Pikmin 3 Deluxe Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s own garden in Kyoto, the Pikmin real-time strategy series is something that could only come from the mind of the creator of some of the most critically-acclaimed and most-loved IPs in gaming. It’s not your traditional real-time strategy series either; you’re not controlling armies, or building cities, but instead you’re in command of loveable ant-like beings in order to gather fruit and materials from the world in order to save everything from your own life, to your employer's business, to an entire race! The Pikmin series has always had that special Nintendo charm, and despite a few niggles, Pikmin 3 Deluxe successfully brings the Wii U’s entry from the beloved series to the Nintendo Switch, although I was left wanting more.
If you missed Pikmin 3 on the Wii U, or never played the first two back on the Gamecube, fret not as Pikmin 3 Deluxe doesn’t really require an understanding of the series to delve straight in; it does make references to characters and events from previous entries, but the game features an extremely useful tutorial to help you start growing your Pikmin army quickly.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe once again takes place on PNF-404, but this time, you’re not controlling previous protagonists Captain Olimar and Louie as they hunt for treasure to aid their employer’s debt issues. Instead, you take control of three captains, Alph, Brittany and Charlie, on a mission to gather food resources in order to stop famine from overwhelming the occupants of their home planet, Koppai. Naturally, as you arrive on PNF-404 your ship - the S.S. Drake - malfunctions, leaving you to not only source the necessary food resources to stave off the famine on Koppai, but gather the materials needed to fix your ship and return home. In order to gather the necessary resources, you’ll traverse a number of lush landscapes, from tropical wilds to frozen tundras, all of which are as breathtaking as they were on the Wii U.
Within these varied landscapes are puzzles and enemies that can be only conquered with the help of your ant-like friends. Pikmin 3 Deluxe includes the series’ traditional red, blue and yellow Pikmin which are resilient to fire, water and electricity respectively, whilst the game adds rock and winged Pikmin that as you would expect can break down even the hardest barriers, or fly over treacherous terrain and attack flying enemies with ease. Early on, progress with one or two colours of Pikmin is easy, but by the latter half of the game, you’ll need to make the most of each Pikmin’s unique skill in order to progress or obtain resources.
The fundamentals and main story in Pikmin 3 Deluxe are the same as the Wii U original, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the puzzles here are some of the best in the series, and trying to figure out the best solution before the day clock runs out is as tense as it’s ever been. Yes, the in-game day timing can be a little frustrating, especially if you’ve had a bad run and failed to bag the resources needed, but the game is more than forgiving; you can even retry a day if you find yourself struggling with a specific puzzle or enemy. Sadly, the main story is still exceedingly short. If you’re just following the main path, you can expect a five to seven-hour run, although this can be greatly extended if you’re aiming to collect every piece of fruit in the game - and the amount of fruit you gather does have an impact on the game’s ending. What’s more, the in-game achievement system sees you rewarded with badges depending on the tasks you’ve managed to complete, for example defeating a boss, gathering fruits and completing certain story milestones, so completing them to 100% will certainly add substantial hours to any completionist’s game time.
Despite very little being done to the main storyline, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does add a range of new features that makes playing the adventure more enjoyable. Firstly, if you’ve already tackled the game before, Pikmin 3 Deluxe allows you to play the entire story in split-screen co-op as opposed to just the Bingo Battle side missions, and despite some niggling camera issues and lack of space on the screen, it’s an extremely enjoyable way to experience the story again. There are a number of puzzles found throughout the world that require the use of more than one captain, and playing cooperatively makes these moments much more pleasant than trying to quickly flick between multiple captains and parties of Pikmin in single player; that’s not to say single player isn’t a blast, just that the game shines the most during cooperative play. What’s more, some of the later levels and bosses make use of more than one captain, so playing co-op can make these encounters somewhat more forgiving.
A new lock-on feature has also been added, which makes targeting enemies and resources much quicker than in the Wii U original, but it’s not perfect as I often found the system locking on to all the wrong resources, leading to me throwing Red Pikmin into water, or Blue Pikmin into fire by accident - you can highlight Pikmin by colour, but it can be easy to forget which group you currently have selected when you’re trying to navigate puzzles, enemies and time constraints. A new hint feature is also available if you find yourself scratching your head from time-to-time, although it’s less a hint feature, more a give you the answer feature. What’s more, the Piklopedia from Pikmin 2 returns here, giving you the chance to discover more about the world of PNF-404 and the creatures that inhabit it. Finally, if the game’s original mode wasn’t challenging enough for you, the Deluxe edition introduces an Ultra-Spicy difficulty mode that reduces the cap on the number of Pikmin you can have in the field from 100 to 60, and beefs up enemies among other gameplay tweaks. It’s a pretty unforgiving mode, but it does add new gameplay elements that some fans have been clamouring for, and the fewer Pikmin means strategy is even more important than ever.
