I remember playing the original Pikmin back in 2002 shortly after it was released. That was a simpler time, with only three different types of Pikmin helping you out in the game. Today, the formula of the original has been expanded through multiple sequels, yet, if you go back in time, Pikmin 1 still holds strong as a great start to the series.
The original Pikmin focuses on Captain Olimar. While exploring the universe, his ship gets struck by a meteor and he crash lands on a strange planet. After waking in this weird land, Olimar discovers the Pikmin — odd creatures that obey his commands. Now, you must team up with these plant-like creatures to search the planet for the pieces of Olimar’s ship before the life support runs out. This simple story is all that is needed as the characters and gameplay carry the tale to the end.
Carried on Olimar’s shoulders
Let’s be honest, Pikmin’s story isn’t going to be the game’s legacy. Once you get beyond the game’s initial setup, you will learn more about Olimar and his family throughout the adventure. There are even little bits of information about his home world. While this is nice, it doesn’t add much to the game. Because of this, the real shining star that holds the game afloat is the gameplay.
For those who like the idea of pretending to be a scientist, discovering the untapped regions of space, and discovering new creatures, the game goes the extra mile to talk about different aspects of the Pikmin. You learn about their weaknesses and strengths. You also learn about new information that you might not have found otherwise, really putting you in the shoes of a curious explorer.
Red, Yellow, and Blue
At the start of Pikmin, you learn about the pint-sized creatures as you pluck a red one from the ground. From then on, you will gather Yellow and Blue Pikmin that will also help you complete puzzles and overcome obstacles — and there are many. Each Pikmin type has its own strengths and weaknesses, such as Red’s ability to survive fire attacks and Blue’s ability to breathe underwater.
These special abilities come into play in puzzles that require you to do things like traverse puddles or blow up stone walls, all for the sake of collecting the parts of Olimar’s ship. The game does a great job of making you feel the pressure of time thanks to the need to gather all of the ship parts before Olimar’s life support runs out. When you go a day or two without collecting a part, it makes you anxious that you will fail, adding to the pressure.
Additional pressure is placed on you as you also need to pay attention to the time of day. Each day only lasts so long and you must get back to your ship before dark. If you don’t, your Pikmin will die, requiring you to pick up the pieces the next day to rebuild your forces, costing you precious time you don’t have.
Strategy comes into play throughout the game when you need to divide and conquer with your Pikmin. Enemies await around different corners of the map and sometimes you need to split up your forces to collect a part and take out the enemy simultaneously.
While boss battles are not plentiful in the game, the ones that are there require you to think rather than simply fight a war of attrition. For instance, the beetle fight requires you to dodge boulders while you wait for its weak spot to appear. Outside of boss battles, combat focuses more on selecting the right Pikmin for the job, making some enemies tougher than others. For instance, some enemies breathe fire. If you happen to walk in with the wrong Pikmin, they will get burned alive.
There are moments where the janky movement of the original Pikmin game does affect how you play. While most of the time this isn’t too noticeable, in combat, it really shows. Trying to accurately aim while being chased down by a creature can be pretty difficult but that also adds to the intensity and sense of desperation you’re intended to feel as a crashlanded survivor.
A great classic
Whether you enjoy strategy games or not, there is no denying that the original Pikmin game established a compelling formula that future entries would iterate on. The basic story has remained lighthearted and comical and never bogs the player down. Despite the lack of story and explanation of the world, Pikmin is still regarded as one of Nintendo’s greats because of its fantastic gameplay and level design that really makes you think about how you should explore and what your next step will be.