Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pikmin 3 - My Thoughts and Ideas For Improving the Sequel

If you’ve ever read my blog, you know I don’t review games. My blog is about dissecting games and trying to analyze specifically what the problems are and how to fix them. Also, I like to give my creative ideas and constructive feedback, in hopes that I can contribute to the conversation for how games can be better.
Thorn Pikmin

This is not a review of Pikmin 3. If it were, I would say how much I loved the use of the tablet for a map, the art and sound design, the music, the characters, the puzzles. I would say how much I think Pink Pikmin were ingenious, especially when used alongside Blue Pikmin. The Bee-Queen boss battle was furiously fun. I absolutely enjoyed my time with Pikmin 3 for Wii U, which is awesome because I got it for free. When I purchased Mario Kart 8, it came with a download for P3, and to be honest, I’ve loved P3 even more than MK8.

But this isn’t a review. I want to talk about the issues I’ve had with the game and the creative ideas I have for (hopefully) the sequel (please, please make one!).

Rock and Purple

Black Pikmin
First, I just want to say this: Rock Pikmin are just a rehashed Purple Pikmin. I feel like Purple Pikmin could have been used to break glass as easily as rock ones. I feel like making a new “weighty” Pikmin showed a lack of creativity. Why do the same idea twice? It would have been just as easy to bring back purple as use rock, since they’re so similar.

Now, I want to say that Winged Pikmin are the BEST. I love them. The new abilities of Yellow Pikmin with that electricity chain thing is AWESOME. Good work! I wish there had been more of this… for example, Red Pikmin could get a fire burning on their leaves if they pass through flame, which would allow them to set fires to piles of brush or monsters. Blue Pikmin could absorb water and shoot it at enemies or move it to make ponds elsewhere… I wanted more of this kind of thing, however Yellow Pikmin were the only one of the old Pikmin to get new abilities. Also, I wish I could have gotten to play with White, Purple, and Bulborb Pikmin just for posterity's sake. Maybe they could have just been a cave-specific thing.

Missed opportunities for Rock Pikmin:

I had a bunch of cool ideas for how Rock Pikmin could have been differentiated from Purple Pikmin, and here they are:

Light Pikmin
Bouldering – What if Rock Pikmin could all bunch together into one huge rolling boulder? You had those weight-balls that Pikmin could push to break open entry ways. It would have been cooler to have another use for Rock Pikmin.

Stair-Steps – What if Rock Pikmin could form a line up cliffs and become a set of stairs for you and your other Pikmin?

Sinking – Why would a Rock die in water? Instead, Rock Pikmin should have been used to sink objects down to the floor of a pond to solve puzzles. To balance out with Blue Pikmin, just make Rock Pikmin extra slow and unable to effectively attack underwater monsters.

Drain plugging – perhaps Rock Pikmin could have been used to plug drains so that lakes could be formed!

Walling – Rock Pikmin should have been able to link together to form walls. This could be for protection, or to redirect monsters one way, or to even redirect small streams of water (like building a dam or pushing the water to fill up a pond or something).

And here’s 12 new ideas for Pikmin that are more creative than Rock Pikmin:

Green Pikmin – Can dig down into the roots of plants, which would allow them to control the plant (such as make a flower bloom or a vine move out of the way or a branch to rattle the fruit off). They can also fertilize berry-flowers and grow fields of clover to hide in at a moment’s notice.
Thorn Pikmin – When enough are thrown on an enemy, they control the mind of that enemy. So, you’d be able to have a Bulborb at your disposal, for instance. Also, you could use the latching on to move the Pikmin to areas they might otherwise not be able to get to. Say a monster has the ability to go up this one particular cliff, well… you latch on your thorned ones to the monster and then call them with a whistle once they’re up the cliff.
Brown Pikmin

Orange Pikmin – have cotton balls instead of leaves. They can be carried by the wind and are super light. The lack of weight makes them able to walk over landmine-monsters and other trapped areas.

Black Pikmin – are nocturnal, and can be left out at night. They remain where you leave them, as long as you come back the next day. They can be used to open bridges and take down gates without worry. They can even be used to explore during the night cycle, as they are twice as powerful and fast when the sun goes down.

Light Pikmin – Pikmin that glow, have a bulb that will light up in dark areas. A good combo would be Nocturnal Pikmin and Light Pikmin, a sort of team that would allow Olimar to play through the night cycle (more on this idea below).

Mushroom Pikmin – release spores that send monsters in different directions. Mushroom Pikmin have mushroom tops that will float in water, allowing them to build bridges across ponds.

