Born from the notorious mastermind behind the Mario and Donkey Kong franchises, Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation of Pikmin was a standout success for the Gamecube in 2001, when the original title launched. It introduced players to a miniature puzzle-filled world inspired by Miyamoto’s own garden. And who knew, after all these years, we would see the third instalment get its own Deluxe treatment for the Nintendo Switch. It may not be what fans expected, nor what they thought they wanted, but Pikmin 3 on Wii U simply did not get the recognition it deserved. Although undoubtedly hampered by the console’s lacklustre sales, Pikmin 3 is still regarded as the best in the series, and we can’t think of a more fitting title to receive an updated re-release.
The original title on GameCube sowed the seed for what was to come, offering very basic yet memorable gameplay mechanics that were drenched in the Nintendo style we’re all familiar with. For those not acquainted with the franchise, you essentially control an army of tiny, plant-animal hybrids that follow your orders and it’s your task to navigate them safely around numerous garden-inspired locations. It’s centred around collecting items and returning them to your ship with the assistance of your little helpers. So, whether that’s retrieving parts of your spaceship in the first game, ‘treasure’ in the second or fruit in the third, solving puzzles and keeping your Pikmin alive is the aim of the game. In addition to the blue, red and yellow variations, the sequel not only presented the player with more Pikmin colours to utilise, but it also introduced the ability to control two characters separately, which meant splitting jobs and delegating tasks with mini hordes of Pikmin were much easier.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe capitalises on all the best parts from the previous games; you don’t have a deadline like the first title, you’re able to control three captains at once, and this version comes packed with all the Wii U downloadable content, plus some extra sections (of which we’ll go into in more depth later). Yet for new players who haven’t experienced a Pikmin game, they can easily jump into this one without any prior knowledge of the series.
For the purpose of this preview, we’ll highlight some of the extras you can enjoy, such as Olimar’s Assignments, while shedding light on a handful of the story elements up until the first major boss. Plus, we’ll also discuss one of the major additions to the game: a fully-fledged story co-op mode.
As a refresher for veterans and an introduction for those new to the series, the story in Pikmin 3 Deluxe follows three intrepid captains: Alph, Brittany and Charlie. They embark on an interplanetary mission to an alien world to source sustenance for their native home that’s experiencing a food shortage. Upon crash-landing on PNF-404, the three captains are split-up and forced to look separately for a food source. Soon enough, the planet’s indigenous creatures, also known as Pikmin, are quick to accustom themselves with our three leaders. And after only half an hour or so, we feel right at home. We’re ordering our Pikmin armies to move obstacles (like shopping bags) to access hard-to-reach areas, smashing rocks and creating shortcuts, all so we can make the most of the in-game day cycle.
Commanding these small groups of Pikmin with the pro-controller, we navigate our way through the damp depths of the Garden of Hope, a blossoming and lively undergrowth that caters to some nasty enemies. Controlling our tiny army to battle the menacing creatures feels familiar and responsive. And, while playing with the pro-controller is easily the best way to navigate through the earlier levels, those who are accustomed to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk from the Wii U may feel more at ease using the split Joy-Con configuration. There’s also the option to enable gyro controls, but honing our whistle to gather our Pikmin was easy enough with the left analogue stick, so it quickly became the favoured choice on our adventure. The omission of the Wii U tablet that acted as a convenient map is notable; having it propped up next to you when playing on the big screen on the original Pikmin 3 was gimmicky but here you’re given a mini-map and a press of the minus button and you can view the map in its entirety – the game just pauses while you do so.
Getting to grips with handling more than one captain at a time, particularly when exploring the earlier parts of the game, makes for tantalising story progression. Knowing that several stages are just out of reach until we obtain new Pikmin types is part of the excitement. It’s not linear by any means, but the gradual exposure to different elements and puzzle mechanics at a comfortable pace remains delightful. Speaking of accessibility, the addition of lock-on targeting is very welcome here. Now, we’re no longer accidentally throwing yellow Pikmin to a watery demise, since using the ZR trigger means the creatures can be directed with ease. With a quick press of B, the cursor snaps away from the locked target and is likely to make a big difference to boss fights, especially after the frustration experienced on the Wii U.
Another welcome addition to the Deluxe version includes new difficulty settings. It means those looking for a more relaxed approach with an easy mode are in luck. Of course, an extra hard – or ‘Ultra Spicy’ – mode is awarded to players on the game’s ‘normal mode’ completion, should they wish to take on a new challenge. Players who complete the newly released demo can also enjoy the harder mode in the main game – a nice incentive from Nintendo to play the demo before the games’ release. Talking of extras that set the Deluxe version apart from its original, there’s also the inclusion of Olimar’s Assignments. These neat side-story missions become available quickly and show you events that take place before and after the main story with Olimar and Louis in control. Although we’ll provide further detail in our review, these assignments are a joy to play with pre-set conditions, while offering more context to the main story. It’s too early to tell if these extra missions will make the game worthy of its Deluxe status alone, but it’s a very strong start.
One of the most notable additions to Pikmin 3 Deluxe is its co-op story mode, where you can choose a friend to join you on the garden battlefield at any point. It’s odd at first, since the game was not designed to have two people on the screen at once but, after a few minutes, my comrade and I were blasting through the levels with efficiency. Although it’s entirely your choice, we decided that Player 2 would take control of the Rock Pikmin, while Player 1 would be in charge of the Red army. Later on though, we mixed our Pikmin teams and split up. Having the action in split-screen made it easy to check up on each other, while the mini maps were helpful in assisting our delegation tactics. Couch co-op has taken a fantastic solo game into a shared adventure that can be enjoyed from the very beginning – and, crucially, it doesn’t suffer in the slightest. Even earning the newly included badges – which are medals for achieving certain tasks – are fun. By obtaining them together in the game’s multiple modes, it adds another layer of challenge. We can’t reveal too much about them but fans of the Wii U version will have a great time collecting them all.
Our first six or so hours of gameplay has shown us that Pikmin 3 has a lot to offer. With the additional co-op mode, the inclusion of Mission and Bingo Mode, extra Olimar Assignments and even more ways to control Pikmin than before, this version is quickly becoming the definitive edition. Pikmin 3 Deluxe is likely to be some people’s first foray into Shigeru Miyamoto’s weird and wonderful creation, but time will tell if there’s enough here for players of the original to double-dip. As we progress through the story and explore some of its quality of life improvements though, this version is swiftly paving its way to a more accessible and enjoyable experience – creepy crawlies and treacherous terrains included.
A copy of Pikmin 3 Deluxe for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of the game will be published in due course.