One of the many great things about being a Switch owner is getting to play all of the games that were previously stuck on the Wii U. Excellent titles such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE got a second life on the more popular console. It’s a formula that has worked for Nintendo, which probably explains the need for Pikmin 3 Deluxe. As a new entry in a fan-favorite franchise that really deserves another shot, it would be foolish not to port it over.
Since it’s been some time since the series was active, let me give you a quick refresher on what it’s all about. The basic set-up — you play an intrepid explorer who crash-lands on planet PNF-404 while in search of resources. Here, you meet a very friendly (and peculiar) species known as Pikmin. These plant-based creatures come in a variety of colors, with each colored variant having its own unique traits. Using a finely-tuned real-time strategy control scheme, you command them to help you collect resources, as well as figure out a way to get off the planet.
In Pikmin 3, the unlucky explorers this time are a trio of astronauts from the planet Koppai. Sent out in search of food amidst a crippling famine back on their homeworld, the team of Alph, Brittany, and Charlie unfortunately crash land on PNF-404. Now, not only is their ship, the S.S. Drake, missing a key component, but the three have also been scattered across different regions of the planet. It doesn’t take long before each crew member teams up with the unique Pikmin they come across, working together to not only reunite but track down their missing cosmic drive key.
Admittedly, it had been quite some time since I last played an entry in the series, and knowing that Pikmin 2 is now 16 years old makes me want to crumble into dust. Thankfully, I found it remarkably easy to get reacquainted with the mechanics of the series. Nintendo EAD has done an excellent job of making what is ostensibly a real-time strategy game work well with a controller. Commanding your Pikmin army to knock down a wall or collect pieces of gold is a breeze once you get settled in. It’s even easy to cycle through the multiple types of Pikmin in your squad and split them up into subgroups. Considering each level carries a time limit, it’s important to be able to divide duties when possible.
As mentioned, there are multiple Pikmin varieties to make use of. They come in different colors and builds, and each one has its own necessary use for surviving on PNF-404. Red Pikmin are well rounded, while also being impervious to fire, while yellow Pikmin are weaker, but are excellent conductors of electricity. New additions to the ever-expanding roster include the black rock species, who can smash through glass barriers, and the pink type, who possess the ability to fly. As you unlock additional varieties, it pays to return to earlier mission locations in order to clean up any fruit you may not have been able to reach previously.
I never played Pikmin 3 on Wii U, but even if this were just a straight port, I would have significant praise for it. The gameplay is an excellent fit for the Nintendo Switch, and the bite-sized campaign missions are perfect for playing on the go. Even with the number of things you need to keep track of at one time (all three crew members and your army of Pikmin), it’s easy enough for a single person to handle. The main story mode doesn’t last especially long, but it definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. I do wish there was more of an indication as to when you were entering the game’s final mission, as I would have liked to have spent more time finishing off the previous levels.
Considering it had been in development since as far back as 2008, I was surprised at how well the visuals have held up. Part of what makes Pikmin 3 impressive to look at is the franchise’s creative characters and realistic environments. The titular creatures have a fun, but simplistic design, and the other inhabitants of PNF-404 are all uniquely designed as well. But it’s the details of each area of the planet that really impressed me. The water effects are great, and everything from the leaves to the snow stands out, both on the Switch’s smaller screen and a full-sized TV. It’s really just another example of how Nintendo can get impressive results out of older tech.
As its name suggests, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is more than just a straight port. For starters, it includes all of the post-release DLC that was released for the original Wii U version. These are significantly tougher Mission Mode levels that add additional Pikmin variants to the mix — if you thought the campaign was too much of a breeze, these levels will more than satisfy your need for a challenge. Full co-op play has also been included for the story mode, but the lack of online play mitigates some of the excitement over its inclusion. Other minor additions include new difficulty levels and a hint system that will point you in the right direction if you get yourself mixed up mid-game.
The big get for Pikmin 3 Deluxe, though, is Captain Olimar’s Comeback. Taking place before and after the events of the main story, these unique missions focus on returning protagonists Captain Olimar and Louie, as they return to PNF-404 to repair their old ship, the S.S. Dolphin. Each one of the individual missions will award you with a medal and ranking upon successful completion, offering up some replay value for those wanting it. Even more than the DLC Mission Mode levels, these challenge stages are tough when flying solo. They require expert time management, and you really need to plan out each individual movement.
If we’re not going to get a new entry anytime soon, then Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the next best thing. It’s another fantastic entry in the series, and this updated release has been tweaked and retooled to work efficiently on the Switch. In many ways, it feels very much like the perfect balance between the two previous titles in the franchise — it’s not as harsh on time as the original was, but it provides a tougher challenge than Pikmin 2. Whether you are new to the series, or someone well-versed with planet PNF-404, this re-release is worth picking up.
This review was based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe is another excellent entry in Nintendo's charming and under-appreciated franchise. The main campaign is enjoyable enough on its own, but the numerous additions and improvements are just icing on the cake.