E3 2012: Pikmin 3 Hands On
Developer: Nintendo / Publisher: Nintendo / Release Date: TBA / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
It’s been nearly 8 years since the release of the last Pikmin game, and the fact that the franchise skipped Nintendo’s latest console generation (the Wii) has been a long-lived disappointment for series fans. However, Nintendo decided to kick off its E3 2012 press conference with somewhat of a bang, announcing Pikmin 3 for the company’s upcoming home console, the Wii U.
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Pikmin series and several other iconic Nintendo franchises, was gracious enough to show the game on-stage during the media briefing earlier this week. Even better was its presence on the show floor, where fans and newcomers alike were welcome to step up and try the game and the new features it plans to bring to the table.
During my fifteen-minute session with the game, I was only given access to one of the two introduced control schemes: the Wii-remote and Nunchuck combo. Unfortunately, the option to play using the new Wii U GamePad was not available in the E3 build I experienced, but the touchscreen’s map-overwatch functionality was in-tact and was placed on a stand in front of me to use at my leisure. This essentially allowed me to swipe around the play-field and maintain an overhead view of my Pikmin groups and discovered areas.
Though the inability to use the new controller to its fullest was considerably a bit of a letdown, the Wii-remote and Nunchuck combo actually proved to be a worthy approach to controlling Olimar and his seedling followers. This should remain unsurprising to those who invested time in New Play Control: Pikmin, the Wii re-release of the original Gamecube game, remapped to work with the Wii remote and nunchuck control setup. Once familiarized, the controls feel intuitive, but simple.
The demo kicked off in a training zone with Olimar and a small cluster of prime-for-plucking Pikmin nestled in the dirt nearby. Once I plucked a few followers from the earth, I went about my way sending Pikmin to pick up nearby fruits, berries, and items for my space ship – which should sound incredibly familiar to past Pikmin players — it’s a core pillar of Pikmin games.
While the core gameplay has not changed in any radical or notable ways, the “newness” of the game shines through in the Pikmin’s new abilities. Adding to the compilation of new abilities is the introduction of the “Rock Pikmin”, whose purspose is simple – smash.
A perfect example – I approached an impassable stone wall while rummaging through the branched paths of the forest. My red (fire) Pikmin could do it no harm, but the Rock ones definitely could. After a quick in-game prompt alerted me that Rock Pikmin can smash through a number of solid objects and obstacles, all it took was a few familiar tosses of the chubby, pebble-themed fellows at the towering obstacle to crack it severely and bring it crumbling down.
Not only could I now pass freely with the wall demolished, but I could use the now shattered remains of the structure to my advantage –namely to build a bridge nearby. When I came to a small running creek just beyond the newly opened passage, the Pikmin began to run back and forth between the decimated wall and the nearby creek, placing the shards together across the water as a bridge, allowing me to access the other dirt-embodied Pikmin on the other side of the bank once my team had completed their handywork.
Another important addition is the Pikmin’s ability to find new routes when stuck in a jam, a frustrating aspect of some past Pikmin experiences.
The rest of the preview was widely familiar territory, with assorted groups of color-varied Pikmin being hurled through the air onto sleeping (and oftentimes fully awake) bug-like enemies, mercilessly smacking them until they collapsed – only to be heaved and hoed back to the ship for resourcing by my red, yellow, and gray little (albeit adorable) miscrients.
Even as Gamecube games, Pikmin and Pikmin 2 didn’t do much to push the system to its limits – even though their colorful palletes and overall artistic design painted a great (and undeniably cute) environment for players to peruse. Pikmin 3, on the other hand, both reflected a similar art style, but opted to take a bit more control of the Wii U’s very much needed horsepower. The textures weren’t gritty or grainy, and the environments were lush, beautiful, and reflected well against the sunlight.
Pikmin 3 keeps the familiar, cutesy art style that helped make it a favorite several years ago, but it does it this time with a bit more visual flair and vastly improved aesthetic pleasure.
And as silly as it sounds, the fruit that the Pikmin collected in herds actually looked like real scanned-in fruit. I’m not kidding. If there exists an award for most photo-realistic fruit in a video game, Pikmin 3 gets it by a mile.
Altogether, Pikmin 3 showed well and played as it should: like a Pikmin game. The core gameplay didn’t seem to be shaken up at all during my demo experience, but Miyamoto was quick to point out new features like multiple leaders and Pikmin squads that need managing, not to mention that some bigger, more focused boss battles will make their way into the final product.
We’ve received little word beyond what was mentioned at the press briefing, meaning we’re short a release window – but if I’m confident about one thing, it’s that Nintendo should take their time on this one — let it bake some more if necessary, it doesn’t HAVE to be ready by the Wii U launch, like many (including myself) would love.
Like I said, it’s been 8 years since the last Pikmin game – what’s a little bit longer to ensure it’s the experience Pikmin fans want it to be?