Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a Nintendo Switch port of the rarely celebrated, real-time strategy puzzle game Pikmin 3. Like many games ported over from the Wii U, Pikmin 3 Deluxe uses its additional time in the sun to demonstrate how the series has blossomed into something captivating and difficult to ignore. In this case, though, Nintendo barely needed to make any changes to the core title to escalate it to something grand. That said, the changes that were made, such as the ability to play the game’s story mode in co-op, do present an enticing argument for upgrading from the original Pikmin 3, depending on what players are seeking from their experience.
In Pikmin 3 Deluxe, players take control of Brittany, Alph, and Charlie — three spacefaring crewmembers of the S.S. Drake who have crash-landed on a planet called PNF404 after their mission to locate resources for their famished homeworld of Koppai goes awry. While lush and serene at a glance, the unfamiliarity of PNF404’s towering features poses a threat to the separated adventurers.
Like in its predecessors, players will harvest little plant pals called Pikmin. These pluckable minions are controlled in squads of up to one hundred creatures to navigate the game’s world, which is rife with monsters, puzzles, and food that will need to be brought back to the S.S. Drake for sustenance. In all likelihood, Pikmin 3 will be one of the most light-hearted games you’ll ever play about fending off death from starvation. Despite the light-heartedness, cute critters, relaxing music, and beautiful environments, there is a certain sense of tension in the game’s race against the clock.
Every mission is timed and if players don’t return their Pikmin to their bases by nightfall, they risk losing them to the predatory beasts of the night. This timed element means there are optimal approaches players can utilize as they play and replay stages. Deciding on whether or not to seek perfection is one way in which players can engage with the game on their own terms. New difficulty settings, like an “Ultra-Spicy” option that decreases the maximum squad size to sixty, are another. Additionally, the “normal mode” has had the length of its day increased so players who dread the potentially stressful dusk, where they must frantically recover stray Pikmin from across the map, can enjoy a more relaxing, laid-back experience.
What elevates Pikmin 3 and, by extension, Pikmin 3 Deluxe above the first two games of the franchise is the ability to alternate between characters in a level. Because of this ability, the puzzles require more creative solutions. For example, players will frequently need to throw the different crewmates over obstacles, toss them a suitable number of Pikmin, and play through parts of the level with that split front. The end of the day can be more chaotic as well due to the necessary scattering of Pikmin. This entry to the series varies its level design even further with the addition of the sturdy grey Pikmin and the flying pink Pikmin to the familiar roster of yellow, red, and blue Pikmin.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe’s control scheme works well, which is important when so many units need to be controlled. Largely, the player uses a whistle button to call Pikmin to their location and a cursor to direct the Pikmin to do other activities. With Pikmin 3 on the Wii U and New Play Control! versions of Pikmin and Pikmin 2 for the Wii, Nintendo added new control options that used the motion controls of the Wii Remote to give players more control over the cursor. This “pointing” style of play is simulated on the Nintendo Switch with the gyroscope inside the Joy-Cons. It sometimes requires frequent centering of the cursor using the R button, and there’s a bit of a learning curve, but the motion controls in Pikmin 3 Deluxe are a valid, and potentially preferred, way to play the game. For me, it certainly helped in managing all of the different on-screen elements.
A co-op partner is another way to better manage a squad of Pikmin. Pikmin 3 Deluxe offers a handful of cooperative modes, but the ability to play the game’s story in its entirety (after the second mission, anyway) can be a game changer. There’s a thrill in sharing the chaos with a partner, and the processes of puzzling through challenges together or allocating and swapping Pikmin is an engaging way for two people to spend some time, even if that sometimes means one player might be waiting for the other to finish a task. Then, if they want, these better-bonded buddies can go undermine all their team-building with the game’s competitive four-player multiplayer option, Battle Bingo. It shares a name with the multiplayer mode from Pikmin 2 but there are some notable changes. For starters, players can use a variety of Pikmin colors, rather than just one, as they race to collect different fruits to fill out a line on a bingo card. There is also a rule variant that adds a “capture the flag” aspect to a match.
As I said before, Pikmin 3 Deluxe didn’t need to change a lot from the original game to be of value. Largely, it hasn’t. It is, however, more than what would commonly be referred to as a “definitive edition.” Like a definitive edition, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does include all the DLC from the Wii U version of the game, but charming new unlockable stories featuring the protagonist Captain Olimar from the first game, and his deuteragonist, Louie from the second game, have been added. Pikmin 3 Deluxe also sees the return of the Piklopedia from Pikmin 2, which is essentially a checklist of flora and fauna for the player to fill out. Then there’s the portability that the Nintendo Switch is bringing to the table, even if Pikmin 3 Deluxe isn’t showcasing any sort of visual enhancement. And even though Pikmin 3 was released in 2013, the stylized graphics, and vivid colors that the series is known for, appear about as modern as any other Nintendo Switch title.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe is an excellent excuse for dedicated fans to re-experience the game, just as it is a welcoming place for newcomers who have never touched the twenty-year-old franchise. I should mention that all of this does come at a risk; playing Pikmin 3 Deluxe might spark a desire for a Pikmin 4 which, judging by the span of time between the release of Pikmin 2 and the release of Pikmin 3, can be a troublesome longing to endure.