There are journeys which expand the possibilities of its respective genre, and it's in these transcendent moments when the sheer potential of gaming is fully realized. Pikmin 3, a visually stunning and evocative search for physical and spiritual nourishment, is a huge reason to own a Nintendo Wii U. As you lead adventurers Alph, Brittany, and Charlie on a mission to save their planet, it's the beautified wonder of Pikmins who light the way.
The opening moments of Pikmin 3 features the space travelers split apart after their craft crashes on an unknown planet. This separation enables us to see the world through Charlie and Alph's eyes during different stages of the first act, and eventually the missions start focusing on Alph's mission to bring the entire gang back together. Since he has control of their ship, Alph will spend the days searching for his friends, and by nightfall he must head back to the skies and peer out into a lonely universe.
Pikmin and GameCube loyalists understand that although the hero's trials may start from a solitary place, teamwork and a sense of community is the frachise's thematic lifeblood. Without the supervision of different colored Pikmin, each with their own command of certain talents and resistance to certain elements, planet exploration will definitely end in one's immediate expiration.
Since the day goes pretty fast whenever you land on the planet, it's mandatory your tasks are focused and expedient. While you are attempting to find new fruit for sustenance, and explore more areas in the planet, you must also sprout more Pikmin from the ground to build an army of faithful workers. Pikmin are needed to destroy seemingly impenetrable walls, build bridges across streams, and even carry corpses to the Onion (the moniker of their ship). Even though I love its philosophical reach, I still have my share of animal driven desires. Making connections are all fine and dandy, but ordering my crew to haul off a dead creature kind of makes my day.
With having the power to control all your travelers and the different legions of Pikmin, multitasking is a diverting, yet complicated process. The day goes by way too fast for my own liking, and without pinpoint organization, very few tasks can actually be completed during sunlight. When the first strains of darkness comes, one of your travelers must whistle as loud as possible to gather all the troops together and lead them back to their ship, and even that takes a bit of time.
If I had my druthers, I'd spend an inordinate amount of time telling my Pikmin to leisurely build that bridge. Unfortunately, we are given the briefest of moments to get our respective jobs done, and getting back to our planet is of primary importance. So it may be a pretty game, but don't let yourself linger in all its beauty.
The heart of Pikmin 3 lies in its inspired evocation of the circle of life. Each conflict, whether it leads to a slew of Pikmins losing their lives due to your own mismanagement, or the slaying of one of the planet's many creatures, has a profound consequence. An adversary's death isn't used as a simple point mechanic -- their fuel brings much needed energy to the Pikmin, and select flowers will also lead to the birth of more new beings.
How you handle the rapid propagation of a species, as well as collecting fruit and vegetables to ensure your own crew's survival, calls into play your own attitudes towards life. Are you pained when you send the wrong Pikmin into battle and see them turn into ghosts before your very eyes? Or are you a mad general, ready to send these critters into the front lines and do your bidding? Since supervising and delegating are not my natural skill sets, I have made huge errors of judgement on the planet. Sending Brittany to battle a boss without enough Rock Pikmin is a move I'll always regret, and she still doesn't forgive my massive mistake.
If your daily tasks aren't met, or if you completely screw up your mission, you can replay any of your days to retrace your steps. Do overs are always good, and by your second time you'll probably get a better grasp of your environment and how to achieve your current mission. It took me a couple of times to save Brittany, and at least she was thankful when she reunited with Alph.
Pikmin 3 effectively integrates the GamePad into your journey, and oftentimes you will navigate around the planet by checking out the downloaded map on your controls. Your game progress, various hints on how to accomplish your objectives, as detailed information on Pikmin 3's intricate world, are all available to peruse on your GamePad. Having a controller that does more than move a character is one of the main strengths of the Nintendo Wii U, as its complementary relationship with the main console brings a bit of tablet gaming into the mix which, depending on your passion for handheld systems, can truly enhance your love for the house that Mario built.
I also love the simpler aspects of Pikmin 3, and reading diary entries of the day's progress gives me a much needed breather from the day's activities. Plus, it's also great when there's a subtle message behind all that progress.
Pikmin 3 is an all encompassing experience that, if you're completely committed, will seduce you into hours of addicting game play. Being hooked on a game is a cliche that gets thrown around like Christmas candy these days, but it's the only way I can sum up my time with Pikmin 3.
I know there is a world outside my window, and strangers to meet and greet and possibly even love. But my newfound friends also need some tender loving care. It's okay if you hold on to your GamePad a bit tighter than before. Letting go is hard to do, no matter how many people, or Pikmin, are by your side.
This review is based on a retail copy of Pikmin 3 for the Nintendo Wii U.