Shelled Pikmin – have hermitcrab-like shells. They can go into their shells to protect them from attacks and explosions. There could be situations where bombrocks need to be blown up ASAP, and so Shelled Pikmin must be used.

Mist Pikmin – turn into mist and go through smaller openings. They can be sent up tubes and can be used like water to cool off burning hot enemies if swallowed. 

Orange Pikmin
Carnivorous Pikmin – have flytraps instead of leaves. The flytraps deal extra damage, and can eat their way through swarms of bees and knats. They can also catch things out of the air that other Pikmin cannot.

Chilled Pikmin – light blue in color, these Pikmin can freeze water, allowing for frozen surfaces to walk on. They also deal ice damage and melt in the sunlight.

Brown Pikmin – can hide in the mud, liquefy into mud to go under narrow openings, and reform as useful objects. When thrown, they splatter against enemies, and hitting the eyes will cause them to go blind. They can also absorb other minerals like sand and fertilizer to solve other puzzles, such as an hourglass that needs to be filled or a plant that needs a boost in growth.

Robot Pikmin – Olimar got creative. Using junk you collect on the ground, you can build robotic Pikmin that are controllable by remote. They don’t have to follow you for you to move them around. They can be sacrificed by attaching bombrocks to them. They can also broadcast radio signals to hack foreign technology.

The Controls

Imagine this: 10… 9… 8… The end of the day. 7… 6… 5… You run toward the fifteen-or-so straggling idle Pikmin. 4…Whew, you’ve managed to collect all of your army, and they are safely within your squad. All 100 of them. …3 seconds left… You crack your neck, happy to have had such a productive game-day. …2 seconds… You think back on that boss you finished, the bomb door you’ve opened, the bridge you’ve built, the four pieces of fruit you collected… …1 second… You scratch your nose with your nunchuck hand, which causes the motion controls to dismiss your entire party. 0. Your entire party of Pikmin are now dead because of the sunset.

This scenario has happened to me multiple times. I had super-productive days, losing next to no Pikmin and then BAM. A misunderstood motion control at the end of the day causes my entire party to die. Making me furious and frustrated. I had to restart those days, since they occur when I had just gotten pink and blue Pikmin, and I didn’t want all of them to be dead.

The motion controls are a HUGE problem

Carnivorous Pikmin
Shaking the nunchuck is often unresponsive, anyway. Or, because I’m used to most other games that allow for fast-control responses, my nunchuck motion happens before I’ve targeted a fruit or enemy, causing my squad of Pikmin to be dismissed rather than attack or collect my prizes. In the heat of battle, this can severely hurt you. The motion controls have lead my party into that Sarlac-pit boss’s clutches, so that all of them would fall in and die.

Also, when I wanted to check the tablet controller's map, I had to set down my Wii Remote and Nunchuck to grab the tablet and scroll around. Oftentimes, in doing so, it would dismiss my party. 

Honestly, I’ve lost more Pikmin from the motion controls than from my skill/performance at playing the game, and that’s frustrating. Penalty to a player should come from an error in performance and skill, not a poorly designed control scheme. But that’s not all the issues with controls I have…

The new dodge skill is pretty useless

Back in Pikmin 1 and 2 days, you could use the C-stick to direct your army. But, that has been removed and replaced by a targeting system and dodge roll. The problem with the dodge roll is that if your character is not targeting the boss, your dodge will usually roll into the boss’s attack. The dodge only goes 90 degrees or 270 degrees. Exactly left or right of your character. The problem is that this is a 3D game, and attacks go in 360 degrees. The old C-stick allowed you to move your Pikmin in a 360-degree radius, but that’s gone. So, if you’re not targeting the boss, meaning glaring right at it, you’re likely to roll right into an attack by dodging.

But if you are targeting the boss, you’ll probably dodge it. The only problem is that targeting is not very accurate in the heat of battle. The motion control failed as much as worked for me while trying to target. Failing to target usually means that your party will be dismissed, as they are mapped to the same motion control. That usually results in Pikmin death. Also, when you’re in targeting mode, it’s hard to see the Pikmin that are flung away in any other direction but the boss, so to find them you often need to un-target the boss and run around. If you do, your dodge becomes useless, if you don’t, the Pikmin that get flung will go idle and usually get killed. Speaking of hard to see…

The camera has a mind of its own

Mushroom Pikmin
 …and it goes where it wants. For the most part, it works fine, but there are times when it just doesn’t cut it. This is especially apparent during battles. Sure, you can refocus the camera on your character’s perspective, but it only turns based on the direction of your character, not in the direction that most benefits you.

