Seven years ago, Pikmin 3 took its maiden space voyage through the Wii U cosmos. Not many people were able to follow that mission, judging by the console's low install base. It's now 2020 and Nintendo is taking the game on a second tour of duty. Pikmin 3 Deluxe takes the original game and sets it on the planet Switch. After all these years, Pikmin 3 still feels like a fun strategy outing and has just enough new material to make this journey feel worthwhile.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe features the original game's full story mode. A trio of explorers are in search of a sustainable food supply and they crash land on the Pikmin's home world of PNF-404. While they aren't Captain Olimar from the previous games, Olimar's presence is very much felt throughout the story. We'll have more on him later, but the core story revolves around these new characters. They're meeting the native Pikmin for the first time and quickly learn that these creatures will follow them around and complete various tasks.
The crewmates' mission is to rendezvous with each other and ultimately complete their mission, using the Pikmin to help them navigate a world that feels much bigger than they are. Pikmin 3 is a game of strategy and resource management above all else. There are several different Pikmin varieties to get used to and the different colors serve distinct functions, such as the Red Pikmin that are used for battling and the Rock Pikmin that are used for breaking hard surfaces. Throwing the right Pikmin can be key. Part of the game's basic strategy is not wasting Pikmin carrying items back to the ship if you know you'll need them later. But while strategy is a major element of the Pikmin 3 experience, it's not so overwhelming that novices can't dive in right away. What might get overwhelming is the day/night cycle, since exploration days automatically end at nightfall, but fortunately, it's easy enough to build a food supply and survive for days on end.
I'm happy to say that the controls for the Switch version feel refreshingly simple. Going back and forth between Pikmin colors is an easy task and rounding them all up is just a whistle away. However, there were a few things that annoyed me over my time with the game. For one thing, it's easy to go overboard on throwing Pikmin. Each button press is equal to one Pikmin, so it's possible to toss too many Pikmin at a target and leave your remaining creature count low. That's a minor quibble, but what isn't so minor is the targeting system. The targeting system is a finicky beast and there were several instances where I'd try and aim for a target, only to lock onto something else entirely. That's irritating when trying to retrieve a fruit or reach an out-of-the-way area, but it's downright deadly during boss fights.
But, the worst mechanical offender involves using multiple captains. It's possible to navigate out-of-reach areas by tossing over another captain and sending some Pikmin their way. It's actually a cool idea on paper. However, there were multiple instances where I'd switch over to the other captain and blow my whistle a little too hard. That meant not only did the second captain call their Pikmin, they accidentally called the other Pikmin from afar, which led to them running straight into a deadly creek, Lemmings-style. Collecting stray Pikmin was my main source of aggravation and it reached a point where I'd end a day and just leave them to rot. I didn't feel too bad about it, because Pikmin quickly prove to be expendable resources and it's pretty easy to build a surplus.
As it turned out, though, the easiest way to get around managing multiple captains was to simply get a second person. Yes, Pikmin 3 Deluxe supports two-player co-op for the full story and playing with vertical split-screen actually makes the workload much easier. In fact, it quickly proves to be the ideal way to play, as two players can complete tasks and collect items much more efficiently as a team.
Now you know the rest of the story
Part of what makes Pikmin 3 Deluxe a more "deluxe" package is the addition of Side Stories. After completing certain pieces of the story, players can run through a special prologue and epilogue centered around original Pikmin protagonist Captain Olimar. The Side Stories are structured differently than the main story and plays more like the game's Missions mode. That means instead of the day/night cycle, there's a dedicated timer in which players must collect fruit and valuables.
Side Stories plays out much more like a score attack mode, as players are given a final score and only advance after getting at least a bronze medal. It's more streamlined than the story, but it also feels a lot more stressful, since the clock is constantly running. But it's also more of the same Pikmin 3 experience, as it mainly explores previous environments. There isn't a lot of "new" here, but those looking for more Pikmin 3 will at least have something to feel excited about.
Blowing the whistle
For those who have never experienced the world of Pikmin, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does a marvelous job in explaining how the systems work and gets players on their way quickly. For those who already played Pikmin 3 on Wii U, there isn't a lot new here, but the Ultra-Spicy difficulty presents a mind-numbing challenge by tossing in harder enemies, shoter days, and lowering the number of Pikmin that can be carried in your party. Side Stories is a fun addition, but it's nothing worth going out of your way for if you've already played the original Pikmin 3.
Pikmin 3 feels like the strategy game for people who aren't really into strategy games, sort of like how Hades is the roguelike for people who don't dig roguelikes. After a while, you forget that you're playing a strategy game and you become enraptured by the beautiful environments, the adorable Pikmin creatures, and the chaos that gradually descends on you as the day goes on. That's the Pikmin 3 Deluxe experience and it's one worth checking out if you haven't already.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. Pikmin 3 Deluxe is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $59.99. The game is rated E10+.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe
- Simple-to-grasp controls and systems
- Gorgeous environments
- Challenging puzzles
- Co-op play lessens the stress significantly
- Targeting feels imprecise
- Pikmin will sometimes behave like Lemmings
- Side Stories feel short