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|Puzzle Games, Pikmin Series
For some time, Captain Olimar has been navigating the stars as a pilot, transferring deep-space minerals from planet to planet. Using his faithful ship Dolphin, Olimar became well known for his abilities and consequently, found himself working more then he should. Recognizing the need to recharge, Olimar decided to take a vacation without any destination in mind, allowing his ship to lead the way.
Everything started without incident as Olimar glided through space already enjoying his time off. Without any concern he switched on the autopilot and starting preparing a cup of tea. That may have been the worst time to step away from the controls however because as he prepared his tea, the ship lurched after being struck by asteroid, throwing Olimar into the control panel and causing him to black out.
After coming to, Olimar discovered himself on a strange planet he couldn't recognize, but at least he was alive. Unfortunately, his ship had seen better days as it apparently broke apart upon entry into the atmosphere and scattered across the planet. To make matters worse, after testing the air for poisons, he discovered it contained oxygen, which is deadly to his kind. With only thirty days worth of breathable air in his space suit, time is of the essence as he'll have to recover all the pieces to his ship before his air supply runs out.
Pikmin is one of the latest original creations to be released by Nintendo and as expected, it's as fun as it is difficult to classify. Although definitely geared toward a younger audience, it has a much larger appeal with enough intrigue and difficulty to appease most gamers. If you purchased a Gamecube, chances are it's the potential for games like Pikmin that made the decision to buy easier and so far, it looks like money well spent. As you'll see, there are some issues that could have been improved but generally its unique gameplay will offset those problems.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Pikmin gameplay is designed around not surprisingly, the Pikmin. To understand how to use them, first some explanation about them is required. Pikmin appear to be a cross between plant and animal life forms. They for instance, start out as seeds and sprout up when they're ready to be picked. If left in the ground for an extended period of time, they'll even mature, growing a flower. When picked however, they appear more animal-like and can even follow simple commands. Also noticeable is the fact that the more mature Pikmin with flowers appear stronger and faster then their younger, less mature brethren.
In addition to following simple commands like attacking enemies or knocking down walls, they also come in three different types, red, yellow, and blue. Each type has different abilities that can be exploited saving valuable time while some even have specific traits unique to their color like swimming, requiring their use in certain situations. That's not just a suggestion however, as you'll quickly discover that the red and yellow ones don't take to water well and drown quickly so be aware where you lead them. It's always nice when you confidently lead an army of Pikmin through a body of water with most struggling and dying right off the shore.
Now that there's some understanding of what a Pikmin is, understanding the gameplay should be easier. Generally, Olimar is trying to find all the pieces to his ship so he can return home. To accomplish this, he discovers and uses the abilities of the Pikmin who bond with him as he pulls them from the ground. Each Pikmin color has there own "onion" as Olimar calls it where they sleep at night and also produce more seeds. The seeds are produced as the Pikmin of a specific color bring pellets or dead enemies to the onion, which throw out seeds of that color. Before the end of each day, Olimar must put back the Pikmin in their specific color onion or they'll be eaten during the night. The ones still in the ground however can be left there and will be unharmed.
While searching for parts to his ship, Olimar may find some other indigenous life slightly more hostile. Not to fear however as the Pikmin will attack on command and clear the way. If he does incur damage to his space suit, it can be repaired at his ship as long as the suit's not compromised. Even if Olimar gets overwhelmed, there is an emergency return function that will bring him back, but it will take the rest of the day to recover.
To help understand how different parts of the game come together, whenever something is discovered, a brief description about it and how to use it is displayed on the screen as Olimar taking to himself. In addition, after a day is completed, Olimar reviews anything new he discovered and also analyzes his Pikmin stats including how many he has, lost, and left behind.
As far as controlling the numerous Pikmin and Olimar are concerned, most will find little difficulty quickly adapting to the control structure. Most functions like using the control stick to move, the A button to pick or throw a Pikmin, and B button to call Pikmin to attention are performed without issue. Other commands like dismissing and separating the Pikmin using the X button, moving the Pikmin with the C stick, and viewing Olimar's monitor with the Y button are also user friendly and easy to execute. Even adjusting the camera angle (generally where most games have difficulty) is straightforward when changing and manipulating it. With the L button rotating the camera, R button zooming, and Z button changing the angle, after some practice most people will find it a simple structure, adjusting the camera angle without trouble.
For the most part, the graphics are on track for next generation systems and shouldn't cause any heartburn. You'll notice the detail in the plants and even the terrain help produce a more realistic world. In addition to creating interesting environments to explore, you'll also see interaction between Olimar and the environment with leaves rustling when walked through and the water rippling when entered. The water effects in particular stand out as it glistens and moves in a realistic manner. Although some of the detail for the different animals could have been increased, Pikmin are designed to be simple so it fits in with the style of game.
With the game based on these curious Pikmin, the sound tracks also reflects their simple nature. Although some might find it annoying, it's generally pleasing as it's more of a soft and inquisitive melody. To help keep it from grating on the nerves, each area also has their own sound track that reflects the environment to some degree. The rest of the effects fit the style of the game with different animals creating unique sounds, fitting cleanly with the rest of the game.
Once again, Nintendo has produced an original creation that stretches the boundaries of previous game design. With their ability to generate new worlds and engage them in ways never considered before, Nintendo has continued their tradition of success and justifies their place in the gaming industry. The only real complaint to be found is the game's length, as it must be completed in a specified period of time, thirty of Olimar's days. With that being the only issue worth bringing up however, the other parts of the game like the graphics, audio, and gameplay counteract the game's length and other smaller issues. Pikmin delivers a new and fresh game that will appeal to gamers of all ages and is one that demonstrates Nintendo's ability to continue creating the games that become landmarks in the gaming industry.