Review by Tails 64

"Pikmin 2 expands upon its predecessor without losing its charm"

It all started on the day of December 3rd, 2001. The crowds flocked to get their hands on Super Smash Bros. Melee while alone in the corner sat a game with nothing but the Nintendo name to advertise. This severely underrated experience was none other than Pikmin. The game starred Captain Olimar, who crashed on a mysterious planet. While all seemed lost, this lucky man came across a mysterious creature, which he dubbed as Pikmin. By raising more and finding three varieties, he was able to use their loyalty and powers to fix his rocket and escape the planet before his death. The game was an incredible experience like no other and one of my favorite games of all time. Luckily, through word of mouth, the game sold well enough to put a sequel in the works. Can Pikmin 2 build upon the legacy of its ancestor and grasp the attention the series so rightfully deserves?

The story begins as Olimar lands home, sweet, home, Hocotate. Immediately, the president of his space freight company confronts him. He tells Olimar that the company has fallen into an unimaginable debt. A new employee named Louie had a rendezvous with a space bunny, who ate all of the golden Pik Pik Carrots he was delivering. The president tells his reunited employee that he sold the spaceship Olimar had just fixed to help get money. Despite the deal, the company is still in a devastating debt of 10,100 pokos. Olimar shows his boss a souvenir bottle cap Olimar found on the planet. Since Olimar and most characters are only the size of a coin, it is worth 100 pokos, which is more than a year's salary! The president decides to send Olimar back to the planet, accompanied by Louie, to find more treasure and save the troubled company. Though not an epic tale, it does have some shocking twists and tales as the game progresses.

The two captains are almost powerless, but the Pikmin return to help. The basics of these creatures remain largely the same. Pikmin will follow the captains as they traverse through the terrain. The henchmen can be dismissed with the press of the X Button, and they will split into groups by color. Often times a single Pikmin will keep following a Captain until the proper button is pressed twice. The creatures can be brought back to the side of the heroes by whistling with the B Button. Pikmin can be thrown with the A Button. If the button is held, the Pikmin will be, as well. While holding the helper, the color can be changed by pressing left and right on the control pad, a welcome new feature. The camera is controlled with the L, R, and Z Buttons. The L Button centers the camera, the R Button controls the zoom, and the Z Button puts the game into a bird's eye view. A new ground-level camera angle is reached by holding down the R Button. The Start/Pause Button will pause the game (surprise!) and allow access to various resources, such as the map screen. The C-Stick causes the Pikmin to bunch and walk towards the specified direction, interacting with anything they can.

And the Pikmin can interact with just about anything. If there is a pile of sticks, the Pikmin can build a bridge. If there is a wooden wall blocking your path, they can tear it down. If there is a treasure that needs to be taken back to the ship, they can carry it. The power of one Pikmin is little, but when in dozens, these tasks can be done in minutes. The Pikmin will even interact with certain objects without permission from their leaders. The alien organisms will pick tall grass for nectar naturally, and will interact with anything near them if idle, even if the result is death! Olimar and Louie must use strategy, leadership, and cooperation if their company is to be saved.

The character being played as can be switched with merely a press of the Y Button. The captains will follow each other, unless dismissed in the same manner as the Pikmin. Though the opportunities of controlling two people do not immediately present themselves, especially since a second player cannot join in during the normal game, they will become clearer as the game grows in difficulty. Olimar can be used as a decoy as Louie leads the Pikmin into battle, two groups of Pikmin can be made to search different areas, and more. It is amazing how such a small feature can cause so much innovation.

The Pikmin come in various colors, each equipped with its own set of abilities. The fireproof Red Pikmin are first in line once again. This breed also has a high attack power. Yellow Pikmin have seen some changes. Though these big-eared fellows still toss easier, they can no longer use bomb rocks. On the bright side, they have been blessed with immunity to electricity, which is now found regularly on the planet. The Blue Pikmin are still able to swim in water flawlessly. However, the line-up does not end there.

