New Play Control! PikminESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Wii Remote Compatible
I have fond memories of my GameCube, which I affectionately called my lunchbox gaming system. During its lifecycle it had its share of quality first party titles including Zelda and any of the Mario’s of course, but one of the most overshadowed and an underappreciated game was Pikmin. The game mixed a cool story with some of the innovative graphics and gameplay of its era. Unfortunately most gamers thumbed their collective noses at the game, but that didn’t stop it from being somewhat of a cult classic hit. Well Nintendo has dusted off the game and repackaged it for the Wii. The new old game promises a brand new control scheme developed and built specifically for the Wii. Being a fan of the GameCube version I delved deeper to see how New Play Control! Pikmin did in making the jump to Nintendo’s new console.
It’s been 8 years since the original release of Pikmin on Nintendo’s GameCube system, and visually the game has aged somewhat, but it still looks first-rate. The game’s environments and scenery are as good as I remember, with lush and colourful locales throughout. The textures surprisingly are still very appealing, provided you don’t zoom in too close. They tend to pixelize the closer you get and it’s really the only blemish on the game’s presentation. I would have hoped that the game utilized some of the Wii’s hardware muscle, but other than the new 16:9 look it’s virtually identical to the GameCube version.
For newbie’s that haven’t seen or heard of Pikmin the game's charm resides in its vast cast of bewitching and exquisitely animated creatures. The look is a cross between the surreal and the mundane, and best of all are the teeming swarms of the Pikmin themselves. Their naturalistic, funny and adorably eager crowd behaviour is priceless. They wear their emotions on their sleeve and most will pick up the heedless bustle to panic actions as the game unfolds. The realistic and unpredictable motion they possess is as fun and silly to watch now as it was back upon its initial release.
I remember the game having a few graphical anomalies which for the most part do not seem present now. The framerate does take a few hits in certain areas, along with a bit of clipping, but these hiccups are not bad enough for the you to really to think about it as the whole game seems to move a bit smoother. Take a moment to enjoy the graphics when you’re not rushing around trying to round up all your errant Pikmin before the sun sets and you will appreciate the game’s visuals.
I thought the games soundtrack provided ambience appropriate to the situation, switching between chill-out background themes to more dramatic music as required. It was funny to hear and see the manic Pikmin in high gear; the music mimics the emotion they exude perfectly. The tunes can also be very relaxing too as they slow down to a somewhat lullaby theme. The music can be over relaxing sometimes as it may lull you to sleep with its soft undertones.
Sound effects are pretty good as well, working perfectly alongside the strange and mysterious world of Pikmin. All of the ambient sound effects and creature noises blend together to lend a relaxing and immersive backdrop for the adventure. On a side note I do believe the original game was encoded in Dolby Pro Logic 2, and judging by the quality of sound and music this update must also be.
Pikmin is the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto's surreal gardening-strategy-adventure from 2001. The game was a GameCube launch title, or very close to it. Most Nintendo fans, including myself, were baffled and heartbroken by the smaller scale titles like Pikmin and Luigi's Mansion that come out versus the usual blockbuster Zelda or Mario title. However this game was a hidden gem indeed.
Pikmin as it turns out is still the most successful realisation of multi-tasking, real-time strategy gameplay that has ever been on a console (in my opinion). Its simplistic premise is a cover for a fairly deep and highly engrossing game which most should enjoy. Players take control of Captain Olimar, an inch-high spaceman who is stranded like Gulliver on a strange planet that looks oddly like an unkempt back yard. The resident inhabitants are some of the strangest creatures imaginable; lumbering strawberry-bodied Bulborbs, translucent fire-breathing Blowhogs, floating Honeywisps, and of course the Pikmin.
Pikmin are a willing army of tiny, colour-coded, flower-topped plant-men who live in somewhat onion shaped helicopter tripods (whatever they are). Captain Olimar is intent on growing and plucking them from the ground. He can command up to one hundred of them at a time to do his bidding, like combat with other creatures or to help with the harvesting of materials. Along with construction and demolition work he must get them to do some salvage work as well. This is most important as he needs their help to fetch and carry 25 missing parts of his spaceship in 30 days (about 15 minutes each in real time) before his scarce air supply runs out.
The games major make over is the new Wii centric controls. The point-and-click interface for assigning Pikmin tasks makes the game a much more enjoyable experience. The cursor is now directed by pointing the Wii Remote; in the GameCube version both cursor and Olimar's movement were combined on the stick. The result of the switch makes the use of the pointer extremely fast and intuitive. The remainder of the controls are very much the same as the old set-up. This allows you to dismiss and divide the Pikmin, summon with whistles, or throw. The only exception is direct command of your squad, who in the GameCube version could be moved around with the C-stick when keeping them out of harm's way or pushing them into nearby tasks. This is now accomplished by holding down on the d-pad and directing with the pointer. If anything it's slightly more cumbersome than it was before, but then again the ease of pointer control means you'll be using it less. I found the best thing you can say about the new play control for Pikmin is that you'll stop thinking about the old scheme within an hour or so of playing. The controls are so lucid and transparent, and the game itself is incredibly engrossing, that your attention immediately goes elsewhere. I don’t remember the controls coming this easy with the old game, but I think they did well enough for the GameCube at that moment in time.
Aside from the controls, Pikmin’s core gameplay has been left virtually untouched. The controversial thirty day time limit remains, which means it's possible to fail your mission in the game and have to start again from scratch if you don't find the 25 essential parts within the allotted time. However, there is one important concession in the Wii game. You can now restart from an earlier day if a rampaging creature or a careless puddle drowning causes a setback to your Pikmin populations. I thought this was a cool inclusion because now, for any reason, if you feel you didn't make enough progress on a particular day you can restart. You can also better your times or get more done with this option.
The games original design is unchanged and strong. The simple characteristics of the Pikmin types - red are strong, blue survive in water, yellow can use bombs and be thrown higher - balance perfectly against the level designs and the pleasing checks and balances of unit production and management. Pikmin left in the ground for longer periods grow stronger, but having less Pikmin will subtract from the total available for use in the field. This can be circumvented, but it’s up to the you to find the balances and nuances to succeed. I have to say that the game is still a pleasure to play.
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