Monday, March 30, 2009

New Play Control! Pikmin (Wii) review

New Play Control! Pikmin (Wii)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Date Released: March 9, 2009 (USA)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Nintendo has decided to bring a number of their GameCube hits over to the Wii with the New Play Control! series. All the NPC! games have be reworked to play with Wii controls, whether it be IR for Metroid Prime and Pikmin or gestures for Mario Power Tennis. Nintendo's choice to do this made a lot of sense in a business view, seeing as a lot of these games haven't been played by a large portion of the Wii's audience, due to the Wii's success and the GameCube's unpopularity. Alongside Mario Power Tennis, Pikmin is the first New Play Control! game to be released in North America.

In Pikmin, you play as Captain Olimar, whose ship, the S.S. Dolphin, gets hit by an asteroid as he's flying along. He makes a crash landing in a nearby, unknown planet. Parts and pieces of the space ship scatter across the land. On the planet, Olimar finds there is a deadly gas in the atmosphere, oxygen, and the life support system will fail after 30 days. Thus he has 30 days to retrieve the 30 ship parts that were lost.

But he doesn't do this alone. On the strange planet he crash lands on, Olimar finds tiny creatures which he names Pikmin. These Pikmin join him in his quest to rebuild his ship and are cute little creatures that somewhat resemble ants with a flower on their head (or leaf or bud, depending on what stage of their life they're in). The Pikmin join Olimar and willingly obey his commands. In Pikmin, there are three different kinds of Pikmin: red, yellow, and blue. The red can walk through fire unharmed, so you'll often resort to them to both carry items through fiery places and attack enemies that shoot flames. The yellow Pikmin can both carry bombs and be thrown the farthest. And blue Pikmin can breathe under water, which means you'll turn to them to get underwater objectives and get to islands.

To get Olimar's 30 ship parts in the 30 day time limit, you'll have to resort your army of Pikmin. Olimar is virtually useless in attacking and moving things, thus he can command Pikmin to do what he cannot. Be it moving/destroying obstacles, harvesting pellets, or attacking enemies, the Pikmin's strength lie in numbers. Most obstacles and items require a certain number of Pikmin to move and those that don't will take a lot longer to do the less Pikmin assigned.

The game of Pikmin can basically be split up into two objectives: getting Olimar's ship parts and growing your army of Pikmin. The Dolphin's ship parts are either found guarded by walls, some light puzzle solving (using different Pikmin colors), and various enemies or with boss creatures that you must beat to obtain the ship part. While you'll want to get all of the Dolphin's pieces, you'll also need to raise and harvest Pikmin. Getting more Pikmin is done by bringing both pellets, which can be harvested from special flowers and dropped by enemies, and the bodies of creatures and bosses back to the Pikmin's homes, named (by Olimar) Onions.

One of the major complaints of the original GameCube game was the 30 day time limit. Since Olimar has to get all of the ship's parts in these 30 days, not doing this will result in Olimar's death and you losing the game. Each of these days takes around 15 minutes from sunrise to sundown, after which you'll have to board your ship (and the Pikmin, their Onion homes). This can add a certain amount of urgency to the game and makes the game feel rushed. With levels that are designed great and enemies to be fought scattering the landscape, it'd feel a lot nicer not to have the 30 day limit and the flexibility to explore. Even so, the limit will be liked by some since it's an overall challenge to beat. And while Nintendo didn't abolish this limit completely in the New Play Control version (like they did with Pikmin 2 for the GameCube), they did make it a bit easier. Now you can rewind to any day that you've played. So say you did really good up to about Day 6, but from then on you've been doing pretty bad, rarely getting ship parts and losing a lot of Pikmin, now you can start playing back up at Day 6 to try and do better. It's a nice touch that frees up a bit of the rush and urgency.

Nintendo redid the controls to fit the Wii's controller and make controlling Olimar and his army of Pikmin easier and more intuitive. It's extremely simple to command your Pikmin to attack enemies, harvest resources, separate into groups, and remain inactive with a few buttons and the Wii's IR. Pikmin on the GameCube was praised for finally "getting" real-time strategy controls on a console (albeit being a lot less complex than PC RTS's), but the Wii remote and nunchuk far outdo even those great controls.

New Play Control! Pikmin is a game with a decent challenge. The difficulty especially ramps up near the end for some hard but rewarding boss fights and puzzling. It's definitely nice to have both the improved controls and ability to restart from any previous day. The game has decent length that's definitely shortened a bit by the 30 day time limit, but overall it was a good 10 to 12 hour game. Increasing the replay value, there's also a very fun Challenge Mode to be played, which has you seeing how many Pikmin you can grow in a single day. It's pretty fun and will have you coming back for more with high scores and different levels to play.

Other than the 16:9 widescreen mode for folks with those TV's (see: not me), Nintendo didn't do much to improve the already solid GameCube graphics. Even with this, Pikmin's visuals can unfortunately stand up to a majority of the games available for the Wii. It just goes to show how Nintendo EAD was pushing the hardware at the time and how few developers today put that much effort into Wii games. There are detailed environments and crisp colors for the various creatures and items. Even so, there are some muddy textures, which are particularly visible when viewed up close. The soundtrack is soothing and very enjoyable. Mixing with this are the cute Pikmin sounds that never get old.

Overall Thoughts

Pikmin is a very fun and rewarding game, and with the new Wii remote controls, it feels all the better to control. Anyone who has never played this game should really do so, and with the New Play Control $30 price tag, the game is significantly cheaper than most Wii games. Overall, if you're itching to play Pikmin with motion controls or you've never played Pikmin at all, give this one a try. But otherwise, you may want to hold out for the longer and better Pikmin 2.


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1 comment:

  1. Great review. I think I will get this eventually.

    I linked to it from my site since I just did Mario Power Tennis. It's like we planned this telepathically or something. :X