Owning a Nintendo Switch after owning a Wii U is sort of like being stuck in a time warp—in the best way imaginable. Though it can be a little difficult to get excited about one-generation-removed ports, Nintendo has a knack for picking just the right games to revisit at just the right times. Titles like Mario Kart 8, New Super Mario Bros. U, and, most recently, Pikmin 3 are top-shelf selections; they’re games that my family remembers fondly, but often in only broad strokes, the finer details lost to the haze of years past.
While the first Pikmin title put us in control of planet Hocotate’s Captain Olimar, and its sequel, Pikmin 2, partnered him with fellow Hocotate Freight employee Louie, Pikmin 3 instead tells the story of a trio of intrepid explorers from its fruit-loving neighbor Koppai. In the tradition of all great space odysseys, Pikmin 3: Deluxe begins with a crash landing that scatters crew members Alph, Brittany, and Captain Charlie across the various climes of planet PNF-404.
While the original mission remains to locate food resources to relieve a famine back home on Koppai, the player’s first order of business becomes reuniting these three tiny astronauts. Enter the titular Pikmin.
Highly evolved and eager to serve, Pikmin come in a variety of colors, each possessing special powers to help overcome various environmental obstacles. Red Pikmin are fire resistance while blue Pikmin are aquatic. Yellow Pikmin can conduct electricity, are particularly light, and can dig faster than their other-hued brethren. Rock Pikmin are strong and durable, and the pink Winged Pikmin… well, they have wings.
As Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, utilizing these highly specialized Pikmin is as easy as cycling through the individual color groups using the Switch’s shoulder buttons, then throwing them at the enemy, obstacle, or item in question using A. You can likewise fling your other party members, who, in turn, can take command of their own sub-groups of Pikmin, switching control between your strike forces on the fly using the Y button and D-pad.
The catch, of course, is that even the hardiest of Pikmin is no match for the super-sized Amprats, Bulborbs, and other enemies that prowl PNF-404. You will inevitably lose some of your little soldiers, and it will always hurt.
You can replenish their ranks by discovering new wild patches of Pikmin or by returning to the Pikmin Onion parked next to your ship, the S.S. Drake. With a hard limit of 100 Pikmin available at a time, your surplus plant people reside within the safety of the protective Onion until they are called upon. And, while Pikmin are always willing to take newly discovered fruits and valuable upgrades to the Drake for scanning, fallen enemies and similar organic matter are instead delivered to the Onion, further increasing your overall supply of brightly colored cannon fodder.
While giant monsters are always on the periphery of your grand adventure, the real enemy here is the game’s strict time limit. PNF-404 is especially dangerous after dark, so our tiny astronauts and tinier Pikmin retreat into the night’s sky for safety—aboard the Drake and the surprisingly mobile Onion respectively. Unfortunately, any remaining Pikmin are summarily devoured by ravenous nocturnal beasts, and, despite your best efforts to the contrary, you’re bound to lose a few along the way.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe does a great job addressing the issue of time-crunch with a helpful hint system and the occasional onscreen guide arrows, and this version even addresses my biggest gripe about the original, its touchy control and targeting system, with a robust dual-analog interface. Unfortunately, the Pikmin themselves are still prone to wander, returning to the point of their last active mission rather than by your side after a task is completed, or sometimes just getting stuck under flora or atop rocky outcroppings, unable to negotiate their way back to the pack.
This does highlight the delicate, transient nature of the Pikmin themselves, and the ability to easily replay an earlier day for a second chance at saving more of your precious multi-colored babies does take some of the sting out, but, at least in my experience, there are few things more frustrating than realizing a handful of your Pikmin have gone too far afield and being unable to locate them even as the countdown to dusk begins.
Still, Pikmin 3 Deluxe stands out as an utterly enjoyable real-time strategy title—even for those of us who don’t particularly care for the RTS genre!
Multiple difficulty modes and lock-on targeting join the hint system as welcomed additions, and two-player story mode can certainly make the headache of managing multiple Pikmin groups more convenient. But even that’s not all this Switch release brings to the title.
New side-story missions showcase older characters like Olimar, bringing the franchise’s history to the forefront, and their objective-based structure makes for a nice break in-between primary missions. This, plus all previous DLC, really fleshes out the offering.
All this content pairs nicely with Pikmin 3 Deluxe‘s impeccable visuals, showcasing a bevy of tiny protagonists in a very big, hyper-realistic world. It’s the soundtrack, though, that remains perhaps its single greatest achievement. Alternately lilting and frantic, organic and electronic, the music is perfectly paired to every scenario, and my oldest child was quick to remind me that this was the first game where he realized exactly how important and engaging a soundtrack could be.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe is rated E10 for mild cartoon violence and is available at retailers nationwide (and via the Nintendo eShop) beginning on October 30. It’s another excellent addition to your family’s Nintendo Switch library, and certainly a fine pick-up for the upcoming holiday season.
Whether this is your first flight or a return visit to PNF-404, Pikmin 3 Deluxe manages to bring charm and challenge in equal measure, further solidifying itself as the definitive Pikmin experience.
Review materials provided by Nintendo of America. This post contains affiliate links. Here’s to all those tiny Pikmin I lost in the forests, caves, and snowy plains of PNF-404.