E3 2012: Pikmin 3 demo impressions, details on controls, changes

I had the opportunity to launch a full-scale Pikmin invasion on the E3 demo. Would my army come back home triumphantly carrying their trophies from the hunt, or would we be facing a harsh winter? Check my E3 preview as I detail the graphics, differences between this and the past games, and the controls. My first mission in Pikmin 3 was to enter the cave dwelling of a horrendous creature…

Like a Boss

The boss is a giant centipede with humongous jaws. The idea behind this boss is to use your new rock Pikmin to eventually break pieces of his armor. Then, to be most effective, you can throw red Pikmin on the exposed sections so they stick to him and keep attacking. If you don’t dodge well enough, the boss will grab all the Pikmin he can into his jaws. Once stuck in his jaws, you will watch in horror as he slowly devours your Pikmin with his sharp teeth. To stop this from happening, you need to throw some rock Pikmin at his face–something I was more than happy to do. The boss would crawl on the walls and ceiling, so while he was busy doing that, I gathered my Pikmin that had been tossed around the cave. I also took notice of several groups of Pikmin that were trapped behind mushrooms, and others that were in high alcoves. I eventually beat the boss, my team of Pikmin triumphant.

More details in the forest

I then played a tutorial mission and saw even more of the super clean, detailed graphics. Gone are the great but blurry textures and visuals of the past games. I mean, I can still play them (and just did, actually), but the HD quality of these new textures is certainly a pleasure. The red, white-dotted bulborb, which had a flat texture on it in past games, now had indentations where the white dots are. It’s a subtle but awesome change; one that will help to immerse players, furthering the game towards the CG cartoon visuals that it’s going for. Water had an even more realistic appearance, and the transparencies on certain enemies were fantastic. Though it’s going to be a first-gen game, and we’re sure to see even more improvements later on, Nintendo’s artists haven’t let the Wii U’s power go to waste.

There were a few other touches that were great to see. In the past games, Pikmin would build things in a cloud of smoke, the actual building not really being seen. In this demo however, the Pikmin would take individual pieces of rock to form a bridge. When the Pikmin break down a wall, you can see the layers of wall being broken down, the interior now exposed. There were other details such as Pikmin being able to grab items and then slide down a looping vine, for example. The various types of Pikmin will be of use to you, as seen in the demo. The rock Pikmin can break walls down, and smash the armor of tough foes, and the red Pikmin can fight fire enemies with ease. I’m curious to see what other uses the rock Pikmin will have, and what other Pikmin might have been included in this latest iteration.

New play controls

As for the controls, if you’ve played the NEW PLAY CONTROL! series of Pikmin games, are fairly familiar. The Z button on the nunchuk will force the camera to adjust to Captain Olimar’s back, but there’s a new function as well. If you’re aiming at an enemy and you hold the Z button, Olimar will go into targeting mode (similar to the Zelda series). This will help you keep on eye on your enemies, but there’s another new move related to Z-targeting: dodging. That’s right. When you tap left or right on the Wii remote’s d-pad, both Olimar and your horde of Pikmin will roll to move out of the way of enemy attacks. When you’re directing your army of Pikmin, almost nothing is cooler than watching them all roll together.

Comparing it to the past games, I noticed a few other changes in the Pikmin 3 demo’s controls. The only way to manipulate the camera was to re-place it behind Olimar’s back with the Z-button. There wasn’t an option to change the type of view (top-down, from the side), or to change the distance of the camera. The ability to move your Pikmin around you and towards objects was missing, though perhaps taking its place was a new charge move. The charge move sends your Pikmin towards enemies in a kamikaze-like attack. The C button of the nunchuk was used to switch which Pikmin you were ready to throw, and since this button was previously used to dismiss the Pikmin, it’s possible that the dismissal function has been changed or removed. However, the “up” and “down” of the d-pad were not used, so it’s apparent that Nintendo is still working out the controls. The final version of the game will allow players to use the Wii U controller to play, but we weren’t able to try that as it was still being worked on.

Other things to expect

At their press conference, Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned that players will be able to control up to four captains at one time, so we’re in for a challenge. These captains may be a hint as to what we can expect in the cooperative modes as well. Will two players be able to play? What about four? We’ll let you know when we find out. The play control series allowed gamers to aim in the air, but the games weren’t made for that. So, I think you can expect enemies that require you to target specific body parts at different angles and heights thanks to the better aim control over the original Gamecube versions.

The Pikmin game series is one that I’m glad Nintendo hasn’t yet given up on. It launched during the Gamecube era, which was one of their least successful platforms. Well, Pikmin, it’s your time to shine. The Wii U launch is almost entirely on your shoulders.

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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