Nintendo has been on quite the new IP streak lately. With Splatoon getting a sequel and ARMS being successful, it’s no wonder that both of these games have been hits. With ARMS‘s fun-value to Splatoon‘s charm, I’m glad to see these games be so recognized.
…However, what made Splatoon such a huge deal when it was first announced? Well, the answer is surprisingly simple-
By the time Splatoon was announced, Nintendo didn’t create any new IPs in a long, long time. By long time, I mean about thirteen years. Before Splatoon, Nintendo’s newest IP (prior to 2014 and 2017) was a quirky Gamecube title by the name of…
I just recently played through the first game, and I plan to play through 2 and 3, and maybe Hey! Pikmin, assuming that game is worth my attention. So! What’s the deal with Pikmin? Let’s find out.
The story, much like any other Nintendo IP, is very basic. Pikmin tells the tale of Captain Olimar, one of Nintendo’s smallest characters (seriously, he’s only 1.9 centimeters, barely an inch) and astronaut for Hocotate Freight. One day, while on a space vacation, his ship is struck by a nearby meteor, causing it to crash on an unfamiliar planet.
Thankfully, our protagonist is alive and well… But his ship is in pieces, and parts are scattered across the planet. However, he runs into the Pikmin (hey, it’s the name of the game!), a peculiar alien species (that he seriously named after his favorite brand of carrots) that seems to be on the bottom of the food chain. …Everything wants you dead in this game! Except some stuff.
So, the Pikmin follow Olimar for their survival, and so that Olimar can successfully go out on a planet-exploring quest to search for those ship parts within the thirty in-game day time limit. Oh, did I forget to mention that the planet Olimar landed on has oxygen, which is poisonous to his species, and that his life-support system can only last thirty days?
Geez, that’s kinda dark. It doesn’t help that succeeding games just further imply that this series (much like Splatoon) takes place long AFTER humans died out. Though in Pikmin‘s case, it isn’t because of global warming. …Not many people are really sure what happened in-series.
Gameplay-wise, Pikmin is a lot different compared to Nintendo’s other IPs. It’s generally agreed to be a Real Time Strategy game, which is a subgenre of strategy where, just as the title implies, takes place in real-time as opposed to turn-taking. But that’s a bit of a broad generalization of the series. I’d personally describe it as a time-management-top-down-stress-management-OCD-exploration-RTS game.
The traditional units of the game are Pikmin, which are essentially the main focus of the gameplay. To defeat enemies, push through obstacles, and collect parts, you have to use them, mainly by throwing them at stuff. …And they’re cute, too. So much so, that-
OH GOD ONE DIED WHY THIS I’M SAD NOW WHYYYY
…You can’t help but feel sad when one dies to an enemy or other inconvenience. Even though Olimar has his own health bar, I’d personally say the Pikmin themselves are the real health bar in this game, as without them, you’re useless. Olimar can’t pick up objects, and does a minuscule amount of damage to enemies. So, using the Pikmin is VITAL to completing the game.
They come in three types- Red, which are the best combat-wise, Yellow, which can be thrown higher and can pick up bomb rocks (which are used to destroy stone walls) and Blue, which can walk underwater without drowning.
In this game, expect to use Red the most, as everything wants to kill you. Bomb rocks can do a lot of damage, but they are highly inefficient, save for the final boss battle. Blues are really only good for reaching areas you normally can’t reach, and shine in the obligatory water level of the game, the Distant Spring.
As mentioned before, Olimar’s life support system can only last 30 in-game days. Each day in-game (not counting day 1, as that’s a tutorial) lasts about fifteen minutes. So, time management is key to surviving a day. It’s stressful at times, but once you get the hang of it, the game’s a lot of fun. This also supplies some well-done replay value, as Pikmin is kinda short, probably can be beaten in a single afternoon.
The gameplay is unique, and I like what they did with the RTS. I’d say it’s good for newcomers to the genre, as it’s simplistic compared to stuff like Starcraft, and it’s challenging enough to not be too easy. Plus, the Wii version of the game allows you to redo days at will, which means you don’t have to always worry about the 30-day time limit.
…However, this game isn’t always fair.
One complaint I have with the game is the AI. No, not the enemy AI. They’re just fine. But the Pikmin’s AI is… Not so great. They frequently get stuck behind walls, will sometimes accidentally drown because they don’t follow you in a proper straight line, and they can TRIP. Yes, you hear me right. The mechanic every Nintendo fan despises… TRIPPING. …It’s pretty self-explanatory as to why they removed it in Pikmin 3.
Some of the area layouts can get pretty mean with enemy placements. One enemy players especially hate is the Wollywogs, which pop up in two of the main three areas of the game. It’s the Yellow ones that give them the most trouble, as their hitbox is large, and it’s an insta-KO for any Pikmin that get stuck under it.
Those are the only two actual complaints I have with the game, since, otherwise, it’s a unique and fun game.
The music in Pikmin is good, too. It’s very relaxing, and it will tense up in riskier situations. Highlights in the soundtrack include Forest of Hope, The Final Trial, and the menu theme that plays at the start of an in-game day. They do a nice job of setting the mood and atmosphere of the game, and are good for relaxing (for the most part, since The Final Trial is a bit creepy).
Fun fact! In Japan, to promote the game, the group Strawberry Flower made a song used in advertisements for Pikmin. This song is called Ai No Uta, which translates to Song of Love, and it’s about the Pikmin’s point of view on things. Surprisingly, the song outsold the game itself, as it resonated with the people of Japan, specifically the businessmen.
Oh, and did I mention that the lyrics are depressing? Here’s some of them-
We’ll work together, fight, and be consumed,
But we’ll follow you forever.
We’ll fight, be silent, and follow you,
But we won’t ask you to love us.
Man, Japan sure does love songs that sound happy and then turn out to be freaking depressing.
Overall, Pikmin is a fun game with good replay value, unique gameplay, and a relaxing soundtrack, but suffers from some mean level design at times, and REALLY DUMB AI- DAMN IT, I WANTED YOU TO CROSS THIS BRIDGE, NOT DROWN FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME!