Nintendo has had a mixed year. Its 3DS portable has finally hit its stride, finally delivering great must-have games and a diverse collection of downloadable titles to choose from.
On the home console side of things, it's been a letdown. With word that the company only managed, the Wii U is already approaching life support not even a year into its life.
How does Nintendo plan on boosting Wii U sales? The same way it's always done: with great software. That road to recovery starts now with Pikmin 3.
Sure, Pikmin isn't a franchise that first comes to mind when you think Nintendo, but its cult following has solidified the game as one of the Wii U's rare high points of anticipated upcoming software.
If you've ever played a Pikmin game before, you should find that Pikmin 3 is easily the most intuitive version of the game yet. It controls just the way you'd want it to: seamlessly and logically. It's not perfect, though -- more on that later.
The game puts you in control of a set of space travelers who are shipwrecked on an Earth-like planet. To survive your adventure, you must scour this foreign land in search of food, or in Pikmin 3's case, fruit.
Helping you hoard these eats are Pikmin, an adorable and easily manipulated race of creatures that come in all different and useful varieties. Pikmin 3 looks absolutely gorgeous, and the cute little areas you'll explore are impressively designed with near photorealistic detail.
The game plays more like a real-time strategy game than anything else, so be prepared to do a fair bit of waiting around for the Pikmin to finish jobs you assign them to.
Then there's the issue of the GamePad, which as far as I'm concerned, doesn't need to be a factor in the gameplay experience. But because the controller is such an integral part of the Wii U system, its implementation in the game seems totally forced. Of course, it's pretty neat that you can play the game solely on the GamePad's screen -- with a Wii remote and nunchuk -- but it's by no means an enjoyable setup.
All in all, Pikmin 3 is a great game, and software anyone already with a Wii U should own. The problem is, this doesn't feel like a system-selling game, even if the experience is among the best of Wii U titles.
Pikmin 3 might not appeal to audiences who aren't familiar with the franchise, which makes it a tough sell on a console that is already struggling with an installation base.
Oh, Pikmin 3. Why can’t you be better?
I love the world of Pikmin. Shigeru Miyamoto’s odd game of tiny flower-aliens in a massive backyard forest-world has a beautiful look and mysterious secrets to discover, and the Wii U sequel is better-looking than ever. It’s Nintendo’s most beautiful game.
But something doesn’t work perfectly: the controls. Those controls.
You can tell the Wii U’s central problem when you realize that Pikmin 3, the most flagship game in Nintendo’s entire Wii U lineup, can’t find a perfect control scheme on the Wii U’s GamePad. Nintendo’s review guide even suggests you play with a Wii nunchuk and Wii remote instead. You can, and the stick-waggling controls are a perfect fit, but Pikmin 3 makes liberal use of the GamePad’s second screen for maps and other details. The game keeps asking that you check the screen, making you swap back and forth between the Wii remote and GamePad. The Wii U keeps swapping back and forth, too, with little notifications that you’re using a different controller. Awkward? Yeah.
I’m very happy Pikmin 3 is here. It’s a deep, fun adventure-strategy game. It’s pure Nintendo. It’s kid-friendly. It looks great. But it’s also not a game that shows off the GamePad well. And for a system that needs as many slam-dunk killer apps as possible, that’s unfortunate news. It doesn’t make Pikmin 3 anything less than an excellent game, but it makes it, improbably, an imperfect fit for the Wii U.
CNET verdict: Worth playingPikmin 3 is a reason to dust off your Wii U if you've got one, but this cutesy real-time strategy game isn't moving hardware.
For another opinion, check out GameSpot's review.