E3 2013 Impressions: Pikmin 3

WiiU_Pikmin3_pkg01_E3 copyAh, Pikmin 3. Nothing like controlling an army of obedient plants to make you feel like a supervillain. Let’s see Captain Planet deal with that—that smurf-faced freak can’t destroy my forces without harming the environment, bwu-hah-hah-hah!

I digress.

I recently had some hands-on time with Pikmin 3 for Wii U, and I have raised a powerful new army from the soil. Beware.

Get ready to feel old—or older, in my case—Pikmin 2 came out for the GameCube in 2004, nearly 10 years ago. It’s really nice to see the title return for Wii U—fans will recognize much of the music and sound effects of Pikmin 3, although the graphics have been given a nice bump up. It’s the same ant’s-eye view of a garden we’ve seen before, but with much more detail, making the terrain more realistic and the plant-life even more lush.

Controlling Pikmin 3 will be familiar to anyone who has tried the “New Play Control” versions of Pikmin 1 and 2 on Wii. You use the Nunchuck to guide your astronaut/Pikmin handler around and the Wiimote to target and throw your Pikmin. The Wii U GamePad can also be used as a controller; but its main use is to be your map. In certain game modes it will even show the location of the treasures your Pikmin need to collect and haul back to your base, or “onion.”

The red, yellow and blue Pikmin have returned, and according to Nintendo, the purple and white ones from Pikmin 2 are hidden in the game for thorough players to rediscover. Pikmin 3 introduces two new and very useful Pikmin types. I found myself wishing they’d been on hand for the first two games.

WiiU_Pikmin3_imgeP01_E3The rock Pikmin is your go-to minion when you need something smashed. Some treasures are now coated in a hard glass-like shell, and only by chucking rock Pikmin can you break through. They’re also useful for cracking the armor off of some of the more elaborate bosses. They’re tougher than most Pikmin, but because they weigh more, you can’t toss them very far.

The pink flying Pikmin are an even bigger help. They can fly a treasure back to your base, which is verrrrry useful if the map has a lot of water barriers. They can lift certain gates, allowing passage for their brothers on the ground. They’re also good to have on hand when you need to fight a flying or jumping creature. I found myself using both new breeds quite a lot.

Nintendo’s Matt Ryan says Pikmin 3 is a single player game at heart, with “replayability through the roof.”

“I like to play over and over again, because I always want to do better,” he told me.  Better, meaning exploring more of the map, breeding more Pikmin and collecting more treasure.

WiiU_Pikmin3_scrn11_E3 copyPikmin 3 supports two players, and although we usually think of Pikmin as a game about cooperating to get a task done, Pikmin 3 goes further with competitive modes than the previous games. I find that Bingo Battle mode is great for devious people like me, who believe the key to victory lies not necessarily in wiping out the opponent’s forces, but in harassing them in aggravating, distracting ways until the commander is going insane.

The Bingo Battle mode pits you and another player against each other on a smaller, arena-like map. Each player is issued a “bingo card” which lists the treasures they have to collect: some small, some large. The first player to collect a complete row or column on their card wins, so there’s a lot of strategy to choosing what to collect.

“It’s a lot of fun when you’re playing with one of your good friends because it’s bragging rights if you win, but you can really disrupt their bingo card by taking the item they need,” said Matt Ryan.

As Matt said, Bingo Battle is a competition that allows you to mess with the other players. You can toss your Pikmin at the other player’s astronaut, forcing that player to shake them off before they can do anything else. There are multiple instances of some treasures, but others are unique, virtually guaranteeing you and the other player will fight over them.

WiiU_Pikmin3_scrn01_E3 copyIf both players send their Pikmin after a single object, they will engage in a tug-of-war. The player with the most Pikmin swarming the object will see it hauled back to their base… slowly, unless you have a lot more Pikmin on the job than the other player. Strategically, it’s a good idea to toss a few Pikmin on a treasure the other player needs, even if you don’t need it yourself. It’s a great way to slow the other player’s progress, and it’s also annoying as Hell if you’re on the wrong end of this tactic.

Finally, if you want to mess with the player even more, there are power-ups scattered across the map, and the Pikmin can dig them up to cause lightning strikes, meteor showers, even teleport the other character.

Matt Ryan said more announcements will be made regarding Pikmin 3 before its launch. I asked him if that meant more Pikmin types, but he would only iterate “more announcements.” As a big fan of the first two games, I can’t wait to unleash my leafy minions.

Pikmin 3 for Wii U will launch on August 4, 2013.

JasonInJail2Jason MacIsaac is a game and technology journalist. He loves throwing rock Pikmin at enemies, but doesn’t really want to hurt them. Of course, all he cares about in life is unleashing his leafy minions. You can (and should) visit him at Gamejester.ca.