Shigeru Miyamoto is roundly considered the world's greatest videogame developer. His masterworks are imitated dozens of times over; has defined the evolution of each console generation since the NES. On 16 May, 2001, at Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference in Los Angeles, the Master revealed the secret project for which he's apparently postponed Mario: Pikmin.
Planet of the Pikmin
A space traveller crashes on an uncharted planet. He survives the impact, but before he can return to his travels, he must rebuild his decimated craft. And he must hurry: his life support is waning. Thankfully, the little spaceman discovers an alien life form willing to obey his every directive--the pikmin.
Pikmin are semi-intelligent creatures with the biology of a buttercup and the locomotion of a bi-pedal rodent, roughly the size of an ant. The Pikmin can be nurtured from leaves to buds to flowers, ostensibly to augment their abilities. The spaceman engenders affection from the little flower-bugs; they help him collect his ship parts, he helps them defeat and evade their natural enemies. Time is running out--the spaceman must rebuild his craft, or his reserves will fail, and he will die.
The game is described in Nintendo's press packet as an "action strategy;" the gameplay fundamentals are reminiscent of the Lemming's series. Miyamoto's spaceman herds the scattered Pikmin and commands them to execute such procedures as bridge-building, wall-toppling, and ladybug-beating, to facilitate the reassembly of the space craft. The puzzles and procedures are sure to grow increasingly complex and difficult.
Miyamoto's Magic Garden
Initially, the title's graphics fail to overwhelm. No super-techno citiscapes, no photo-realistic humans, no snarling zombies with richly animated entrails: from the movie footage and demo level, Pikmin's environments look much like a backyard garden, patched with weeds. But closer examination reveals an acute detail. "We took the resources for these materials from my own neighborhood: from the mountains and gardens around my house," says Miyamoto, about the game environment's amazingly realistic flora and fauna.
At the GameCube's Space World unveiling, Miyamoto made cryptic statements about the elegance of simplified control. Pikmin indeed features simplified control: the central A button calls the little creatures, B commands them. At present, the remaining controller inputs seem extraneous. Miyamoted noted that gamers may be swallowed by the deeply interactive environments.
Nintendo's press kit promises a "clever, massive storyline unlike any other." As brilliant as Miyamoto's productions have been, as many times as he's revolutionized the industry, he's never proven to be a teller of riveting stories. Can this peculiar concept and simplified interface underscore his narrative opus? Will the Master's streamlined control scheme prove too limiting? Pikmin is set to release with the GameCube's launch: we'll know in just a few months.
WOW. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PIKMIN.
Now, let's return to professionalism. When I first witnessed Pikmin on the Gamecube game demo reel, the title looked ultimately confusing. It was definitely unique, but didn't look intuitive at all. However, later on in the show, lead programmer of Pikmin, Collin Reed, demonstrated the WaveBird using Pikmin. I watched in awe as he controlled the "spaceman"-looking character. He commanded the spaceman to gather these sprouts that grow in the ground. The spaceman proceeded to the sprouts, yanked them out of the ground, and the sprouts turned to Pikmin. It's a simple process, but the rest gets strange, very very strange. I don't want to go on about Mr. Reed's gaming experience because this wouldn't be much of a first impression then, right? Today I went into the LACC to finally play Pikmin, the game that had been on my mind since I had seen it in the press conference reel. I approach a Kiosk, and lo and behold, Collin Reed is standing right ther. I approached them, we greeted each other and started to converse about the game and how it was designed. I got my hands on the controller and he pointed out the key configuration and I ventured into the land of Pikmin.
The game is different. I actually wish games like this were made more often. It's just so "different." I don't know how Miyamoto did it, but it just proves that he's made of pure gaming genius. I quickly amassed an army of Pikmin and was proceeding to take down all the different obtacles in my path. It was a blast; just way too much fun for my own good. I became so familiar with the game that Collin decided to go check something else out for a few minutes, leaving me in charge to explain the game to onlookers. I learned the game within 5 minutes. It's one of those 'easy to learn, difficult to master' sort of games.
Graphics and etc. look EXCELLENT. Now for 1st generation, and for a game that's only been in production for a year, the game looked simply astounding. The camera angles were easily manipulated with the Gamecube controller which eliminated any forseeable camera problems. Moving onto sound, the game had all the "boings and bakooms," but also had a very abstract soundtrack. I hate to digress, but I'll just say one thing: the latest generation of Nintendo games have some amazing music. For example, the current dojo-ite favorite soundtrack has got to be Luigi's Mansion music.
