Retrospective – Pikmin 3 (Wii U)

Pikmin 3 was one of the best things to happen to my marriage.

No, seriously, it was super helpful. Let me explain.

My wife and I lived and taught in South Korea for a few years before returning back to the US. It was a tough transition for us because of how much I had to work to finish getting my teaching credential. After many months of this grueling work, I finally finished up my credential work and got a teaching job in California. With one month before I was set to start school, we unceremoniously started playing Pikmin 3 together on a whim, just to pass the time. Little did we realize how much this franchise would consume us over the next few weeks.

Releasing in mid-2013 for the Wii U, Pikmin 3 was the long-awaited follow-up to the excellent set of games that debuted way back on the GameCube. Boasting a new and innovative control scheme using the Wii U gamepad and multiplayer functionality, it was a hotly anticipated title that received rave reviews as soon as it released. Controlling these little plant creatures along with a friend had never been easier, even with the re-releases of Pikmin and Pikmin 2 on the Wii taking advantage of motion controls.

For those unaware of the background details and plotline of these games (what little is there), the Pikmin series has you playing as a space pilot that is stranded on a strange new world with these little plant-like creatures called “Pikmin.” These creatures are your ever-faithful assistants in this lush and beautiful (yet sometimes downright frightening) new world, helping you navigate puzzles and obstacles using their color-specific special abilities. In Pikmin 3, you are controlling a trio of space travelers who are searching for a planet that will provide them with food to take back to their people. They crash-land onto this new planet, befriend the Pikmin, and start collecting new sources of food (fruits, mainly) to turn into delicious fruit juice.

While the plot may be paper-thin and predictable, the amount of work that went into this game’s visuals is unbelievable. The environments in this game are varied according to which part of the planet you are traveling to, allowing you to see a lot of different biomes at work. Whether you are trudging through the snow or traveling through a forest, it is plain to see the amount of care that the designers took to make sure each of these areas felt real and alive and natural. Seeing these environments from a miniature perspective really helps to highlight how small these Pikmin and characters are and how dangerous the world really can be when you are the size of mouse.

What stands out even more than the environments, though, is the gameplay. Utilizing the top-down perspective, the gameplay of Pikmin 3 plays out as a semi-RTS style game. You control your Pikmin using your pointer as you explore the different areas and can set them to work on building structures, tearing them down, or to fight enemies that are in your way. You can spawn more and more Pikmin as you collect resources (and enemy carcasses) and have them brought back to your ship, giving you more and more Pikmin to use as you continue through the level. You will need every Pikmin you can possibly get, though, because some of the enemies that you encounter are insanely powerful and can wipe out your entire platoon within seconds. You have to be very strategic with how you engage these types of enemies, or else the blood of hundreds upon hundreds of Pikmin will be on your hands. Seeing their souls leave their bodies while hearing their pitiful cries of death is – without a doubt –  one of the saddest sights in video game history.

What makes Pikmin 3 particularly memorable for me is how my wife and I approached it. We had played some other games together before, but nothing that she was particularly interested in. What grabbed her attention with Pikmin 3 was how beautiful the game looked and how cute the Pikmin really could be, acting like loyal puppies that will follow you to the ends of the earth. We started playing together cooperatively as best we could, actively discussing the next route we would take and how to best handle our resources at our disposal. We did this every day for weeks, losing ourselves in this little game and making some amazingly humorous memories along the way. We were so heartbroken by the time we finished the game and the DLC that we went ahead and ordered the previous two games in the series just so we could continue playing. It was THAT addicting for us, and I wouldn’t trade that time or the memories we made together for anything. It was truly a blessing for us at a time when things were rough.

Pikmin 3 was one of the best things to happen to my marriage.

 

Now that Pikmin 3 is making its way to the Switch, now is as good a time as any to experience this absolute classic. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll craft all sorts of hair-brained theories about how this is actually a post-apocalyptic vision of earth’s future. Most importantly of all, however, is that this is a wonderful game for families to play together. I know that my son and daughter will absolutely adore it along with us as they get acquainted with these weird plant-like creatures. Now if Nintendo would give us the first two on Switch, as well, that would be utterly fantastic. Get on it, Nintendo!

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