Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pikmin - GCN Classic Review

Back when the Nintendo GameCube first hit the shelves, everyone was excited about a few different games. Sure there were popular game series such as Mario and Zelda on the way, but in the middle of the sea of fan favorites came along a brand new IP called Pikmin. Although Nintendo themselves didn't know it at the time, this one single game would create an entire new fan base, and Pikmin would soon become known as one of the greatest Nintendo series of all time.

Crash Landing on an Alien World:

Captain Olimar is a space captain who is simply taking a vacation from work and enjoying the galaxy. He doesn't have a care in the world as he drifts through space in his S. S. Dolphin, but all of that was soon about to change... Out of no where a commit shoots through the sky, crashes into Olimar's ship, and forces him to crash land on a strange alien planet, which is hinted at to be Earth. After crash landing, Olimar begins to survey the area only to find that the parts of his ship have been scattered across the world, and he has no way to get back home. To make matters worse, his life support has been damaged, and he only has about 30 days to find a way to repair his ship and make it back to his home world of Hocotate. Although most people may give up and accept their fate, Olimar isn't most people, and he decides to do anything he can to find a way to save himself and return to his family.

As Olimar explores the area around his ship, a strange little ship just happens to catch his eye. After approaching the ship, it stood up on its own, and then spit out a single little seed. Not sure what he should do at first, Olimar then decided to pull it out, but only to find out it wasn't a plant at all. It was some type of alien creature! This alien creature was red, with a long point sticking out of its head, and a leaf on top. The creature seemed to have formed a bond with Olimar, following his every command, and soon after finding what appeared to be an onion shaped space ship, Olimar found that this creature could bring food to it to produce more seeds which would grow more creatures.

Deciding to take advantage of the strange creatures, which he decided to call Pikmin, Olimar decides to travel the planet, grow Pikmin, use them to battle the wildlife on the strange planet, and find the pieces of his space ship. Pikmin are in fact loyal to the end, and they will do anything to help their new "master."

Nintendo's First Try at a Real Time Strategy:

Pikmin is Nintendo's first try at a full fledged RTS, and it is a very unique one unlike anything else on the market. In Pikmin you take control Captain Olimar from a top view perspective as you explore the world and command Pikmin. While Olimar himself only has a basic melee attack, he does have a wide verity of commands which he can issue the Pikmin to make them do whatever he needs them to do. Olimar can break Pikmin into groups, he can throw them, he can control their movements as they march along behind him, and he can also call them or tell them to stay put. These very few simple commands actually go a long way, and allow you to use the Pikmin in many, MANY, different ways.

If a Pikmin goes near a plant with a coin on it, which is a type of food which can produce more Pikmin, the Pikmin will start attacking it as soon as they touch it. Once the plant is destroyed and the coin drops, any Pikmin which touches the coin will then begin to carry it back to their onion to produce more Pikmin to help. Every single object, including coins, does have a weight limit, and since Pikmin can only carry so much weight, most of the time it takes multiple Pikmin for them to lift it.

When it comes to enemies, you also have to really play it smart. While smaller enemies can be killed simply having Pikmin gain up on them, that is not always the case for the larger enemies. Some enemies WILL try to eat your Pikmin, and they will pay no mind to the Pikmin as they slowly start to attack the enemy's feet. When it comes to enemies like this, it is completely up to you to figure out the best strategy to take them down. From throwing your Pikmin on their head where the enemy can't reach them, to throwing them at a weak spot, there are many different ways to take down each enemy, and that enemy is sure to put up a fight no matter what. Enemies WILL fight for their life, and they will fight to protect their young, so you always have to keep in mind what the best course of action really is. Sure you might need more Pikmin, and that enemy might grow you a lot of them if you can bring it back, but it also might not be worth the risk.

Although killing enemies and growing more Pikmin is a key feature in the game, another major feature is the whole puzzle solving aspect. Most of the time as you explore each area you'll come across objects that are just out of reach, and you have to figure out how to get them. Sometimes this involves using Pikmin to build a bridge to cross an area, other times you have to break down a wall using special types of Pikmin, and sometimes you just have to explore the area, fight mini bosses, and flat out find a way around whatever obstacle is in your way. The thing is you only have so long before nightfall, so you really have to plan out your actions for the day, and you cannot simply just take your time solving the puzzles.

