Pierre Bienaimé: Do you remember first hearing about or seeing Pikmin? What did you think?
Kevin Knezevic: To be honest, I don’t really remember when I first heard about Pikmin. It must have been sometime after Spaceworld 2001– I distinctly remember seeing pictures of it online long before I ever saw them in magazines– but I know it wasn’t that long before the game actually launched. All I knew about it at the time was that it was a new IP helmed by Miyamoto, which was enough to pique my interest. Of course, the little preview video included in Luigi’s Mansion also helped hype the game up for me. I can’t tell you how many times I watched that thing!
What about you, Pierre?
PB: I’m not too sure either (don’t we look smart?). It must have been through print magazines of some sort, since I was much more into those back in 2001. Really, my first encounter with Pikmin may have been playing it in the summer of 2002, after its release. My younger cousin was an avid gamer and always owned whatever was hot, through which I owe him the discovery of many games, actually. Either way, Pikmin soon became synonymous with much of what Nintendo stood for in my eyes: wholesome fun that never felt like a waste of time– quite the opposite, it often felt enriching. Getting back home that fall, I got myself a GameCube, and Pikmin was up there with what I played most.
What is it that struck you most about the game?
KK: I think it was just the sheer imagination of it. I mean, who hasn’t played in a garden as a kid and wondered what it would be like to see the world through a bug’s eyes? That’s essentially what Pikmin was; it tapped into that same sense of wonder thanks to its setting and perspective.
Of course, it also helped that its gameplay was incredibly fun. It’s hard to describe just how satisfying it feels to divide up your troops and multitask to accomplish your goals, especially when you have a strict deadline looming over your head.
PB: Microcosmos was definitely part of the appeal for me. There was also the realization that this was planet Earth, though that was foiled by the fact that the beasts you conquer don’t exist around here. Ah, and you do know that Miyamoto came up with the concept for the game while gardening, right?
The atmosphere was just great. Seeing those onion ships land at dawn made you feel like getting to work, and nothing felt like a chore. Early on you could maximize seedling yield by collecting flower pellets of the right color. A little patience was all it took, and that was easy to spare since, when you think about it, nothing ever attacks your camp in Pikmin. Once you went out and about things could get hairy, but as long as you were among your three onions, you could breathe.
Which brings me to what I love so much– in retrospective– about Pikmin. Sources might list it as a real-time strategy game, but it really carves its own niche. In an RTS you’re couched in the war room. Defeat on the ground level doesn’t threaten you physically, though you might think of yourself as closer to a violent ousting.
In Pikmin the problem was personal. You could be chomped to bits by big critters, though the real threat was the time limit: 30 days to a scavenger’s success, or death on an alien world it is.
KK: Yeah, I remember reading a quote where Miyamoto described his inspiration for the game. (I also remember reading a quote where he said it was targeted at high school girls, but let’s not get into that one…)
I have to admit, though, the thirty-day time limit was my least favorite thing about Pikmin, especially back when I first played it. This will probably sound a little ironic since I love Majora’s Mask so much, and that game gave you only three days to save the world, but considering you could rewind time in perpetuity until you accomplished your goals, that made the pace more relaxed than anything.
That definitely wasn’t the case in Pikmin. Here the time limit was a very real threat, and you had to essentially recover one part every single day to ensure you’d make it home safely. It was a bit too much pressure for my younger self, and it always deterred me from finishing the game. (I’m happy to say, though, that I did finally beat it the other week, when I restarted it to gather my thoughts for this feature. The time limit wasn’t anywhere near as imposing as I had initially thought it was– I actually finished with a couple of days to spare– but I’d like to think that’s because I’m a little older and wiser now!)
That’s one of the reasons I liked Pikmin 2 so much more– you no longer had a set time limit to worry about. Now you could spend as many days as you wanted just harvesting more troops, and the addition of a second playable character really amplified the multitasking aspect of the series.
What’d you think of the sequel?
PB: Pikmin 2 felt like a natural sequel. Having Louie around made management much easier, as you could indiscriminately send stuff back to camp for him to sort through. The premise was also pretty funny: a return to Earth for plunders that would save Captain Olimar’s company– Hocotate Freight– from bankruptcy.
Versus mode was also a killer addition. This did make the series feel a little closer to an RTS, one where you sent hordes of Pikmin to slaughter their cross-town brethren. I was a little surprised that Miyamoto allowed that kind of internecine stuff, but there it is.
Pikmin 2 also felt like a longer game, with awesome items to be found by thorough players. But what couldn’t be found, of course, was Pikmin 3. I’m bummed out that Nintendo put its efforts elsewhere, to the point that Pikmin the third would skip the Wii generation. I remember googling those words periodically to see if much turned up. Of course, there was the Pikmin 1 Wiimake, but I just love the GameCube controller too much to bother.
More importantly, what are your hopes for Pikmin 3?
KK: My only hope for Pikmin 3 is that it gets here soon! But seriously, from what (admittedly little) I’ve played of the game, it’s shaping up to be another fantastic entry in the series. I have heard some rumblings that the time limit would return, so I hope those prove to be false, but otherwise I can’t wait to get my hands on it. What about you?
PB: I’ve got a few! For starters, Miyamoto mentioned that this is a game that will challenge us. I hope he makes good on that: the more time it takes me to finish that first playthrough, the more I can savor the game.
He also mentioned that there are four protagonists this time, but that Captain Olimar isn’t among them. It would be rad if he was stranded, and through this premise, playable in a few solo missions. One, that would provide another simple yet engaging story (as had the first two Pikmin games). Two, it would act as a refreshing return to basics– just you and the skipper– something we haven’t seen since the first game.
Whatever happens, all faith to Miyamoto. Pikmin 3 has to prove worth the wait. It looks beautiful. I’m jealous you got to play. And thanks for swapping thoughts about the series!
What about you, dear reader? Are you as excited for Pikmin 3 as Kevin and Pierre are? How did you first get into the series? Share your stories with us in the comments section!