Retro Review: Pikmin (GC)

pikmin1boxart1[1]Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Gamecube

Price: $90.00 (new), $15.00 (used)

Release date: December 3, 2001

What is a Pikmin? Think of it as a small, ant-like creature that walks on its hind legs and has a plant sprouting out of its head. It grows in the ground, but can be plucked out like a carrot. And did I mention that it lives in a flying, legged spacecraft?

Sound interesting? It is. And if you are even the least bit curious about these little critters, you had best check out the rest of this review. You may find yourself driving to Gamestop to pick up this fun little title by the time you’ve finished reading.

Storyline

While exploring the vast depths of space, Capt. Olimar’s spaceship is unexpectedly struck by an asteroid. As the ship spins out of control, Olimar blacks out. Upon awaking, the small adventurer realizes that he has crash-landed on an unknown planet, where he meets a curious little creature that he names “Pikmin.” Olimar quickly realizes that he must act quickly to escape the mysterious planet. Its atmosphere contains a highly-toxic poison called oxygen, and Olimar’s life-support system will only sustain him for 30 days. Not only that, but his spaceship is in bad shape and several of the vital parts are missing, scattered across this new, frightening planet.

However, there is a small hope for Olimar. The Pikmin have come out in force and are eager to assist him. Summoning hundreds of the small creatures to his side, Olimar embarks on a 30-day quest to recover his missing spaceship parts. His only wish is to see his family and beloved home planet again.

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Content Guide

Positive Elements
Olimar is a typical human being (besides the fact that he’s only about 3/4s of an inch tall, but that’s beside the point). Basically, Olimar is an ordinary hero who has a turn of bad events and struggles to overcome these events. He has a deep love for his family and misses them dearly, writing several entries in his ship’s log about them. Though he is very afraid of his impending doom, Olimar demonstrates incredible, yet simple, courage throughout his quest. A kind-hearted character, Olimar shows great distress when the Pikmin under his care are harmed or mysteriously go missing after dark.

Good stewardship is a must-have quality for all successful Pikmin players. Though Olimar has many Pikmin under his control, the player must use them wisely. If Pikmin are improperly managed or commanded, they will be killed in massive numbers by predators. Pikmin also have a tendency to get lost and trip up along the journey, forcing players to keep a careful eye on them and even go on last-minute rescue missions in order to rescue any missing Pikmin. Pikmin who are carelessly left behind will be eaten by predators and lost forever.

Spiritual Content
Pikmin is generally free of any spiritual influence. However, if the players take enough time to read through Olimar’s ship log, they will find some references to evolution. Olimar will often write about the development of different species and how various stages of a species’ evolutionary processes have been found on the planet.

Olimar mentions that one of his ship’s parts is named after his daughter’s astronomical sign, making probable reference to the horoscope/Zodiac.

When Pikmin fall in battle, a wispy, ghost-like figure floats into the air and vanishes.

P4Violence
Cutscene Violence. None, really. Olimar’s ship is struck by a meteor, bursts into flame, and crash-lands on a planet (the crash is off-screen). Pikmin leap on a Bulborb and attack it. If Olimar fails to collect enough pieces of his ship, a cutscene will play in which his ship will crash after take-off. The following scene shows Pikmin carrying Olimar’s body to the Onion, where he is turned into a Pikmin himself. If Pikmin are left behind after nightfall, a brief cutscene shows a predator eating the lost Pikmin. All violence is tamely portrayed and bloodless.
Gameplay Violence. Gameplay violence basically consists of Pikmin attacking various creatures. Using the leaf stem on their heads, Pikmin latch onto enemies and strike them. Pikmin can be eaten or trampled by foes and give rather pitiful death cries, making the player feel absolutely guilty for the loss. Some Pikmin can also drown. Defeated enemies usually give a death cry and then topple over dead. Their bodies remain behind unless Olimar leaves the level and returns, or the Pikmin carry off the enemy’s body to one of their Onions in order to spawn more Pikmin (more on this in the gameplay section). All fighting is bloodless.

Language/Crude Humor
There is no language in Pikmin.

Sexual Content
None.

Drug/Alcohol Reference
None.

Gameplay

The entire point of Pikmin is to explore five different locations and collect the missing pieces of Olimar’s ship. In order to do this, Olimar must create Pikmin who can fight for him, create structures, and, generally speaking, do all of the hard work.

The game begins when Olimar has only one Pikmin in his possession. However, that quickly changes. By carrying back special pellets and enemies to the Onion (the Pikmin’s living quarters and producer of new Pikmin seeds), Pikmin can reproduce their own kind in massive numbers. While the player can only have up to 100 Pikmin on the field at a time, the Onions will continue to store excess Pikmin for future demands.

There are three different types of Pikmin–red, yellow, and blue. Each different color comes with special uses and abilities. For example, red Pikmin can stand extreme heat, but cannot swim like blue Pikmin. Yellow Pikmin can carry special Bomb Rocks and jump much higher than all oP6ther types of Pikmin. Understanding the different abilities of Pikmin is a key factor to successfully beating the game.

Olimar has 30 days (30 chances on five levels) to find and collect every one of his ship’s pieces. Though not all pieces are necessary to clear the game, more pieces generally means a better ending for Olimar. Using his army of Pikmin, Olimar can track the pieces’ locations on his special radar and then march to the spot in a free-roaming environment. Not all pieces are easy to recover, however. Players will face obstacles, including powerful enemies, hindering structures, and dangerous terrain, such as water and fire-covered areas that can be deadly to some Pikmin types. Keeping Pikmin alive is a key component of the game. Without his helpers, Olimar is helpless.

Pikmin are capable of doing many tasks, but their most useful ability is carrying enemies and spaceship parts back to the ship and Onions. Various enemies and parts require a certain number of Pikmin to carry them. For example, some enemies can be carried by two Pikmin, while others may require ten or twenty. Ship parts tend to be much heavier, and can require much larger numbers of Pikmin (such as fifty) to get the job done.

Multitasking is key to getting as much done in one day as possible. Each Pikmin day only lasts for about fifteen minuets in real time. Thus, every minute must be used wisely. Pikmin are capable of working independently once instructed. While one group of Pikmin are busy building a bridge, another group can be carrying a spaceship part back to the base, while yet another group can be working with Olimar to fight enemies. However, Pikmin must still be carefully guarded. If a group of Pikmin are trying to carry back a ship piece, they may travel a route blocked with enemies or other obstacles. If that’s the case, there will be a massacre because the Pikmin will not do anything to defend themselves from their foes if already committed to a task. Ever simpleminded, they do only what they are told.

Controlling Pikmin is fairly easy but does have a few drawbacks. Olimar can use his whistle to round up stray Pikmin. By pressing the A button, players can throw Pikmin for the purpose of attacking or building a structure. In addition, the C-stick can be used to direct Pikmin towards an object that Olimar wishes them to pick up, build, or attack. The controls really don’t get any more complicated than that. P3Unfortunately, the gameplay is not entirely without flaw. Things can became difficult when Olimar is controlling scores of Pikmin. Crossing a bridge, for example, can become difficult because not all Pikmin will cross the bridge correctly. Some will remain stuck on the other side or beneath the bridge, forcing Olimar to individually go after the strays. Chaotic events also prove slightly difficult for Olimar. When flying enemies attack Pikmin, for example, Olimar will have to go into a throwing frenzy trying to strike down the flying foes. The lack of a lock-on system makes targeting foes somewhat difficult and ultimately results in scattered Pikmin.

Pikmin is not a long game, but it is extremely fun if strategy and army-building is your thing. The game takes roughly eight to nine hours to beat, if not longer. A lot also depends upon how many pieces of the spaceship a player is trying to retrieve before the 30 days are up. Players willing to explore the game more extensively may even discover special secrets…

Aside from the main mode, the only other mode Pikmin offers is the a sort of Challenge mode which challenges players to create as many Pikmin as possible within one day.

Presentation

Pikmin’s graphics are, simply put, good. The backgrounds are nicely realized and the levels appropriately-colored. Water, for example, is extremely realistic. Character models are also designed nicely, but give off a bit of a Nintendo 64-feel as well. Some creatures look a bit P5“pointier” than they should, but then again the graphics are meant to have a cartoony appearance.

Music is mostly quiet and peaceful. In fact, most of it could almost be labeled “Music to Sleep To.” It has a very soft, ambient sound which gets a bit more upbeat when enemies attack Olimar or his Pikmin. A tune or two can get a bit annoying, such as the music for the Impact Site, which has a blaring and clanging sound to it; however, the majority of the music (and there aren’t many different tunes) is performed quite well and sounds appropriate for the series. Though the music is MIDI, it still sounds good.

Sound effects are done well. The only sound that I found annoying was when Pikmin, while carrying a ship part, entered water. This resulted in a really weird, mechanical splashing noise, almost like there was a short circuit about to occur.

I didn’t notice any glitches in Pikmin.

Conclusion

Pikmin is a lot of fun. That statement is coming from someone who doesn’t like games without a “good story.” What Pikmin lacks in story, it makes up for in fun, strategy-dependent gameplay. Something about properly using your army of Pikmin and creating the biggest army possible just feels good and rewarding. I actually found myself enjoying Pikmin way more than I expected. It challenged me with tough bosses and obstacles, and forced me to use my brain to succeed with my army of Pikmin brawn.

Pikmin contains very little objectionable content, so it is a wise media choice for Christians to look into. Parents may not like seeing the ant-like Pikmin carrying around the dead bodies of their fallen foes in order to create even more of their species, and the brief evolutionary references may make some pause. Over-all, however, I think that Pikmin is a perfectly fine game for Christians to consider. It encourages brain-power, temperance, and stars a humble, kind-hearted hero.

The Bottom Line

What Pikmin lacks in story, it makes up for in fun, strategy-dependent gameplay. Over-all, Pikmin is a perfectly fine game for Christians to consider. It encourages brain-power, temperance, and stars a humble, kind-hearted hero.

 

8.2

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Casey Covel

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

2 Comments

  1. Darman Smith on July 6, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Loved this game as a kid ^_^

    • Casey Covel on July 9, 2014 at 4:32 am

      Me too 🙂 Glad we have that in common. The series is still going strong, even after all this time. Looking forward to future installments! Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment!

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