SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
The plunderous expeditions through Pikmin 3 should be thought of as Darwin’s most powerful theory in action. Specialized species prove their mettle through a high level of co-habitation, where the victors make off with the strawberries and the losers end up with multi colored seedlings up the butt.
So what is the societal takeaway from Miyamoto’s precious creation? Kill. Harvest. Pillage. (and) Sprout. Like there’s no tomorrow. Even with enough juice queued up, there’s a constant impetus to keep your flower to the grindstone and loot with reckless abandon.
Any Pikmin left on the planet when the explorer leaves are devoured by night time predators. It’s a sad sight, but their easy demise just highlights how disposable they are. Sprout more and soldier on.
The switch from the 30 day limit to an ongoing race against resources and time further deepens the metaphor to modern existence and firmly reorients the Pikmin play style into the more immediate sense of urgency embraced by other Nintendo titles like Mario. It also introduces a sense of tension in an otherwise easy game.
The most fundamental change is the shift to three cooperating explorers in the pillage quest. Each can be commanded separately by cycling through them with a single button press. Commanding different explorers with the touch screen is a dream come true for basic micro-ing. The Wii U pad also displays a few key statistics, like how many Pikmin are working, idle, etc.
While scanning the map off the second screen pauses the action while deliberations on planetary dominance are thought through. It’s a boon to the strategic side – hover over any area to ‘on screen’ it for scouting and planning purposes. It also displays stranded Pikmin by color and fruit locations.
Playing the game just off the Wii U pad isn’t too shabby either. Using the second screen primarily as a map certainly sounds like more lazy engineering on Nintendo’s part. But in execution it’s an intuitive tool that truly transforms and expands the gameplay.
The multiplayer side of Pikmin proves to be just as engaging as the story mode, offering the perfect challenge based modes for a couple Pikmin vets to command their sprouts. Perfecting timed treasure gathering is the most satisfying of the bunch. But there’s also a Bingo Battle that involves careful resources gathering to complete a fruit quattro.
Pikmin 3 exhibits all the visual charm and endearing sound design that should be expected from the long absent series. For previous adherents it’s a proper return to form, complete with all the little touches that force a nostalgic smile. For the tiny band of newcomers to the series that also own a Wii U, it’s a much needed 1st party defibrillator to a system on life support.
Now the real test: can Nintendo show the kind of necessary restraint to not release a New Pikmin 3 or some other inane regurgitation of this instant classic? Let’s hope so.