Sunday, December 1, 2013

Best Video Game of 2013 (Part 1): Pikmin 3


I wanted to highlight two games that I thought I'd dub my picks for games of the year -- one of of them being Pikmin 3, for the Wii U.

Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, the original Pikmin (on the Gamecube), followed the exploits of Captain Olimar, a little pint-sized alien who, with the use of helpful indigenous creatures called Pikmin, helped him survive and collect treasure. The idea was inspired by Miyamoto through gardening - these cute little creatures could be commanded by Olimar to help him retrieve objects and solve puzzles. While not the game-changer we'd come to expect from the creator of Mario and Zelda - Pikmin carved out its own place in the video game sphere, through pluck and determination, giving us one of the most unique strategy simulators you've ever played.


This new Wii U exclusive now departs from Captain Olimar's journey, and has us joining a three-man crew from a new planet, in search of food. They crash land on the planet of the Pikmin, and are aided by the little friendly creatures as they explore the wilds of this world.


The Pikmin themselves have been updated, beyond the regular Red, Yellow, and Blue variety. We now have Rock Pikmin, who can shatter glass, and flying Pikmin, who can reach previous inaccessible heights. These two new Pikmin take the place of Pikmin 2's Black and White Pikmin -- and largely it's an improvement over the previous ones.

One of the biggest challenges of the game is the every present sense of urgency. You see -- each day your crew consumes a glass of fruit juice. If you don't replenish your supply of fruit, you'll see you're stores of consumables dwindle.

Luckily, wether you can store a bunch of drink supply or not - your given a even more important mission: finding Captain Olimar. Captain Olimar runs into the much needed Cosmic Key Drive, from your crash - so pursuing the previous game hero is a top priority! You are lead from one area to the next, with light to very difficult to solve puzzles. You can walk past the same area a dozen times - but only on that 12th time actually see the path forward. It can become somewhat frustrating, especially when you don't know what to do. The dwindling juice supply only adds to the urgency.


One thing kept from the previous games is the ever present Day and Night cycle time limit. You must accomplish your goals before sundown, when nocturnal predators will force you to flee into the upper atmosphere. This can become quite trying, especially when facing a ferocious and dangerous boss!!! Pikmin 2 usually had you facing creates underground -- meaning the time limit of Dusk was suspended. Not so here. It can even take quite a few trips to defeat a particularly aggressive boss.

Simply put - there is a lot of challenge here. But nothing debilitating - by any means. Clues and hints are sprinkled around by the quicker-than-you Captain Olimar - so you are rarely left hanging with no clue as to what to do. Plus - the introduction of each new Pikmin species makes travel around much easier -- as impediments and puzzles can only be performed by certain Pikmin.

Pikmin 3 is a fun game -- but too often there's the temptation to curse at the screen, because dusk is coming too soon, or your unable to retrieve an item in the alloted time. Its still a fun and charming game - but not one I want to sugar coat unnecessarily.

The control scheme of the game, though, is excellent - melding use of the Wii U Game Pad with the Wii Mote. Though the game pad rarely serves a function beyond map usage, and directing a party leader to a destination, it's still a good implementation of the two controllers. I was lucky enough to play the original Pikmin on their Wii versions, so I've never actually used an analogue control scheme to control the Pikmin. Wether it's good or not here, I can't tell you; using the Wii Mote is my only preference.

If you have a Wii U, I highly recommend at least checking this game out. It's charming, full of challenge and fun - and stands nicely among the other Nintendo Pantheon, like Mario, and Zelda.

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