3, it is one of the best, if not the best, titles out for Wii U and a definite must have. It's stunning, nostalgic and clever all at the same time with excellent Gamepad implementation. The game does leave much to be desired difficulty wise, and the story mode it slightly short, but it offers a lot of content that makes it well worth your money. Pikmin 3 will keep you exploring for hours on end to your delight.

Score: 9.5 / 10

Chris McQueen, CeX Sunderland

Pikmin 3 at CeX

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