Anyway, back to Pikman. I'm extremely looking forward to this title. It has so much promise. It's nothing like i've seen before, and trust me when I say that this game is so unique it literally boggles the mind. I've only played about 20 minutes worth and i'm feeling really distraught right now writing this. It's growing on me at an incredible pace. Tomorrow, i'm going to step into the Los Angeles Convention Center with the intention to beat the Pikmin demo. I love this game."
Gordon writes: "Small spaceman. Smaller flower-people things. Menacing ladybugs. Pikmin.
"Pikmin surprised the Hell out of E3: and initially, with a cool reception. But believe, please, believe. Pikmin has the addictive qualities of Nintendo's Pokémon franchise, but without the obnoxious and subverting undercurrent of Pikachu's power. Pikmin seems an unlikely blockbuster, but no gamer can resist it's seduction. It is beautiful. It is pure. It is Truth, friends, Truth. Nintendo is working hard to make Pikmin meet the GameCube's launch. When you play it, you will believe."
Nathan Heckel writes: "What the hell? What has EAD been smoking? In all seriousness though, I was shocked and surprised when I saw Pikmin in action for the first time at Wednesday’s press conference. After finally getting my hands on the game to play through the 2 demo days, I must say that I’m very impressed and no longer so skeptical.
“Why not? Well the thing is, it’s slightly addictive. Our dear spaceman starts out with a small team of ant-like pikmin creatures – three red, yellow, and blue each – and proceeds to send them to cut down daisies in close proximity to the pikmins’ nests. As the assigned pikmins cut down the daisy (marked on its face with a 1 to indicate the minimum needed to complete the work), a clock appears over the object to indicate job progress. The more pikmins that are assigned to the job, the faster it’ll get done. When the daisy falls, a pellet marked with a 1 falls to the ground and it only takes one pikmin to carry it back to the nest. Again, the more pikmins assigned to carry the pellet, the faster they’ll move.
“When the pikmins hold the pellet under the beam of one of their UFO-like nests, it’ll be taken up and a seed will shoot out of the top, landing in the ground. This process is slightly suggestive, but most people won’t even pick up on it nor find it inadvertently funny. Immediately, a sprout peeks up from out of the ground and our spaceman can pull it out of the ground or summon it with his whistle like any other pikmin. It’s in this process that the spaceman builds a small army of pikmins.
“Leading his troop a short distance away from the base camp, the spaceman discovers small to large ladybug-like creatures that feed on pikmins as their source of food. Rather than succumb to these predators, however, the C Stick is used to march the pikmins in formation rather than in a circular default cluster in order to sneak around these beasts. Once around to the backside or while still in front, pikmins can be tossed onto the ladybug’s back to attack it and take it out of commission. Pikmins will get eaten and their tiny ghosts float up if they get to close to ladybugs as to get devoured. But once a ladybug is defeated, the pikmins can carry it back to the nest as they would a pellet and more pikmins can be thusly generated.
“There are more points along the very realistic but still N64-like garden path that block the pikmins’ path. When the spaceman and his team encounters a barrier, he can send pikmins right up to the gate to bang their heads against it or throw them up on top to demolish it from there. Once the path is cleared, our merry band can continue.
“The final objective of the two-day demo is to navigate your pikmins around or through a clearing inhabited by a giant, four-legged, spider-like creature without getting stomped on and carry a huge 20-point pellet back to the nest before sundown. Naturally, it takes at least 20 pikmins to haul the mother lode back home, but once they pick it up, it’s difficult for the spider creature to step on them due to the immense size of the pellet. Rather, the pellet may get stepped on, but not the pikmins.
“When sundown comes, our hero must gather up all his pikmins and return them to their nests to rest for the following day. The pikmins all climb up into the nest of the respective color along one of its three legs and go to sleep as statistics for the day are dallied and progress is saved. I’m very excited about the countless innovative possibilities presented in this puzzle-like scenario and can’t wait to pick it up at the GameCube launch.”
What I will tell you is that the game looks stunning. I couldn't believe the amount of textures on the ground. There was so much detail in the environment that it almost looked as if it were an actual film of a small garden. If this is what the first generation of cube titles looks like I'm afraid to see what's coming down the pipe.
word on the street
press release notes