By: Casey Curran
Thus far it just has not been a good year for the Wii U. While the 3DS gets hit after hit and the 360 and PS3 enjoy every second of their final days, Wii U struggles both to make people want to buy the system as well as getting existing owners to play it. A strong lineup ahead may change this, however, and Pikmin 3 seems to be the game that starts it all. And if the console’s other upcoming games are as well made as Pikmin 3, then the Wii U looks to have a very bright future ahead of it.
This is strange to review as the game actually offers two different control schemes (one for the Wiimote, one for the Gamepad) for which I’d give different scores. Normally I’d concentrate on the superior setup, but as it’s guaranteed that everyone buying this owns the Gamepad (and not the Wiimote), the score will reflect the Gamepad.
The only real advantage it offers over a Wiimote is the map on the smaller screen. This not only makes it much easier to navigate, but with three different characters it’s useful to give commands to the other two if they’re not currently following you. This is less necessary if you are playing co-op, but alone it is useful enough that the Gamepad was my preferred choice despite having more flaws.
The issues with the Gamepad come from how much more of a hassle it is to control both your aim and the Pikmin under your command. Both your cursor and character are controlled with the left stick while holding the R button will let you control only your cursor. The cursor is used to decide where you will throw Pikmin or what object they need to attack or carry back to the ship. Holding ZL on the other hand, will lock onto these objects and remove control of the cursor.
Where this creates issues is when an enemy or situation suddenly arises where you need to have control of both your character and cursor for a faster paced scenario. This can often come at the cost of a few lost Pikmin to an enemy or hazard. I feel it would work better if the left stick was exclusively for movement while the right controls the cursor.
The lock-on is also too picky as there were instances where I would select an enemy and order my army to attack, only to realize I wasn’t really locked onto them. Considering that the same button that orders attacks also releases control of your Pikmin, this broke the game’s flow.
The Wiimote fixes both these issues as pointing towards the screen is used to control the cursor. This helps make locking on much easier as well, as the issue with lock-on primarily comes from the limitations of the left stick controlling both character and cursor. That you cannot control the others indirectly is an issue here, however, so it comes down to personal preference. As is though, I would give the Wiimote a 4.5 for solo and a perfect 5 in co-op.
Pikmin 3 is gorgeous. The environments offer an astounding amount of detail combined with a great art design. The creatures and Pikmin look amazing as well, which combined with their incredible animations make Pikmin 3 the best looking game Nintendo has made to date. A lot of this does stem from how much more powerful the Wii U is than their other consoles, but that does not take away from how great looking this game is.
Music and sound effects are excellent as well. Each creature has its own noises, which give the wildlife in the world a unique identity. The Pikmin, meanwhile, have a very fun noise they make when receiving orders that makes commanding them all the more fun. Music fits the areas and urgency depending on the time period, making this game as pleasant for the ears as it is for the eyes.
Pikmin has always been very unique and fun, and the third installment continues this to create the best entry in the series. For those unfamiliar with these games, each one revolves around astronauts using strange creatures they pluck from the ground, known as “Pikmin,” to gather supplies. These supplies can then be used for upgrades or gathering more Pikmin.
This entry adds a new element to the game with food. Areas are littered with all kinds of fruit that the astronauts need to survive to the next day. This offers a great compromise between the original, which gave a 30-day limit, and Pikmin 2, which gave no limit. It causes a sense of progression without being too restrictive.
The real fun comes from figuring out how to rach the next area. These areas are much larger here than the last two games, taking advantage of the Wii U’s power edge over the Gamecube. Getting to new areas requires both elements from puzzle solving and real-time strategy.
Both of those benefit from the five different types of Pikmin. Red, yellow and blue Pikmin are immune to fire, electricity and water, respectively, which lets them access different areas of the map as well as take on different enemies. Meanwhile, Rock Pikmin can destroy stronger barriers than the others while flying Pikmin can pick up and attack airborne objects and enemies.
The game also offers two other modes. One is a mission mode based on acquiring an item in time or beating a boss. The other is a multiplayer-only mode where each player has a bingo card with different items on each square. Collecting an item on the square fills it with the goal to get five in a row. This is a very creative and fun mode, and I would recommend it to anyone that has a friend to play with.
If there was one instance besides the aforementioned control issues that brings Pikmin 3 down it is the lack of online play. Since you control three astronauts for the vast majority it feels like a wasted opportunity. Both of the other modes could have benefitted from this as well.
Despite a few control issues, Pikmin 3 stands as the best game the Wii U has to offer. It retains what makes the other entries fun while adding its own gameplay gimmicks to enhance the experience. If this was on PS3 or 360 this would be a highly recommended game. Given how few games appear on Wii U, however, it is a must have for any owner of the console.