The Final Stretch of Pikmin 3 Turns Atmosphere Into “AtmosFear”
Exploration Day 3:
As my Pikmin marched the last of PNF-404’s fruits back to the Drake for analysis and juicing, I began to feel a sense of closure about my journey. My days on this distant planet’s surface were drawing to an end, I thought, and the countless battles my crew met in this deceptively beautiful landscape led me to approach all dangerous situations as a calm tactician—and not a panicked cadet. Yet, there remained in the air some lingering sense of tension.
Perhaps the feeling of safety I was experiencing was a façade. In fact, I was certain of it. Captain Olimar was still missing, and all Louie could reveal about his whereabouts was his location; he knew nothing of the nature of the captain’s disappearance. The image of the Hocotatian’s dilapidated ship in the lair of the Quaggled Mireclops has haunted my thoughts for some time.
Surely, if the Mireclops itself was responsible for trashing the S.S. Dolphin, the ship would hardly be identifiable—smashed into small bits spread about the behemoth’s lair—but it stands, its structural integrity deteriorating rapidly as the native vegetation reclaims it. There is something out there, waiting for me, I think, at the Formidable Oak.
I was right.
Seeing the Plasm Wraith loom eerily over the unconscious Captain Olimar made me recall my previous encounters with similar enemies on PNF-404. Only two were comparable to this one—the enigmatic Goolix and specter-like Water Wraith—both threatening in their own way. The Plasm Wraith took a page from each of their books.
There was little time to ponder its motives. As I approached it, it quickly sucked Olimar into the gaping hole where its face should be and morphed into what looked at first to be an impregnable sphere before my eyes. Its defenses were no match for my crew’s rock Pikmin. It quickly dissipated, and the Olimar was relieved from the creatures grasp. With haste, I commanded my flying Pikmin to carry him back to the Drake—but in a flash, the creature returned, pursuing not the crew members of the S.S. Drake, but Captain Olimar himself.
All I learned about the Plasm Wraith’s habits came to me passively in the form of Data Logs dropped by Olimar during his many escape attempts, which I collected whilst Brittany lead the creature in circles around the Oak. His diaries reveal that the creature never harmed him… but it would not relieve him from its custody. Every escape attempt was met with a hot pursuit, resulting in his space suit’s forced-sleep mode activating, and ending with him waking up in the center of the peak of the lone oak, day after day.
Before I could do any more, the day was drawing a close, and I was forced to leave Olimar in the hands of the sluggish Plasm Wraith. I knew no harm would come to him, because no creature dared harm the Wraith. As I watched my crew launch themselves into orbit over PNF-404, I am hit with the realization that Olimar’s condition must not be dissimilar to that of the S.S. Dolphin’s—still standing, but only just barely. Saving Olimar would take more than just a single day. Perhaps two, maybe three. Ultimately, however, I knew it would all end with a showdown between my crew and the Wraith.
Well, that might not be the kind of narrative the game was trying to offer up, but it’s certainly the atmosphere that it created for me. Just give the Plasm Wraith’s Theme a good listen, and you’ll probably feel that same sense of eerie discomfort and fascination that I did. The final battle puts everything to the test, and it will be the bane of Pikmin-perfectionists (meaning that, I’m sorry, you will not leave this battle with 0 pikmin casualties). There is plenty of theory out there, but there’s no doubting that, to some extent, fate plays a crucial role in bringing the elements of all three Pikmin games together.
Although I won’t reveal to you the details of the Pikmin 3’s ending, I can’t help but share one particular detail. As you arrive at the end of the game’s adorable staff role, you’re treated a tranquil scene depicting Pikmin lounging on the remains of a downed sapling, staring off into the late evening sky. All of a sudden, a shooting star appears, and one by one, they start to walk toward it… but is it a shooting star, or another stranded traveler?
Something to note is that you don’t have to stop playing Pikmin 3 after you’ve finished the main story—in fact, there’s still plenty to do! You can hop into Bingo Battle with a friend, for example, and try to complete a line on a bingo board by battling baddies, collecting fruit, or uncovering miscellaneous artifacts from a time long since past. You can make it a race to see who can build their army the fastest by setting the Pikmin you begin with to five, make it an all-out brawl by increasing that number, or set a handicap to give a new player an advantage over a veteran.
If story mode is the heart of Pikmin 3, then the mission mode is almost certainly its soul. It falls in line with the core mechanics of the game so well that that you’d almost believe that mission mode is the game itself. So, what do you do? Well, you’re given a day to collect treasure, find fruit, or kill baddies with a squad of Pikmin. When you bring these items back to your ship, they’re scanned and evaluated in terms of pokos (in the world of Pikmin, pokos is currency)—the more you get, the better ranking you receive at the end of the mission.
I may have finished Pikmin 3, but it’s not the kind of game that you’d tuck away in your collection, never to play again. No, it’s the kind game you set tenderly aside your favorites, knowing it won’t stay there long enough to gather dust.
Before we move on to some last-minute thoughts, I want to talk about something. Pikmin 3 made such good use of the Wii U GamePad that I find myself undoubtedly optimistic about the future of the Wii U. Although it didn’t tap into the new controller’s full potential, it demonstrated some great features and set a solid foundation for its future controls. It seems like the GamePad’s function will change from game to game, making each and every experience a unique one. The Miiverse integration was seamless, and it worked perfectly in the world of Pikmin 3.
Food for Thought:
1. Shigeru Miyamoto has stated his opinion on DLC for Pikmin 3, saying that he’ll seriously consider adding more content if fan outcry is loud enough. Well… get to it!
2. I previously mentioned that I dearly miss the Piklopedia, an effective log of each and every creature on PNF-404, and I just want to reiterate that point. Pikmin 3 has plenty of character and charm, but the Piklopedia is what helped shape Olimar’s character in other PIkmin games, so why not add it here, with entries from each of the Koppaian crew members? Perhaps in DLC?
3. If you’re looking for a low-stakes multi-player game, look no further. Pikmin 3’s multiplayer really is something special – and I’m enjoying it almost more than I enjoyed the story.
4. This may be the third installment in the Pikmin series, but it’s the kind of game that also feels like it could be the first. More than any of the other Pikmin games, the third is what one might call timeless.