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by Nintendo

pikmin5.jpg (5907 bytes)So, what is Pikmin? Pikmin is a game where you, as Captain Olimar, recruit and control little plant people called Pikmin. You can control up to one hundred Pikmin at once. You then send your horde of Pikmin off to perform various tasks such as slaughtering enemies and performing manual labor.

pikmin2.jpg (6297 bytes)Now, my question is, does a simple storyline, combined with colorful graphics, intriguing elements of strategy, puzzle, adventure, and strange creatures collectively known as Pikmin warrant my hard-earned cash? Sure, what the hell. It feels wonderful to be in the role of Captain Olimar; however, I’m sure Mr. Olimar would disagree since, after all, he has only thirty days to acquire thirty parts to his ship before his life-support systems are overcome with poisonous oxygen.

pikmin9.jpg (6441 bytes)On your first day, you acquire the first of three Onions (giant pods) that house and carry your Pikmin from day to day. Your first experience is with the red Pikmin or, as I like to refer to them, the muscle. They’re limited in versatility, but are great at bringing down most of your walls and larger enemies in good time. This day is meant to get you used to organizing and maneuvering your Pikmin, but I found that really didn’t get ingrained into me until I worked through the second and third day, where you have more obstacles and a wider range of enemies.

pikmin8.jpg (7045 bytes)At first, I thought it was kind of odd that Miyamoto would be trying his hand at a strategy game. I have also been one of those gamers who hedge away from strategy games on the console platform, since a majority of the titles out there on the PC rely upon a mouse or mouse-like controls and are poorly converted over to the PSX, DC, or what-have-you. Control of your character, Olimar, and his Pikmin is pretty straightforward and only involve learning a handful of tricks. You can toss your Pikmin, rush enemies with your Pikmin, or shuffle them around via your C-stick. Obviously, the Pikmin will follow you through most everything, so be careful that both you and them are able to traverse the terrain, i.e. you’ll notice that not all of your Pikmin are able to swim and in fact will drown if you take them into the water. An expensive mistake if you’re short on Pikmin and time. No worries if you kill off all of your Pikmin, the Onions they fly around in will spawn another sprout at the start of the next day, but this, again, can cost you in the game if you haven’t acquired a part already.

pikmin6.jpg (8078 bytes)Once the game gets going, you soon, and sometimes fatally, realize time plays a key role. There’s no way to slow it down. No special gizmos. No power-ups. It keeps flowing along—even if you make huge mistakes or fail to acquire at least one piece of your ship. Remember, thirty parts, thirty days, so no wasting time. It also becomes increasingly important to maintain a healthy supply of Pikmin. You don’t want to go and get them all killed in one place, especially some of your more valuable ones, i.e. the blue Pikmin who are the only ones capable of wandering through water. You can also have your Pikmin cut down flowers or acquire objects that they return to their own Onions to become more Pikmin sprouts. You’re Pikmin will also, if they find it, pluck grass from the ground and feed upon a type of nectar that causes them to quicken their speeds. The more speed you have, the quicker it is for you to make your way across some of the larger regions in the game (five total).

pikmin4.jpg (8089 bytes)As far as the camera perspectives are concerned, you have three levels of zoom and the ability to watch your characters from a semi-side-view or a bird’s eye view. I found that the bird’s eye view combined with the lowest-zoom was the most efficient way of working through the terrain of the game, while switching to a closer view helped with battling enemies.

pikmin7.jpg (8348 bytes)The one downfall Pikmin has is that it’s short, only about fifteen hours of play-time. I found myself exploring my area just to look at the beautiful scenes instead of searching out and picking up ship parts, but this is something you can do if you have time to spare in the evening and can afford to reset a day. It takes about 15 – 20 minutes of real-time to make it through a Pikmin day. Some critics would say that you aren’t afforded any time in the game, but that’s really where the strength of the game comes in. It’s true to form. If you’re any good, you can quickly figure out how to grab two or maybe even three parts in a day. I found I was able to do this a couple of times in a row, thus increasing my time buffer for the later levels. Granted, this came with resetting and retrying a day here and there, but it wouldn’t be a true game if you didn’t have to do that from time to time.

pikmin3.jpg (9038 bytes)A notable mention for the game is the quirky music it comes with. The music was one of the first things I was exposed to when I first saw Pikmin and it just stuck. For some reason I really enjoy the game music. It’s light, fun, and goes completely with the garden-like scenes you wander through with your teams of blue, red, and yellow Pikmin. A definite must have for soundtrack buffs.

pikmin1.jpg (11787 bytes)All in all, this game ranks up there as a must for your GC collection. It’s the first, truly awesome game I’ve seen on the Gamecube. I’m eager to take a go at the already in development Pikmin II, which promises to be a much larger and richer chapter to the new Pikmin series. Just plain cool, and well worth a bit of cash from my account.

Matt Baldwin   (01/15/2002)


Ups: Innovation; great visuals; excellent gameplay; nice synthesis of genres.

Downs: It's short.

Platform: text