Seven years ago, Nintendo published Pikmin, an original and innovative strategy game for the GameCube in which a stranded astronaut learns to command an alien planet’s tiny, flowerlike creatures, leading them to gather food for making more flower creatures and carry back the missing and scattered parts of his spaceship. It was a tremendously fun and engaging game.
Now, Pikmin is one of the first games Nintendo is re-releasing in its “New Play Control!” series, in which GameCube games are being ported to the Wii with new, Wii-centric control systems.
The Controls: In Some Ways Better, in Some Ways Not
I reviewed the game for the New York Times when it came out, so I won’t repeat myself now (you can find the original review here.) Instead, I’ll just talk about the controls.
In the original Pikmin, players used an analog stick to move a cursor to control the flower people. Predictably the Wii version lets you control that cursor by pointing at the screen. It’s not a huge difference – the original game had a very well thought-out control scheme – but it does make things a little easier. On the other hand, I found making Pikmin attack creatures was slightly less effective; my flowers just didn’t seem to move toward the target with the same gusto. Also, the amusing battle song of the original now plays only through the Wii remote and isn’t loud enough; it’s a shame, because I always found it amusing, and now it’s just a tinny little noise.
On the other hand, the new controls improve one’s ability to gather Pikmin. In the old game you could only call Pikmin to you if they were close to the captain; now you can point the remote at any Pikmin onscreen and call them over to you.
Besides the controls, the big improvement is that this version plays in full screen if you have a wide screen TV. For a seven year old game, Pikmin looks quite good; it makes one wonder why so many newer Wii games have such unimpressive graphics.
Conclusion: An Aging Classic Still Worth Buying
Outside of that, this is just like the original game, with both its strengths and weaknesses. Even though I only wanted to play enough to test out the controls, I found it difficult to stop, and wound up playing far more of the game than I needed to.
The sequel, Pikmin 2, is reportedly coming out with the New Play Controls later this year, and if you’re not in any hurry you might consider waiting and playing that one first; it’s very similar but has some notable improvements. But ultimately if you like the games as much as I do you’ll want to play both. Those who played the original GameCube games probably shouldn’t bother getting the retreads, but for those unfamiliar with the Pikmin universe, this game is a great way to learn the joys of flower mastery.