This month comes to Switch Pikmin 3 Deluxe. We review the trajectory of the trilogy and delve into the changes in this review.
With one foot in the strategy genre, another in the adventure genre and another in the puzzle genre – creating a tripod like the flying onions that shelter their creatures – Pikmin was a difficult saga to classify at the premiere of the It was originally delivered in 2001 and still is today, with Pikmin 3 Deluxe’s imminent arrival on Switch almost two full decades later. Although their numbers do not compare with those of mastodons like Mario or Pokémon, and despite the inevitable reduction of the surprise factor that follows each sequel and relaunch – the first two also made the jump from GameCube to Wii, setting precedents for the current case. – The truth is that Pikmin remains one of the most unique sagas of Nintendo.
This contributes to its usual delay (between the original and Pikmin 2 barely three years passed, but then it was necessary to wait nine for the third and since then another seven have passed without tangible news of Pikmin 4) and the fact that each delivery has given enough turns of the screw to a unique concept to avoid redundancy. Anyone serves as an entry point without previous experience, although at the same time all of them complement each other and help to better appreciate their differences. Which is why today, after playing the new version of Switch for a few hours, we will take a quick look at the evolution of the series to better contextualize Pikmin 3 as a game and Deluxe as a revised edition.
From Miyamoto’s garden to the GameCube board
The transition from Nintendo 64 to GameCube at the turn of the century was also Shigeru Miyamoto’s transition to a new executive position. After directing games of the stature of Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, the Japanese genius took a step back to hand over the baton to creatives such as Eiji Aonuma or Yoshiaki Koizumi, although it did not stop being the main visible face of Nintendo or participate actively in some developments. One of them was precisely Pikmin, a project that came to life when the image of ants carrying leaves merged in his head with the Mario 128 technical demo, taught at Space World 2000 to illustrate the GameCube’s ability to manage more than a hundred characters simultaneously.
Since its premiere, Nintendo has given birth to many other sagas that soon came up with equally unique ideas, such as Nintendogs – also conceived by Miyamoto – to new classics in old genres like Xenoblade. What makes Pikmin special even now is that it doesn’t fit exactly into either category, but both at the same time: not only does it offer a distinctive playable experience, unmistakably ‘Pikmin’ (not based on games like Lemmings or StarCraft despite superficial similarities), but also boasts a more traditional design expertise found in “big” games like Mario or Zelda.
The first Pikmin, although the shortest and simplest, took advantage of its brevity to pose an unfeasible time trial challenge in an ordinary adventure. Trapped on a strange planet, and with the reserve to survive only 30 days, little Captain Olimar’s objective was to cultivate the creatures that give the saga its title, use them to fight his way over the obstacles or puzzles of the levels and fight against enemies with him. In order to gather as many of the ship’s parts as possible scattered after the accident landing. If we got all of them, the game ended satisfactorily. If not, after the thirtieth day, Olimar would try to take off with the obtained ones, which could end equally well (not all of them were necessary, although the game did not specify which ones) or badly, requiring a new start -or from an intermediate preventive save- to try. with better planning.
Pikmin squared, in the cube
This incessant race against the clock (every day it was around a quarter of an hour in real time) would be revised and smoothed out as the size and number of levels increased, as well as the objectives themselves, although something that was not touched were the functions of the three main species: Red Pikmin had more attack power and were immune to fire; the yellow ones could carry bombs and reach higher when thrown due to their lightness (to which electrical properties were later added); and the blues could dive into the water without drowning. To them, Pikmin 2 also added the purple ones (stronger, but also slower) and the white ones (fast, resistant to poison and toxic to enemies).
The witty justification for their absence in both the first and the subsequent third installments —except for extra modes— was their condition as underground species. Because, in one of those twists we discussed earlier, much of the sequel took place in multi-level dungeons that were procedurally generated. With the importance of time relativized (not only was there no day limit, but it stopped completely in these dungeons), Pikmin 2 put the focus on navigation and confrontation against greater dangers in the depths. Task for which not only the new species were useful, but also the addition of a second character, Luis, which allowed the formation and management of two independent groups.
Pikmin 3: The Art of Multitasking
The arrival of Luis introduced multiplayer to the series, although limited to extra modes where two players could compete to get marbles in combat levels or cooperate to complete other challenges more efficiently. It was an idea that, naturally, Pikmin 3 brought back on its original Wii U launch with mission mode and the original bingo battle, although it was still not available in story mode then. This, however, benefited from the increase to three characters (all debut: Alph, Brittany and Charlie) to maximize the multitasking facet on broader and more intricate levels. Launching some characters with others was an essential requirement to advance or even solve some puzzles based on weight, although its usefulness extended throughout the game.