Sometimes I want to move toward the camera, meaning the opposite way that the camera faces. During boss battles, this is important so that I can recollect Pikmin. I know you can target bosses to achieve something like this, but that isn’t what I want. I like to move perpendicular to the boss and toward the camera. This means I like to keep the boss and the field of battle in my peripherals while I move where I need to go. This functionality is impossible with the current setup. Also, I wish I could zoom the camera in and out. The game automatically zooms, but what it does doesn’t always match what I need.

The worst part is that this all could have been prevented

Pikmin 1 & 2 had the perfect control setup, and Nintendo fixed what wasn’t broken. Now, I’m not the kind of cranky old player that hates change of any type. I really am not, but the truth is true: Nintendo could have left in the …option… for classic Pikmin controls, but they didn’t. The C-stick is gone, but there’s a second joystick on the tablet. They could have made screen-buttons for things like the spice-juice powerup. Instead, they just took out the C-stick functionality entirely, forcing me to play with inferior motion controls, inferior dodging, and inferior targeting.

And, when you’re right next to a simple pickup item, the C-stick made it easier to collect, rather than either having to throw Pikmin one-by-one or use that finicky motion control.

My final point on control: The C-stick, aside from being more accurate and simpler to use, was just more FUN.

It was FUN to control your entire army, move them around in a line and wave them around. In Pikmin 1 & 2 I used to waggle the C-stick as I walked just because it was FUN to do so. It was FUN to send in your horde and mob the small beetles and young bulborbs, and now it’s a chore because you have to target them with finicky motion control to get that same swarming feel. Even once you’ve done that, the game feels like it’s playing itself, rather than having me control the dance my horde makes as it swarms. The FUN factor is greatly lessened.

This can be fixed, though. Not only could a patch be used to bring GCN controls to the tablet controller, but the new Gamecube Controller-adaptor could be used to give Pikmin 3 (and any future games on Wii U) the exact replica of the Pikmin 1 and 2 control schemes. Sometimes, one must realize that the old ways might have been the better ways. Sometimes, one must understand that an experiment with new ideas just doesn’t work as well as the old. Nintendo, please fix this.

Pikmin 3 needed online multiplayer.

I toyed around with Bingo Battle alone. For some reason, alone is what Nintendo wants their players to be. Listen Nintendo, I have a gamers' group that I play online games with, LET ME PLAY WITH THEM. Bingo Battle would have been absolutely awesome to play online.

Nintendo, multiplayer games need online components. They need them, otherwise it's a waste to even bother making them at all. MULTIPLAYER GAMES NEED ONLINE. Hear me? No? How else can I say it?

>a multiplayer game without online

C'mon, Nintendo. What's the deal? Bingo Battle is fun. I want to play it. Do you think I'm going to drag my Wii U to someone's house??? I'm not! The system is 400 bucks. The controllers, more. The games. Etc. I can't just have people over every time I want to play. That's not how today's world works, Nintendo. Get with it!

If you don't want to make your multiplayer games have online functionality, then don't make multiplayer games. Make an extra 5 hours of single player. Make more bosses. Make more secrets/treasures/etc. Don't bother making multiplayer without online. It's 2014.

Here are a few more online related headlines:

Pikmin 3 needed online Co-op for the Story / Mission Mode

Pikmin 3 needed an online community functionality

Pikmin 3 needed sharable friends' leaderboards

Pikmin 3 needed stamps and achievements to share online

Pikmin 3 needed Miiverse functionality

But it didn't get any of those things. The sequel MUST. I enjoy mission mode, boss battles, and Bingo but I'm not going to purchase DLC if I cannot play co-op online. On the other hand, had this been online, I would have bought ever ounce of DLC.

Odds and Day’s Ends

I’ll end with a list of random ideas and problems I believe should be fixed:

1. The days do not last long enough. 

It was REALLY frustrating having to end my day in the middle of a boss fight. I hate having to leave behind fruit that is a few inches from my ship because the countdown hit zero. Are the days shorter than in the other games? It felt like it. They needed to make them LONGER, not shorter.

I loved how in Pikmin 2 that tunnels allowed you to avoid having to play against the day/night mechanic. Honestly, I hate the day and night thing in general. I play Pikmin games because they are stress-free and slow-paced fun. The sunset is instrumental in ruining this, and it's the one thing about it that doesn't match up to the rest of the generally-slow-paced game. The quickest fix for this is just to get rid of it entirely. Searching for treasure would be more fun at my own leisure, rather than having to struggle against the peril of not having enough food. I hate time limits. I hate feeling pushed to do things by a certain moment. I can’t play Pac-Man for this reason; I hate being chased in games… and in Pikmin I’m being chased by the sun.

