Pikmin – A retrospective and look forward

pikmin225width.jpgThe Pikmin series has been one of those strange, but extremely brilliant sets of games that have once again shown that Miyamoto had an endless imagination for an intuitive gaming experience.  Lets take a look back on how the series started, how it’s held up, and what might be in store for us in the near future.

(Released: December 3rd ,2001)

When the Nintendo GameCube launched in November of 2001 things didn’t look very bright. Yes we had a few titles to keep us busy for a few weeks, but it looked like it was going to be a long winter. Good looking titles loomed in the distance, but the GC titles just didn’t have any meat to them. One strange game entitled Pikmin kept making a faint bleep on the game radar. It was said that the famous Shigeru Miyamoto had designed it from the ground up, and that it was hitting store shelves during winter. The screens, and videos for Pikmin made it look like a very unordinary game. Tiny carrot looking creatures were being led around in a garden by a funny looking spaceman. Reports came in saying that Pikmin is an RTS! On a console?! That’s not possible!

Little did we know that Pikmin was to be more than just another silly creation from Nintendo, but a leap in game play and creativity. Why? Because Nintendo had successfully shown how to combine a strange but epic story with a RTS style of game play on a console. This was the game that kept GameCube owners huddled around their TVs while the winter dragged on.

The Story:
You play as Captain Olimar, A spaceman from the distant planet of Hocotate. His people breathe Methane (Yeah), and will die if they were to breath Oxygen. Olimar is seen at the beginning taking a relaxing vacation in space in his spaceship entitled “The Dolphin”. Suddenly a comet rips through the ship thus causing Olimar to crash land on the nearest planet. When entering the oxygen filled atmosphere, parts of his ship are spread across the surface of the unknown world. If it couldn’t get any worse, the onboard PC warns Olimar that he has only 30 days before his life support system fails. Your objective is set. You must collect at least 25 of the 30 parts to rebuild and escape the planet on the ship. Just when Olimar starts to give up hope he discovers a type of hybrid creature which he names Pikmin. Each of these multicolored hybrids have special abilities.  Red Pikmin has the ability to survive in fire. Blue obviously can survive in water. And yellow can be thrown higher and farther with their large ears. At the time of discovery the Pikmin were at the point of extinction. They didn’t have the skills to defend themselves against the wild creatures that lurked the planet. Olimar confronts himself with the wild Pikmin and is surprised to find that they will follow his every command. Olimar then decides to use the Pikmin to collect his ship parts, and in return the Pikmin will hopefully learn to survive.

Game play:
As Captain Olimar you can throw, kill, transport, and guide Pikmin through garden like environments. You can use the C-stick move an entire mob of 100 Pikmin within a radius of Olimar. Olimar’s whistle will call stationary Pikmin to attention. Along with basic recourses the unknown planet also contains human like items such as bottle caps, toothbrushes, trinkets, and even Nintendo related items. When you direct Pikmin to carry a item they take them back to storage ships called onions. Red, blue, and yellow onions are where the Pikmin live at night to escape the creatures lurking on the surface. The onions also produce seeds that are planted outside the ship. When pulled these seeds become Pikmin. As you journey to gather your parts you come across puzzles that consist of elements, terrain, and battles against creatures like Bulborbs which are mutations of Pikmin. When beginning a new day you must choose what types and how many Pikmin you wish to work with that day. If there are Pikmin outside at the end of the day then they die. Depending on how many parts you retrieve and if you make it in time will give you three alternate endings.

Average reviews for Pikmin were 9.0 and higher. Pikmin received the E3 2001 Game Critics award for best Puzzle/Trivia/Parlor game along with other numerous awards. Miyamoto responded with how the idea of Pikmin came up. He was working in his garden when ideas started to flood in. He wanted to create a game that really shows off the large amount of detail that happens in a garden or undergrowth. His dog named Pik obviously gave the name Pikmin and if you reversed the name Mario in Japanese you get Olimar. Pikmin was on its way to becoming another one of Nintendo’s flagship titles. A fan base was established and fans now wanted another Pikmin game with more depth and creativity than the first had.