There are two new colors to be found in this sequel. One of which is the Purple breed. Having no connection with the Puffstool, these tubby guys are completely loyal. Their extra weight causes significantly more damage once tossed upon an enemy and can even stun the beast! Despite their slow speed, they can also carry ten times the weight of the average Pikmin. The other new style of Pikmin is the White Pikmin. Equipped with their glowing red eyes, they can dig up buried treasure. In addition, they are immune to all forms of poison. An extra bonus is that they will poison an enemy if eaten. Both of the new breeds actually have no Onion. Instead, they take refuge in Olimar's economy rocket. The slaves can be removed or deposited by Olimar and Louie at will. The only difference this causes is no easy way to produce seeds for new troops; Candypop Buds must be used. These flowers will take any Pikmin a captain throws into it and change it into the same color as the bud itself. The limitations on these resources add lots of strategy into the mix, as regaining these rarities is a difficult task.

Exploration of the planet is done in four different areas, which are based upon seasons. The layout of the areas is not a far departure from Olimar's first visit. The Pikmin Onions gather around the rocket, and the two captains are plopped out for the start of a new day. The locales are filled with puzzles, enemies, obstacles, and entrances to caverns. Nectar can be found to enhance Pikmin ability, and means to grow Pikmin are accessible. There are now puzzles that require Pikmin to use their weight to push down various objects. The scenery and course design slightly echoes the areas Olimar encountered during his first visit, which supplies some great nostalgia. Though the landscapes are massive and full of surprises, the explorers would be wrong to lazily lie around.

The time spent on one day is limited, so Olimar and Louie must be quick on their feet. The fear of running out of life support after a certain amount of days is gone, but sunset can still be tragic. If a Pikmin is left alone at the end of the day, it will be eaten overnight. Though not nearly as enforced in this game, it is still important that Olimar stays diligent and commands troops carefully. Players of the original Pikmin should feel right at home with this component of the quest. Except it should be kept in mind that this home is infested with monsters.

The Pikmin planet is by no means peaceful, as many terrifying creatures call it their home. These creatures range from the smallest of bugs to creatures that can defy gravity. Some enemies draw their inspiration from real creatures, such as the Wollywog, a hopping toad, while others are completely original, such as the Fiery Blowhog. Every foe has its own set of strengths and weakness. Some enemies eat Pikmin, while others can simply squish the little buggers. Which kind of Pikmin Olimar and Louie use can be vital to the success of warfare. Should speed be sacrificed for more power? Is it safe to be so close to water with Yellow Pikmin? These kinds of questions will float around throughout the course of the game. However, the combat is much more complex than that seen in Olimar's first journey.

A new function to be found on this gold hunt is the berry and spray system. Berries can be found upon certain flowers and taken down by Pikmin. If ten red berries are found, pressing down on the Control Pad allows use for an Ultra-Spicy Spray. It will temporarily power-up your Pikmin party. If ten purple berries are found, pressing up on the control pad will allow use for an Ultra-Bitter Spray. This fascinating chemical turns enemies to stone for a few seconds. This adds depth to any battle.

What was considered a boss in Pikmin may be a typical enemy in this robust sequel. The creatures found by the two co-workers and the little henchman are far more complex than anything ever seen before. Some creatures throw bomb rocks, some can fire missiles, and some have rocks fall from the sky. The hectic action in battle is undeniably fun, and the pre-battle plan requires plenty of thinking. The boss enemies are even more creative than the typical foes. Most of the chaos will be contained within caverns Louie and Olimar will stumble upon throughout the adventure.

When a cavern is found, Olimar's rocket will briefly describe the dangers within its confines. The information given will include whether or not the trial will include fire, water, poison, or electricity. After Louie and Olimar choose their Pikmin and enter, there is no turning back from the challenges they will face. The cave layouts are chosen at random due to a strong, magnetic force between the surface and the underground area. The amount of treasure and enemies will remain the same, but Olimar and Louie cannot expect to memorize the landscape. Time is frozen due to the same magnetic field, so the commanders can plot their action carefully. The game saves between sub levels to reduce frustration.

The goal of cavern exploration is to collect as much treasure as possible, reach the end of the cave, and escape without losing too many Pikmin. The depths of the caves are complex, full of traps and enemies, and can be very unforgiving. Every sub level presents its own challenges, all of which are related to enemies. Pikmin must be led carefully to find all of the treasure and to escape further into the depths. The final floor contains a powerful boss just waiting for Olimar and Louie to deliver lunch. Some treasures may even include power-ups for Olimar and Louie. These enhancements include fire resistance, stronger attacks, a larger whistle area, a treasure detector, and other useful upgrades. At certain points, there are geysers that allow for the gang to escape back to their rocket. If the foes of the cave become too much for the heroes, they can abort the mission by using the pause screen and escape with their Pikmin. However, it requires that all collected treasure be dropped. If Olimar and Louie are killed or lose all of the Pikmin, mission abortion will be inevitable. The amount of enemies in the caves can be ominous and can often send a chill down our petite adventurers.

