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Pikmin 3

Pikmin 3 Hands-On

Pikmins stole the spotlight at this year's E3 as they return for a third adventure among spacemen and giant bugs.

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A new Pikmin was announced for Nintendo Wii U last E3, and the lovely little flower beings served as the starter course during this year's press briefing at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Obviously the series holds a special place in Shigeru Miyamoto's heart, a game that sprung from his mind as he was tending his garden, and almost 8 years after the second game launched on Gamecube we were given a tantalising first taste of Pikmin 3 during E3.

Pikmin 3

I appreciated the Pikmin games a lot back in the day. They paired Nintendo's brilliant eye for details and focus on gameplay, with something that felt fresh and just generally very agreeable. In fact a yellow Pikmin that I bought a few years back at Tokyo Game Show sits proudly on a shelf next to my desk. But as I played the two short demos available on the showfloor at E3 it struck me that Pikmin 3 was a strange game to open up the conference with. Sure, it's a fan favourite, but I played it with the Wiimote and nunchuck during E3, and the use of the gamepad was limited to map and playback functions. Not exactly a set up that sells the brand new Wii U experience to be honest.

The first demo I tried out was the one in which you try and collect as much fruit as you can in 7 minutes on a small sectioned off map. It gave me an introduction to the new rock Pikmin, and to the new ability that allows Pikmin to construct bridges. This challenge mode adds a nice bite sized high score element to the game, I'm sure competition for the best times will be fierce.

Designed as a bit of a sample platter, the challenge map offered a bunch of smaller and larger bugs to finish as well as some simpler tasks to solve. Even if I haven't played the original games since they were first released, it was easy to get into the groove of things and the little critters behaved just like I expected them to, but in full HD this time around. And while Miyamoto's delight at seeing Pikmin in full HD may not resonate all that well with gamers who entered the HD era seven years ago, it must be said that it looked simply stunning.

Pikmin 3

I mentioned the playback feature. It's a simple one, and one that in all honesty could have been done on the large screen just as easily. Basically you're progress on the map is recorded and you can play it back to see in what order you tackled various obstacles and what routes you took. It's naturally a feature that encourages multiple playthroughs and adds longevity to what could otherwise easily be regarded as a cheap, tagged on game mode.

In a way, Nintendo played it conservatively with Pikmin 3 at E3. Sure, we did get to play around with the Rock Pikmin in both demos, but the most interesting innovations were only teased at the event. One of the major new features is the ability to control up to four spacemen (not including Captain Olimar whose mysterious role in this adventure has yet to be revealed), and while it may not be the ideal place to test an advanced feature it holds the promise of giving us full insight into why Pikmin 3 plays better with the gamepad. Or, at least why we have a gamepad there at all. I'm a little confused about the whole concept of having us play the game with Wiimote and nunchuck, while using the gamepad as an interactive map. Seems like I would need an extra hand to take full advantage of this.

Pikmin 3

I hope that Nintendo keep the options open so I can play the game with just the gamepad without losing any functionality - it should be possible, but obviously this was not the way Nintendo wanted to present the game at E3.

The second demo featuring a boss battle with a scaled critter that hurried about in an enclosed arena. The idea was to use the Rock Pikmin to break the exo skeleton, and then fling red Pikmins on to the soft flesh to damage the boss. Simple as that, but if you think about it, the multiple spacemen and new types of Pikmin along with the old ones, could make for some truly interesting boss battles later on in the game.

The nature of the Pink Pikmin briefly seen also remains a mystery. A flying Pikmin? That certainly tickles our interest. Whether we'll see other Pikmins return (we've only seen the classic yellow, blue, and red so far) such as the white one, is also kept secret. There seems to be a lot more to Pikmin 3 than what we were allowed to see at E3 - the concept still holds up, but it's dying for some innovation, but sadly we only got a couple of glimpses of that during the show. Pikmin is charming as always, and we expect great things from this game, and the teaser presented to us at E3 did little to put us off.

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