Ever since the original Pikmin came out for the Gamecube back in 2001, it has easily been one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. Despite being a vastly different type of game compared to games of theirs I had played in the past, something about Pikmin—and the series in general—has managed to hook me. From the unique enemy designs like the Red Bulborbs and the Burrowing Snagrets, to the tight, fast-paced real time strategy gameplay, while the Pikmin series has never been a strong seller, it has been one of my favorite series. And ever since the Wii was released, I’ve been excited to see where Pikmin could go next, and, while it’s been a long nine month wait since the Wii U was released; it has definitely been worth it.
The campaign of Pikmin 3, while still in the same vein of 1 and 2, does take a bit of a turn. Instead of playing as Captain Olimar or Louie, instead you have three characters to play as, Alph, Brittany, and Charlie. And instead of being from the planet Hocotate, you’re from the planet Koppai. The Koppaites, despite being from a different planet than the Hocotatians, are the same, for all intents and purposes: similar size, a massive lack of management and planning, and the strange aptitude for crash landing on foreign planets. The setup for the story is that Koppai Is quickly running out of food, and the three playable characters, Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, have to scour the galaxy in search of edible food they can bring back to save their planet from starvation. And of course, in usual Pikmin fashion, upon reaching the planet, your ship crashes, and your intrepid group of captains is separated from each other on the Pikmin planet, PNF-404. From that point your game starts with two objectives, getting as many fruit as you can, and recovering your lost comrades.
Overall, the gameplay in Pikmin 3 is largely reminiscent of Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2, but of course, with different control schemes depending on what type of controller you want to use. There are three types of control schemes to use by the way: the Wii U gamepad (which I used for all but multiplayer modes), the Wii U Pro Controller, and the Wiimote and Nunchuck (which is required for all multiplayer modes). The gamepad’s screen features a map, which is incredibly useful to see where all of your captains are at, where Pikmin not in your group are at, the different files that can be found in game, and how many Pikmin you have overall. One of the other features of the gamepad’s touch screen, which I feel I didn’t make nearly enough use of, is the ability to “draw” a path on the map and have one of your captains (the one you’re currently controlling) follow that path automatically, which is incredibly useful for the multitasking that is generally done in Pikmin 3.
While I’ve noticed that a lot of people prefer the Wiimote and Nunchuck combo for control, and while I’ve loved using it for the multiplayer, I can say I’ve had no trouble trouble using the gamepad. I can say that there WAS a bit of an adjustment period for getting used to aiming with the R button, but other than that, I felt that the gamepad was a perfectly fine way of playing the game, especially with having a bit of a shaky arm and bad aim like myself. Of course, either way is a perfect way to play the game, in my opinion, and each form of control does have their pros and cons. But from the past two Pikmin games, there were some minor changes in control schemes. While the large majority of things have remained the same, the former ability to swarm your Pikmin around with the c-stick on the Gamecube is gone, and now replaced by the lock-on and charge. While I do miss the kazoo-esque sounds and the ability to quickly overwhelm enemies that you could do with the swarming, the lock-on and charge have both proven to be perfectly workable for the game, and alongside improved aiming, the swarm is no longer something that’s necessary.
As for the actual game itself, there is a bit of a time limit, similar to the first Pikmin game. However, the upper limit of the day limit is 99 days, a day that, if it could be reached, would require you to just sit there doing nothing for a good forty or so days after you’ve collected all of the fruit that can be collected.
This leads me onto the gameplay objective of the campaign for Pikmin 3. This time you aren’t collecting parts of your rocket or treasure, but fruit to bring back to your planet and sustain yourself during your expedition. If, at any time during the campaign, you run out of juice, it’s game over, and you have to go back and replay days to get the fruit you need to continue on. You can do this for any day, to improve how much you do in those days, how many Pikmin you keep alive, etc. Each area has a set amount of fruit per it (it varies per area) and a boss creature, with the boss in each area needing to be defeated before the next area can be gone onto in most cases. There are new enemy designs, and they all feel as creative as the original ones from Pikmin, the boss designs especially. The bosses were by far one of my, if not my favorite part of the campaign. While the bosses did start to become more complex with Pikmin 2 (and even a bit complex towards the tail-end of Pikmin), the bosses here scratch all of my itches. Phases, certain strategies to use, and always having to be on your feet, as well as great, terrifying visual designs, they were an absolute joy to face. Alongside all of the terrifying enemies in Pikmin 3, the bosses themselves are at the top of the list, and keep me jokingly calling this “Miyamoto’s Dark Souls”.
In all, the campaign mode wasn’t too tough, aside from the final area which took a bit more planning and definitely isn’t something to rush into unlike what I tried the first few times. It is very reminiscent of Pikmin 2, in the idea of being mostly able to take your time and go at your own pace. It’s a very enjoyable campaign mode, with simplistic, yet effective and in some case touching story beats, and an overall fantastic level design.
The Pikmin, however, does have some changes from Pikmin 2. Purple and White Pikmin are not in the main game this time around (though they are available in the Mission Mode), and in their stead are the Rock Pikmin and Winged Pikmin. The Rock Pikmin are able to break down glass and crystal and avoid being crushed, while the Winged Pikmin can reach flying enemies and high up objects and fly over water. Despite these being new types of Pikmin, they don’t feel imbalanced in the slightest (though, I don’t quite know how many people other than me worry about Pikmin balance).
The Mission mode is split up into three different types: Battle enemies, collect treasure, and boss fight. Boss fight is self-explanatory, as you discover and beat bosses, you can fight them again in this subsection. Collect treasure and battle enemies sets you on a different map (based after the areas in the main storyline) and give you a set timeline to either collect all the treasure or kill all the enemies as fast as possible. All of these modes are great to test your Pikmin mettle solo, but I found them even more fun co-op: being able to go over where to go and what to do with a friend was a great experience and made Mission mode even more fun for me.
What could very well end up being the best mode overall though, is Bingo Battle. While Pikmin 2 had a rather simplistic capture the flag-esque multiplayer experience, Pikmin 3 plays up multiplayer in a big way. In Bingo Battle, each side is given a bingo card filled with enemies and fruit, and whoever can fill out the bingo card by bringing these objects back to their onion first wins. But the great part about this is how hectic it can get: not only fighting enemies, but juggling power ups you get from collecting cherries, and fighting the opposing Pikmin squad, it quickly turns into an amazing mode that you’ll want to find someone to play with, and gives me the sense that local multiplayer for the Wii U is continuing to be great.
Pikmin 3 proves to be a master class design from Nintendo. Gorgeous environments filled with heart and soul (and probably a bit of Nintendo magic), tight gameplay that isn’t bogged down by tutorials, and a soundtrack that can go from soothing to tense all in the matter of one encounter, Pikmin 3 is a game that I’ve been waiting for at the least nine years. And the delay to put it nine months after the Wii U may have hurt tremendously, after having completed the finished product, I am more fine with that delay. The polish put on this game is something I can appreciate, and I can easily see myself coming back to this entry over the others in years to come. Simply put, at the least, Pikmin 3 is a must get product for the Wii U, and I would even consider it a pretty good reason to get a Wii U.