The second pack of DLC for Pikmin 3 has arrived today and I’ve already spent a few hours with it. I just Platinum’d the second new stage and my brain is in recovery mode because it feels like I conquered the impossible! Each Mission opens with enemies scattered all over the map and assaults you with strategic possibilities from the start, it’s overwhelming and impossible to comprehend how to beat it at first glance. Slowly but surely the progression makes itself clear and little tricks and shortcuts begin to show themselves. “How many Pikmin do I need for this enemy? Can I run past it? Does my butt look big in this spacesuit?” The challenges in the DLC so far have been much harder than the initial 5 Mission Mode stages and I absolutely love Nintendo’s approach of using DLC to expand the gameplay mechanics.
The depth of Pikmin 3’s core gameplay means the slightest change in enemy placement brings a whole new challenge. You might call this lazy, but it’s so damn cheap it doesn’t matter. The challenges are incredibly well thought out, with everything organised so you can just barely scrape together a Platinum medal after solid planning and reflection. The different abilities of each Pikmin dictate the level design for each Mission, for example there will be no water exploration if Blue Pikmin aren’t on the roster.
The gameplay is addictive and complex to the point where even after I walk away from the game, I’m still thinking about it. If there’s a Mission I haven’t beaten, my subconscious will continue to play the game, scanning the map and putting together strategies. Then I’ll think “ooh.. I should try that!” and drop my insignificant real-world task to run excitedly back to the game. I even had a disturbing stressful dream about one of the bosses back when the game launched, and had to wake up early and beat it so I could think straight. I’m sure that level of intensity could have been avoided if I took a 15 minute break every hour, but I’ve never been good at practicing moderation. There will only be one Year of Luigi and every hour counts.
The first stage in each DLC pack is free, a pretty cool bonus when you boot up the game and a good way to find out if you’re up for the challenge. After that, it’s a few more dollars to buy the next 4 levels, I spent just under $3 AU and they are tiny downloads with the whole pack coming in at 80mb. The first DLC pack took the existing “Collect Treasure!” maps and changed the layout to make it more difficult. I must have spent at least 10 hours getting Platinum medals (and improving my score further) in just those 5 levels. That’s some incredibly solid gameplay, and I’ll take that over a reskinned car or “Season Pass” any day of the week.
The second DLC pack is more than a simple remix, it takes stages from Story Mode instead of Mission Mode and the scope of the challenge is immense. Because it’s the “Battle Enemy!” category you don’t have to take everything back to the ship, so these big levels have you running around fucking shit up and leaving corpses all over the map. It’s a ruthless game of survival and opens up a more aggressive strategy. Measured aggression of course, or all the Pikmin will die and you’ll be left headbutting hungry predators. That never ends well.
I strongly urge every Pikmin 3 owner to give Mission Mode a try, Story Mode is the “relaxed” way to play which I enjoyed thoroughly (twice) but the gameplay mechanics are so good, they are worth exploring. I’ve seen way too many people on the Miiverse just say the game is “beaten” after Story Mode. That’s fine, but there really is a ton of depth to this game if you look for it. Even if you don’t go for Platinum medals it’s a lot of fun to explore the maps and see what strategies are available. The Wii Remote pointer is blissfully accurate; and with the GamePad sitting in front of me I can swipe my finger across the screen to scroll the map. It’s the most “next-gen” experience I’ve had on a console in a long time. I absolutely love Pikmin 3 and from a pure gameplay standpoint, I think it’s the best game Nintendo has ever made. It opens up a happy, organised part of the brain that expands with each whistle blow. It’s also beautiful and the graphics bring a surreal calmness that makes the difficult nature of the missions just wash off. Famine and slavery has never been so adorable.