Pikmin 3 review: juiced up

At the end of the day, Pikmin 3 is more of the same--a great game that happens to be on Wii U. However, what Nintendo needs most of all right now is a great Wii U game.

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No other franchise created by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto is as hardcore as Pikmin. While Mario and Zelda may have amassed generations of fans, neither series deals with death as a currency. Like other real-time strategy games, Pikmin 3 is all about resource management. Except this time, the resource is measured mostly by the lives of the game's adorable titular characters. For the uninitiated, Pikmin 3's grim story and morbid gameplay may come as a surprise. Assuming control of Alph, Brittany, and Charlie--members of an alien race that faces mass extinction due to hunger. Their quest to find a sustainable source of nourishment brings them to the Pikmin--an odd species that inexplicably follows the trio's order, even to their doom. Not starving is the name of the game in Pikmin 3. Your mission tasks you to find fruit, not only to preserve seeds to send back home, but to simply survive. The game starts with your rations nearly decimated, and Game Over lurks with every passing day. If strategy games are inherently about resource management, Pikmin does a commendable job of adding a sense of urgency to it all. Perhaps no resource is as scarce as time. The main gameplay of Pikmin centers around exploiting the different abilities of the Pikmin. In classic Nintendo fashion, the game slowly introduces you to new kinds of Pikmin, each with their unique abilities. You'll discover that Red Pikmin are not only resistant to fire, but the best fighters. Yellow Pikmin are not only resistant to electricity, but can be thrown the highest and can dig the fastest. As you discover these abilities, the game tests your ability to divvy up tasks quickly, as the threat of time is ever-present. You may encounter a glass wall that needs to be shattered with Rock Pikmin. You throw a few to take care of that task, then switch to another character to deal with collecting the materials necessary to build a bridge. Knowing that past the bridge is a hardened enemy, you use Yellow Pikmin to dig up bombs on a different part of the map. All the while, you might have a pack of Red Pikmin carrying a piece of unearthed fruit through a maze of fiery enemies. If this sounds like busywork, it's because it is. And that is largely its appeal. For better and for worse, Pikmin 3 does little to change the core of the franchise. If you've played previous games in the franchise, you'll know what to expect. In spite of a nearly a decade-long gap from the last entry, playing Pikmin 3 feels entirely familiar. Instead of a revolution, Nintendo has simply tweaked the formula a bit, making it a smoother experience overall. The changes are mostly minor: the Onions now merge into one, days can be rewound and replayed, and there are three playable characters versus two. The juice system is a fantastic compromise of Pikmin 1 and 2, adding a sense of urgency like in the first game, but making it far easier to manage. The story is buffed up significantly as well, with a lengthy narrative that introduces interesting new objectives throughout the adventure. The fate of Koppai is oddly intriguing, especially thanks to the Treehouse's winning localization. The way it ties into the previous two Pikmin games is quite a treat for series regulars, too. While there's a much greater sense of polish in Pikmin 3 than in its previous two entries, there are still a number of issues that mar the overall experience. Cycling through the various Pikmin types is too time-consuming, especially as later levels demand rapidly switching between the types. The whistling mechanic to select Pikmin is a bit laborious, and can be frustrating when trying to divvy up your squad by Pikmin type. The lack of any "quick select" option adds an unnecessary barrier to fast-paced "pro" play. The occasional glitchiness in pathing is also disappointing--losing Pikmin because they randomly decided to stop following your lead isn't the end of the world, but feels like something that could have been avoided. Finally, the lock-on system proves to be quite problematic at times--especially during boss fights. Many of these annoyances could have been alleviated had Nintendo used the GamePad in a meaningful way. For example, being able to quickly select Pikmin type via virtual button on the touch screen would have been appreciated. When splitting up the crew, why not offer a view of what the other members are doing? The second screen would have been perfect in showing exactly what kind of danger a crew member is in. Imagine: being able to simply touch that portion of the screen to jump to that character immediately. Instead, the GamePad is relegated to being an always-on map, and not an especially helpful one, at that.

Too bad they're all going to die

It's clear that Pikmin 3 was not designed with the GamePad in mind. Even in our review guide, Nintendo recommends playing with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Controlling the virtual cursor becomes much easier the Wii Remote, and alleviates many of the camera control issues you may face when playing with just the GamePad or Pro Controller. Given how ideally suited a touch screen is for the RTS genre, it's disappointing to see Nintendo approach the GamePad with so little ingenuity. In fact, taking advantage of the second screen might have offered the "freshness" that's missing from Pikmin's return from dormancy. At the end of the day, Pikmin 3 is more of the same--a great game that happens to be on Wii U. However, what Nintendo needs most of all right now is a great Wii U game. [7]
This review is based on early downloadable Wii U code provided by the publisher. Pikmin 3 will be available at retail and on the Nintendo eShop on August 4th for $59.99. The game is rated E10+.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 31, 2013 10:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Pikmin 3 review: juiced up.

    At the end of the day, Pikmin 3 is more of the same--a great game that happens to be on Wii U. However, what Nintendo needs most of all right now is a great Wii U game.

    • reply
      July 31, 2013 10:16 AM

      Damn, that's disappointing.

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      July 31, 2013 10:24 AM

      [deleted]

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        July 31, 2013 10:36 AM

        Oh good, no need to read all those words then.

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        July 31, 2013 10:53 AM

        Hey, I liked that post. I was just about to lol it.

