If you ever wondered “Isn’t there a way that I can lead an army of cute little creatures to help me do stuff?”, then the Nintendo Gamecube game Pikmin is definitely for you. Released in 2002 and again in 2009 for the Wii, this little real-time strategy game is like nothing you’ve ever played before.
You play as Captain Olimar, a lone spaceship pilot on his way back home after a long vacation. Unfortunately, the ship is struck by a passing asteroid and plummets to the surface of a nearby planet. Olimar is safe, but his ship is in pieces–30 pieces, to be exact. And this is a very, very big planet, and he is an itty-bitty little guy. Not to mention that the planet’s atmosphere is poisonous to him; he’s only got 30 days of breathable air in his spacesuit!
He bemoans his fate onscreen, as he ambles about the skeleton of his beloved Dolphin, assessing the damage. And then, he catches sight of what appears to be a growing carrot, a few feet away. He pulls experimentally at the stalk, only to uproot a bright red living creature, carrot-shaped, but definitely not food!
The little creature, which Captain Olimar names “Pikmin” after his favorite brand of carrots back home, clings to him, in need of protection and leadership. It turns out that in the immediate crash site area, there are several more sprouts; there are even some random numbered red pellets, which, when fed to the Pikmin’s apparent mothership (nicknamed “Onion” by Olimar), produces even more sprouts. These new Pikmin are just as loyal and clingy as the first Pikmin Olimar uprooted; it seems he now has a commandable and expandable army on his hands.
Once you discover the Pikmin, you (as Olimar) lead them into battle and into ship part recovery, fighting off the natural Pikmin-eating creatures in order to get to the far-flung parts. A number of Pikmin then carry the recovered part back to the Dolphin, restoring its functions piece by painstaking piece. Upon evening falling, Olimar and the Pikmin both must leave the surface of the planet, since there are more dangerous nocturnal creatures about which could eat both the Pikmin army and Olimar as well.
As the Dolphin is put back together, it can rise up higher in the atmosphere and seek out more parts in different places. You end up visiting five different areas in all.
Different parts you recover also help you in-game–once you get the Whimsical Radar, for instance, you can locate lost Pikmin on your map, whereas before you have to go whistling madly through all the areas looking for them.
Red Pikmin, the first type you discover, are fire-resistant and somewhat stronger, but slower. The slimmer Yellow Pikmin can carry and place explosives, and can be thrown higher into the air to retrieve hard-to-reach stuff–they also move the fastest. Blue Pikmin can swim and are medium-build, making them fairly good at fighting and moving quickly.
It is a good idea to build up your Pikmin army as quickly as possible, using the carcasses of creatures the Pikmin have defeated, as well as the scattered Pikmin pellets. Remember, let the red Pikmin carry the red pellets, yellow carry yellow, etc.–you will maximize your Pikmin sprouts in this way, because the pellet colors match the Onion they go back to.
Each portable object you come across in the game, whether it’s a ship part or an enemy carcass, needs a certain amount of Pikmin to carry it. The number will appear as the bottom half of a fraction floating above the item, with the number of Pikmin currently trying to carry the item appearing as the top half of the fraction. For instance, an item labeled “29/30” needs one more Pikmin to be lifted; an item labeled “2/2” is being carried by just enough Pikmin; an item labeled “30/20” is being carried more quickly because there are 10 more Pikmin to share the load.
Game Time and Sunsets
Your time in the game is divided up into 30 days, lasting about 13 minutes each (except the first “day”, which lasts until you find the Dolphin‘s engine). At sunset, make sure all your Pikmin are accounted for–if they are not actively walking with you or put up in their individual Onions, they will be lost to the nocturnal beasts when sunset arrives.
Multi-Tasking with Pikmin
You can multi-task with different groups of Pikmin recovering different objects at the same time. A popular way to do this is to work with one group of Pikmin to get one item, then assigning only as many Pikmin as are needed to carry the item back to the campsite, while you go forth and start working on retrieving the next. Be careful doing this, though–if you have not cleared the path back to the campsite of all enemies, the unsupervised Pikmin can be ambushed and killed.
Not all the ship’s 30 parts are necessary for the Dolphin to be able to take off and give you a successful game ending. There are 5 unnecessary parts, listed below:
- Space Float
- UV Lamp
- Nova Blaster
- Massage Machine
- Secret Safe
List gleaned from the Ship Parts page on the Pikmin Wikia site.
If you get 29 of 30 parts, a new, final area will open up, which is full of challenges for your experienced Pikmin fleet. Getting through most of the stage is fairly easy after having gotten through all the other challenges of the game…until you get to the “final boss,” a huge, fat yellow caterpillar/slug thing called Emperor Bulblax, which sounds less like a critter and more like Dulcolax’s evil twin drug.
Defeating this horrible creature is one of the most frustrating endgame experiences I’ve ever had. I threw one of my poor yellow Pikmin into Bulblax’s mouth, just like my Nintendo Power guide said to do…and then watched in horror as the fat thing rolled over and killed my 99 remaining Pikmin in 2 seconds. I was about 14 at the time, so I had a nice little fit and swore never to play that level again. XD
Instead, after retrieving 29 of 30 parts, my Pikmin force is generally treated to several days of ego-boosting whooping up on local wildlife and making more Pikmin. The Secret Safe (the part that Bulblax guards) ain’t worth so much loss of life, in my opinion. BUT…beating Bulblax is the only way to retrieve it. So if you’re a completionist, go for it–just keep your Pikmin away from his girth and hungry maw, is all I have to say.
Consulting the Perfect Pikmin guide might help you towards this goal. (Hmmm…maybe I’ll finally avenge those martyred Pikmin after all!)
Pikmin is one of my all-time favorite games (despite its inherent challenges). It involves leadership and organization, nurturing little life-forms, and striving toward a goal of survival for everyone involved. It might look like a kid’s game, but trust me, it’s as tactical and strategic as you want to make it!
Read more about the game: Pikmin @ Wikipedia.com