Pikmin 3 arrived on the Wii U and at the time, was the first game in the series in almost a decade. I’m guilty of skipping the Wii U, I missed out on every exclusive because I couldn’t be bothered with what I thought was a gimmick – a bothersome upgrade to the Wii.
This is my first whole Pikmin experience. As a teenager, I dabbled in video games, with my preferences being edgy and exciting JRPGs on PlayStation 2. I knew of Pikmin and the sequels that followed. My brother came home one day from Blockbuster, and with him, he had Pikmin 2, with whom I spent a weekend before returning to Star Ocean 3. That was that for me, and I never went back. So, as it were, in 2020, after seeing one of the more recent Nintendo Direct Minis, Pikmin 3, appear on screen, and as I’ve gotten older, my preferences in games expanded.
Pikmin 3 is about three explorers from Koppai: Alph, Brittany, and Charlie. Stranded on an unknown planet and on the hunt for food, the three Koppaite explorers must find food before the entire planet starves. Things begin with a crash landing, and soon, the three explorers discover the wondrous beings, the Pikmin, who appear to help and ensure the Koppaites survive.
The core gameplay of Pikmin 3 is familiar if you’ve ever played a game in the series. You play as one of three characters who command the Pikmin – the colour-coded critters – to do your bidding. If you want to grab an item, move an obstacle, and do your dirty work, send a Pikmin to do it. These critters come in several iterations, including red, yellow, and blue, with varying types appearing in each game. The red Pikmin are impervious to fire and are strong; the yellow Pikmin are light and can dig faster; the blue Pikmin can swim and are amphibious; they are water-resistant. And because this is a sequel, you’ll discover a few more types of Pikmin to help Alph, Brittany, and Charlie later.
I was a bit worried I’d be overwhelmed when I first began Pikmin 3, but the game does an excellent job of easing new players into things and teaches you how whistling works, how to issue commands to the Pikmin and generally build your army of them. Things kick off easily enough; you use the Pikmin to build you a bridge to get over a body of water; another bit involves attacking several large mushroom blocking your path, so you need to battle them to move forward.
The areas you’ll explore are rather large as well. With that in mind, a lot of the environments are gorgeous and paired with a reminiscent soundtrack. The presentation is fantastic and, in 2013, showcased that Nintendo could do much more than the simplicity of Super Mario. In 2020, a lot of what made the Pikmin series so wonderful still holds true. The environments are varied, colourful and detailed. Then, the game decides to take cute and cuddly swerves into terrifying places. A lot of detail, however, is parred back on the Nintendo Switch, with textures feeling more muddied.
Pikmin 3 on the Wii U had a lot of gripes from critics when it launched. A lot of the issues I read about while brushing up on the original release made me happy that I missed out. I read about timers for each mission and the anxiety those missions induced. Not only did you have to keep an eye on the timer, but you also had to ensure your Pikmin survived while exploring the map.
Thankfully Nintendo seems to have listened to feedback with Pikmin 3 Deluxe. For starters, you can play the entire Story mode with a friend through the co-op. There are also new side missions to complete and new difficulty options, the ability to lock-on to targets and, more importantly, an excellent hint system. If you find yourself lost on PNF-404, consider using the hint system to find your next destination. I can’t say I fully enjoyed exploring the maps, but I was much happier doing it after discovering hints and using pressing up on the D-Pad to gain clarity.
Multiplayer comes in the form of Bingo Battle. You need to find the enemies and the fruit that appear on your bingo card. This two-player mode has you and a friend competing to finish your respective bingo card before the other. To win, you bring both the items on your bingo card to your Onion. I was only able to get a couple of matches in as this is local multiplayer, but the real fun lies in chirping your opponent and making their experience dreadful. For example, if you see your enemy going for a strawberry, try to take that from them before they get to it, it’s worth the hassle to make their game that much more difficult. Sadly, this is yet another game on the Switch that deserves online multiplayer that never got the proper chance to flourish.
Mission Mode includes two mission types: Collect Treasure and Battle Enemies. You can complete these solo or co-op. Collect Treasure you use Pikmin to collect as much fruit as possible within the time limit; you get as much as you can back to your Spero, which in turn earns you Pokos, a currency. Battle Enemies essentially defeat enemies to earn a high score. You are ranked from bronze to platinum, and each enemy is worth various point scores.
Pikmin 3 has this charm to it that makes it hard to put down. It also appeals to adults as much as children. Pikmin 3 also benefits from being on a Nintendo console that is still selling well and, in many homes. Hence, the base of users who can dive into this experience is greater than it was on the Wii U. That said, the lengthy campaign is incredible, and the design choices in play make this one of the smartest games I’ve played recently. If you need a game that wants to challenge you with excellent exploration, tons of strategy and cute creatures, go out and get yourself Pikmin 3 Deluxe.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]