To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before
This may come as a shock to you readers out there, but I am something of a Nintendo fan. Clearly, this is an utter surprise to you, given the stuff I generally write on here. Who here would think that I enjoy my Mario games, my Zeldas, and my Pokemon. But just because I like Nintendo games and franchises does not mean I know every Nintendo game and franchise out there. There are some huge gaps in my gaming knowledge in general. One of the many franchises that fell through the cracks of my gaming knowledge is Pikmin.
I vividly remember seeing ads for this game and thinking it looked really weird. Especially when the sequel came out. But very few of my friends in High School went for the Gamecube. And thus, I missed out entirely on this quirky little Miyamoto creation. And because the franchise gets very few releases, I always assumed that it was sort of a flash in the pan thing that no one really liked.
But a couple of years back, I was going through one of my favorite LP channels and discovered a “Let’s Play” of Pikmin 2. Needing something to fill some time, I decided to give it a watch.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me that Pikmin was actually cool?!?”
I loved it immediately and I considered tracking down the Gamecube games for myself but wound up holding off. This was partially due to the size of my current pile of unplayed games, and partially due to me worrying that this would be another game that, if I actually sat down to play it, would wind up being a major trigger for my anxiety issues. So, I’ve been sitting, waiting curiously for the release of Pikmin 4 ever since.
We have not received a Pikmin 4 yet, but Nintendo decided to throw a softball my way anyway. Just in time for Halloween, we are getting Pikmin 3 Deluxe for the Switch.
Thankfully, prior to release, Nintendo decided to release a demo for it. This got my attention straight away.
For those of you completely unfamiliar with the series, in the Pikmin series, you are a diminutive alien (or in the sequels, multiple diminutive aliens) who crash lands on a strange, alien world. You find these little plant creatures (the Pikmin) direct them to to explore the planet. The Pikmin come in different flavors with different abilities allowing you to battle the occasional example of local fauna, gather resources, and eventually find a way back home.
Anxiety and Stress
Diving into this demo for the first time, I was a little nervous. Given how my mind works, I was not entirely sure if I could handle the micromanaging of the squads in this game. Would it be something which would cause me to stress out, and fling the game down in frustration?
Much to my surprise, so far it hasn’t. Oh sure, I am still very early on in the noob portion of the game. And I do not quite have a handle on organizing and switching between squads. But I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this game and not really stressing about it. I’m a little confused myself, given Stardew Valley has been known to stress me out, but it is nice to be able to enjoy and even relax in the game.
Easing You into the Pikmin World
I think part of the reason why I am not as stressed about this game is that it eases you into the world. A lot of people joke and complain about the length of Nintendo tutorials, and how much the games “hold your hand”. But, as a newcomer to the series, I appreciate the amount of help I have been getting so far. It begins with simple tasks, tells you how to perform them, and then gives you slightly more complicated variants on the tasks. It doesn’t overload you with features all at once. While veterans of the series are probably a little bored, I appreciate the assistance as I learn how this game works.
Even though I am not too far into the game, I have been finding the demo to be relaxing. Most real-time strategy games tend to be heavy on resource management and combat. While these are present in Pikmin, that is not really the main focus. Your goal is not to build a world-conquering empire, bent on wiping out your enemies. Sure, there are things that attack you, but they aren’t actively malicious or evil; they’re animals, looking for a meal.
The Real Focus is Exploration
I’ve jokingly described Metroid Prime to my friends as less of a first-person shooter and more “Myst except you happen to have guns and things shooting at you.” Pikmin really feels like the RTS (Real-time strategy) equivalent of that. What you are doing is trying to figure out new locations to get to, new things to find, and new ways to overcome obstacles using the various Pikmin you discover and pluck. While there is a certain amount of time pressure such as returning your Pikmin to their homes before nightfall or making sure the Pikmin are well-fed, it never feels overbearing. Ultimately, this game feels like it’s about the sheer joy of exploration and discovery.
While I am still very new to the franchise, I am already getting excited about Pikmin 3 Deluxe. While I do not think Pikmin will be in danger of overthrowing my favorite Nintendo franchises, it is certainly worthy of standing alongside so many other great games. If you have never played a Pikmin game before, I recommend checking out the demo. It may surprise you. Many other Switch owners out there will be eagerly hoping for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity this holiday season, but I am hoping to find Pikmin 3 Deluxe underneath my Christmas Tree.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe will be available on the Nintendo Switch on October 30.