Nintendo brought the Pikmin series out of the shadows this past Friday with the release of Hey! Pikmin on the 3DS. My attitude towards the Pikmin franchise in general has always been that of indifference. Despite my indifference, I still found them all to be fascinating little games full of creativity and challenge. Most of my experiences with the Pikimin franchise have largely been relegated to that of a spectator, watching my brother play each of the games for hours on end. Ever minute I watched him play, I would delight in Pikmin‘s earthy visuals and strategic, puzzle-based gameplay, but I would never muster the drive to play any of the games myself for very long.
That finally changed when I decided to get my mitts on Hey! Pikmin. The first time I saw the early promos for this game I scoffed and rolled my eyes at it. I could not believe that a Pikmin game was being reduced to a basic 2.5D side-scroller. My curiosity got the better of me though, and I decided to give the game a chance instead of ignoring it. I had low expectations for the game right from the very start, and as I booted it up on my 3DS I braced myself for the worst. However, after playing it for a few hours, I realized that Hey! Pikmin is not only a fairly decent game, it is a fairly decent Pikmin game.
Hey! Pikmin stars Captain Olimar, a deliveryman who is returning to his alien home world Hocotate for a relaxing vacation. Things go awry when he brings his ship out of light speed in the middle of an asteroid field. After sustaining heavy damage from the asteroids, Olimar’s ship crash lands on an uncharted planet where his ship’s AI tells him that its fuel supply of Sparklium has run dry. The tutorial level then begins, with Olimar exploring the surrounding wilds and encountering Pikmin, small plant-like creatures that he can command. As the level continues, Olimar and the Pikmin find some Sparklium seeds to bring back to the ship. Upon analyzing the seeds, the ship concludes that a total of 30,000 Sparklium must be accumulated to completely fill its fuel reserves.
Gathering 30,000 Sparklium is your priority in Hey! Pikmin; it is obtained by collecting a mix of both seeds and treasures. Treasures are common objects found in the real world like batteries and rings that Olimar mistakes for alien artifacts. Each treasure is worth about 100 to 400 Sparklium apiece, and there are two to three of them in a level. Every level is rife with plenty of obstacles, enemies, and objects too, so it is up to you to decide the best way to utilize your Pikmin in a tough situation. Olimar can throw his Pikmin at obstacles to clear them, at enemies to take them down, and at objects to carry.
Speaking of Pikmin, there are a total of five varieties available to command: Red, Yellow, Blue, Winged, and Rock. All of the Pikmin have certain abilities ranging from the obvious to the subtle; for instance, Red Pikmin are immune to fire and possess a little more fighting power than other Pikmin types, while Rock Pikmin are immune to blunt attacks and can smash through hard surfaces. When the Pikmin are not in use, they occupy an area called the Pikmin Park. The Pikmin Park is the area around the ship’s crash site where Pikmin scavenge for traces of extra Sparklium to add to your total. What is great about the Pikmin Park is that you don’t have to monitor it constantly. Once you assign the Pikmin an area to scavenge, you are free to leave and enter the park at your leisure.
In terms of control, the 3DS stylus will become your new best friend during the course of Hey! Pikmin as it is used for pretty much everything except for moving Olimar. I typically find using the stylus to be awkward and clunky, but it works just fine here. A big contrast I noticed with this game from the originals, aside from the switch in perspective, is that Pikmin are found in levels and no longer need to be grown. Furthermore, Olimar can now use a jet pack to reach heights inaccessible by Pikmin, giving him more utility as a character.
What is a real downer about Hey! Pikmin is that it does not offer anything in the way of extra modes. Unlike the console games, Hey! Pikmin does not support any kind of two-player mode or mission mode. This is a shame because it drastically reduces the game’s replay value by a considerable margin. I also found it annoying that you cannot choose the Pikmin you want to take with you before entering a level; you are forced to use whatever Pikmin the game gives you. A small nitpick I have with Hey! Pikmin is the number of cutscenes showing Olimar and the Pikmin being cute. I found the cutscenes to be amusing the first three times it happened, but after that they get wearisome and disrupts the gameplay. Finally, Hey! Pikmin’s plot is a kind of a rehash of the first Pikmin, and its gameplay, despite being a fresh alternative, still has you doing the same things you would do in the console ports: solving puzzles and collecting things.
At its very core, Hey! Pikmin retains the spirit and essence of the Pikmin franchise. It smoothly transitions the series into side-scroller territory which in turn gives players a new, alternate way to enjoy Pikmin. The game does have some considerable flaws like its lack of game modes and innovation that restrain it from standing out. Overall, Hey! Pikmin gives side-scrolling fans and Pikmin fans enough of what they want to keep them satisfied, but not much else.
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