Pikmin 3 arrives saddled with the weight of great expectations. Not just from the series' devoted following, who have suffered a nine-year wait for fresh blood, but from the massed owners of the Wii U, lured in by the promise of a HD Nintendo console aimed at the core gamers the Wii seemed to disregard. It would take a supreme apologist to argue that Nintendo has made good on that promise, and as the Wii U has struggled to build an installed-base a widely acknowledged truth has emerged: Games - the Wii U needs games.
"After the imaginative flights of the first Pikmin and the playful experiments of the second, Pikmin 3 inevitably comes off like consolidation"
Well, Pikmin 3 is a game - by all accounts a very good game - but as the third entry in an esoteric series that has never sold in huge quantities, the mantle of 'system-seller' sits ill upon its shoulders. The likely truth is that Nintendo intended Pikmin 3 as fan-service; a belated response to a question its community just wouldn't stop asking. Now, with its console losing the faith of third-parties and Sony and Microsoft poised to go nuclear, this curious franchise has become the focus of a great deal of hope, and not a little pressure.
This is unfortunate, because, as The Daily Telegraph points out, Pikmin is a "trickier beast to pin down" than other residents of Nintendo's IP stable: "Not least because what makes it so satisfying can often sound a little too much like work. Terms like multitasking, forward planning and time management come easily to mind; its genius lies in how Shigeru Miyamoto and team make it fun."
The Telegraph awards Pikmin 3 five-stars, and the review is as laden with the effusive praise and whimsical descriptions to which first-rate Nintendo products are often treated. WIth Pikmin now in the crisp, bright world of HD graphics, critics will be more tempted than ever to embark on florid paragraphs about exquisitely rendered fruit, but the Telegraph points to pleasures in Pikmin 3 that are both "denser and deeper" than either of its predecessors.
"You'll rarely have to think too hard to solve [Pikmin 3's] environmental conundrums, but there's a tangible sense of accomplishment at the end of a good day's work - whether you've beaten one of the game's colossal guardians, brought back five pieces of fruit, or simply opened up a shortcut that offers a quicker route to tomorrow's intended destination. It's extremely rare for a game to so effectively communicate the satisfaction of excellent teamwork to a lone player."
"It's extremely rare for a game to so effectively communicate the satisfaction of excellent teamwork to a lone player"
The Daily Telegraph
Pikmin 3 has the sort of substance for which Wii U owners have been so desperate. Besides the 10-hour story mode, there are "endlessly replayable" time-based missions that support two players, and a competitive, local multiplayer mode that riffs on the structure of bingo. "With 12 unique stages and several enemies that don't feature in story mode, it's one of the most substantial and unusual multiplayer games Nintendo has produced."
For Eurogamer, Pikmin 3 represents Nintendo finally hitting the "sweet spot" between Pikmin's punishing time limits and Pikmin 2's more open, sedate structure. The score is a commendable 9 out of 10, awarded to a "thoughtful sequel" that builds on the series' strengths while offering the faint taste of revolution in its vivid HD presentation. However, what is here is very much what you might expect. If you're one of the dogged few that never relented in the search for more Pikmin, this is exactly the game you were asking for - an expertly balanced and tuned amalgam of what you already love.
"Pikmin 3 isn't a grand reworking of the series and it doesn't pretend to be: this is still a strange action-strategy hybrid in which you spend each day marshalling squads of little Pikmin around bucolic levels. They still fight your battles and collect your doodads, and in return you still manage their headcount by harvesting corpses and flower pellets, and you do your best to get everybody back home before night falls. The new instalment's focus, though, lies with adjustments that allow you to control the pace of things without easing up on the long-term pressure that provides those wonderful moments of panic.
"After the imaginative flights of the first Pikmin and the playful experiments of the second, Pikmin 3 inevitably comes off like consolidation. It's still a wonderful, generous game, though, and it's astonishingly adept at catering to a variety of different skill levels, whether you're a seasoned multi-tasker who divides troops to conquer, or a fretful helicopter parent hovering endlessly over a single team and bustling them past each challenge with obsessive care."
"Familiarity is both the worst and best thing about Pikmin 3. Twelve years after the original and nine after the sequel, little has changed - but little really needed to"
Edge magazine shares in Eurogamer's assessment, albeit with a more pronounced sense of disappointment at Nintendo's emphasis on polish over progress. There are tweaks to familiar elements throughout the game design, from minor changes intended to streamline tasks and save the player a handful of seconds, to more profound alterations to the structure of the gameplay - specifically, the ability to split your Pikmin into three groups. In almost every case, the changes are legitimate improvements on the series' formula, but Pikmin 3 is an adherent to that formula nonetheless.
"Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is how iterative it all feels. Pikmin had one protagonist, the sequel had two, and here we have three, and while the puzzles that require all three are smartly designed, they're few and far between and you can bumble your way through most of the game by playing it like Pikmin 1 and 2. Ultimately this is still a game of throwing a sufficient quantity of one Pikmin colour at an enemy or object and waiting until it's either destroyed, rebuilt or transported back to your ship. Luckily, it's a core loop that still delights.
"Familiarity is both the worst and best thing about Pikmin 3. Twelve years after the original and nine after the sequel, little has changed - but little really needed to. It may not sell systems on its own, but it's a fine addition to a sparse software library that brings one of Nintendo's most vibrantly characterful series into the HD era and, critically, makes convincing use of the GamePad.
"And that, pending the arrival of a true system seller, is what Wii U needs most of all."