I played a lot of games at PAX Australia over the past few days; Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, but I’m writing about Pikmin 3 first because it was the best. That’s right, the conclusion is in the introduction. You can stop reading now. Pikmin 3 is out here on Saturday and may already be out in your part of the world, and I never initially planned on playing this demo for that reason since the game is so close. My innocent eyes had not seen much of the game because I enjoy surprise in games, so I don’t much care for trailers or screenshots. Once I caught a glance of Pikmin 3 however I had no choice, I had to play it.
It all came rushing back, the alien sound effects, the wonky space-suit run, the blurry green textures; Pikmin creates a compelling world that pulls you in. As soon as I started playing I was in the zone. Within seconds I had blown my whistle, grabbed a group of Pikmin and attacked some flowers to get pellets, all before the Nintendo rep could even get a word in to tell me the controls. Pikmin 1 and 2 are some of my favourite games ever and I felt like I was at home again. After almost a decade of casual teasing from Miyamoto, Pikmin 3 is finally a real product.
The demo consisted of one level with the aim to get as many points as you can in 6 minutes. There’s pellets to grab, fruit to collect, two walls to knock over, a bridge to build and a handful of unique enemies to take down. The only Pikmin present at the start are red Pikmin, but halfway through the area I found some brand new black Pikmin standing politely in a corner. They seemed overjoyed when I recruited them with my whistle, I had given them a purpose. Their first task was an obvious one; knock down a glass structure right near where I found them (in typical Nintendo “tutorial but not tutorial” fashion of great game design that doesn’t waste your time). Their bodies take the shape of rocks and make a big thud when thrown. I held C to sort the black Pikmin to the front of my group and hurled them at the glass wall. Each one impacted with a sharp smashing sound as cracks started to form in the wall. It wasn’t long until the structure was down and behind it revealed an enemy-worm-thing (may not be official name) on fire. I threw my Pikmin to attack and the black ones all caught on fire and ran around screaming in pain, I felt terrible as I realised what I did. Only red Pikmin can run through fire, and that makes a lot of sense.
Around here is where the demo ended the first time I played, but I kept going back to see more because I had learned from my mistakes. Eventually I came across a giant Bulborb anteater and that marked the end of the area. I set a benchmark score of 450, but now that I had seen the whole level I wanted to do better. This is where the real fun started and I was already devising new strategies in my head while playing other less interesting games like GRID 2.
To collect every item in the level in 6 minutes I had to think ahead. By the 3rd day of the Expo I was multitasking like a madman, but it still wasn’t enough and nobody had yet beaten this thing. So who could be better than a Pietriot? Two Pietriots, enter RABicle!
In co-op we absolutely destroyed this thing. First go, with time to spare giving us even more points than a perfect run should. Being able to position ourselves on different sides of the map made a huge difference as we got all the little tasks done in each area thoroughly. No pellet, strawberry or stone was left unturned, no enemy left alive. One of us would be plucking Pikmin out of the ground while the other was fighting an enemy, it was a completely different thought process. It all came together with this glorious Platinum medal on the screen and we collected our prizes (two Animal Crossing Tortimer figurines) for beating it because the Nintendo reps were so enthusiastic. In fact I have to give huge props to EVERY Nintendo rep there because they truly loved what they were doing. More on that later.
I haven’t even talked about the graphics yet, because I’m a gamer and I was having fun. They were great but not a huge step over the previous games. The problem with Nintendo’s graphical leaps is their original games still hold up so well, just like Pikmin 3 will. The feeling of a tiny living alien world was intensified by lots of small details and I spotted some great animations in the corner of my eye. It feels very organic with some weird looking enemies to unsettle the precious environment. I couldn’t hear the music very well in the Expo but heard some weird new sound effects. Unfortunately I also couldn’t sample the GamePad controls because this demo setup was Wiimote only, with the GamePad screen stationed under the TV as a map (which I never looked at, as the level was quite compressed).
One more thing I’ll talk about is the public reaction to the game – HUGE. Nintendo had 3 kiosks running Pikmin 3, only 2 for Mario 3D World, with 1 left for Wind Waker. I thought that was a crazy decision at first because nobody cares about Pikmin, but they really did. I saw people playing co-op and “getting it” quite naturally. The layout of the demo made perfect sense to newcomers, with people seeing flowers surrounding them on all sides at the start and aiming for them. Next thing you know, the Pikmin drags the flower pellet back to the spaceship and MAGIC! More Pikmin! An alarming amount of people admitted to never playing a Pikmin game before, but they were always “interested”. It’s easy to forget how poorly the GameCube really did, this will be a new experience for a lot of people. If you’re one of those people, I really hope you give Pikmin a chance now because it truly deserves the spotlight as one of Nintendo’s best ever games.
Pikmin 3 isn’t even out yet and I’m already addicted to it. Just thinking about all the new levels and modes in the full game has me really excited. Not “a cool game is coming out” excited, but more like “MY BODY IS THROBBING WITH READINESS”. Since I’ve been ignoring information on the game I don’t know what to expect come Saturday, but I do know that Pikmin is back in a big way. It’s really happening.