Pikmin is one of the strangest games I have ever played. It’s a strategy game with some light combat, nothing like the games I normally play. However I am constantly drawn back to this game, as it is just downright addictive and fun to play. It’s main character “Olimar” even made it into super smash bros, so clearly it’s high up in Nintendo’s books. Now Pikmin definitely looks like a kid-oriented game, but it is really complex and difficult even as an adult, as well as just being pretty to look at. You can play this game on your Gamecube (if you can find it) or purchase the revamped version for your Wii console.
The game focuses on an adorable little astronaut who – shocker! – crashes his spaceship on an alien planet. Like we haven’t seen that before. Now his ship is totally destroyed, and different parts are scattered all over the place. Upon inspecting his ship he realizes he has about a month’s worth of oxygen left to sustain himself. However, if he can gather enough of the ship’s parts he might be able to repair the vessel. So basically you have thirty days to gather up thirty different parts to get home safely.
Now this is a pretty daunting task for one little guy, and the ship’s parts are HUGE. There’s no way he can do this all by himself. Luckily upon landing Olimar finds a strange ship (which he dubs an “onion”), with weird plants sprouted around it. When he yanks these leaves out of the ground, he finds them attached to little alien bodies, who are just the CUTEST thing you’ll ever see in your life. He calls them “Pikmin” , and uses them to help him perform an array of tasks and to gather his materials.
The pikmin themselves are the best part of this game, and come in various colours. The red pikmin are strong fighters, and cannot be affected by fire. Yellow pikmin are lighter and therefore can be thrown long distances, and also can pick up bombs and explosives. And finally there are blue pikmin who can swim. So for example, if you take a group of yellow pikmin into a lake, they will all drown – and it’s actually incredibly tragic and demoralizing as a player. You develop a strange maternal/paternal sense over these creatures, and when they die it’s always quite dramatic. It is very important for you to isolate your group into their colours and take certain pikmin into specific parts of the terrain, which sometimes means leaving groups of Pikmin to fend for themselves. You can only have 100 Pikmin out in the field at a time, so picking your group is very important. The pikmin can also be leveled up by finding yellow fields of grass, which they pluck and basically “bathe” in this weird gold goo. After they do this the little green leaf on their head turns into a daisy, and they are more resilient to the elements.
So thirty days – that’s one part a day right? Well some parts are really easy to get, and some may take two or three days to reach. You may need to have certain pikmin break down barriers, go through bodies of water, etc. to reach different areas, and thus different ship materials. It’s almost like a civilization game where you have to plan out your resources and basically assign your characters tasks for the day. You also have to be careful leaving them alone, because if an enemy comes in they will eat them all. There is a timer on each day, and if you leave any pikmin behind once the clock is up, they will also become someone’s dinner. And you even watch a cut scene of your poor little pikmin running after your ship and being chowed down by a spotted bug, or whatever. For your own dignity, try to avoid this, since you are basically their friggin’ father.
Now Pikmin aren’t completely defenseless. As long as they have Olimar to direct them and tell them what to do, they are pretty darn strong in large groups. You can swarm a group of enemies from behind and take them down, and the Pikmin will carry their bodies back to their onion to create new Pikmin. You can also find these disks with numbers on them which they will take to the onion and have it “sucked up” to sprout new offspring.
Once you find a few parts on the planet you crashed on, your ship can manage to fly short distances to nearby locations. This is a nice change in scenery, and if you get tired of a certain environment you can switch it up and go somewhere else for the day. Now if you can’t quite get all 30 parts in 30 days it’s not the end of the world, I once only got 27 parts and Olimar still managed to get home. I’ve never actually seen the ending where he doesn’t reach his goal, I wonder if there is a cut scene of him just slowly suffocating to death. Gosh that would be depressing, and not very Nintendo-like eh?
This game does have a combat system, but it’s definetly more about strategy and planning. You will spend a ton of time scouting out an area before even taking any pikmin with you to figure out what the heck you are going to do that day. Now this is not my usual type of game, but the storyline and adorable characters of this franchise just keep me a’ comin’. Pikmin spawned two sequels that are pretty decent, but the original is a total classic in my books.