The premise of the dungeons was scrapped, spicing up the development with some normal caves here and there, but always opting for a hand-drawn design, denser in the amount of obstacles and, above all, goods to collect. The time mechanic chose a middle ground between Pikmin and Pikmin 2, as the number of days was not unlimited, but it had to be lengthened by collecting fruit that increased supplies. Its amount was generous and the time trial aspect tended to weigh more when making daily plans than looking at the complete mission, although that is precisely where the division of tasks between characters and groups of Pikmin came into play to optimize those cycles below the quarter of an hour – after which the appearance of nocturnal predators made exploration unfeasible.
Of course, there are other variables that we have not even touched on, such as the premiere of the stony Pikmin (as their name suggests, they are made of stone and break glass) and the winged Pikmin (well, they fly), the return of the evolution of each individual creature from leaf to flower, the new targeting system or the existence of different endings depending on the fruit obtained. All these and more things were discussed in their day and will be discussed in depth once the Reviews has arrived, where the bulk of Pikmin 3 will already be evaluated as a Switch game and not a Wii U game.
Deluxe: The Ultimate Pikmin Experience?
More interesting today is to focus specifically on Deluxe and what improvements or additions it brings to the base experience. The first and most obvious in the Switch framework is portability. At the graphic level there are no significant changes, but the original version was already prepared to be played on the Wii U remote without depending on the TV and now, to the total autonomy, there is an increase in the size and resolution of the screen which substantially improves visibility. The performance, as far as we have played, is also exemplary in this mode, so it is an excellent option to replay or discover the title for the first time.
Of course, portability is only the tip of the iceberg, because Deluxe this time does incorporate cooperative in the story mode, which can be played by disassembling the Joy-Con and assigning one to each player. It is perhaps not the most practical control method, but it is a functional one if we do not have two sets or a Pro Controller (also valid), in addition to surely the main incentive to review and make some adjustments that apply to all configurations: the Switching between leaders, for example, is now done via an on-screen cross instead of rotating; centering is somewhat more reactive to the environment; the loading action sends the Pikmin by species instead of all together; the range of the whistle that draws them is greater than before; and the presence of mini radar reduces the need to pause to look at the map.
Speaking of controls, it is also worth highlighting the implementation of a gyroscope on all controllers, with an added option to simulate the use of the pointer and recapture the experience of the Wiimote and Nunchaku combo. It is a surprisingly precise and comfortable alternative, since it allows greater control over the cursor of the characters by moving independently of them and moving at a greater distance on the screen, although the absence of a physical pointer on the control itself means that we have to restart the starting point from time to time (as in the Mario Galaxy adaptation included in the recent Super Mario 3D All-Stars).
Difficulty is another topic to be discussed, as Deluxe extends a helping hand to the less skilled. At the beginning we have two modes, normal and difficult, with a third (super spicy) unlockable by completing the story on difficult. The difference resides both in the vitality of the enemies – something remarkable already in the first pair of bosses, who resist much more in difficult – and in the greater proliferation of eggs with yolks that make the Pikmin bloom. In addition, the ship includes a new command to call Pikmin that are not part of a platoon, reducing the chances of them being lost at nightfall, as well as a new hint system and, just like Mario Odyssey did in his day, some arrows to mark the way to the main objectives. These aids are entirely optional even in normal mode, although we already anticipate that veterans will surely find a more satisfactory experience starting directly with the difficult one.
Last but not least, we find the new content as such. The story mode remains the same, but it benefits from the return of the Piklopedia with tabs and comments on the enemies that we already saw in Pikmin 2 —but curiously not in Pikmin 3 for Wii U—, of the three save files in each profile (no longer need to resort to another if we want to have multiple parallel games) and a new system of achievements that collect both the progress of the main development as some optional feats. A curiosity more than anything, but it is another incentive that adds up for collectors. Just as or more relevant are the changes in the extra modes, where not only the paid missions downloadable from the Wii U eShop are included, but new ones are added focused on the adventures of Olimar and Luis before the arrival of Alph, Brittany and Charlie to the planet.
This is where a bit of disappointment may arise for those looking for an expansion similar in nature to the one offered by Connected Futures in Xenoblade Chronicles a few months ago. Although we have not played everything yet, the first missions are precisely that, a reuse of known scenarios in the key of time trials without playable or narrative novelties (the sequences that introduce them are the same Olimar recordings that we could already unlock in the edition of Wii U). In a few weeks we will return to report all the extra content in more detail, although something hardly questionable at this point is that, regardless of what those specific missions contribute, Deluxe as a whole is going to be the best way to enjoy Pikmin 3. And by extension, of the saga in general.