After all of the suspense and drama of the day, Olimar and Louie can put their feet up, read incoming e-mail, and admire the Piklopedia, a brand new feature of the game. Any enemy or organism that was interacted with will be recorded into this useful resource. In the Piklopedia, certain characteristics and statistics are described of every organism. The treasure value, the amount of Pikmin it has killed, and number of creatures that have been killed will be displayed. Best of all, an interactive program allows Olimar to observe the enemy's behavior by throwing Pik Pik Carrots to it. Olimar's notes of the creature can be read, which include its name, lifestyle, etc. Louie will eventually add his humorous insight. The treasures found, which include objects of brand name companies such as Dr. Pepper, can be observed on a separate screen, as well.

The first Pikmin game was relatively skin and bones as far as features go, but Pikmin 2 can run circles around most any Nintendo game as far as the number of modes is concerned. The title screen, which can be manipulated by pressing buttons, allows for access to many different modes. The obvious features include Options and High Scores. The options allow the lucky owners of Pikmin 2 to adjust certain settings. These include sound settings, whether or not the controllers will rumble, and whether or not to use deflicker for the graphics. The High Scores option allows for a detailed insight on the scores of the single-player quest. The number of Pikmin born of each color, number of Pikmin lost to each death cause, game time, and number of days taken are tracked here with interesting artwork to go along with each statistic. The other modes include Challenge Mode and Two-Player Mode.

Challenge Mode is completely different from that of the original game. In this mode, Olimar and Louie are given set spray and Pikmin amounts to explore a certain number of sub levels in caves exclusive to this mode. Treasures must be found, enemies must be killed, and a key must be obtained for the co-workers to get the job done. Once the key is found, the portal to the next floor opens for the gang to continue. The amount of treasure collected and the amount of Pikmin that escape can affect the score given to the heroes after the course. The number of Pikmin of each color can highly affect what strategy to use, and a time limit encourages perfection, as well. A great bonus of this mode is that a second player can take control of Louie to help out. The single-player and two-player scores are tracked separately; therefore, a soloist has no reason to feel conned. This is a very fun and challenging mode that has a great reward for its completion.

Since the game is called Pikmin 2, Nintendo felt that a two-player mode would be appropriate. Surprisingly, it may be considered the ultimate improvement from the original. The basic concept is a battle between Olimar and Louie. Louie has Blue Pikmin, and Olimar is equipped with that of crimson. However, the colors merely distinguish the two teams, so Red Pikmin do not have enhanced attack power over their foes. A handicap can be set on the stage select screen, which affects the amount of Pikmin with which one character begins the warfare. There are ten stages to choose from, each of which are designed incredibly well. After all of the preparations have been made, the game can begin.

Each captain begins next to his proper Onion. The terms of victory for the combatants are to collect four yellow marbles, steal the foe's marble, eliminate all of the foe's Pikmin, or kill the rival captain. Each road to victory has its own advantages and disadvantages, so plenty of strategy is necessary. The courses are filled with enemies, pellets, nectar, and cherries. Once a cherry is quickly carried to an Onion, a roulette will begin. It has various effects, such as dropping enemies on the opposition or raising the amount of Pikmin on the home team. These effects can cause the tide to turn during cutthroat situations. The Pikmin of the two different teams can engage one another in battle. If a Pikmin of one team defeats the Pikmin of another, it will be re-planted at the Onion in three seconds. This means that rushing into the rival base just to attack is not always effective. The yellow marbles are spread evenly throughout the landscape and can be an effective backdoor strategy for victory. A captain's Pikmin cannot carry his own team's marble, so snatching the opponent's marble is commonly considered the best strategy. The sprays are in this mode, and the Ultra-Bitter Spray can be used to plant the foe's Pikmin in an instant, a very useful resource for marble stealing. The only flaw in this mode is that each team can only have up to fifty Pikmin, which is a very possible amount to reach in any match. Nevertheless, Two-Player Mode is a very entertaining addition to the Pikmin series that can blow hours of life by for those who have a Pikmin-adoring friend.

