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Hands-On Impressions of the Final Version from Japan
by Noah Ward
I was not impressed with Pikmin at E3. I almost felt guilty about it, since every other internet Nintendo site (and many of my 'dojo colleagues) couldn't stop drooling and waxing rhapsodic about the title. Me? I said to myself, "This is what we've been waiting for, what we've been hyped for by sly Miyamoto quotes for the last year? This game is supposed to sell GameCubes at launch... a game made with silly looking characters and photographs of Miyamoto's backyard? Real time strategy, no less?!"
Playing the game at E3 did nothing else to encourage me. Pikmin = niche RTS title. RTS = not my cup of tea.
Now I'm ready to eat my humble pie. Away from the distracting crowds and hired girls of E3 2001, Pikmin is a wonderful experience that grows on you much quicker than expected. Yes, it is still an RTS game at heart with unusual character designs, but the game is addictive and characters are more endearing than remembered, with their squeak toy voices and eager stumbling over rocks as they follow their two inch tall space man deity.
The premise is simple for what would seem a short game experience: 30 game days (each 15 minutes long) for the Space Man to recover parts of his crashed space ship before he runs out of life support. Three colors of Pikmin assist the Space Man while nature's obstacles and predators impede the journey.
30 15 minute days? Another Luigi's Mansion length game? That's correct. Yet unlike the prettier but emptier Mansion, the depth is ten-fold in Pikmin, making replayability ten-fold, simply because the player can do whatever she wants how she wants. You read right-- guys and girls can eat this game up; it's so friendly, accessible, and multi-layered that Mario and the smiley clouds need not appear to make this title truly mass-market material, niche genre or not.
Graphics are suitable for this title but nothing near as impressive as Rogue Squadron 2 or Luigi's Mansion. The Pikmin, the Space Man, and enemies look fine and plasticized enough, yet the sometimes blurry grass and rock textures of the world, while very large and varied, aren't hundreds of floors up from N64 quality. Randomly sprouting, but crisp and clean, grass and flowers notably contrast to the ground textures from which they sprout.
With RTS sometimes being a stressful genre, especially in this title, where Pikmin are as expendable as mosquitos in the Flordia Everglades, the music and playful character voices are extremely relaxing. Simply, gamers probably have never heard such soothing New Age music from any first party Nintendo title. While none of the tunes really stick in memory, they're not supposed to-- they're meant to fill the background and not add to the stress of scooting your 100 Pikmin around a sleeping predator ten times their size. Such subtle music, while light and airy, actually impacts the game strongly in that the gamer focuses on having fun and not getting too worried about losing Pikmin, which are typically as easy to harvest as they are to lose.
As aforementioned, Pikmin's gameplay flexibility is its best selling point. Want to spend a day just harvesting Yellow Pikmin? Or how about just evolving them all to flower forms (the strongest and fastest form any colored Pikmin can become)? Or will you focus on day 5 to get spaceship parts rather than anything else? It doesn't matter-- gamers have the flexibility to play their 30 days however they want. What's better still is that Pikmin is so easy to control and enjoy, playing the Space Man's 30 days on the Pikmin's planet is an experience worth playing repeatedly, especially since getting all 30 spaceship parts in 30 days is not that simple-- many gamers will have to play the game more than once to finally accomplish this feat and get the best ending.
We'll have a full review of this title in the coming week. As it stands right now, Pikmin and Super Monkey Ball are the two must-haves of the GameCube's launch.
Hands-On Impressions of the Final Version from Japan
by Nathan Heckel
Wow, what can I say about Pikmin other than that itís destined to become a classic. The game that was passed over in the Nintendo booth at E3 hides some maddeningly addictive gameplay on a scale that we havenít seen since Blast Corps.
Players control Captain Orimaa (Olimar in the US version) after crash-landing on an alien planet, utilizing the help of the ant-like Pikmin he befriends there. It all starts benign enough: he comes across a red, onion-like object called, appropriately enough, an Onion that serves as a nest for the red Pikmin. It bursts open and lands on three stem legs in a tripod formation, spitting out a single seed that lands in the soil. After a few moments, the seed sprouts a leaf and our hero pulls it out of the ground, meeting the first red Pikmin.
Being the first living creature the Pikmin has ever seen, Captain Orimaa is followed as if its mother. At this point, Orimaa can assign the Pikmin to tear down a flower bearing a pellet marked with the number 1, indicating the number of critters required to complete the job and carry it back to the Onion. The pellet gets beamed up into the Onion in classic UFO style and more seeds are subsequently spit out, and then plucked out of the ground. Hereís where the addiction sets in, when the colony of Pikmin and hence Captain Orimaaís power begin to grow exponentially.
Day 1 of 30 in the game is free from a time limit and is used to introduce players to the gameplay and control as explained above, culminating in the collection of the main engine of Orimaaís Dolphin spacecraft. This and other specific parts of the ship enable the Dolphin to fly to a total of 5 worlds in the game, each riddled with fun, mind-teasing puzzles that require a squadron of Pikmin, some simple time-management skills, and most importantly, a desire to have fun. A cadre of diverse enemies are adequately sprinkled throughout, not nearly as sparse as in Super Mario 64, but challenging enough to add a great deal of interest to the game without preventing players from completing the goals.
Pikmin is indescribably fun, and its value has real lasting power. My first time through the 30 days, Iíd only managed to collect 21 parts. Most players will take two tries to win the game, not that anyone will complain. Heck, itíll be a blast! Add to that the challenge mode of collecting as many sprouts as possible in a single day, and Pikmin may very well prove to be a game for the ages. Our review of Pikmin is on the way.
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