With every Nintendo generation comes iconic titles. The NES had Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Kirby, the SNES saw Donkey Kong, Star Fox, and F-Zero rise to the challenge, and the Wii-U had Splatoon. Our review today focuses on the franchise that was born on GameCube, Pikmin, with the Switch release of Pikmin 1+2.
Pikmin 1+2 are HD ports of the GameCube versions of Pikmin 1 & 2 rather than the Wii re-releases dubbed “New Play Control!”. Anyone familiar with the titles and series should know everything they need to already with this, but for those who missed out on this RTS/Puzzle fusion based on Miyamoto’s back garden read on.
Pikmin stars Captain Olimar, who happens to be on vacation. This isn’t as peaceful as he would hope as his ship the S.S. Dolphin crash lands on an unexplored planet full of dangers. While figuring out how to repair his ship and get home, Olimar meets the titular Pikmin who have an almost obsessive need to help him.
Pikmin 2 follows moments from the closing scene of Pikmin 1, Olimar gets home only to discover his workplace is about to go bankrupt due to newcomer Louie losing a shipment. Just as it looks like it’s all over, Olimar drops a “treasure” from the planet he was trapped on and as luck would have it, it’s worth quite a bit of money. Olimar and Louie then return to the planet to help clear the debt and save the day again with the help of the ever-focused Pikmin.
The stories for both games are quite fun and the writing does have some comedy, with a lot of it is told in dialogue during “days” within the game rather than in cutscenes. It is a very traditional Nintendo title in the vein of Mario or Kirby where the story is there but you won’t be swimming in exposition or lore. Still, it gives you a reason to be commanding an army of sprout-looking aliens around Shigeru Miyamoto’s back garden and what more could you want?
I’m going to generalize the gameplay here across both games included in Pikmin 1+2, but I will point out the differences. As 2 is a direct sequel to 1 that was released only a few years after, the first game released in 2001 with the sequel arriving in 2004, there are a lot of common gameplay elements across both titles.
Pikmin as a series is classified as an RTS, but of course it has that Nintendo spin on things which is what makes Pikmin such a special title. For example, our hero who’s a big space explorer doesn’t have a skill set of his own, you control him and use his whistling and his ability to throw Pikmin to progress through the games. At no point can Olimar or Louie attack directly or even jump. They are more like the personification of a traditional mouse cursor, only with the caveat that they can die!
The titular Pikmin are your main tool for getting anything done on this planet and the main way to get them to do anything is to throw them at items, enemies, or obstacles and watch them do their thing. Pikmin comes in a variety of colors, red, blue & yellow in the first title with the second title adding another two variations in purple and white. The color of the Pikmin is a visual indicator of what they can do, for example, red Pikmin thrive in fire whereas blue Pikmin are the only variation that can swim, it’s with this mechanic that the puzzle elements of Pikmin come in.
While you’ll be using your Pikmin to survive, the bulk of your time will be spent amassing an army of Pikmin to suit your needs. Perhaps there is a lake for you to cross, and you’ll be sending your blue Pikmin over to the other side to complete the half-built bridge because, of course, swimming wasn’t part of your space cadet curriculum. The little kick you get from successfully micromanaging your Pikmin to achieve a goal and open the world up a little more is such a hit you can’t help but spend hours of your night trying to conquer the “distant planet”.
Mechanics & Difficulty
None of the above would work if it was overly complicated but again Nintendo have managed to utilize their magic and make a console RTS work! It’s a mixture of easy-to-remember controls and the fact your character is the cursor. You’re in the mix with your Pikmin, and not only does it offer a more personal experience but also stops you from getting overwhelmed. It’s simply a joy to play a third person adventure that has many features from the Real Time Strategy genre and doesn’t have me stumbling over the controls every couple of seconds.
Pikmin 1 is possibly the most infamous of the Pikmin titles due to its strict 30 Day time limit, which if failed does present a rather dark ending scene. Pikmin 1 is set across 30 days of Captain Olimar being stranded on the “Distant Planet” due to his ship being broken into pieces on landing. Having to return to his ship overnight to avoid being poisoned, Olimar enlists the help of the Pikmin to find his ship parts and return home. Iffy camera controls aside it still holds up well if you don’t mind the pressure being on and it will do wonders to perfect your multitasking.
Pikmin 2 follows the good ending of Pikmin with Olimar returning home and through luck ends up back on the Distant Planet trying to find treasures to save his failing company. The time limit is gone in this title allowing more freedom to mess up or just explore with room for trial and error. Pikmin 2 also introduces Louie as a playable character as well as new combat options such as a spray that stops enemies. There is also the major addition of caves which act as traditional “game dungeons” featuring tougher puzzles and enemies, all of which must be conquered to get every piece of treasure in the game.
QoL & Presentation
If you are familiar with these titles it’s worth letting you know there are no new additions nor extra quality-of-life improvements. These are simply the GameCube releases, available on the Nintendo Switch allowing people to play the entire series (Hey Pikmin! excluded) in one place.
On the presentation side of the table, Pikmin 1+2 is pretty much just an upscaled version of what was available on the GameCube. It’s a shame that Nintendo didn’t do a little more with this re-release as a way of enticing people to return to these older titles, but the strong art direction and the fact GameCube wasn’t exactly a hideous console in terms of graphics means that despite a lack of bells and whistles these two titles still hold up well enough in the sound and vision department.
What you do have is one of the better looking early GameCube titles that while aged when compared to titles like Pikmin 3 and 4, still hold their own. The sheer amount of on screen characters at any time is staggering when you consider these were GameCube titles. The planet looks alien but familiar with its “Earth” features, and the predatory aliens look dangerous yet have that textbook softening that a lot of Nintendo created threats have, Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time excluded.
You’ve got a handful of earworms when it comes to songs and some great sound design. I can’t tell you how much sleep I’ve lost and guilt I’ve gained from the piercing screams of Pikmin being eaten. The sound design is brilliant and you know if you’ve discovered something or if there is imminent danger, there is a slight atmosphere created by the music but not enough to give you a heart attack like in Aliens: Dark Descent. It all works and works well.
Pikmin 1+2 is a brilliant package for people who have been missing the games since the GameCube/Wii or gamers curious about why Pikmin is so beloved. If you are coming in from Pikmin 3 or the recently released Pikmin 4 then these titles will feel painfully barebones. If you can look beyond the age or perhaps play in order of release you’ll see that just like the Pikmin, humble beginnings spout into beautiful flowers.
PIKMIN 1+2 IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk