Hands-on with Pikmin 3 for Wii U

Ah, at last… Pikmin 3. This is the game which kicked off Nintendo’s E3 showing, and is an interesting title with a rather vocal cult following, one who would not let up on the hopes of a third game until its development was officially revealed at E3 2008. Four more years later, and we finally have our first look.

Personally speaking, I am in an odd place when it comes to Pikmin. I enjoyed what little I played of the original game (restrictive time limit notwithstanding), and enjoyed it far more when Nintendo released the New Play Control! version for the Wii. However, I didn’t get to spend much time with it, and only just recently managed to get a copy of Pikmin 2 for Wii (which I hope to complete, or at least come close, before the Wii U comes out).

Put simply: I like what I’ve played, but I’ve come nowhere near close to completing either game. And now you know where I’m coming from when I approach Pikmin 3.

Much to my surprise, Pikmin 3 does not use the Wii U GamePad for gameplay. I was expecting some sort of system where you would flick the eponymous plant people using the touchscreen and stylus, but no; instead, you utilize the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, just as in the Wii versions, while the GamePad displays a map (helpfully aided by a stand, if the image above is to be believed).

Unfortunately, I did not really get to use the GamePad map function, as I was standing a little too far from the table to get optimum infrared results from the Wii Remote, and there did not seem to be a stand available. Fortunately, it would seem that the use of the map was largely unnecessary for the timed demo, which afforded few opportunities to get lost in the first place.

For those unfamiliar with the Wii version’s controls, the gist is that the thumbstick moves your main character (with the little Pikmin following as a mob) and you use the Wii Remote to move a separate cursor which shows where you’ll throw them using the A button, or whistle with the B trigger. It takes a little getting used to, but it isn’t long before you get a good feel for it and are whipping Pikmin at local fruit and wildlife like a pro.

And that is basically the gist of what you’re doing in this demo, which is split into two portions.

The first portion places you in a forest stage with seven minutes to collect as much fruit as you can. Of course, keep in mind that the characters in Pikmin are very, very tiny, and so carrying so much as a single cherry requires the full effort of one or two of the miniscule creatures. Of course, you can assign more to help carry it faster, but that diminishes your reserve for the next piece, obstacle, or enemy you should encounter, so proper delegation is important.

A key aspect of Pikmin is that the more Pikmin you have, the more you’re able to do. In past games, this called for plucking them from the ground to have them join your army, but here, they just seem to sit around, waiting for you to run up to them before enlisting. It’s a strange development, and I’m not even sure whether there is any significance to it or not; perhaps it’s just for the demo?

Another new– and strange– development is the Rock Pikmin, who you free after tossing your Red Pikmin at a jellyfish-like creature. Given that Pikmin are– or were– by their very definition a hybrid of plant and animal, finding a group which are rocks (aside from the iconic flowers atop each) is certainly unusual.

Fortunately, these Rock Pikmin come quite in handy. Despite purportedly being rocks, your tiny non-Olimar (protagonist of the first two games) character is able to fling them with ease. And despite being flung with ease, they can still do heavy damage to enemies or crystal (glass?) found in the forest. Physicists would probably get a headache from thinking about it, so I strongly recommend doing just the opposite.

After encountering and taking down some creatures and having their lifeless bodies hauled back to your ship with the fruit you’ve collected (morbid, I know), you come to a point where there is a pile of stone pieces. Throwing your Pikmin at them has them gather pieces and form a bridge which leads right back to your ship.

It’s at right about this point that this portion of the demo ended. A pity, as there seemed to be some stuff further down the trail, but perhaps I’ll get to explore that another time.

The other portion of the demo is a timed five-minute battle against a (relatively) large boss worm in some sort of cave or cavern (or possibly even a tree, which seems to be what the floor of the chamber is). There are several Pikmin of both red and rock types to collect in here to use against the creature.

So how do you defeat the creature? Good question; unlike some games, no immediate weak spot was displayed across its armored hide. But with enough tosses, my Pikmin managed to shatter the shell at the tip of its tail.

Unfortunately, I took this to mean that I had exposed its weak spot by revealing the soft skin underneath, and focused my attack there. It turns out, through some trial and error (mostly error, if I’m not mistaken) that you’re supposed to keep breaking the armor, presumably until the creature is fully-exposed. Sadly, the time ran out and I had to give it up to the next person before finding out for sure.

Overall, my time with Pikmin 3 was as limited as ever, but it left me with a very good impression. It felt like it was just as much fun as I remembered the other two games being in my little experience, but I can’t wait to play more when it comes out sometime in the Wii U launch window. In the meantime, I look forward to getting some more things out of the way and sitting down to play Pikmin 2.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.