Each area has many different ship parts scattered around, there's 30 pieces to find, only 30 days to find them in, and each level does have a time limit. Not only do you have to kill enemies, build up your Pikmin, search the area for parts, and solve puzzles, you have to do all of this as fast as possible before time runs up and you fail to make it home safely. It isn't an easy task, and it may take a few play throughes (especially since it takes awhile to actually find the ship parts), but with practice you can master the game and finally bring our hero home.

The Different Types of Pikmin:

In the original Pikmin there are actually three different types of Pikmin (four if you count the "evil" poisoned Pikmin which they can transform into), and each type has its very own role to fill. Although you can only have 100 Pikmin out on the field at a time, each Pikmin is stronger in a different area, and you have to decide just which types of Pikmin you will be needing for that day.

Red Pikmin are your standard Pikmin which you will be mostly using near the start of the game, but they also become very important later on. Red Pikmin are completely immune to heat and fire, which allows them to access hot areas which would normally burn up other Pikmin, and they are also the strongest type of Pikmin in the game. Although their heat resistance is useful, and key for some areas, Red Pikmin will become your main source of attacking enemies, and that role will take priority over everything else.

Yellow Pikmin are the second type of Pikmin that appear in the game, and like the Red Pikmin, they have two uses as well. Although they can in fact attack like all of the others, Yellow Pikmin are more useful when it comes to reaching new areas. Yellow Pikmin are the lightest of the three types, which allows them to be thrown higher, and they can also use a special item called a "Bomb Rock." Bomb Rocks are "normal" rocks which can be found in some stages of the game, but whenever a Yellow Pikmin picks one up it turns into a bomb. By using these Bomb Rocks, Yellow Pikmin can basically wire strong gates (which normally cannot be damaged) to explode, and take them down in no time. This is a very important feature, and is key to finding all of the space ship parts.

Blue Pikmin are the third and final type of Pikmin that you'll come across, and are a MUST have for the flooded areas of the game. Unlike the other two type of Pikmin, Blue Pikmin can both swim AND walk through areas covered in water which normal Pikmin normally have to stay away from. These Pikmin are very important when it comes to building bridges across water ways, or just making it through water areas in general. There are in fact a few parts of the game which are completely covered in water, so the Blue Pikmin will be the only type you'll be able to use. Blue Pikmin can also act as life guards and rescue any Red or Yellow Pikmin which has fallen into the water by mistake.

Besides the three types of Pikmin, each Pikmin its self can evolve and become stronger. By drinking nectar, found from killing special enemies and breaking special objects, Pikmin can advance their evolution cycle and grow a bulb on their head. Pikmin with a bulb on their head work much faster/harder than standard leaf Pikmin, but it's when the bulb turns into a flower that they become fully powered up.

The Day and Night of Pikmin:

Pikmin is truly a unique game, and a must have if you own a GameCube. The graphics look really nice, the story is pretty nice, the gameplay is VERY addicting, the puzzles are fun, the areas are nice and big, and you can't help but love the little creatures in this world. The "monsters" are funny looking, it's fun to watch how they react to the world around them, and the Pikmin themselves are very lovable. Watching them carry back a dead body as they sing and march is just priceless! Even so there are a few things holding this game back from being great.

Although the challenge of the time limit is really nice, and it also gives you a reason to plan out your days, but it also means you really don't have time to just take the game slow and enjoy it. The game has a huge focus on exploration, yet at the same time it really doesn't give you the time to fully explore the world. Sure it's understandable since the game is set up so that it takes more than one playthrough to beat it, but some people may not like going through a 10-15 hour long game, only to fail and have to start all over again. It would just have been nice if there was some type of free play mode.

Anyway... Despite the fact that there's no free play mode, there is a nice fun challenge mode which allows you to replay the levels, and the game is in fact VERY replayable. This is a game you will WANT to replay over and over again as you shoot for that new high score, and finally save Olimar. Pikmin gets a 10/10!