Nintendo’s finally released Pikmin 3, a game all about controlling a vast army of tiny servants in order to defeat nasty monsters, score tons of fruit and explore a world quite similar to Earth from the perspective of an ant.

Originally slated for the Wii U’s “launch window,” a period that essentially ran half a year after the console’s release date, Pikmin 3 slipped to nearly a full year after Nintendo’s newest console hit the marketplace.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Pikmin and one of Nintendo’s most famous developers, went on record about game delays last year with The Guardian. Miyamoto said then that “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

That’s what Pikmin 3 is; it’s a game that became really good, eventually.

A lot of Wii U owners dived into the console near launch specifically for games like Rayman Legends, The Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3. Those were all launch window games, and Pikmin 3 will be the first to market. Was it worth the wait?

What is Pikmin?

Since Pikmin 2 was originally released roughly nine years ago, it’s entirely plausible that you could step into this franchise without any experience at all. If that’s the case, this is the deal with Pikmin.

Players control tiny aliens from another planet in their quest to find goods left about an Earth-like planet’s surface. Those aliens find and pluck Pikmin, tiny creatures that become instantly devoted to the player’s characters.

You’ll walk around levels and toss Pikmin at enemies in order to defeat them and at objects in order to move, destroy or collect them. All of this work will earn you more time in the game, access to new areas, more Pikmin and other goodness.

With Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3, exploration happens in day-long chunks. You’ll be on the planet’s surface for roughly 15 minutes, give or take a few. When night time comes, any Pikmin not near your ships or in your care will be lost to the nocturnal monsters.

As the game progresses, you’ll be introduced to new Pikmin types. These types will allow you to enter areas and combat enemies that otherwise would have been inaccessible or practically invincible.

The result of this play creates a game of strategy, exploration and ease. That’s not to say that Pikmin 3 is easy, it’s actually rather tough at points, but it’s an easy game to control and enjoy.

Plenty of Control Options

If you’re wondering how the game is played with the GamePad, Wii Remote and Wii U Pro Controller options, the answer is “yes.”

You can play using any method you like. Though, for my money, the Wii Remote and Nunchuck options are the absolute best. If you’ve been paying attention to our latest “Let’s Beat” series, we’ve been focusing on Pikmin 2 for the Wii. Pikmin 2 originally launched on the GameCube. Nintendo elected to give both it and its predecessor Wii Play controls and launch them for last generation’s motion based platform.

The result? Pikmin, Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3 are, surprisingly, the best excuse for Wii Remote and Nunchuck play that I’ve ever personally experienced.

Playing Pikmin 3

This is how I preferred to play Pikmin 3. Sitting at my coffee table, using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck for control while letting the GamePad sit on a stand and serve as a quick map, reference center, message receiver and strategic planner. It works really well this way, and the GamePad complements play perfectly.

How, exactly? Glad you asked.

The Best Use of the Wii U’s GamePad So Far

As I mentioned quickly above, the GamePad in Pikmin 3 serves mainly as a point of reference if you play the game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. It’s home to the map, communications and tons of in-game info. It’s also home to the “Go Here” function.

When you’re playing Pikmin 3, you’ll eventually be in control of three people at once. You’ll be able to swap between each and move them to different parts of the map at will. With the GamePad, you can select a person and scroll over to a location on the map, then you’ll tap “Go Here” and watch them waddle away. You’ll get a message when they arrive.

It’s great for getting Pikmin in appropriate areas throughout the course of a day.

At first blush, you would think that Nintendo made a mistake by not allowing control beyond the “Go Here” function on the GamePad’s touchscreen. I thought that too, initially. “They should allow for more granular control beyond moving to a location,” I considered. I wanted to be able to send a captain to a location, and I wanted to order commands like “harvest Pikmin” or “fight small enemies.”

About three days into playing, though, it hit me: that’s the fun stuff in these Pikmin games. It’s not fun to set orders from a touchscreen and only step in for boss fights and big fruit collections. Pikmin is at its most fun when you’re manually throwing Pikmin at baddies, deciding how many need to carry back a corpse and snagging the right Pikmin seed per your needs.

The “Go Here” function is exactly what the GamePad should be used for. It’s great that it’s home to the map, information on fruit, information on enemies and an objective locator. The “Go Here” function, though, is absolutely perfect. Pikmin 3 boasts the best use of the Wii U’s GamePad since the console’s launch for this very reason.

Pikmin 3 - 1
Pikmin 3 boasts the best use of the Wii U’s GamePad since the console’s launch…

An Ant Sized Complaint

My biggest complaint about Pikmin 3 comes from something only followers of the series will really notice. In most ways, Pikmin 3 improves vastly over its predecessors. However, there’s one facet of this new game that I find a little disheartening.

The size isn’t as charming as it used to be.

Without spoiling the central plot of Pikmin 3, understand that the drive of this newest game is no longer collecting abandoned Earth objects. Instead, you’re after fruit.

With Pikmin and Pikmin 2, the main objective was to collect things like batteries, globes, radios, playing cards and coffee mugs. That gave those games an extra layer of charm. You were exploring the world from a unique perspective, and that perspective meant sending 15 Pikmin to lift up a single Duracell battery.

That allure of seeing familiar objects from a new perspective is slightly less present due to the fact that you’re only going after fruit and fake monsters. When you approach a broken flower pot, for instance, that charm of scale returns, but it’s brief.

Collecting fruit is fun, but it’s much more fun to collect a mammoth Game & Watch.

The Wii U Game We Deserve

Editor's Choice

Rating

9.5
We finally have a game that warrants the purchase of the Wii U.

Pikmin 3

It’s been nearly a year since the launch of the Wii U, and we finally have a game that warrants the purchase of the system. Pikmin 3 is gorgeous, it packs an awesome set of controls and it’s a game loaded with content. On top of the Story Mode, there’s also a Mission Mode and Bingo Battle Mode that allow for multiplayer fun.

Want to pair up with a friend to tackle specific missions? You can do that. Want to go head to head in a race to collect certain goods on a map? You can do that, too. All told, I dumped about 15 hours into Pikmin 3. Only eight of those hours were in the main campaign. I completed the story, tackled a few missions and dove into the multiplayer modes, and I’ve still got content to explore.

Pikmin 3 is nearly perfect. It’s a shame that it didn’t launch with the Wii U, but, like Miyamoto said, this is a delayed game that eventually became very good.

Disclaimer: We received an early digital copy of Pikmin 3 for the Wii U from Nintendo. We beat the game's campaign and spent time in all other modes before finishing this review.