Review by Destination
"Tiny Creatures, Big Fun"
They are multicolored beings with the power to do anything they set their mind to. Though small and vulnerable alone, in groups they can overtake even the mightiest of creatures. They obey orders from their respective captains and will work tirelessly to get the job done, even if it means sacrificing themselves. From collecting treasures and digging their way through the deepest caves, to fighting enemies ten times as great, they are always working. This work comes through their dedication to Captain Olimar, someone who had worked with them in the past and helped them overtake their greatest foe. When a dilemma comes in the form of financial trouble this time, it is up to these creatures to get out of the ground and back into the field of danger. This time in their most difficult adventure yet, filled with surprises and hazards at every single turn. They are the Pikmin.
Nintendo's unique and innovative strategy game has returned in its second form, and it's as colorful as ever. The game continues from where the original had previously left off. The captain heads home after getting all the parts he needs, and he looks forward to getting back home for some relaxation. However, that thought is hopelessly stepped on due to a technicality at the industry that Olimar works for. Seems that his partner Louie, had trouble on his last transport, in the form of some giant space rabbit. They lost all of the cargo on board, and the company had to pay off a huge loan to compensate for the lost items. Now the company is in debt 10,000 pocos and it is up to the captain and Louie, to head back to the Pikmin world, to collect treasure to pay off this huge debt. Though it would be impossible on their own, Captain Olimar has a few ideas on who just to call for to help them out with this task.
For those that are not familiar with how these little guys work, it is all about task management. The colors of red, blue, and yellow have returned to the playing field back with some new abilities of their own. Red have immunity to flames and can take out fire traps with ease, they are also the best basic fighters. Blue are the only ones that can seem to get their feet wet and have no problem maneuvering through liquid terrain. Yellow can handle even the strongest volts of electricity and they are also the only ones with ears. Does that make any difference? No, it just makes you wonder how the others can follow the captain's orders if they are physically deaf. The depths of the world also hide some new faces, those in the form of the gigantic purples and the tiny mutant whites. Got a large enemy that is too menacing for the others? Send a group of these tiny sumo's and overwhelm the enemy with their might. How strong are these little guys? Well, lets just say they have the might of ten Pikmin each, so not only will you use them for tough enemies, but for carrying heavy items as well. Whites are unique in the fact that they can handle the element of poison. This means that they are poison themselves, and can be a nasty thing for the enemy to swallow. Unfortunately for your foes, there is no antidote.
Time is not an essence
On the last episode of Pikmin, you were forced to recover every part for Olimar's ship within thirty days or he would perish. Thankfully now that you are here on a treasure hunt the chains of time no longer hinder you. While the days still go by on the outside, from sunrise to sunset, there is no set day limit. Go ahead and play to your eyes bleed to get the quickest day completion, or take it easy and play till day 100. The one thing I wanted most in this game was more exploration and the lack of time hindrance. Nintendo has answered both of my hopes, and given everyone a chance to enjoy the game on their own terms. Now though it is an achievement to beat the game as quickly as possible, there is also a reward for sticking around well into the latter days. That being the game throws some new challenges and enemies to fight as time wanders on. So, if you are looking for a challenge it is even more fun to stick around in the story mode. However, there is one thing that encompasses all the difficulty in this game and it comes in the form of caves. So, get your spelunking gear on and watch where you step.
Though the outside world holds treasures themselves, the main thing you will be doing out there is opening up the caves. There are a few of these within each level and it is where you will be doing most of your strategic planning and treasure hunting. One great thing about these underground realms is the lack of any time movement whatsoever. So, chuck your watch away and relax, as you will need all your bearings to take on each cave's difficult puzzles and challenges. Here is how it plays down; there are several sub-levels in each cave, each with their own set of enemies, puzzles, and treasures. At the end of each cave you will have to take on the boss, which is always a blast to do battle with. Management is the key in this game, as you will have to split up into groups to save time and to keep the health of your group in check. You may need a lot of Pikmin to handle certain foes, but recklessly sending your whole fleet into the heat may cost you dearly. Scouting with the captains, grouping certain colors for specific tasks, and balancing your troop's numbers are all examples of things you will be doing. The balanced difficulty of each cave is done well, and as you grow stronger, the game's trials will as well. The only complaint I have is that some caves are a bit lengthy and can grow a little tiresome. Luckily the game saves itself between each sub-level, so you can always quit and come back later.