Green Pikmin
The fix for this that doesn’t involve removing the night entirely is this: Make the night playable. Let the player choose when to leave the atmosphere. Maybe the journal entries can just pause the game at particular events and so you can read them then. Check out my idea for Black and Light Pikmin above. Imagine a nocturnal Pikmin that allowed you to do work for as long as you wanted. I imagine that during the night, more monsters would spawn and try to find you and your Pikmin. What if at night, you could send out Black Pikmin on their own to go rescue the others and bring them back to the Onion?

2. I like that the Onions can combine, what if there was a reason why you could divide them? 

What if I could place my Blue Pikmin on one section of the map, and my Red on another. I like being able to pick the amounts of each Pikmin I want all at once, but having multiple Onions made you feel like your army was more powerful. What if if you stand in the center of your camp, then you could select all of the Onions at once?

3. I want an open world setting without retreating to your ship every night.


The Drake’s crew’s new mission is to build a colony on Earth, since the food shortages and overpopulation had become such a problem. You are always at one particular camp, day and night. Every Onion you collect joins your city in one central location. You can use Pikmin to build defenses against the nightly raids on your camp. All locations on the map are accessible through this central point, and “root ways” act as points that allow you to travel through roots to distant locations, which are unlocked as you find them (so, fast travel).

In this mission, you have to build enough houses for the colony ship that is headed to Earth and gather enough food to feed yourself and the oncoming travelers. In this way, you get to play the day/night cycle in one continuous motion, with the ability to save at any time.

On the other end, you have detected a GIANT monster headed your way in 30 days. If you cannot build up the defenses at your camp, then you will be destroyed. Also, the crew was dropped off, there’s no ship to retreat to.

MAKE THIS. This idea is killer, don't you think? The formula needs shaking, and the day-night cycle needs to be abandoned.

4. The end-of-day journals/"check ins" could be so much better.

Robot Pikmin

I feel like every single journal or data log in this game was for tutorial purposes. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like Pikmin 1 and 2 had more logs relating to story aspects, like about Olimar's wife and kids, his stress about the missions, and about Louie. But in Pikmin 3, I feel like it's all "Red resists fire" and "Blue Pikmin can swim!" rather than the more story-focused entries. I miss having them talk about other things. Olimar's mention of wife and kids made me feel like it was all more than a game--a story where his life and job were actually in peril.

Also, in Pikmin 3, I kept getting repeated "check in" conversations. You can check in with the crew while in the Drake, but oftentimes they'd say the same thing as the day before. It takes the average person 40 days to beat the game with all fruit, but somehow Nintendo couldn't write forty different conversations for the crew to have... I feel like that's just being lazy. I could have written 40 new conversations entries in a day that would have been more interesting than blunt tutorial tips. Hire me as a writer, Nintendo. I'll make it happen.

5. Too much tutorial.

The data logs that Olimar left behind gave too much information. It's not a puzzle if I'm told exactly how to complete it! Let the player figure a few things out! Honestly, it's kind of obvious what is needed to happen in almost every case. The data logs kept me from having to try different methods--it was all written down exactly the way it needed to be beaten. I thought that the tutorials would stop as the game progressed, but they didn't. Every puzzle had a data file explaining exactly what you were supposed to do, and they were hard to avoid as the files usually sat right in the middle of your path. Honestly, you don't need to tell me that Blue Pikmin can go in water when you first find them and their Onion in the water. TMI, Nintendo. Not having the opportunity to solve puzzles for myself took out a great deal of the fun for me. It's not rewarding to have the game beat itself for me. 

So... about that sequel

I loved Pikmin 3 for what it was. I enjoyed the game. I spent 14 hours playing it. I probably would have spent another 10 hours if it had online multiplayer and achievements. I had fun. I would totally recommend this game to my friends. I think the game would be worth purchasing. That said, there are many problems with it that are the way they are mainly because Nintendo isn't a modern company. Nintendo doesn't do online the way companies in 2014 do, they're stuck in an N64 era of gamer isolation. Nintendo forces inferior motion-controls, even when the old way was more fun/more precise. I want this to change. I want Pikmin 4, and I want it on Wii U.  I love Pikmin, and I want more.
   P.S. The Pikmin singing during the credits was an overload of cuteness. I loved it, haha! (listen here, the good part starts at 1:32)