When you’re a Pikmin fan there are three things you come to learn, the first being how many Pikmin it takes to carry a Game & Watch system, the second is how not to be affected by the sounds of a tragic Pikmin’s death, and the final thing, patience – a lot of patience.
That patience has come from the series’ tendency to see an off-handed announcement of a new game followed by years of waiting and wondering. It happened with Pikmin 3 and then again with Pikmin 4 and I’m sure the trend will continue when it comes to an eventual Pikmin 5. For now, at least, Pikmin fans can rejoice as not only are we seeing the new Pikmin 4 releasing in a matter of mere weeks, but the first two games as well on Switch for the very first time.
Pikmin (or Pikmin 1 as it now appears to be called), sees Captain Olimar wind up crashing on a strange planet, his ship torn to pieces and scattered about the land. Fortunately, Olimar happens across red, blue and yellow critters he dubs Pikmin, as cute as they are useful and each with their own unique traits. Red Pikmin are strongest in battle and fireproof, blue can walk through water and yellow are able to be tossed highest and carry bombs. With only 30 days of life-support left, Olimar then sets to work gathering his ship parts commanding an army of up to 100 of the Pikmin by his side ready to take on other monsters and carry the hefty parts back.
The very first Pikmin is an interesting game to revisit as it definitely feels like the toughest in the series, a big emphasis is placed on efficiency with the 30-day limit (each day equating to roughly 15 minutes of real-time before the sun sets and you must head back to your ship for the night) a constant reminder of your looming doom. While far from meagre, it still creates a sense of urgency in the player, where a day yielding no new parts can leave you feeling a little more panicked as you edge closer to your deadline.
Of course, this being the first in the series, Pikmin 1 also packs little in the way of extras outside the game’s main story mode. Challenge mode is the only side option, a rather straightforward effort that sees you trying to grow as many Pikmin as possible within a time limit on one of the story mode’s five main stages. It’s fun sure, albeit a taster for what is to come in Pikmin 2 and 3 after it.
Pikmin 1 is just as joyous now as it was back in the early 2000s. It’s by far the shortest of the series along with being the most challenging and while the available extras feel somewhat small by today’s standards those who’ve yet to experience the origins of this wonderful series should definitely give it a chance.
Pikmin 2 may as well have come with the subtitle of ‘BIGGER. LARGER. MORE,’ introducing a lengthier story mode, underground caves, more monsters, two new Pikmin, a bigger challenge mode and a competitive and cooperative two-player option.
Upon returning back to his home planet after the events of the first game, Olimar finds the company he works for in horrendous debt and his ship thus sold in order to repay some of the outstanding bill back. After it’s revealed that a bottle cap Olimar brought back from his travels proves highly valuable though, he and his fellow work colleague Louie head back to the mysterious planet in search of more ‘valuable’ treasures. As you might expect, Olimar falls right back into his previous role of leading Pikmin to once again assist him on this adventure.
Despite playing very similarly to the original, Pikmin 2 also introduces an awful lot of new ideas in the mix. For starters, you’re now able to switch between controlling Olimar and Louie, with each able to lead their own group of Pikmin. This not only creates ample opportunity to be more efficient than ever, multi-tasking and getting even more done day to day but even creates puzzles built around the idea of shepherding two teams. Red, blue and yellow Pikmin all make a return with two new colours added again each with unique skills to utilise. White Pikmin can dig up treasures, withstand poisonous attacks and even poison enemies when eaten while purple is much heavier than a normal Pikmin able to stun when thrown and carry ten times that too.
While the day system makes a return once again when exploring the surface, venturing into underground caves, presses pause on the setting sun and allow players to explore the depths at their own pace. Every cave is made up of a series of floors, the layout of each random and filled with monsters and shiny treasures. While time is of no concern here, one interesting twist is that you cannot grow any more Pikmin when inside a cave, meaning you’ll need to deal with the consequences of any lost in battle or accident as your numbers start to shrink.
There’s just so much to see and do in Pikmin 2’s story between the surface and plentiful underground caves. The switch from ship parts to everyday objects is also a novel one with nearly 200 in total to snoop out. Who knew finding a simple battery could bring such a smile to one’s face? It’s worth noting that while the original game was very much about getting everything done as fast as possible, here things feel far less pressured. With no limit to the number of days you have to explore, not to mention the time-stopping caves, Pikmin 2 definitely has a far more chilled vibe about it.
Outside the main story, the fun doesn’t end there. Challenge mode makes a return once again but this time with thirty unique stages tasking players to make it through a series of cave-inspired floors within a time limit. Better still is the option to play with a friend as you both work together controlling a captain each. Pikmin 2 even introduces a competitive mode with two players duking it out to capture four marbles first or eliminate their army of Pikmin. Both are excellent fun and lengthy distractions rounding off an all-around top-value package.
Both games have been given an HD upgrade of course and while certainly much improved over the blurry look of the GameCube games fall well short of this year’s Metroid Prime Remastered. Motion controls are included although feel less precise than I’d like although I found no issues playing with the more traditional control scheme. In all, while Pikmin 1 and 2 are rather straightforward ports the reduced price point makes a purchase feel more justifiable.
It’s been great fun revisiting these two GameCube classics, both holding up remarkably well and each a must for those that perhaps entered the series through its third entry. While the updates are minimal, that doesn’t diminish what are essentially two of Nintendo’s finest efforts on the purple box and a perfect appetiser before Pikmin 4 rolls around.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo