I feel kind of naughty saying this, but I think I like this game for the graphics. Blasphemous, I know, but come on; this game is beautiful. Its title screen, for instance, is surely one of the best in all of gaming. It’s really the first game from Nintendo to take advantage of the Wii U’s HD resolution. The lighting in particular is super dreamy… and the attention to detail in all of the environments makes Pikmin 3 a kind of “coffee table” experience. Sit back, relax, and soak in all of the pretty colors and cute cartoon characters. It’s not dissimilar to an animated film.
Therein lies the game’s problem. The unnerving strategy game is gone; this is a more streamlined and accessible user-friendly experience. The puzzles are simplistic and usually only have one solution. A “round peg” “round hole” sort of thing. Red Pikmin here… Blue Pikmin there… it’s pretty basic stuff. The bosses are much the same. One boss will require Flying Pikmin… another, Water Pikmin. It’s certainly not bad design, but it is a tad boring, especially when the game has the potential for so much more. I feel like the game barely scratches the surface of its possible challenges, objectives, and gameplay elements. The five Pikmin types as well as the three playable characters result in a fair number of options for the player. Making use of them all to accomplish tasks would be incredibly satisfying, but the game never really pushes this envelope. Good game design is giving the player a tool box and then requiring the player to build a chair, and then a table, and then a house, etc. Pikmin 3, however, barely makes it past the chair.
Let’s be realistic, though. This isn’t some kind of misstep or error on Nintendo’s part; they totally meant to do this. It’s evident that they want this game to be played by as many people as possible. It is, after all, the first major release for the Wii U since… ever, really. A big talking point has been how accessible the game is. Particularly, how many different ways there are to play it, and how people of all skill and taste levels will be able to carve out their niches. Case in point, the game supports three different controllers (Wii U GamePad, Wii Remote, and Wii U Pro Controller), and despite the simplified control scheme frustrating me at times (I wanted more precise management of my Pikmin) I was still able to work out my own play style. Thus, the Pikmin formula has been rewritten into more of a “one size fits all” adventure game rather than the rigorous multitasking challenge it once was.
Honestly? I think I'm ok with that. I like how the game is more laid back now. I remember being scared to play the original Pikmin. What if I screwed up? What if I lost too many Pikmin? I’d literally have to start all over if I veered too far off the beaten path. Needless to say, I’m not scared to play Pikmin 3. It’s much nicer to me. It says, “Still looking for that thingy? Don’t sweat it; it’ll be there tomorrow,” and, “Some Pikmin die today? Sad, but it’s ok, really; we’ll make more.” Sure, the game’s design is compromised, and some things are lamentably lost in translation, but I think its a fair trade off. Players shouldn’t be punished for taking their time, exploring, and experimenting. Pikmin 3 encourages these things.
I’m definitely all for that.