Pikmin is a whole new breed of gameplay from Nintendo, and is also one of the first new franchises to come out of the company's internal development studio EAD in a long while. The quirky, life-under-the-microscope title delivers a unique experience like few before it with a blend of real-time strategy, adventure, and puzzle elements. Taking advantage of the GameCube's graphics power, Pikmin sports lush texture work that brings to life a microscopic fantasy world. It all comes together for an extremely satisfying gameplay experience, but for hardcore gamers it will end too abruptly.
- Explore a lush, garden-like landscape from an ant's perspective
- Watch as plant life and world objects interact with characters
- Control hundreds of Pikmin to help you scavenge the planet for missing parts of your ship
- Experience the different personality traits and attributes of different types of Pikmin including Bud, Leaf, and Flower
- Use the Pikmin to carry objects back to their nest where more Pikmin will be bred
- Strength in numbers -- break down walls, defeat giant bosses, and build bridges with all of your Pikmin
- Store Pikmin safely in their nests and take the game at your pace
- Multitask, letting groups of Pikmin carry out various assignments simultaneously
- Live according to time as the sun passes over the planet creating night and day settings
- Intuitive use of C-stick lets you control all your Pikmin at once
- Humorous animation keeps things interesting
- Supports 480p progressive scan mode for HDTVs
Aesthetically Pikmin can appear intimidating and even complicated. Many would be quick to assume it a simple real-time strategy game, but in truth it is a blend of strategy, puzzle, and adventure. The concept is actually quite simple. The main character Captain Olimar crash-lands on a foreign planet, which sends 30 different pieces of his ship scattering to different areas of the mysterious world. This is all explained and highlighted in the opening cut-scene. You take control of Olimar as soon as he picks his dazed body up from the ground next to his smoldering ship. As you attempt to explore you'll noticed your perspective is extremely limited. You can see the ground right in front of you as well as some oversized plant life. This is intentional and does a great job of making players feel both very small and lost. Eventually you will stumble over an odd looking nest that, when approached, will spring up from the ground and set up. Immediately it jettisons a red seedling out of its crown which promptly embeds itself in the nearby earth. Staring at it a moment, you'll see it sprout a leaf. Plucking it from the ground reveals a curious red ant-like creature called a Pikmin. It immediately follows you like a child and responds to your glowing antenna that can be used to whistle and call the creature forth. At this point you can push the camera behind you with the L-trigger, zoom in and out at three different levels with R, whistle with B, and toss you Pikmin with the A-button. The control scheme is very intuitive and lends itself well to controlling large amounts of Pikmin. You can even use the C-stick to control all of the Pikmin following you at once.
As you and the new creature search the perimeter you find the little fellow is attracted to the large, towering flowers and will chop them down like trees. In the center of the flowers is a pollen-like tablet, which the Pikmin brings back to the nest. Upon transporting the tablet into the nest, more Pikmin seedlings of the same color are produced. These tablets are scattered all over the world in all kinds of sizes, each labeled with a number that indicates how many Pikmin are required to carry it. At this point it's clear that with the help of more Pikmin, Captain Olimar could successfully find the 30 scattered parts of his ship, repair it and return home. On the way you're going to run into a lot of obstacles and the Pikmin will be your only hope. The little critters will build bridges and eventually have to work together as a team as you direct them.
Interestingly, Olimar only has a window of 30 days before he has to return to his home planet, so he's on a tight schedule to find and return the ship's missing parts. You must guide Olimar and the Pikmin through five unique areas, featuring many different obstacles including gigantic boss figures and dangerous territory. Heavy puzzle elements surface when you find all three types of Pikmin -- red, yellow, and blue. They all have different attributes. One type specializes in carrying explosives whereas another is resistant to fire. This is further deepened by the fact that Pikmin will grow from leaf to bud and finally to flower, increasing speed and efficiency. You might have to knock a wall down with the help of the explosive-friendly Pikmin and then storm a field of fire with heat-resistant Pikmin. Manage your Pikmin incorrectly and you will quickly find yourself in a dire situation. The only way to remedy a big loss is, of course, to breed more Pikmin, and that takes time.
That said, it becomes extremely important to take care of your Pikmin because of the tight 30 day schedule. Unfortunately, in game time each day is only about 15-20 minutes long depending on cut-scenes and pauses. So in the main adventure only amounts to about 10-12 hours of gameplay. This is perhaps Pikmin's biggest flaw. It rushes you through these lush environments forcing you to complete the game in about 10-12 hours. Ever worse the last two of the five environments are absolutely spectacular, packed with puzzles, and we need not spoil the awesome last boss for you. Why is that a bad thing? Simply because you don't want it to end. Pikmin is such a fresh, new kind of experience and you are rushed through it. It has that classic Nintendo feel, especially for some of the more clever puzzles and 10-12 hours just won't be enough for hardcore gamers. It's true that removing the 30-day barrier would create a less balanced play environment because you could spend weeks stocking up on Pikmin, but with a game this fun the adventure could have easily been twice as long without getting repetitive.
There is a point that should be considered, though. In all likelihood if Nintendo designed Pikmin to be a 20-25 hour adventure we wouldn't have been playing it until next year. This is also a classic trait of Nintendo's and the company is working hard to break it, cranking out more titles than ever before. So far the plan seems to be working. Additionally, you will unlock a Challenge mode in the course of playing the story mode. It lets you go back to the five gorgeous areas for all-new experiences where the world is littered with more boss figures and the object is to grow as many Pikmin as you can over the course of the day. This mode is also extremely addictive and will certainly tack on many more hours of gameplay.
With its varying levels of zoom it becomes blatantly apparent that Pikmin was designed to be seen from high above the ground. From the almost human perspective of looking down on ants below. Pikmin's environments look amazing, painted with lush textures, soft shadow effects that sway gently back and forth, and pristine waters that ripple. Additionally there is a great use of lighting as the day passes in real-time. Towards late afternoon a golden glow will consume the microscopic scenery and soon after as the sun sets a blue radiance will set the mood for night. It all looks absolutely amazing, and is admittedly some of the best texture blending and design we've ever seen. The development team reported taking photographs of gardens and forests, and staring at the scenery zoomed-out you really can appreciate all the art assets that went into the visuals. Enemy design and animation is top-notch, much of which will no doubt trigger constant chuckling.
When you take the camera in to its closest setting you will see a lot of texture seaming and an all-together blurry look. This is further exaggerated by the heavy motion blur effect Nintendo has implemented to give it a softer look. Fortunately, most of your game playing will take place zoomed out at a moderate level and from this perspective it looks stunning. Furthermore, it runs at 30 frames per second and does feature a little slowdown when facing the last gargantuan boss. Even so, Pikmin is easily one of the best looking GameCube titles yet.
Pikmin features an ambient soundtrack composed by Hajime Wakai of Star Fox 64 fame. There are five main themes to match the five environments and the whole soundtrack is dynamic, so if you approach certain enemies the music will fade to something more appropriate to suit the more dramatic situation. However, a few of the songs are downright cartooney, taking away from the picture perfect scenery. In fact, it's not the catchy Nintendo soundtrack that we're used to and is disappointing, especially considering you'll be hearing these 5 songs over a 10-12 hour period. In the end it's a matter of preference, but the catchiest theme ends up being the one we've heard since Pikmin's unveiling, which is now featured on the title screen. Equally impressive are the sound effects. Every different kind of landscape you run across has a different sound to it -- sand, grass, rock, and water all sound as you would expect. The enemy sound effects are also very clever and as you become accustomed to them you will identify certain sounds for what they are -- dangerous, and this adds to the gameplay experience.
source IGN Cube
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