Exploration Day 1
It’s said that, while gardening, Shigeru Miyamoto spotted some ants working together as a group to carry some tree litter back to their nest. The Pikmin series was roughly based on this encounter; although, what I think that what Miyamoto really wanted to do from the beginning was not to imitate the behavior of ants, but to recreate and present the wonder of a world from their perspective.
In my six short hours with Pikmin 3 so far, I can see how much energy and care went into making this perspective a humbling one.
Moments after crash landing on a seemingly uninhabited planet, I’m standing in a dark cave. Two small, bioluminescent mushrooms occasionally reveal the face of some sort of horrifying creature scurrying around in the shadows. Wait, no—not just one, but six. In the background, the soundscape is so vivid that the echo of the falling water droplets moving between the Wii U GamePad and my T.V. screen often fools me into thinking that my den is, too, a part of the world created by Pikmin 3.
And what a world it is.
It’s been about six hours since I took control of Alph and Brittany (and, at this point but to a lesser extent, the captain), two intrepid explorers from the planet of Koppai whose passion for foraging fruit often outweighs their efforts to save their captain, and something’s hit me: This game is all about perspective. Again, I’d argue that Pikmin was never about working alongside little ants, but about experiencing the world through their eyes.
Objects on the horizon come into focus as you approach them, and things we might nonchalantly excuse as humans, like this root “cave” in the game’s first area create a potent sense of danger and suspense among the crew of the S.S. Drake.
Pikmin 3 puts you on the other side of the magnifying glass—making the tiniest stream of water a massive river, or the shards of a broken clay pot a makeshift bridge. This sense of scale is set up at the very beginning of the game, when Pikmin 3’s logo appears over the massive, earth-like planet that provides the setting of the story, and then brings you down to its surface, where you are dwarfed by flowers and weeds we, as humans, could trample without a second thought.
In many ways, the controls are built to reflect this perspective. One function of the GamePad (or KopPad), for example, is to give you a bird’s eye view of the world map. When you use the stylus to examine the map on the GamePad, it pauses the game and creates a bird’s-eye view of the area you’re exploring—allowing you to see where all of your Pikmin are in relation to your captains, where important landmarks are located, and where unexplored territory begins. You can also select an area on the world map you’d like the captain you control to go to, and then, like an ant farm, watch them go to work on a pseudo-two dimensional plane.
And That’s not all it does either. The KopPad is what the three explorers use to communicate over long distances—prompting you to look at the GamePad if you’re using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk control scheme. It also allows you to receive messages from your ship, the S.S. Drake, when it’s preparing an analysis of fruit you’ve scavenged from the planet’s surface. While this is a predictable aspect of the GamePad’s integration with the game, it nevertheless amplifies the very humbling perspective of Pikmin 3.
The GamePad also has a camera feature, which will allow you take pictures of anything happening in-game from Alph, Brittany, or the Captain’s perspective. When you pair this with the absolute preciseness in conveying real-world textures, you can get some amazing photos. This is also the primary drive behind the Miiverse features in the game—allowing you to post the pictures directly to the Pikmin 3 community without having to exit the game. This really lets you capture the charm and wonder of the planet’s serene and surreal landscape… and the odd habits of the Pikmin.
Pikmin 3’s world is so vivid and lush that you’ll often find yourself baffled that David Attenborough wasn’t hired to narrate it. I’m looking forward to what I’ll discover in the next few days of exploring it, and what I’ll be able to share with all of you in turn.
Food For Thought:
1. The game really shows off what the Wii U can do. I’m happy saying that, with a proper set up, the environment looks more realistic than any other video game I’ve played to date. Those are big words from a guy who watched E3 this year.
2. Pikmin 3 brings with it a new style of tutorial—one that’s sorely missed at that—and that’s by integrating instructional gameplay with the story. The tutorials are relevant to what you’re doing, so you’re not going to be dragged out into the tall grass and taught how to throw a Pokéball for the twentieth time.
3. All of the sound effects in this game were recorded to perfection. When something hits glass, you know and feel like something’s hit glass. I’ll get into what that means after spending some more time with the new types of Pikmin over the next few days.
4. Don’t forget to collect fruit! You create your time limit. Ever fruit yields a certain amount of juice, which you need to survive, and although you have an unlimited number of days, your days will be numbered if you don’t collect enough food!