By this point, nearly four years into the Switch’s life cycle, Nintendo has repackaged almost all of Wii U’s most noteworthy games for the system’s successor, with only a handful of holdovers yet to make the jump. Pikmin 3 is the latest Wii U gem to be dusted off and repurposed for Switch, and like other “deluxe” offerings, it arrives on the hybrid console packed together with all of its original DLC and a smattering of new content–in this case, a handful of additional missions starring series mainstays Olimar and Louie–making this the definitive version of one of the company’s most underrated titles.
Although the side story missions are the biggest selling point, Pikmin 3 has actually received a fair number of other tweaks in its move to Switch as well. There are new difficulty options, a hint system that helpfully nudges wayward players in the right direction, and other additions like badges–unlockable achievements that are doled out upon completing specific tasks or reaching certain milestones. These nips and tucks don’t radically alter the experience for returning players, but they do help make the game more inviting for newcomers, especially those who may not already be familiar with the series.
Even without any dramatic touch-ups, Pikmin 3 remains just as delightful now as when it first premiered more than seven years ago, thanks to its wonderfully idiosyncratic blend of strategy and adventure. The centerpiece of the package is the Story mode, which begins–just as previous games did–with a crash landing. This time around, you take control of three new explorers named Alph, Brittany, and Charlie, who embark on an expedition across the cosmos in search of food for their starving planet. En route, their spaceship is struck by a meteor, sending the crew plummeting to the planet of the Pikmin, and it falls to you to reunite the explorers, navigate the planet’s perils, and retrieve enough food to save their home world.
The ensuing adventure follows the same rhythm as previous Pikmin games. You land on the surface of the planet at the start of each day and spend the next 15 or so minutes retrieving treasures from the surrounding areas, shepherding your Pikmin back to base before the sun sets and the crew returns to the safety of orbit. The spacefarers you command in Pikmin 3 are largely helpless on their own; to accomplish any task, you’ll need to rely on your Pikmin, and it’s here the game’s strategy elements reveal themselves. Like its predecessors, Pikmin 3 is a game fundamentally about unit management. You’ll need to build up an army of Pikmin and use their abilities to achieve your goals.
Each strain of Pikmin boasts its own unique attributes, making them suited for certain situations. Red Pikmin, for instance, are resistant to fire and fierce fighters, while Rock Pikmin–one of two new breeds introduced here–are sturdier and capable of shattering crystals. Despite ostensibly being plant creatures, the Pikmin are more akin to ants; one alone is helpless in the face of the planet’s other wildlife, but in sufficient numbers they’ll be able to vanquish predators many times their size, clear environmental obstacles, and haul fruit and other treasures back to camp.
Although the general framework of the series remains unchanged, Pikmin 3 finds a comfortable middle ground between the hurried tension of the original Pikmin and the more leisurely pace of its sequel. Just as in the first title, you cannot explore the planet indefinitely in Pikmin 3; the length of your journey is dictated by your food supply. The crew consumes a bottle of juice at the end of each day, so you’ll need to have at least one ration on hand at all times to continue your expedition.
Fortunately, fruit is plentiful. You’ll find oversized strawberries, plums, and other delectables scattered around all corners of the planet, and each piece you retrieve will be turned into juice, making it easy to build up an ample supply and buy yourself more than enough time to explore. Some of these fruits will be waiting in plain sight, but most will require a bit of finagling to reach, which is where the joy of Pikmin 3’s gameplay systems is most potently felt. Retrieving the fruit will require you to negotiate the environment using the abilities at your disposal, with more areas opening up as you discover new types of Pikmin. There’s an almost Metroid-like sense of progression to the adventure. You’ll spot, say, a piece of fruit or a breakable gate just out of reach beyond a river in one of the early levels, encouraging you to return later on after you’ve acquired the means to access it. There’s a practical drive to explore, too; as you work your way across levels, you’ll discover and create shortcuts that offer a more efficient route back to your base, making exploration constantly rewarding.
The challenge and joy of the game comes from plotting out your objectives and utilizing the Pikmin to best effect. Multitasking is of the essence in Pikmin 3, particularly after you reunite the entire crew and gain the ability to switch between all three explorers on the fly. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you divide up your troops and retrieve multiple pieces of fruit from different corners of the map within a single day is immensely satisfying. This emphasis on multitasking also makes the newly added ability to play Story mode cooperatively a delight, as you can divide up and accomplish tasks much more efficiently with a second player controlling one of the other captains–though like Pikmin 3’s other modes, this is restricted to local play, limiting its usefulness.
Even without any dramatic touch-ups, Pikmin 3 remains just as delightful now as when it first premiered more than seven years ago, thanks to its wonderfully idiosyncratic blend of strategy and adventure.
Although the adventure isn’t particularly arduous, even on the hard difficulty, your fondness for the Pikmin themselves will add extra weight to your decisions. It’s hard not to grow attached to the little critters when you see the adorable way they scurry behind you and squeak as they hoist a fruit or fallen enemy, and it feels genuinely gutting when one perishes out of your own negligence. You’ll wince with guilt when a Pikmin is gobbled up by a monster or left behind at the end of the day due to your carelessness, and the game reminds you of your losses by keeping a running tally of all the Pikmin that have fallen over the course of your journey. Of course, sometimes losses are inevitable, and the game gives you the opportunity to replay a day should things not go as well as you’d hoped, so no misstep is completely irrevocable. The new Ultra-Spicy difficulty, however, is a different matter. Intended for veteran players, this setting caps the number of Pikmin you can have out in the field at 60, ramping up the challenge by severely limiting your troop size.
Complementing Story mode in Pikmin 3 Deluxe are the aforementioned new side story missions starring Olimar and Louie. These have the duo retrieving treasure to once again financially bail out their employer, and they’re enjoyable but ultimately a little underwhelming. Much like the challenges in the game’s Mission mode, the objective here is generally to collect as much treasure, fruit, and enemy carcasses as you can before time expires. Unlike in the main story, each of these missions is self-contained and starts you off with a set amount and types of Pikmin. That makes them much more about efficiency than exploration, as you’re only given a limited amount of time and resources to accomplish your task. This offers a different kind of appeal than the main adventure, and it feels genuinely satisfying to clear a map with a couple of minutes to spare through efficient multitasking. On the whole, however, these missions lack the exploratory hooks that make the Story mode so compelling, and they aren’t quite as appealing as a result.
The same can be said of Mission mode in general, which offers three different types of smaller, self-contained challenges to complete, ranging from defeating bosses as quickly as possible to retrieving all the treasure in a level. They’re a fun way to extend the game’s longevity, but they feel ancillary to the adventure proper. Bingo Battle, likewise, is great fun if you have someone around to enjoy it with, turning the usual Pikmin gameplay into a head-to-head race to collect specific treasures. These contests quickly become hectic as you contend with not only roaming predators but enemy Pikmin as well, further illustrating how well Pikmin’s core mechanics lend themselves to different types of play. However, the lack of any online support hampers the mode’s appeal. Bingo Battle requires a second player, so if you don’t have someone around to enjoy it with, you’re out of luck.
Although Pikmin 3 Deluxe may not offer much in the way of substantial new content, the game still holds up wonderfully thanks to its unique gameplay and carefully constructed levels, and the tweaks and additions that have been implemented here help smooth over the whole package for newer players. Even three installments in, there is no other series quite like Pikmin, which helps Pikmin 3 still feel fresh seven years after its original release.