After eight years of vague comments, fruitless rumor, and strained patience, Nintendo is finally taking fans back to the land of Pikmin with Pikmin 3. Wii U will have a strong first-party title right out of the gate, but does Pikmin 3 live up to the name? Based on the hands-on demo I played at E3, the answer is simple: absolutely.
Nintendo provided a two-part demo: a seven minute tutorial level and a boss fight. The tutorial level allowed me to play with the controls and gather fruit to score as many points as possible in the time limit. I used the Wii Remote and Nunchuk for this demo, and the Wii U GamePad was set up in front of me to use as a map of the land. While I was disappointed that I was using the same Wii Remote and Nunchuk that I already own, I was quickly reassured that the Wii U controller would be compatible with Pikmin 3 at launch.
I quickly learned that pointing the Wii Remote at the screen is essential to success. I pointed to direct my Pikmin at objects before throwing them, to whistle for new Pikmin I found in the surrounding flora, and to guide my Pikmin into battle with the new kamikaze charge move. I wonder if pointing at the screen is actually easier than whatever control scheme (likely right-analog control) Nintendo has planned for the Wii U GamePad, anyway – hence the reason I wasn’t using the new controller. The rest of the controls were simple: the A button launched Pikmin at whatever I pointed at, the C button on the nunchuk switched between the types of Pikmin I would throw, and shaking the nunchuk would initiate the kamikaze charge I mentioned earlier.
The tutorial also introduced me to a new kind of Pikmin: Rock Pikmin. These bulky creatures are heavy and durable, perfect for throwing at some of the obstacles in my way. Normal Pikmin could break down dirt walls blocking my path, but those made of solid ice? Nope, time to chuck some Rock Pikmin! I got a certain satisfaction from using Rock Pikmin in the tutorial, like a child on Christmas morning taking new toys for a spin. These guys were solid and hard to kill – a welcome addition to the Pikmin family. The rest of the tutorial level was standard Pikmin fare: gathering fruits and other materials, fighting Bulborbs and other monsters, and using nectar to make my Pikmin stronger.
After the tutorial level, it was on to the boss fight: a giant centipede covered in ice. I couldn’t take the guy head on, because his two tusk-like appendages would close, trapping any Pikmin inside and turning them into a snack. I had to focus on his body, and because of the ice coating it, that meant one thing: Rock Pikmin! After smashing the ice off of the boss’s body, I could then throw all the Pikmin I had at the giant bug, slowly damaging it. At times, the centipede would use the environment to its advantage and walk up the sides of the stage, but when he came back down my Pikmin bombardment eventually defeated him.
In both halves of the demo, I was continually amazed but how detailed and lush the environment looked around me. The Wii U’s processing power is on full display here, as each leaf and blade of grass is rendered in amazing detail. Even the enemies have some detail to them, as the white spots on the Bulborb now sink into the creature’s body, creating a new way to look at an old foe.
I really enjoyed what I saw in the Pikmin 3 demo, despite it not playing radically differently from the previous Pikmin games. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that when I returned home from E3, the first game I played was Pikmin. I’d say the Pikmin 3 demo did its job, and I really hope the game is a Wii U launch title. I don’t want to wait any longer than I have to to play more Pikmin.