Pikmin 2
(Released: August 30th 2004)

During the hype of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker launch rumors were spreading saying that another Pikmin title was in development. Message boards flared with the speculation of what needed to be added and removed. The main disappointment in Pikmin was the 30 day limit. You were under a constant strain to find one fixed object at a fixed time. What we got was just what we wanted and more.

The story picks up where it left off if you got the best ending in Pikmin. Captain Olimar returns to planet Hocotate to find his company, Hocotate Freight, bankrupt. Olimar’s boss had to sell The Dolphin to pay off debt. When Olimar hears this he drops a souvenir bottle cap from the Pikmin planet that he brought for his son. A rusty, old ship analyzes the bottle cap and finds it’s worth 100 Pokos (currency on Hocotate). Olimars boss explains that 100 Pokos is a years salary. He then gives the last remaining ship to Olimar and sends him and another worker, Louie back to the Pikmin planet to gather treasure to pay off the 10,000 Pokos of debt. When entering the atmosphere Louie’s cockpit opens and he is thrown out. This starts the game with your first objective to find Louie then start collecting random trinkets, and treasure that will add up to 10000 Pokos. Of course Olimar needs the help of his Pikmin friends to assist in the dilemma. This time, though, Olimar and Louie discover 2 new types of Pikmin. Purple and White Pikmin are the rarest and have special abilities of their own. Purple are the heaviest and can carry large loads, while the white Pikmin are the weakest, but cannot be poisoned. You must use these new found Pikmin along with the normal red, blue and yellow to complete the game.

Game play:
The game play is basically the same as the first Pikmin. A few buttons have been moved and some new camera angles have been added, but besides that, Pikmin 2 is controlled in the same great way. A great new feature is you can split and have 2 different parties of Pikmin. Louie can lead a group and Olimar can lead. The graphics were upgraded to show some great lighting and blur effects. The most appreciated addition is the removal of the 30 day limit from the first Pikmin. You can now sit back and explore at ease with your Pikmin. Instead of starting in one location for 1 day, you now start in one of four overworlds, each having underground sublevels. As you progress through these sublevels you collect treasure and battle a boss at the end. With the addition of 2 new Pikmin you must really take your surroundings into consideration before selecting the Pikmin you want. Another great addition is the must-have multiplayer mode. You and a friend build up your Pikmin and kill each other or go to the calling mode and try some co-op. As you progress through the game you will unlock cutscenes that reveal more of the story line. If you’re lucky you might even see Louie’s secret.

Pikmin 2 improved on everything that the original had. It took a good console RTS and beefed it up a bit. It was just what fans wanted. Average reviews for the title are 9.2. It again won several awards and was made a Players Choice title. Now all there is to do is sit back and speculate.

Pikmin 3
(Released: TBA)

What we know:
Back when Nintendo revealed that their next console would use a motion controlled remote people thought of 3 things: Light saber game, Harry Potter game, and Pikmin. The Wii would work perfectly with the Pikmin series. We really know next to nothing about the title. We know that some of the Pikmin developers are working with Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and other unknown projects. At this past E3 2007 Miyamoto was questioned about a Pikmin 3 and answered saying he already has numerous ideas in how to use the remote and is “talking”. When Miyamoto says “talking” he usually saying that the game is in pre-development. Let’s speculate …

My guesses:

  • Pikmin 3 will be revealed at GDC 2008 (or E3 2008 at the latest)
  • It will be released in the spring of 2009
  • There will be new types of Pikmin and a new twist on the story
  • Online play

Final thoughts:
When looking at the past Pikmin has been a series that relieves Nintendo’s software droughts. There is a enormous fan base, but many really haven’t tried it out. If you haven’t, you’re missing a great gaming experience.

Are you a Pikmin fan?  What would you want to see in the inevitable Pikmin 3 on Wii?