Review by andymancan1

"If you ever want to eat PikPik carrots again..."

PROS: Great tutorial; requires much thought; not too overwhelming; addictive; cute and fun

CONS: It doesn't last forever

Of all the GameCube launch titles, this is one of a few that actually got noticed. You know that Super Smash Bros. Melee was the best, but I personally believe that Pikmin was a close second.

You play as Captain Olimar. You're in the distant future, traveling through space. Suddenly, a meteor comes out of nowhere and hits your ship, the Dolphin, and you go crashing down to the nearest planet- Earth. A meteor has killed off life as we know it, and there are several different life forms on our planet. Olimar somehow survives this crash. His ship doesn't. The Dolphin is in pieces, but still somewhat functional. It can launch but it can't leave the stratosphere because it's too risky. Olimar meets one of these new lifeforms, which he called a “Pikmin” because they resemble the PikPik carrots he eats every day. If he ever wants to eat some more of those carrots, he has to escape from the planet in 30 days before the oxygen kills him. So he becomes a Pikmin breeder and uses the Pikmin to retrieve his ship's engine, and then has to use three different types of Pikmin to retrieve the other 29 parts.

The crash-land-on-strange-planet story has been told many times before, but the way it's told here is pretty fresh. The Pikmin add a new element to the game, making it feel like an RTS, although it's a whole new type of strategy game. The game's first day is a walkthrough, basically. You still have some things to figure out on your own, and then you're pretty much done for the day. After the first day, you have little to no help whatsoever. The way this tutorial is done was perfect for the ‘Cube's launch lineup. Since everyone playing this game was pretty much a noob at the console when it came out, this tutorial made it very easy to pick up the controls in the game's first five to ten minutes, which is how long the first day lasts. And these controls are pretty solid. There aren't any fancy combos here. The game made the controls pretty basic because there's no need to make them fancy. This makes perfect sense and almost anyone can pick up these controls pretty quickly. You can throw Pikmin, use your horn to move them around and run into enemies (killing the enemy), disband the group and call back only Pikmin of a specific color.

Every day after the first consists of breeding more Pikmin from the enemies that you kill and pellets that you find while hunting down your ship parts. You can devote an entire day to breeding Pikmin, and I suggest you do just that if your numbers are low. The Pikmin are great workers, and will haul everything back that you tell them to (you are restrained by your space suit and can't haul anything back). The Pikmin have a motive, too, but I can't tell you what it is. Pikmin are pretty weak as individuals, but they pack quite the punch in large groups. Make sure you have plenty of them when you go attack enemies, because even if you take out 100 to take on the Armored Cannon Beetle, there'll be less when you return. However, the Pikmin are pretty smart. They can knock down gates, build bridges, attack enemies when they're near, and even take apart flowers and help their “buds” blossom to make them swifter (this element adds additional strategy- determining if you want to make your Pikmin stronger). If they fall off an edge and lose control of a ship part or spoils, they'll chase it down. They also will keep attacking enemies once they've started, until the enemy has perished. Idle Pikmin will haul nearby items back to camp. They know what their jobs are, and they're very loyal to you. You won't have many problems with them, that's for certain.

As I said, there are three types of Pikmin. Reds are fire-proof and slightly stronger than the others. Yellows are lighter (and thus can be tossed higher) and have a strange attraction to explosive rocks, which they can throw to knock down rock walls and eliminate enemies. Blues are amphibious. You have to use all three types in order to get some parts. Knowing exactly how can be tricky. This is all up to you, and sometimes you'll have to backtrack to the portable Pikmin storage facility, called the “Onion” (there is one for each type of Pikmin), and get out more Pikmin (these Onions will follow you into the stratosphere every night because of the dangerous nocturnal creatures). All of this may seem overwhelming, but it's not. Since there are only three types to keep track of, it's pretty easy to know what you need because you can look at the map and find out if there is water or ledges near each ship part. And since some parts aren't necessary for ship function, you don't need to get everything if you're running out of time. The game will mention this but not tell you which parts are optional. It's pretty easy to figure out looking at them, though, since the parts are bigger than you are. But it's all up to you.

Each of the five areas here is magnificently done. There's little backtracking involved here, just between two ongoing operations because you can't handle more than that at a time because you can only take out 100 Pikmin at a time. This makes management easier. If you could have 200 Pikmin, that would be too chaotic. The ways that you retrieve parts is different each time, too. Only a few are in just plain sight. Most of them require tricky combos or killing a boss. The bosses here are well-done, too. They fit with the game, and none of them are too easy to defeat. Each boss requires thinking and strategy. A lot of times, you'll lose many Pikmin in a fight, even with some of the regular enemies. The enemies differ in each location. For instance, there are frog-like Wollywogs by areas with a lot of water, and Bulborbs everywhere. You'll encounter several different enemies, and each requires the right strategy to defeat.

The graphics in this game are excellent. Each part is distinguishable from every other part (except the two sets of duplicate parts), and the Pikmin stay the same color that they're supposed to be unless you dump them into the color-changer, called the Candypop Bud. They do lose their luster if they're not with you, but the tint is still clear. The water looks amazing, and the animations feel realistic. Also, the music is very good, too. It adds the necessary, relaxing feel of what the atmosphere feels like: pretty and soothing, even though you're not there to relax. It does seem appropriate for the atmosphere.

On the downside, this game is pretty short. Since there are only 30 parts and 30 days, you'll likely have beaten it for the first time in about a week. But this game is gorgeous while it lasts, and it's definitely worth playing if you haven't already. It's worth going through again after you've beaten it the first time. Plus, there's a bonus Challenge Mode, which is a one-day Pikmin breeding challenge. This adds an extra game here, and it's worth a try. Pikmin is a great game, and anyone who has a ‘Cube should try it out sometime if they haven't already. I dub Pikmin with a 9 out of 10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/08/06

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