Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Shigefumi Hino & Masamichi Abe
Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto
Released as a launch title for the GameCube, heavily based on the Super Mario 128 tech demo showcased shortly before the launch of the console, Pikmin is the only first-party Nintendo series falling under the genre of real-time strategy, and introduced an entirely new mythos, cast of characters and basic gameplay premise. It would turn out to be yet another successful series for Nintendo and develop a pretty loyal fan base, and I think the developers did a fairly good job of introducing gamers to the series with the first instalment.
Graphics – 9/10
On a technical level, this game is nothing short of brilliant. It was inspired by the early aforementioned tech demo, which displayed 128 Mario sprites running around and performing various actions. Such a number of separate character sprites with AI was not possible on the Nintendo 64, and was at the time considered a huge deal and a major technical breakthrough in gaming. But aside from that, there is also some extremely interesting conceptual design in the form of not only the Pikmin themselves, but also in the form of the various different environments and enemies; hints of which would also find their way into other GameCube games, such as Wario World.
Gameplay – 6/10
The concept of the game’s play was extremely well thought out, and is particularly enjoyable to indulge in, as well as satisfying to be able to excel in. The reason I have issues with it is very much the same issues I had with Majora’s Mask; the time limit. Each in-game day equates to about half an hour, and gamers have 30 days to collect as much as possible, which can make gamers feel like they are being needlessly rushed in my opinion. With a world this big and full of things to do, it’s better if players are given the option to take their time to enjoy every ounce of it and complete as much as possible, and I think Nintendo realized that whilst making the sequels.
Controls – 10/10
Whilst there aren’t really any technical issues with the game’s control scheme, at the time, it was also astonishing to think that so many different characters containing such textural details could all be controlled and moved around at the same time in the fashion that is presented. To me, it was amazing enough that the same could be accomplished in a conventional real-time strategy game on PC, but at the time, this game seemed to take that idea to a whole new level.
Lifespan – 6/10
Taking the time limits into consideration, it is fairly impressive that this game can be made to last for almost 20 hours, and consequently, I don’t think the game should lose many marks in this category. But as the sequels would highlight, there was potential to make a game like this last considerably longer, and so in this respect, the first game can be seen as a question of trial and error.
Storyline – 8/10
Of course, with a new mythology and set of characters came a new story premise from Nintendo, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The narrative follows a space faring extraterrestrial named Captain Olimar, who crash-lands on a mysterious planet after a meteorite hits his ship. He realizes the planet has high levels of oxygen, a gas deadly to his species, and will die within the next 30 days if he can’t find a way to repair his ship and escape the planet. To do this, he employs the help of the Pikmin; the planet’s strange native species that Olimar must use to gather parts of his ship and protect him of other hostile wildlife. What I like about the plot is that it seems to be slightly darker than most other Nintendo games having a fairly morbid premise, and pushing the boundaries of what they were able to get away with on a 3+ rating, and behind a colourful and vibrant visual style.
Of course, Pikmin wasn’t the first real-time strategy developed, nor the last. But the fact of the matter remains that there is no other game of its kind like it, differentiating from not only every other series of real-time strategy series, but from every other video game in general. The only video games even remotely like Pikmin are Overlord and Overlord II, and whilst they both have their own unusual traits, they aren’t even anywhere near as wonderfully unusual as in the games they drew inspiration from.
To summarize, whilst the formula would be improved with the arrival of both the second and third games, Pikmin was nonetheless an extremely enjoyable launch title, and was a strong title for Nintendo to start off the sixth generation with, alongside Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros Melee. I’ve played many real-time strategy games throughout the years, but those in the Pikmin series stand out among the best in my opinion.