Shigeru Miyamoto likes his garden. So much so, it inspired him to make a video game about it. Pikmin is the tale of Captain Olimar, a spaceman on vacation whose ship gets hit by an asteroid, causing him to crash land on an alien planet. His spaceship is greatly damaged. He must find 30 missing parts to repair his spaceship and return home. However, the atmosphere of this planet is harmful to Olimar, and his life support system will only last him 30 days.
Fortunately, Olimar is not alone. He discovers a strange plant-like ant creature which he calls the 'Pikmin'. Pikmin grow in the ground like plants, but once you pick them, they will follow you and obey your commands. You must grow Pikmin to help you find your spaceship parts.
Pikmin is a very beautiful game. Especially in the zoomed-out camera mode. At this level, it looks a lot like a real outdoor garden area. The textures and water reflections are most impressive. When you zoom in, the textures look a little bit blurrier, but here you can see the animation of Olimar and the Pikmin, which is also very good. Also technically impressive is the fact that you can have up to 100 Pikmin on the screen at the same time, all with their own AI, doing different things and the framerate is solid. This is made possible with the new hardware of the GameCube. It would have been nearly impossible to do this on N64.
The sound is good enough. Not mindblowing. The music is somewhat ambient and relaxing and fits the game well.
The control is fairly intuitive, and once you've played for a couple hours, you should have it down. The control stick moves Olimar. The A button picks Pikmin from the ground and throws them at things. B is used to blow a whistle to call your Pikmin back to your group. X tells the Pikmin to stay put, and they separate into groups of their different colors so you can call the ones you need. Y calls up your computer which gives you a map and locations of the ship parts, and gives you information about the number of Pikmin you have. R toggles between the three levels of camera zoom, and Z changes the angle of the camera from a top-down view to a lower angle and back. The C stick is very useful, as is controls the movement of your group of Pikmin. You can use this to have them avoid an obstacle or enemy. Also, rather than throwing them one by one, you can plow them into a target to break down a wall, attack an enemy, or carry a ship piece.
Your primary goal is to collect all the ship parts and return home. To accomplish this, your goal quickly becomes building an army of Pikmin to help you out. You start with one lone Pikmin. It chops down a flower, which produces a pellet, which the Pikmin carries back to the "Onion" (Pikmin home/maker). The onion sucks up the pellet and spits out seeds which quickly grow into Pikmin. You pluck these and continue the process, getting bigger pellets, enemies and eventually ship parts. You want as many Pikmin as you can get, because the more you have the easier it is to defeat enemies and get through obstacles. At the end of the day, you must collect the Pikmin back in to the Onions so that they won't get eaten by the enemies.
There are three different 'varieties' of Pikmin, and you must use all three together to get ship parts. Red Pikmin are not harmed by fire. Yellow Pikmin can be thrown higher and farther and can carry bomb-rocks, which are necessary to break down stone walls. Blue Pikmin can breathe in water (other colors helplessly drown :-( , which is very necessary as there are many water areas in the game. You can have up to 100 Pikmin in the field at one time, of any combination of colors.
This is very much an adventure game, but it is also a strategy game, with many puzzles (typical of a Miyamoto game). You must figure out which Pikmin to use to get to a ship part. And you also must use them efficiently as you only have 30 days (game time). So you may have to take blue Pikmin across water to build a bridge to the other side, send red Pikmin to break down a wall, then bring the yellow Pikmin across the bridge the blue ones built to get a ship part on a ledge. Many ship parts have some type of puzzle like this blocking you from getting to them.
One game of Pikmin has a maximum fixed length. The limit is 30 days of game time. Each day is about 20 minutes real time. So the maximum length of one game is about 10 hours. However, just because you finish the game doesn't mean you win. If you fail to get all the necessary ship parts, you won't make it off the planet and will have to start a new game. It is easier the second time through, since you know where the ship parts are and can better plan your strategy. I was able to finish the game the second time through on the 26th day. The game CAN be beaten in a rental period, but it is very hard to do so (playing quite a bit on a long weekend). What really would have been nice is more areas to explore. There are only 5 in the game, and although they are pretty big, more would have been better. Miyamoto is supposedly working on a sequel though, so maybe it will have more new areas to explore. I personally wouldn't buy Pikmin, but I definitely recommend you play it at least once. It is very fun and quite addictive.
E for Everyone. Some animal kingdom-ish violence. The poor Pikmin can die in numerous ways (stomped, eaten, drowned, caught on fire).
A very fresh and interesting game. Definitely check it out.
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