Most of you are probably thinking if there is actually anything else out there beyond these cavern stages. Yes, in fact, exploring the outside territories is actually a lot of fun as well. There is plenty of treasure lying out in the sun for you to grab, and using good time management is key if you are going for a quick day finish score. Use the poison Pikmin to take out that infected gate, while you have the other group taking tabs back to the ships to harvest more numbers. It is key to keep your eyes on your Pikmin at all times, because at times they can separate at will, accidentally fall into hazardous conditions, or become swallowed up by hidden enemies. Another small complaint I have is that sometimes the little guys can get lost or begin carrying something back to the ship when you do not want them too. It is a bit frustrating to accidentally lose a chunk of your group to a fluke, and have to take the time to harvest more, to replace your numbers. However, if you are careful, you can avoid problems by learning when to whistle your group together, disband them, or whistle them into patterns. It is this great real time control that separates this game from a lot of the other pause based strategic games out there.
As you are no doubt paying more attention to the task at hand with your Pikmin, it is worth it just to take the time out to look around for a moment. The pseudo-3D environments are quaint, yet very impressive, all at the same time. Take a glance at the flaky snow in the Valley of Repose, the huge lake of water that streams down the rivers in the Perplexing Pool, or the colorful gardens in some of the underground cavern environments. The character models of the Hocotates, Pikmin, and enemies are all well rendered and unique in their own way. Some enemies are merely different shades of colors from their other forms, but that is not without a change in their talents as well. The day to night sequences and lighting effects are beautifully transitional, and make you feel like you really are working the day away.
Though the game's visuals do not disappoint, the sound of the little guys traveling with you may crawl on your nerves after a while. As you are telling them tasks to do or just running along your merry way, the Pikmin will be constantly running their mouths. They are cute to listen to, but after the 150th yahoo and yippee, you feel the need to throw some of them off a cliff (which I have done accidentally," plenty of times). The music on the other hand is very quiet and atmospheric. There are even times when the music is withheld, leaving quiet and serene areas. This all changes when you hear the boss battle music, which is very upbeat and makes each boss battle as intense as the first. The unpredictability and uniqueness of the sound is why I think the good triumphs over the obnoxiousness in this area. With that change the volume levels at your own discretion.
The lack of any real multi-player in the first game was a disappointment and cut down on the replay value of the game. However, you and a friend can get it on now in two different modes of play: challenge and battle. In challenge mode you are given a certain amount of Pikmin and you must complete each unique stage in a certain time limit. The more things you collect, Pikmin you save, and time you complete each stage in, will affect the score you get. Working together with a friend and balancing tasks between the two of you is fun, and the difficulty bases itself on whether you are alone or with a friend. If you are getting into a kick ass mood, you can always switch gears and play the battle mode. Have each of your little slaves do battle with one another, try to take out each others captain, or collect each teams marble or flag and go for the win! There are several ways to battle one another and the diversity of these modes will have you all playing for quite a while. You will have to earn challenge mode though by beating the story mode, so good things come to those who wait.
With easily over thirty hours of game-play, new multi-player modes, and plenty of things to collect, Pikmin 2 is one of the better Gamecube games to come out in a while. Though strategy games are not really my favorite genre, Nintendo managed to add that special touch of adventure and exploration to draw me in again. On top of working off the debt, there are over 200 treasures to collect, and a device that keeps track of all the enemies you have seen in the game. There is definitely plenty to keep you playing and even if you did not like the original, I suggest you look into buying this gem. With a few complaints aside, Pikmin 2 follows in the footsteps of a long line of innovative titles out there and is one you do not want to miss. Now if only these things were real, life would be so much simpler. A man can dream though a man can dream.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/04, Updated 09/20/04
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