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Don’t be fooled by the cute critters: Pikmin 3 is a brutal battle for survival, where every wasted second could result in you and your mates getting munched on by some truly grotesque monsters.
It’s also one of our favourite Nintendo games of the HD era: a deep and demanding strategy adventure, with intuitive controls and expansive environments taking the series one step closer to achieving Shigeru Miyamoto’s vision for a bustling nature sim.
But back in 2013 Pikmin 3 also felt like it could’ve been better. Its 8-hour campaign is as entertaining and imaginative as anything you’d expect from the House of Mario, but it also left us wanting more.
Enter Nintendo Switch’s inevitable Deluxe release, a full-priced expansion which adds split-screen co-op to Story mode, a new difficulty level and Piklopedia feature, and a roster of Side Stories featuring Captain Olimar and Louie. It also includes all the original’s paid DLC content for Mission Mode, an arcade-style selection of quests against the clock.
In other words, if co-op and side content doesn’t excite you, then there probably isn’t much reason for those who already played and enjoyed the Wii U original to return, beyond revisiting a beloved game.
The new Side Stories are, sadly, more in the vein of lightweight score attacks than the chunky Story expansions we were hoping for. Technically, the port is also disappointing, with hardly any visual changes from the original and while it plays great, it’s arguably no better than the already-intuitive original.
But even if you have seen most of it before, Pikmin 3 is an adventure that’s well worth a second look and we thoroughly enjoyed revisiting its familiar gardens on a more convenient device. For everyone else, it’s an expedition you definitely won’t regret.
The adventure kicks off, naturally, with an intergalactic traffic accident leaving the three crew members of the SS Drake stranded on the faraway planet PNF-404. Thankfully, this lush garden world is the home of the Pikmin, an obedient, plant-like race who love nothing more than lifting heavy objects and fighting giant monsters for alien visitors.
The trio of space men and women must uncover the missing parts of their ship, as well as seeking daily fruit rations in order to survive. Luckily, there are more than 60 giant fruits littered across the game’s various maps, and the explorers need their seeds to help replenish resources on their own home planet, Koppai.
“In full flow, commanding armies across the battlefield to defeat enemies and harvest the planet, Pikmin 3 makes players feel like a space-age conductor waving their hands.”
Pikmin 3 is a game of strategic efficiency, with players tasked with achieving as much as possible during a 15-minute day, before retreating to the safety of the stars at sundown. The result is an experience that, in contrast to the serene surroundings, can often be quite stressful as players attempt to order their Pikmin around the environment as efficiently as possible.
With three controllable heroes, five defined roles for Pikmin and the biggest environments in the series, mastering multi-tasking is essential to navigate the harsher areas and carry foraged fruit back to base in time.
During the campaign, players can interchange between protagonists Charlie, Alph and Brittany with the press of a button. This allows you to simultaneously put several groups of Pikmin to work in various locations around the map, whether it’s to gather resources, tear down a wall or build a bridge piece-by-piece to access a new area.
The five varieties of Pikmin boast various unique abilities; Red Pikmin are invulnerable to fire, Blue Pikmin can breath underwater, while Yellow Pikmin can jump higher and conduct electricity. The new Rock Pikmin can smash glass walls and barriers, while Winged Pikmin can… well, fly.
Frequently you’ll need to combine Pikmin types, or even explorers to solve environmental puzzles, for example by throwing a space-mate along with a Pikmin army up to an out-of-reach area, before switching views and continuing to explore.
The Wii U version of Pikmin 3 already boasted some excellent control schemes, with the precise and intuitive Wii RemotePlus and GamePad combo proving the highlight. Deluxe naturally adds its own options while, surprisingly, leaving some of the best aspects of the original behind.
“Thankfully, Deluxe does well to emulate the Wii RemotePlus using the Joy-Con’s motion controls… It works well and does a good job of replicating the original, even if it doesn’t surpass it.”
The biggest miss is the lack of touchscreen support which was added to Wii U after release. This was clearly the best way to play portably in the original, and it’s not entirely clear why Nintendo didn’t attempt to replicate it.
Thankfully, Deluxe does well to emulate the Wii RemotePlus using the Joy-Con’s motion controls, allowing players to aim and toss Pikmin in a system like that seen in Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ port of Super Mario Galaxy. It works well and does a good job of replicating the original, even if it doesn’t surpass it.
In full flow, commanding armies across the battlefield to defeat enemies and harvest the planet, Pikmin 3 makes players feel like a space-age conductor waving their hands. It’s a satisfying, tactile sensation that has yet to be replicated by any strategy game since. If you’ve yet to try Miyamoto’s captivating garden game yourself, this should definitely be on your wishlist.
For the rest of us, whose pint-sized armies already conquered Pikmin 3’s core challenges many years ago, there’s little here to attract you back beyond a welcome revisit through a familiar garden. Just try not to get eaten.
Its new content may be underwhelming, but this demanding strategy adventure is still well worth a revisit.
- A deep and demanding strategy adventure
- Responsive, intuitive controls.
- 2-player co-op is a welcome addition
- New content feels lightweight.
- No touchscreen controls.