Pikmin was a short game packed with replay value, but Pikmin 2 is a long game also packed with replay value. Between the main quest and Challenge Mode, it may take over forty hours to conquer everything the game has in store. Plus, besting a previous high score never grows old in a game this entertaining. Two-Player Mode will also greatly extend the time spent with Olimar and Louie.

Though the list is small, the experience of Pikmin 2 does have flaws. The most extreme flaw is the ratio of cave and exploration time. Most of the game is spent in caverns, which means a wagon train of battling. This can cause a feeling of repetition to set in during some points in the game. Plus, frequent restarting will have to be used for most cave expeditions, so frustration may set in, as well. However, since the combat is highly entertaining, these are by no means game-killing downsides. This also means that comparing this game to the original may even be considered an apple-to-orange comparison. The first game emphasized quick exploration, planning, and managing the flower-headed henchman, while the sequel puts warfare in the front seat. Though the first game still has its undeniable charm, Pikmin 2 will be commonly accepted as completely superior through its new features and the fact that the soul of the original is still intact.

In addition to incredible gameplay, Pikmin 2 is a good graphical showcase. The landscapes are gorgeous when the camera is zoomed out far, but show blotches once up-close. Fortunately, rare are the times the camera needs to be pulled inward. The number of different environments is much higher in the return trip to the planet, thanks to the caverns. The character model quality is also greatly effected by the camera's position. The water effects do not dazzle as much as they did three years ago, but still manage to look realistic. Everything is animated well, and the framerate is smooth. Pikmin 2 runs at thirty frames per second and never drops the slightest bit, even during Two-Player Mode. The main downside would be that most of the graphics seemed recycled from the original experience.

A wonderful touch in the graphics is the splendid use of CG Movies. Nintendo does not use CG Movies much at all, but anyone playing just this game could never imagine this fact. The character models, from Olimar and Louie to the Pikmin, are truly brought to life during these sequences. The use of heat delusion is accurate, and the final scene of the quest is simply one of the most amazing spectacles in all of video gaming. Plus, all of the movies can all be accessed anytime via the Bonus option on the main menu.

The audio department of Pikmin's latest is also very impressive. The music used in every situation brings out the mood well. The feeling of a beautiful forest is achieved through the Awakening Wood's subtle tunes, and the music of the caves draws out the feeling of being a lost space captain very well, for example. The sound effects are very fitting to every situation, some of which are realistic, while others seem taken from a cartoon. Olimar and Louie have different sounds with their whistles, the captain will say their name when control is shifted from one to another, and the end-of-the-day music changes depending on which captain is in control. All of these are nice touches. Plus, the addition of the Pikmin singing as they run makes them truly seem alive. The only downside is that Olimar's boss is not given an actual voice during the CG Movies. When there is very little dialogue, using only text for speech seems very lazy on Nintendo's part. However, as a whole, the sounds of Pikmin 2 work well and should not be demeaned in any way.

It was a long, blood-filled wait for Pikmin 2 to hit the shelves. Numerous delays disappointed the masses; the writer of this review almost cried when these announcements were made. The extra development time was used to make Pikmin 2 “the quality Nintendo fans have come to expect,” or so says one of the game's creators. However, in the end, it can truly be said that Nintendo made the sequel the quality of greatness the little buggers deserve. The feel of the original is left intact and is even improved upon through unique additions. New modes and features will keep this game in everyone's purple cube for months. With any luck, this game will sell to the amount it deserves and truly be recognized so that a Pikmin 3 can be developed. Even as it stands with only two games, the Pikmin series is perhaps the most unique, exciting, rewarding, and incredible experience for video gamers to find on any console.

Gameplay: 10 – Though a small feeling of frustration and repetition looms in some situations, the amount of fun on this disc far surpasses most of the other games on the market.

Graphics: 8 – A very smooth framerate, cool menus, and great CG Movies make up for the poor up-close texturing.

Sound: 9 – A great score of music and sound effects brings the entire experience together.

Lifespan: 10 – Surprisingly, the amount of modes, courses, and treasures will keep most any gamer busy for a very long time.

Closing Comment: The only reason one would regret buying this game is that other video games may feel pointless if they are less than perfection!

Verdict (Not an Average): 9.5/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/05/07

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