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      July 31, 2013 10:55 AM

      I've said it a dozen times. Nintendo has this great controller and have no fucking clue what to do with it.

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        July 31, 2013 3:31 PM

        They need to spend more time hyping the best feature about it which I take advantage of every week: continuing to play video games while your wife watches the Bachelor.

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      July 31, 2013 11:05 AM

      Just wanted to point out that I really like how you guys are rolling out numbered review scores. The numbers don't have any extra attention drawn to them (e.g.. no giant splash score), they are simply dropped in with no fanfare at the very end of the review, which makes the reader at least try to parse some of the text. Good work.

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      July 31, 2013 11:22 AM

      A fucking 7? Are you serious? I haven't played the game yet but it's obvious this game deserves at least an 8.5 if not a 9. This site is a joke.

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        July 31, 2013 11:25 AM

        Are you kidding? How can you say that if you haven't played the game yet?

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        July 31, 2013 11:30 AM

        GameFly account cancelled.

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        July 31, 2013 11:40 AM

        and so it begins....

        I'm hopping this post is sarcasm

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        July 31, 2013 12:21 PM

        7 - A solid representation of its genre

        That doesn't mean the game is bad at all. It's technically sound and plays well. It just isn't breaking any new ground and isn't a leader in its genre. Did you even read the breakdown of review scores? Now sit the fuck down.

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          July 31, 2013 12:25 PM

          Isn't a leader in the console exclusive RTS genre? What game exactly would be, if not Pikmin?

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            July 31, 2013 12:28 PM

            So he's off by a point. If even. Either way, it sounds like he enjoyed the experience.

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            July 31, 2013 12:34 PM

            Kingdom underfire.

            Just because it's the best type for it's particular platform doesn't automatically make it a amazing game. Looks like all the comments are degenerating into bitching about a number like i though it would.

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        July 31, 2013 4:35 PM

        This is like self-fulfilling prophecy:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko1sklmOR9E

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      July 31, 2013 11:31 AM

      Why no mention of the competitive multiplayer? In Pikmin 2 it was a blast, and I can only imagine it's as good if not better in Pikmin 3.

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        July 31, 2013 12:20 PM

        Probably never tried any of the multiplayer modes.

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        July 31, 2013 3:26 PM

        Yes, multiplayer is expanded upon in Pikmin 3 with Bingo Battles. However, most of my time was spent in co-op, in Mission Mode.

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          July 31, 2013 9:20 PM

          So why didn't you cover it in the review? Seems like a good chunk of content to just skip over...

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      July 31, 2013 11:44 AM

      I think if youre going to do review scores, you should make the score more apparent. Having a number in brackets at the end isnt that clear.....

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      July 31, 2013 11:45 AM

      I am going to believe that a 7 is a 70 making Shacknews the lowest score on metacritic if of course it gets added to it. Awesome!!!

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      July 31, 2013 12:59 PM

      The summary paragraph isn't very helpful. All I can gather is that the game is "great", but not "fresh". The rest of the paragraph is about Nintendo and the gamepad.

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        July 31, 2013 3:25 PM

        The final paragraph isn't a summary paragraph. It's a conclusion. I hope you consider reading the paragraphs above the final one!

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          July 31, 2013 3:53 PM

          Of course. I always read the last paragraph first, though, usually because I'm more interested in how the overall experience stacks up vs. how well each element is executed.

          By the way, I appreciate how you're doing the numerical score. The 12-point font encourages people to not give it too much weight and to read the review.

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      July 31, 2013 3:32 PM

      This review makes absolutely no sense. Will every great game that doesn't make use of the Gamepad get penalized now?

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        July 31, 2013 4:28 PM

        It's not penalized for not using the GamePad. It's not like every game starts at 10 and starts losing points. That's not how our scale works.

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      July 31, 2013 5:43 PM

      I always enjoy reading the actual reviews anyway so the addition of a score doesn't effect me one way or the other. I do find it funny that for all the "hype" of adding scores to the reviews they place it at the end of the last paragraph in the same font as the rest of the article. I saw it and at first didn't even know what it was. Why even bother? People that care are going to scroll down to it anyway. Just put it at the top. If anything it may encourage some to read the article to see why you gave a game that particular score, whether it's high or low. In the case of the continuously hyped Pikmin, I was not terribly interested in the review until I saw the score, which wasn't bad, but made me wonder what went wrong.

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      July 31, 2013 9:09 PM

      can we still talk about how awful this rating system is?

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        July 31, 2013 9:21 PM

        I agree... the numerical rating only serves to muddy the waters and take away from the content of the review. It was much better when there was no final score.

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          July 31, 2013 10:04 PM

          the scores are pointless because for so long anything under an 8 is considered total crap on every other site.

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            August 1, 2013 6:09 AM

            Those other sites and how they define the rubric are the problem, not Shacknews. I think Shack's definition of the 10-point scale makes more sense. They shouldn't go with the crowd just to avoid rocking the boat. This particular boat needs capsized to see which sites can keep their heads above water.

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              August 1, 2013 7:38 AM

              I say this as a reviewer who once had to debate a .1 difference in score between two games at a certain major review outlet. -_-

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      August 1, 2013 8:13 AM

      "Not starving is the name of the game in Pikmin 3. "

      No, not starving is the name of the game in Don't Starve. Pikmin 3 is the name of the game in Pikmin 3 ;)

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      August 10, 2013 5:48 PM

      You guys complaining about the score are idiots. :)

      That is all.

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