Eight years (or nearly 3000 days) have passed since Nintendo released Pikmin, a thoroughly entertaining action-strategy romp for GameCube. Now, Wii owners who either missed the franchise during its first run or don't mind going back to it again can experience it with a welcomed new save function, an added 16:9 widescreen mode and, most importantly, new Wii pointer-based controls. These additions update and improve upon what was already an excellent Nintendo exclusive effort that never received the same caliber of attention as its Mario and Zelda based brethren. Pikmin is great fun on Wii, but some of its design fundamentals and visuals were ultimately bettered by its sequel, and sadly these changes were not translated to the New Play Control! reboot.
Supposing you're completely new to the series, Pikmin is a Nintendo-developed hybrid of action and real-time strategy that successfully translates the basics of games like Command & Conquer -- namely, infantry deployment and resource management -- to a presentation less daunting and mechanics more accessible. The result is a cute, charming affair through a stylized world that is inspired by Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto's backyard. Back in 2001, we scored the title a 9.1 and highly recommended it to our readership. And since the content of the game itself has not changed for the WIi reboot, you might want to skim through our original review as a complementary piece to today's re-review, so to speak.
You control Captain Olimar, a galactic explorer who has recently crash-landed on an alien planet, his ship blown to pieces. He has only 30 days to find the scattered bits and put his craft back together before his oxygen runs dry, a prospect so grim he dare not contemplate it. Luckily, he soon discovers plant-like creatures he calls Pikmin, and these dedicated soldiers follow his every command. Using their strength in numbers, he embarks on a quest to piece his ship back together before it's too late. The result is a fun and intuitive adventure in which you command up to 100 Pikmin of different colors (red, yellow and blue) and functions to build and destroy, to attack a variety of buggy enemies, to collect items, and more.
On GameCube, this was done (rather well, even then) with the GCN controller's analog sticks, but the New Play Control! version makes use of the Wii pointer for added speed and accuracy. This single enhancement really does improve the way the game handles, as you're suddenly able to simultaneously manipulate Olimar with the nunchuk's analog stick and separately give commends to Pikmin in all directions by pointing and deploying. It's more natural, it's tighter, faster, and it just feels altogether right -- the way it should've controlled from the beginning. The scheme works so well, in fact, that it really gives me hope for Pikmin 3, a ground-up Wii game confirmed last year.
The environmental puzzles and enemy battles remain untouched, but you will find yourself with a greater sense of confidence as you search for ship parts because the Wii remote is made for games like Pikmin. This truth is particularly noticeable when facing off against enemies because you can simultaneously deploy Pikmin and run away from would-be attackers, a proposition much more difficult with the GCN control configuration.
The design annoyances of the original Pikmin have sadly not altogether vanished in this Wii update, though. Although Nintendo created a wide spectrum of lush greenery, rocks, ponds, and vegetation to marvel it in Pikmin, it also imposed strict time limits to which you had to obey in order to successfully complete the adventure. Every day begins and ends with the sun, which rises and sets in a real-world span of about 15-20 minutes, and you'll need to make the most of that time because you only have 30 days to do everything you need to do. Therefore, you often find yourself trekking through levels as quickly as possible in order to ensure your success -- a disappointment given that you will want to slowly and meticulously comb the locales and take in the scenery. This drawback was addressed in Pikmin 2, which did away with such time limits, but it remains in the New Play Control! adaption of the original game.
To its credit, Nintendo has at least included a new save function that enables you to go back to any of the previous days you've completed and play them again. So, if you blasted through Day 4 and got a lot done, but really botched Day 5, you can revisit the previous day and start from there. Or, more dramatically, if you made it all the way to the final day and realized you just wouldn't be able to complete the title, you could go back to the point when it all went wrong for you -- say, Day 16 -- and start fresh. It's a welcomed inclusion, but a forewarning: you've got three total save slots, so use them all -- if you journey backward to an already-played day, it'll start there and overwrite the progress you've made since.
I'm amazed that even eight years later, Pikmin still looks good on Wii. I don't know if that's because Nintendo was just that good back in 2001 or if it's because third-party developers are just that bad on Nintendo's system now. Whatever the case, the Pikmin remain as cute and cuddly as ever and the environments detailed, complemented by a host of effects like shimmering water and object specularity. It's only when the camera pans close to the locales and you spot the muddied textures that you can really see the difference between then and now. The good news is that Pikmin hits Wii complete with a 16:9 widescreen mode, a small visual extra, but I'll happily take it.
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