Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
How does he keep doing it? After over thirty years in the video game industry Shigeru Miyamoto still can create magic into almost any character he creates. He towers over legends like Sid Meyer, Will Wright, and Hideo Kojima, and has constantly crafted new franchises that are not only successful, but fun to play for all ages.
Pikmin, his newest creation back when the Gamecube was still known as the Dolphin, is one of those such creations. Combining fetching quests with real time strategy, a love for nature, and a strict time limit, the game is a mish-mash of genres that would cause average developers to buckle under the pressure of designing it.
But not Miyamoto. He once again created a game that is so balanced, so hectic, but so fun, that is now a rising star in the growing circle of nintendo franchises.
When the game first came out on the cube, it looked beautiful. Visually the purple box made a living, breathing enviorment that was cohesive and organic. Leaves fluttered in the wind, plants grew out of the ground, and the water effects were stunningly real. The only blurry spot is the ground itself, which is similar to crushed grass, but overall, the game looks like it can be found in anyone's backyard. There is some minor clipping, which is noticable in all first generation gamecube games with the exception of Super Smash Bros, but it doesn't get in the way too much.
Final Score- B
The gameplay is easy to pick up, but complex in the long run. The story is simple as well, you are Captian Olimar, a Hocotatian who crash landed on an uncharted planet, and only has thirty days to get off the strange world or his nitrogen tank will expire, killing him. The problem, however, is his ship is now in pieces.
Luckily, Olimar befriends these multi-colored organisms he calls Pikmin, and controlling them with his whistles, he uses the half animal, half-plant creatures to recover the pieces of his destroyed ship. The pikmin, when in mass numbers, are dangerous fighters and ardent workers. You need to use them to build bridges, knock down gates, defeat preadators, and carry the pieces of your ship to safety, all within thirty days or else it's game over.
The pikmin also have good typing. Red pikmin are immune to fire and the best fighters, blue pikmin are the only amphibious pikmin, able to go underwater with ease, and yellow pikmin can be thrown the farthest, as well as throw special bomb rocks, which need to be used to blow up obstacles and defeat hard enemies. The types are balanced and utilizing each one of them is how you effectively survive on the planet.
And it will be tough. Numerous predators will be knawing at your hips, eating up pikmin like popcorn if you let it happen, natural obstacles will be troublesome unless you safely navigate through, and controlling the pikmin, while sometimes tedious, is the key to making it off the planet.
The game is well balanced, but like all RTS, it has a pathfinding issue at times, which does get in the way in heated battles. The time limit makes the game even more frantic, as you need to play a perfect game to get through to the end. A piece of your ship per day is your quota, if you can get 3-4 in one day, it gives you extra time to cultivate an army, but if you fall behind, you need to be even more vigilant, and sometimes more paranoid, to get the job done in time.
After that, there is some challenge modes, but they are not really fun or worth the time, which is a shame because a game like this needs some multi-player depth added.
Overall, the game is frantic, but fun. The controls work, the story fits the games persona, and the world around you has enough in your way to keep you busy for hours.
Final Score- B+
From the running water of the streams, to the growls of the bulborbs, to your pikmins own whistling, the sound effects are on target and very natural. The background music is decent, but could of been used better. The strong points being the beginning, and the end, themes.
Final Score- B-
Miyamoto gets the ideas for his video games from mundane tasks. Pikmin came to him while he was gardening, and he turned it into a fresh new face for the cube. Despite the time limit on the game, the lack of multi-player, and some minor graphical problems, Pikmin shines like a new penny, and breathes fresh air into not only a underused genre, but into something more grand; how limitless the imagination can be. If you never played this before, give it a shot, you will likely not be dissapointed.