With the Wii U further slipping into the annals of history, Nintendo have been quickening the process of plucking the divisive system’s best first party titles and sprucing them up for their incomparably successful hybrid console.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was honestly a no-brainer for the gaming giants, and it’s been followed by Donkey Kong, New Super Mario Bros. U and plenty more, but now we’re a few years into the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle, it’s less obvious titles that are undergoing the same glow-up, the latest being Pikmin 3.
Having launched almost a decade after Pikmin 2 on the GameCube, Pikmin 3 was widely celebrated by critics though wasn’t exactly the kind of system seller Nintendo desperately needed at the time. Several years later again, there’s a good chance this might be your first foray into the bizarre world of Pikmin, but don’t worry, you needn’t have played those previous two games in the series. Although you’ll cross paths with established Pikmin characters such as Captain Olimar, there’s little in the way of story and any kind of plot quickly gives way to a sense of exploration.
As strange as it looks and feels, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is relatively easy to get your head around. With your home planet Koppai suffering from famine, brave explorers are sent into space in search of food to bring back home. After landing on the world of PNF-404 you soon discover a bounty of fruit as well as plant-like aliens known as Pikmin.
It’s your job to go from level to level, collecting as much fruit as you can and learning more about the biosphere of this strange planet. This is done by navigating with your assigned characters, lobbing Pikmin at enemies, fruits, and other points on the map to interact with them.
Pikmin come in several colours, each with their own unique traits, though there’s a fair amount of overlap. For example, Red Pikmin are your primary attackers and can withstand fire, while Yellow Pikmin can resist electricity, linking together to form a conduit. It’s only once you’ve discovered all types of Pikmin that you can fully explore a level.
In the game’s story mode you’ll have set objectives which often culminate in a major discovery or a boss battle. However, there’s plenty of freedom to explore too, harvesting more Pikmin and adding fruit to your finite reserves. While missions aren’t timed, you can only remain on an expedition for so long –once the sun goes down you’ll consume a unit of fuel and any roaming Pikmin will be gobbled up.
This adds a sense of urgency and forces you to be more efficient in how you play Pikmin 3 Deluxe. After all, if we were to categorise this Nintendo Switch exclusive it would be as a strategy game first and foremost. Spliced with action set pieces and environmental puzzles, there’s an overriding focus on Pikmin management and it isn’t long before you’re given multiple characters to control, allowing you to spread out and cover a wider area.
It takes a few missions to get to grips with how the game flows, but once it snaps you’ll enjoy peeling back the layers. The only thing that stands in the way of this is how Pikmin 3 Deluxe plays. Corralling, then cycling between different Pikmin squads feels tricky and imprecise. Without the luxury of a keyboard and mouse, console strategy titles have struggled and while Nintendo’s attempt at gamepad controls is serviceable it’s not the most fun to get your head around, especially when there’s a lot happening on-screen.
Thankfully Pikmin 3 Deluxe has made some quality of life improvements for its Nintendo Switch reincarnation. There’s an easier difficulty story mode for a start as well as the option to bring a co-op buddy along for the ride. This comes in hand with better target locking (replacing the Wii U’s touchpad aiming) and a hint system always ready to point you in the right direction.
For those returning to Pikmin 3 since its original release, there’s new content too. Deluxe packs from all the post-launch DLC as well as new missions featuring Olimar and Louie have been thrown into the bundle. There’s also a competitive Bingo Battle mode which pits two players against each other as they scour maps for resources needed to complete lines on their card. Nintendo have also bolstered Pikmin 3 with achievement-like badges for those wanting to wring even more playtime from the game via tracked challenges.
This all comes in a delightfully designed package that has Nintendo slapped all over it. Pikmin’s wild worlds are teeming with monstrous minibeasts and other creepy crawlies. You’ll find pieces of fruit and other human objects scattered around the game, many times bigger than you and your Pikmin companions. This sense of scale is enhanced with a subtle tilt shift visual effect, as if you’re peering into your own garden down the lens of a powerful microscope.