Of all the games Nintendo announced at this year’s E3, the strategy game Pikmin 3 was the most noteworthy. The remarkably original and ingenious Pikmin franchise ranks among my favorite Nintendo IPs, and in an otherwise somewhat disappointing presentation, Pikmin 3 was the one game everyone agreed was worthy of being a launch title.
Since the Wii U Gamepad is the most significant Wii U feature, and Pikmin 3 is the biggest launch title Nintendo is releasing for the platform, it is surprising that, at least in the demo I played, the only way to control the game was with the Wii remote and nunchuk. The gamepad is only used to display a map. Once you finish a level the map will show an animation of how you traveled through the level, something I honestly can not think of any use for.
Pikmin 3 is very much like the games that preceded it. Once again you are a little space explorer who can command little flower-creatures to attack monsters and carry valuable items back to your flying saucer.
While the HD graphics are more realistic and detailed than those of the previous games, Pikmin 3 is a perfect illustration of Nintendo’s assertion (and mine) that graphics are not nearly as important as gameplay. True, the translucent creature I battled and the glass barrier I had to break wouldn’t have looked as good on the Wii, the platform it was original designed for, but ultimately I suspect that a Wii version of this game would have been essentially the same, and it would, like previous Pikmin games, have looked quite good.
Judging by the demo I played, there will be some fun new features in the game. I saw one new species of pikmin, rock pikmin, who are like little walking pepples. Normally pikmin are useful for what they can do; throw them at a wall and they will start hammering it with their heads until it breaks. But rock pikmin don’t work like that. Throw them at a glass barrier and they will bounce off it, shattering it a little in the process, until you’ve thrown enough to bring it down entirely.
I was surprised when at one point I sent my pikmin toward a pile of shiny objects and they each grabbed one and built a bridge. In terms of gameplay this isn’t really any different than the way pikmin unfurl bridges in previous games, but the nice thing about the Pikmin series is the way they add cute little touches and ideas with each entry.
While I’m hoping you will be able to control your pikmin with the gamepad, the Wii remote works quite well, using the same basic approach of the Wii port of Pikmin 2.
Even though Pikmin 3 is not an effective tool for persuading people that the Wii U is a revolution, or even an important evolutionary step in gameplay, it fulfills one of the most important uses of any console launch title; it is a game you will really want to play. You will get the chance when the Wii U launches this winter.