Pikmin 3 Hands-on (WiiU)

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Although I have never played a Pikmin game before, I’ve enjoyed being a part of the speculation over the past few years that a new Pikmin game was in development at Nintendo. At first we thought it would be released for the Wii, but it seems we were a generation too early!

Nintendo’s E3 press conference kicked off with a video showing Nintendo legend and Senior Managing Director Shigeru Miyamoto backstage preparing for the event. As he did so we caught a glimpse of several Pikmin running around, and then one red Pikmin sneaking inside his jacket pocket. Mr Miyamoto then emerged on stage, the small green head of the Pikmin still visibly showing from his pocket. Finally we had conclusive proof that Nintendo was working on a new Pikmin game!

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Mr Miyamoto then showed us how Pikmin were all around us, with cameras scanning the crowd and on-stage screens showing the Pikmin sitting on audience member’s shoulders and heads. He then called his translator Bill Trenin by blowing on a whistle, and what a brilliant introduction to the next Pikmin game that was! Pikmin 3 was then revealed (to loud cheers from the audience), and we got a closer look at the new game, which is being created ten years since the first Pikmin game was released for the Nintendo GameCube.

So what is Pikmin? According to Miyamoto, “it’s a real time action management game in which you command the Pikmin to perform a variety of tasks.” The gameplay involves managing your swarm of Pikmin, but it’s also a game that shows the movement of each Pikmin individually. This is the reason why Nintendo puzzled over how far away to position the camera in the GameCube game, if the camera was too far away you won’t be able to see the Pikmin, but if it’s too close you won’t see the full map. The enhanced resolution of the Wii U has solved this puzzle for the publisher, with players now being able to see the tiny movements of each Pikmin and the beautiful environments too.

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In addition to the five original types of Pikmin, this third instalment will feature a new Rock Pikmin who is useful to break hard objects like enemy shells and solid barriers (as we later discovered during the Boss Battle Mode). The basic controls of Pikmin 3 are to use the Wii MotionPlus and the Nunchuk, you’ll be able to aim precisely, switch between Pikmin types and throw the Pikmin at enemies in this way.

Mr Miyamoto then looked down and discovered the red Pikmin in his pocket. Next he pretended to throw the Pikmin into the audience, and more than a few arms went up, but instead he just took a bow with the Pikmin. And what a great start to Nintendo’s E3 press conference that was!

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We got the opportunity to test out the Mission Mode of Pikmin 3 at Nintendo’s booth on the E3 show floor later in the week. The controls are simple, use the Wii Remote to point and highlight what you want the Pikmin to interact with. Holding down the B button whistles and summons the Pikmin to you, while to send them to do your bidding you’ll need to push A and point towards whatever object you want them to collect.

The Pikmin duly scurried off, collected the cherry and carried it back to the spaceship. With the object of the game being to collect as much fruit as possible and get the highest score in the allocated time, we sent our Pikmin off in search of more bounty! You need to assign Pikmin to carry an item, but if you assign more Pikmin they can carry it faster, therefore part of the strategy is definitely deciding how many Pikmin to devote to one task. Pikmin can also collect materials and then build bridges, giving them a shorter route back to the ship and allowing them to collect more fruit faster, and this adds even more strategy to your gameplay.

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The GamePad controller adds a further dimension to the game by giving you the chance to plan your strategy in advance. You can have a friend watching you play but she can see the whole map screen on the GamePad, and since it shows you where everything is, she can help you see the enemies in advance, as well as the fruit and the gold of course! You’ll also be able to touch the map, scroll quickly and place your Pikmin effectively using the GamePad controller. This is important because how you manage and assign tasks to your Pikmin within the time limit is vital. At the end of a stage you can use the replay feature to analyse your performance and identify ways to improve your score. Using the GamePad you can fast-forward, rewind or pause the replay on the TV or the GamePad screen.

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We then moved on to test out the Boss Battle Mode. We had only five minutes to defeat a rock centipede-like boss. Since he moved around the area a lot, climbing up the walls and moving above us, the option to center the camera by pushing the Z button was very handy. His outer shell was very tough so the Rock Pikmin were useful in breaking through. We then sent in the Red Pikmin to attack the exposed softer shell and reduce his health bar, all the while keeping the Pikmin out of his way as they would have made a tasty treat to the centipede.

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The release of Pikmin 3 is likely to coincide with the launch of the Wii U console and from our experience you won’t be disappointed. The bright, colourful environments and cute Pikmin are reason enough to invest in the new console when it launches. Watch the debut trailer below to see the Pikmin in action, followed by My Miyamoto’s reveal at the Nintendo E3 press conference.