Full Review: Have you ever felt the urge to give orders to weird plant-like creatures? No? Well, read on anyway.
The guys at Nintendo have learned some lessons since the launch of Nintendo 64. Not only was GameCube released along with an impressive load of first and second party titles, but they also made sure to include some very original titles among the many demanded sequels. A perfect example of this is Pikmin, born from the inventive mind of the world's most famous game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto. Pikmin is a real-time strategy game that combines cute little characters with amazingly detailed graphics and environments.
Your name is Captain Olimar, a spaceship pilot whose vacation cruise has been disturbed by a collision with a huge meteorite. Though your landing wasn't fatal, your ship was shattered into 30 pieces. As if that wasn't enough, you only have 30 days to collect all the pieces and rebuild your spaceship. The planet on which you have landed is in fact covered by an oxygen atmosphere, deadly poisonous for the likes of you, and your supplies of food and air will only last that long.
It is at this point of the story that Pikmin enter the stage. As you walk your way through five wonderfully realized stages, you are due to meet some weird tiny creatures sprouting out of the soil. Once pulled free, they will accompany you on your journey, helping you with all of the heavy tasks that you alone wouldn't be able to accomplish. They are a bit shorter than Olimar himself, and divided into three different colors: yellow, red, and blue. They are humanoids, that is, with two legs and two arms, but there is one particular that distinguishes them from mammals: the leaf on their head. Every Pikmin is born with it, and it will eventually bloom into a flower when its owner reaches adulthood. Different colored Pikmin also mean a difference in facial physiognomy: red Pikmin have a nose, blue have gills and yellow have ears (quite huge at that).
They are all expelled from a sort of spaceship balanced on three ?legs,? which Captain Olimar has wisely named ?onion.? Once you find and activate an onion, a Pikmin will be sown into the soil and in a matter of seconds you will be able to pluck it free. Once under your command, this little creature can be set to many tasks, the most immediate of all the procreation of his own species. By hacking down flowers or killing enemies he will obtain ?nectar pellets,? the main source of nutrition for a Pikmin. He will then carry it back to the onion and give birth to other Pikmin. Of course, more Pikmin are able to carry heavier things and hunt down ?badder? enemies, but one must remember that the maximum number of Pikmin on the screen cannot exceed 100 units. If you want to have some backup troops to produce in bad times, you will have to store some of the Pikmin under your command in the onion and pluck some new to carry on their tasks. As long as there are less than 100 Pikmin out of the onion, you can go on sprouting more.
Enough said about the little vegetables, let's hop on to the control system. You have to know that Captain Olimar makes use of almost all the buttons on the controller, while at the same time making of it an easy job for the player. You pluck and throw Pikmin with button A, call them back to you with button B and dismiss them (sorting them by colour at the same time) with X. Move the C-stick to rotate the whole troop, and change angle with R and Z. Last but not least, use Y to get information on the number of Pikmin you have with you or in the onions or are inactive in the field. Later on, this option will enable you to use the radar in order to locate the missing parts of your spaceship.
A great plus to add to this title is its music: so relaxing, so never-boring, so always apt to the situation! No wonder that in Japan the soundtrack has sold more than the game itself. Just listen to it once and you'll fall in love with it! The graphics, as I mentioned before, are amazingly beautiful. As you wander through the stages you really get the feeling to be walking through the undergrowth of a forest. Every flower, every leaf and strand of grass is so vividly animated that you can almost feel the breeze through your own hair. Everything is so realistic that even the puzzles blend in as if natural.