In addition to some very useful gameplay tweaks, Pikmin 3 Deluxe also includes new prologue and epilogue missions which focus on Captain Olimar and Louie during their misadventures before, during and after Pikmin 3’s main storyline. Olimar’s Assignment features four timed missions where Olimar and Louie must set out and gather as much fruit and treasure as possible in order to save the Hocotate Freight company from bankruptcy. Whereas Olimar’s Comeback sees Olimar return to the Pikmin homeworld only for the ship to end up in need of repairs again. Here again, four timed missions task you with constructing your Pikmin army and setting out to find the necessary resources needed to repair your ship. Both Olimar’s Assignment and Comeback playout like the optional challenge levels in the original title, with a medal between bronze and platinum awarded depending on your performance. Sadly, though, while the missions are excellently-crafted and surprisingly-engaging, like the main story and challenge missions, the side-stories are over before they truly begin. I completed all eight missions within a couple of hours and was left craving more.
Along with the main story and the new Captain Olimar and Louie missions, the side-modes from the original return. Bingo Battle pits you against another player where you attempt to fill out a 4 by 4 bingo card by carrying either fruits, enemies or marbles to your onion before the other player. It’s a very enjoyable game mode, and it’s nice to control the Purple and White Pikmin from Pikmin 2 again, although the mode lacks a little longevity, and after a few battles, the enjoyment starts to wane a little.
In addition to Bingo Battle, Mission Mode sees you take on individual challenges against the clock either in single or cooperative play. These range from collecting treasure to defeating as many enemies as possible - there’s also a mode where you can take on bosses again once you’ve defeated them in the main story. How you do in each mission will be assessed and a bronze to platinum medal awarded. The completionist in me enjoyed replaying these missions over and over trying to obtain the highest reward, and despite bronze being relatively easy to achieve, a platinum grade requires mastery of all Pikmin strategy to achieve. Nevertheless, despite a good number of treasure and enemy missions being available, including all the DLC from the Wii U’s version, I was still, again, left hungry for more.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe is pretty much the last of Nintendo’s big hitters from the Wii U to find a new home on the Switch, and yet, despite a few textures updates, Pikmin 3 Deluxe looks and runs pretty much like it did on the Wii U. It runs at a solid 30fps at 720P docked, and 576P and 30fps while in handheld mode, which is a little disappointing considering what the Switch is capable of. Pikmin 3 was an already beautiful title on the Wii U, so the port is an equally pretty game, and still one of the best-looking on the Switch, but it’s hard to ignore the rather blurry, jagged textures and outlines that occasionally appear around character and enemy models. Nevertheless, very few games manage to capture the beauty and atmosphere of the outdoors like Pikmin 3 Deluxe does. From lush, dense forests, to frozen, snow-covered arctic tundras, whatever location you’re exploring, it’s always a pleasant experience. Coupled with a chilled soundtrack that is easily one of the most relaxing in gaming, and you have the perfect way to waste away a few hours - that is until one of your Pikmin succumbs to the landscape’s perils and you hear that heart-breaking sound of your Pikmin’s demise!
Fans of the Pikmin IP have been clamouring for the series to arrive on the Switch, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe delivers in abundance. The new gameplay enhancements make experiencing the story again a pure joy, whilst the additional DLC content and new Olimar and Louie missions do add some much-need longevity to an otherwise content-light experience. That being said, does the Deluxe version offer enough to warrant a full £50/$60 price tag? No, and this a growing issue with Nintendo releases at the moment, especially ports and remasters. For the full RRP I was expecting a little more than some small gameplay enhancements, eight, albeit enjoyable, new prologue/epilogue missions, and all the DLC missions from the original title. Nevertheless, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the ultimate version of the game, and easily one of the Nintendo Switch’s best titles, and a must play for fans, new and old! Here's hoping the long-rumoured Pikmin 4 is on the way!