Ninty's Sprouts All Grown Up!
Nintendo has taken a lot of guff from the gaming press across the Internet recently. While the company's E3 2012 showing might not have been outstanding, there certainly were a number of elements that got me excited. One of the bright spots was Pikmin 3.
The third entry in the series, originally inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto's love of gardening, Pikmin 3 is the successor to Nintendo's critical darlings from the GameCube era. The original games were so enjoyable because they excellently balanced strategic gameplay with delightful art design; harvesting, cultivating, and employing the adorable Pikmin was an addictive, satisfying, and joyful experience. From a game design perspective, the Pikmin series was innovative because layers of strategic complexity were readily accessed through concise mechanics, ushering in a new form of real-time strategy to home consoles.
While the Wii only received re-releases of Pikmin and Pikmin 2, the introduction of motion and IR camera controls through the Wii Remote in the New Play Control! versions added a new dimension to the old standbys. For Wii U, Pikmin 3 not only adds yet another excellent control scheme to the mix thanks to the GamePad, it gives the series an added visual punch that makes the already beautiful world that much more inviting.
Playing through the Time Trial demo level at E3, I can confirm that the heart and soul of Pikmin 3 is nearly identical to the original titles. However, a few new concepts were introduced. For example, collecting fruit was a big part the demo, and I had to to organize my Pikmin efficiently to deal with numerous baddies and to remove other obstacles such as barriers to get to the sweet treasures within the 7-minute time limit. Also, a new form of Pikmin has been added: Rock Pikmin. These geodesic critters with a token sprout were great for pummeling big bugs and for taking down crystal structures, adding a bit more punch to the arsenal. Finally, golden fruits and what appears to be a type of golden resin are available to be harvested, and level-ending boss battles that challenge players to target specific weaknesses will be a gameplay focus.
I played the demo with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attachment, as well as with the Wii U GamePad. While the Wii Remote and Nunchuk set up is precise and comfortable, the game is most certainly designed to be played with the GamePad. For example, the level map is conveniently displayed on the tablet's touch screen. Using your fingers, you can scan across the map in search of your Pikmin and treasure caches with simple gestures; this will undoubtedly improve multitasking. If you prefer a hybrid control scheme, Nintendo also allows you to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup in tandem with the GamePad used simply as a map.
Another very interesting gameplay element incorporated into Pikmin 3 is the end-of-level replay of your actions. That's right; you can watch a bird's-eye-view in fast motion of your movements and those of your Pikmin. This should add a lot of replayability to levels, as players can improve their efficiency and scores by reviewing their handy work and improving upon the strategy. While no online multiplayer or leaderboards were explicitly confirmed, their existence is implicit in the structure of the Time Trial game, as harvesting all the level's fruits and taking down enemies in the time limit nets you an increasing pool of points. What's more, from the first batch of screenshots at least three players will be able to play together locally.
As fun, challenging, and well thought out gameplay seems to be in Pikmin 3, the HD visuals steal the show. A handful of the games for Wii U on display at E3 left something to be desired, but that's not the case here. Of course, the characters of Pikmin have always been adorable, but the new, lush environments with waxy, dew-laden leaves, glints of sunshine, swaying grasses, and shade-dappled puddles serve as the perfect backdrop for gameplay. Even at this preliminary stage in the Wii U's lifecycle, Pikmin 3 stands out as a delightful, colorful, and endearing visual experience.
While we are sure to hear and see a lot more of Pikmin 3 ahead of the Wii U launch this holiday, from the hands-on time I got at the Nintendo booth, it looks like early adopters of the new Nintendo console will be treated to something special.
Cutting his gaming teeth at Aladdin's Castle and on the Commodore 64, JC entered into video game journalism in 2008. Helping run GameDynamo as its director is both a dream and a rewarding challenge.
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