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October 30, 2020
Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Pikmin 3 Deluxe lands onto the Nintendo Switch with a fresh and sweet update to the original 2013 Wii U release. The real-time strategy and puzzle game follows three astronaut explorers searching for resources with the help of some very colourful creatures. Receiving positive reviews just over seven years ago, does this new edition improve on the experience and does it work on the smaller Nintendo Switch? The short, and absolutely cute, answer is a resounding yes.
Alph, Charlie, and Brittany are interplanetary voyagers players control to command the spritely Pikmin. With an army of up to one hundred brightly painted aliens, a range of tasks must be carried out across a series of days on the mysteriously familiar planet they name PNF-404. Discovering gigantic fruit and resources to return to their home planet Koppai, the team encounter several large monsters and obstacles blocking their path. The Peckish Aristocrab, Pyroclasmic Slooch, and the famous Bulborb all make a return to disrupt each expedition.
The story is charming and clever. While it isn’t a life-changing, twisting and turning narrative of utmost expectations, it meets the standards of any Nintendo published game. Players have a goal, they know why and how to achieve it, and it’s always a fun ride to the finish. There is the ominous similarity to our Earth and the hidden, darker notes of survival and environment sustainability that fosters deeper thinking. Arguably, few Nintendo games are this thoughtful with the construction of the world and story.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe adds the Piklopedia to the game, where players will slowly discover more about the strange planet and beings they meet. Collecting profile entries on each crew member and reading their thoughts on the journey allows us to dig deeper into the lore of the peculiar world. The lore of this universe is crafted so creatively through the perspective of these worrisome space-pioneers that you can’t help to become attached to their survival. It’s an extra layer that can be entirely ignored or can rocket you through the adventure if you so choose.
Using the hundred-strong group of various coloured Pikmin, players command them to carry fruit, open doors, defeat monsters, and uncover new areas. Different coloured Pikmin do different tasks. Yellow can open electrified gates and connect wires, Red are great fighters and fast movers, and the blocky Pikmin can break glass and destroy enemy armour. In the original game, the WiiU’s dual screen and touchscreen capability worked very well. Without them, the control scheme becomes frustrating. Swapping between different Pikmin, managing their tasks, and using the cursor with a controller can be tiresome and annoying in boss battles. Still, the mix of real-time strategy and puzzle-solving is unique and unmatched to this day. Sure, similar mechanics exist, but nothing can match the magic of the Pikmin games.
Fleeting daylight is your biggest enemy, although Pikmin 3 Deluxe allows you to set your own pace. Adventurers can slow down each day and show optional hints to help make the experience more accessible and casual. The game isn’t exactly difficult to begin with, yet this is wonderful for beginners and younger players who may not be familiar with the initially awkward controls.
Lock-on targeting is another addition which improves the entire control scheme. Admittedly, cursor controls without a mouse will never be perfect. By holding down a button to lock onto objects and throw Pikmin at, the gameplay is considerably less clunky. For the masochists out there, this can be turned off. However, it’s undoubtedly the best upgrade to the game and makes the gameplay so much more enjoyable.
Local cooperative play has been added to the story and mission modes for even more fun. Players can make their time super-efficient by tackling different areas of stages simultaneously, or completely stress each other out in the final seconds like the chaotic joy of Moving Out. Bingo Battle returns, pitting players against each other in a race to collect random items. It’s an exciting mini-game to break up the usual cooperative play and stands-out against all the modes. Same-system multiplayer is exactly what any Nintendo Switch game needs, it’s the party console after all.
“Same-system multiplayer is exactly what any Nintendo Switch game needs, it’s the party console after all.”
Unfortunately, unless you are playing with two Joy-Cons or a controller each, it’s almost unbearable. With a single Joy-Con, players lack an extra analogue stick for manoeuvring the camera. Instead, the cursor moves the camera and this often doesn’t work well. Getting into the right position so you can properly lock-on to an object above a ledge or behind an object in the foreground is beyond infuriating. Nintendo Switch Lite owners will need a separate set of controllers to play multiplayer, too. Just something to keep in mind if you fall into that fruit basket.
In the original Pikmin 3, the KopPad overhead map of each stage was displayed on the Wii U GamePad touchscreen. Players could easily look between the main game and the KopPad to command the tiny creatures by tapping on the map. While the enhanced Switch version still has the KopPad, it isn’t nearly as useful. Switching between menus and then thinking about where to send Pikmin requires some time. Not ideal when the clock is always ticking. Without a second screen, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does lack the brilliant user interface the Wii U version had.
Even more story content and side-missions are in this puzzling journey. An all-new prologue and epilogue bookend the campaign featuring Captain Olimar and Louie, the adamant explorers from the original two Pikmin games. These missions are unlocked a few hours into the main story and can be played optionally.
Rather than collecting fruit for survival, Olimar and Louie need to find fruit and golden nuggets in the fastest time possible for their employers. The game’s display changes slightly to emphasise high-scores and a ticking ten-minute timer. These missions are for the perfectionists, min-maxing your time in smaller versions of the already explored areas from the main campaign. They aren’t exactly brand-new stages, but the time-attack type mode is certainly a welcome addition to Pikmin 3 Deluxe.
Besides all that, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the same amazing game it was before. Figuring out how to traverse levels and defeating huge bosses is still great fun. The visuals, audio, and performance are up to the standard of every first-party Nintendo Switch game, capturing that superb family-friendly tone. The new side-missions, multiplayer modes, and accessibility options simply add more value to an already fantastic game. Similar to New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, it does sadly lose some of the double-screen features that come with the Wii U hardware. Hopefully, with this edition, the unique charm of this lesser-known Nintendo title will finally shine.