Nintendo is known for creating lots of wonderful series…Mario, Zelda, Star Fox, Metroid, and many others. Then there is one series that is truly one of their all-time best…and it only has two games so far. The series in question is Pikmin, which made its debut on the Gamecube in 2001. The Pikmin are small creatures who could be used to carry objects, defeat enemies, and take down obstacles, and they would come to the aid of Captain Olimar on two occasions. These games, which could best be described as being a hybrid between real-time strategy and 3D adventure, are among the best that Nintendo has ever created, and yet a third Pikmin game has yet to materialize. Let me tell you more about this series that has been somewhat neglected, but remains truly great.
In the first game, Olimar, a resident of the planet Hocotate, was enjoying a relaxing vacation when his ship, the Dolphin, was struck by an asteroid. It crash landed on an unknown planet, with its pieces scattering throughout this strange new world. Olimar survived, but he could only last thirty days before succumbing to the planet’s rich supply of oxygen…a vital source of life for you and me, but a deadly gas to Olimar. Hope began to shine when Olimar discovered a red creature, which he called a Pikmin due to having it look similar to the Pikpik carrots from Hocotate. After breeding several of these strange beings with some pellets and a ship that looked like an onion, Olimar soon found his ship’s engine, and the Pikmin carried it to the Dolphin. The process of repairing Olimar’s ship had begun, and from then on, Olimar decided that relying on the Pikmin was his only chance of returning home alive.
The game play would have players controlling the Pikmin, picking up and carrying objects that could create more Pikmin to give Olimar more help. On many occasions, enemies would try and destroy the poor creatures, either by eating them, crushing them, or setting them on fire. If these foes were defeated, however, they could be carried back to the onions in order to create even more Pikmin. The more Pikmin that Olimar had by his side, the easier it would be to collect all thirty ship parts. The number of Pikmin that could be created was limitless, but only 100 Pikmin could be on the field at a time on any of the game’s five levels. These levels would be unlocked as more ship parts were retrieved and the Dolphin regained more of its original power.
There were three types of Pikmin that debuted in the game, and each of them had their own special traits that would be useful in solving puzzles. Red Pikmin were especially strong in combat and were invulnerable against fire. Blue Pikmin could remain underwater for an indefinite period of time. Yellow Pikmin could be thrown extra high and could carry bomb rocks, which could be used to damage foes and destroy rock walls. Strategic use of each Pikmin’s ability would often be vital for deciding how each task could be solved.
An important part of the game was having time pass as Olimar and the Pikmin explored the planet (rumored to actually be Earth). A meter at the top of the screen would remind players how much time was left before day turned into night. Since it was considered to be too dangerous to go searching at nighttime, Olimar and the Pikmin would have to hurry back to the onions by nightfall. Any Pikmin left behind too far from the onions would be eaten. With the time limit in place, it would be vital for the player to accomplish as many tasks as possible in a single day.
The time limit also delivered a lot of urgency in that the player only had thirty game days (the time did not pass in real time) to help Olimar escape from the planet. After thirty days, Olimar could still escape if he had all twenty five vital parts of the ship (the last five parts were not essential to help the Dolphin function properly), but if he did not, then he would succumb to the poisonous oxygen. In order to get the best ending, Olimar would need to retrieve all thirty pieces within thirty days (it was possible to collect every piece in less than thirty days). Little did he suspect that, as he was escaping, his adventures on the planet were far from over…
Olimar’s story would be continued in Pikmin 2, released in 2004. After finally returning home to Hocotate, Olimar was in for some bad news: since he was away, his company was in dire financial trouble, and was 11,000 Pokos in debt. Suddenly, it was discovered that a souvenir that Olimar was going to give his son was worth 1,000 Pokos, and it was decided that Olimar, along with the perpetually hungry Louie, head back to the planet to gather more treasure and save the company.
While a lot of the game play was similar to that of the first game, there were a lot of new and improved features added this time around. First, while the time limit for each day remained, players now had an unlimited number of days to explore the planet and collect all 201 treasures, a number of which were actual items from such companies as Duracell and 7-Up. With both Olimar and Louie exploring the planet, tasks could be divided between the two characters in order to accomplish more in a single day. There were now five types of Pikmin: the red and blue varieties remained unchanged, but the yellow Pikmin no longer carried bomb rocks. Instead, they became invulnerable to electricity, though they could still be thrown extra high. Added were the purple Pikmin, which could carry heavy objects and could body slam enemies; and white Pikmin, who were immune to poison and could uncover treasures buried deep underground.
A key feature to Pikmin 2 was the addition of underground dungeons, each with a variety of challenges to overcome and treasures to find. What made these chambers challenging was that there was no way to breed Pikmin underground, and it could be easy to lose many of them to various creatures. The chambers often featured bosses that had to be defeated in order to gain every last treasure. The number of floors in each dungeon varied, and the floors would be randomly generated, adding to the challenge. A special mode could be unlocked to play additional dungeon challenges, and the player was encouraged to keep as many Pikmin alive as possible.
Both games dazzled with some wonderful graphics and a beautiful soundtrack, but it was the game play that had the most charm of all. Deciding which Pikmin was best for which task gave the game a lot of strategy, and hunting for treasures and ship parts was often exciting. The Pikmin were so lovable that you would be sad if they were to die in combat, and the challenges were enough to keep even skilled players on their toes. Minor quibbles aside (namely the thirty day limit of the first game, though at least you could restart the current day if any serious mistakes were made), the Pikmin series has had plenty of irresistible charm, and is a series that Nintendo should be truly proud of.
Unfortunately, it is also a series that has not seen any action for a few years now. Olimar and the Pikmin were included as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the original game was re-released on the Nintendo Wii with new Wii-specific controls, but a new Pikmin game has yet to materialize. It is believed that a new installment for the Wii is currently in the works, but no specific details have been revealed. I know I would like to see a third Pikmin game, even if it was quite similar to its predecessors, only with motion controls added to the mix. When and if we will hear anything about Pikmin 3 remains to be seen. Maybe at this year’s E3 convention, along with Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Zelda Wii, Pikmin 3 will be a major attraction.
I love the Pikmin series, but I am saddened to see that it has only lasted for two games so far. Nevertheless, both games are charming, and have all the heart of more celebrated series such as Mario and Zelda. If you have never had the chance to play either or both Pikmin games, you owe it to yourself to try them out. Perhaps you, too, will recognize that its one of the best series that Nintendo has ever made. Now if only Pikmin 3 would be released so that the series will continue to thrive…