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Review: Pikmin 1 (2023)

Accidental tourism

The Gamecube started off with a bang in 2001. As if Star War: Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue LeaderLuigi’s Mansion, and Wave Race: Blue Storm weren’t enough to get fans through the year, Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. Melee dropped on the same day on December 3, 2001. It would be crazy to pit any game against such a titan today, but Smash Bros. wasn’t yet the institution it would soon become.

I have a lot of warm memories of Pikmin. I remember failing to get the last piece of the Dolphin on my first attempt and arguing about the existence of purple Pikmin on message boards. Good times.

In preparation for Pikmin 4 (which is one of my most anticipated games of the year), Nintendo has released the first two games on Switch in a nice, clear HD update. There’s precedent. They previously surprised us with Metroid Prime Remastered, which was far more than just an HD port. Did Nintendo go to the same effort with Pikmin 1? No. Did I get the last piece of the Dolphin? You better believe it.

Pikmin 1 (Switch)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: June 21, 2023
MSRP: $29.99

Pikmin is the story of the intrepid Captain Olimar, whose intelligence is not up to par with his intrepidness. While cruising the galaxy in his favorite ship, he’s hit by an asteroid and sent crashing onto a nearby planet. With his only hope of escape in tatters, he enlists the aid of some indigenous root vegetables to help him piece it back together.

The original Pikmin is perhaps the most anxiety-inducing. You have 30 days to assemble your ship before Olimar’s life support runs out. There are 30 parts, though only 25 of them are necessary to prevent the spaceman’s posthumous metamorphosis. When you’re new to the game, maintaining a pace of obtaining a ship part each day can be a bit of a tall order. It’s sufficient enough, though. This time through the game, I managed to get everything in 18 days.

A new pair of glasses

While Pikmin 1 is largely a straight port of the Wii version played at a higher resolution, it’s been touched up. Mainly, this is just the interface, which displays in HD rather than simply upscaled from its original resolution. You can also play using either motion controls or joypad. Some people swear by using the pointer, but I feel most comfortable with two sticks.

At least I would, but the port also changes the use of the right stick. On the Gamecube version, simply pointing the stick would rally your Pikmin in that direction to attack or grab anything they ran into. In the port, it moves the camera. This makes a whole lot of sense to everybody except my thumbs. Holding the L button results in the right stick functioning as it did originally, but my muscle memory is so ingrained that I’d forget to do this when under pressure.

In any case, the point here is that you shouldn’t expect Pikmin 1 to have been given the tender, loving care of Metroid Prime Remastered. A closer expectation is that it’s more on the level of Super Mario Sunshine from the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, which I still can’t believe is no longer available. That is screwed up.

Root vegetables

In any case, Nintendo hasn’t imposed the same time limitation on the Pikmin remasters, which is nice. Pikmin maybe doesn’t top my list of favorite Gamecube games, but I still love it very much. It’s a survival game with none of the features that we would normally associate with the modern survival genre. It’s also interesting in the fact that you can grow hundreds of the little carrot people, and still, it’s hard not to feel bad when your judgment fails and a few dozen get squashed by a Wollyhop.

Poor identical little dudes.

Pikmin 1 is also the most straightforward in its concept. The only gating you run into is when it comes to collecting Pikmin abilities. You start off with only red, which are immune to fire and hit harder. Then there’s yellow that can carry bombs and fly farther when thrown. Finally, you obtain blue, who can breath underwater and that’s good enough. Once you have them all, the world is your oyster.

Actually, not quite. The different stages are unlocked after obtaining a certain number of ship parts, but the point is that, very early, you’re essentially let off the leash. The only thing between you and success is your vegetables and your brain. It’s quite refreshing, even if that means you can finish the game in 18 in-game days (8-ish hours for a fresh run).

Carrot-kind

Pikmin’s unique premise and tight design have ensured that it remains rather ageless. Even the graphics, as aged as they are, still convey everything they need to. It’s every bit as enjoyable now as it was back in 2001. Pikmin nailed it so hard on the first try that its sequels could only really iterate on the concept.

Pikmin 4 is looking like it may be the biggest evolution the series has seen, but it’s unlikely you’ll need any prior experience with the earlier titles. Nonetheless, I absolutely recommend you check out Pikmin 1 if you haven’t already. If you are familiar with the original, just know that this is a solid port, but it doesn’t really add anything that wasn’t in the GameCube version. However, with its bumped-up resolution, it’s easily the best way to play this absolutely timeless fight for carrot-kind’s survival.

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