Pikmin GameCube Review
When Shigeru Miyamoto steps out of Nintendo’s Kyoto Offices for the last time, he will be best remembered for his Zelda and Mario franchises which have captured the imagination of gamers the world over. His most recent franchise, Pikmin, is unlikely to be remembered as fondly as Mario and Zelda will be, yet it is perhaps his most inventive idea since the original Zelda made its debut on the NES almost two decades ago.
Much like the bulk of Nintendo’s back catalogue, Pikmin has quite a unique background behind its conception. The idea for the game came to Shigsy whilst he was pottering around his garden; the story goes that whilst doing this, he was astounded by the variety of wildlife in his garden and the way they combined their strength to work together in teams. Presumably he then decided that the concept was ideal for a video game. Several years later, the end result was released. Originally intended to be a GameCube launch title, Pikmin was delayed till around a month after the launch of the cube and received excellent reviews.
The game itself is perhaps more reminiscent of RTS titles such as Command and Conquer than any of Miyamoto’s previous franchises. However, whilst the idea of a strategy game on a console has in the past been enough to strike fear into the heart of most gamers, Pikmin is designed from the ground up for Nintendo’s console on which it works beautifully as a consequence. Gone are the clumsy mouse cursors, usually copied directly from PC versions of such games, replaced by a controllable lead character. That character is Captain Olimar, the captain (and sole crew member) of a spaceship which has crash landed on a strange planet, leaving its various components scattered across the planet’s surface. Alone on the planet’s surface, Olimar soon discovers a strange race of creatures which he names Pikmin due to their significant resemblance to the Pik Pik carrots which he was delivering.
Olimar controls the Pikmin by use of a whistle, which creates a circle when blown, which increases in size as the B button is held. Once within this circle, Pikmin follow Olimar’s every step. The player controls Olimar directly, however when alone he is of very little use, capable only of running around and attacking enemies by head butting them, something which does very little damage. Although, when he is controlling the Pikmin, he can use them to attack enemies by throwing them and though an individual Pikmin is no more powerful than Olimar himself, as a group they have tremendous strength. But they aren’t just useful for attacking enemies, together they are capable of carrying heavy items which Olimar alone cannot manage, this comes in very useful in order for him to return the missing parts of his ship to where they belong. Not only that but the Pikmin can carry numbered Pills which are used to create more Pikmin. These pills are obtained by defeating enemies, which Pikmin return to their homes – flying Onions – which follow Olimar’s ship around the planet. The onions then spit seeds out which grow into new Pikmin instantly.
Unfortunately Olimar can only survive on the planet for 30 days before his ships life support systems run out, the only way to repair them being to fix his ship. Each day in the game lasts around 20 minutes and Pikmin must be returned to the ship before it goes dark or they will be eaten alive by the planet’s inhabitants. Disappointingly, this detracts from the fun, forcing players to rush through the game somewhat instead of taking it at their own pace and exploring. This also means that the game is over much quicker than it should be. It is not particularly difficult but at the same time there is little room for error and players cannot afford to waste a day, as it can be the difference between survival and failure.
Along the way Olimar encounters three different species of Pikmin, all with unique abilities. Red Pikmin, which are the strongest Pikmin and resistant to fire, Blue Pikmin, which can survive in water and Yellow Pikmin, which are capable of picking up and throwing bomb rocks. Their various abilities are essential to tackle the planet’s environment and return the parts to Olimar’s ship. This is done by navigating the environment, knocking down walls, building bridges and defeating enemies to reach the various parts. Any work done by Pikmin during the day remains the next day and at times days can be spent clearing the path to the various ship parts which are then recovered the next day.
Graphically Pikmin remains one of the most impressive GameCube games, almost 5 years after its original release. Reportedly modelled on Shigsy’s own garden (What an interesting garden he must have…), the environments are beautifully modelled and feel truly alive. Olimar and the Pikmin also look fantastic and are as instantly memorable as any other Nintendo characters, which is quite unusual for a game of this genre. The sound is unmistakably Nintendo with a typically jolly musical score and quirky sound effects.
Overall Pikmin is an excellent game which sadly suffers as a consequence of its own storyline. The 30-day time span forces players to rush through the game and one can’t help but feel as if there is still much left to do once the game is completed. It certainly is a strange twist from a company renowned for putting an emphasis on exploration. Fortunately, the outstanding sequel resolves this problem and is a better game by some way. That shouldn’t put you off the original Pikmin though, it is still a superb game and well worth owning, particularly when it can be picked up on eBay for just over £5. A flawed work of genius.