Review: Pikmin 2

Words cannot describe the joy I had playing Pikmin 2.


FINE, I’ll try:

What is Pikmin 2? It is a strategy game — you have a little army of your own Pikmin, carrot look-a-like creatures that follow you and do whatever you want. You can have them build bridges, unearth and/or carry treasures, and destroy evil enemies.

It is also a platform game — getting a bunch of red Pikmin over a stream of water (they hate water!!) is challenging and exciting. Oooh, it is also a puzzle game — how many Pikmin do you need to put on this one block to raise the other?

Released in 2004 for the GameCube, it was the sequel to the “launch window” 2001 sorta-hit for the same purple lunch box.

The reason it has endured outside of Japan is because the gameplay is polished and perfect. Collecting treasures — your main goal — is an intense addiction immediately after you find the first one. Dannon yogurt lids, Duracell batteries, Kiwi shoe polish… anything. There is a vague “be good to your environment” message, but it’s not over the top and annoying.

The amusing story is punctuated by incredibly well done cut scenes that look nearly as good as Super Mario Galaxy’s. Hocotate Freight, the company main character Olimar works for, is in massive debt and running the risk of possibly going under. To combat this, President Hocotate deploys Olimar back to the planet he was originally (and accidentally) imprisoned on in the first game to find treasures that can bring the company back out of debt.

The title has an in-game day system, and you must complete all of your objectives within that day or risk losing your progress and/or Pikmin if they are not under your control. Surprisingly, it’s not the most stressful system; you can pretty much go about and do whatever you like for as long as you like. Just remember to collect your Pikmin when it’s getting close to sunset and you’re good.

The main reason I never finished the original Pikmin was because of the day system — it was too harsh. You only had 30 of said days to complete the entire game, or it was literally Game Over and you had to start all over again. Too daunting of a task — and the length of the game is automatically shorter than I liked.

Pikmin 2 does away with the imposed limit on days. You can now spend 70 days harvesting Pikmin if you want, it really doesn’t matter (although that would get pretty boring). Having all the days in the world means spending more time in the few areas, all of which are huge and absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of, the graphics are still amazing. This thing came out in 2004 and it trumps most Wii games; I’m not really sure how. Everything looks almost lifelike. When you get up close to a few textures you will notice a slight dip in quality, though.

The game has unexpected emotional depth. Every single treasure you collect is cataloged and outfitted with a little summary by Olimar, and most of the things he says are hilarious — however, a few are sometimes sad. Paraphrasing, but of a random metal screw he finds, he says something to the effect of: “Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my life. Am I really happy?”

As soon as a day ends, you will receive a new letter in your inbox. Almost always from President Hocotate, although sometimes from Olimar’s wife or son. Sometimes the President waxes nostalgic on his youth. Sometimes the wife is very unhappy with Olimar, hinting at marital problems. It’s engrossing stuff, and only makes these potato-head characters seem more real than say, Mario or Zelda (or… any Nintendo character).

One glance at the presentation and it feels like they spent time on this. Lots of time. Probably lots of money, too — either way, it just feels like a $50 game. Every single thing is faultless. The menus, the on screen HUD, the sound effects, the level design, the pacing — it is a perfect game through and through.

I mean, the only complaint I have is that it gets really, really hard near the end — but complaining about challenge in these Angry Bird days is a little stupid. It’s not impossible challenge either — although losing 95 of 100 Pikmin in five seconds will always be frustrating. (You will get used to the Reset button.)

On top of the main player game and optional challenge mode (beat THIS level under THESE conditions in THIS amount of time!!!), there is a F A N T A S T I C capture the flag type deal for two players, split screen. Everyone I have played with has the best time ever — I seriously have not had this much fun with a multiplayer game in a long time.

The goal for each team is to either grab the opposing team’s red or blue marble, or for the less brave grab four brown ones scattered about. It’s easier to grab four brown ones, of course, but the satisfaction of somehow going to the other team’s camp while they’re trying to grab a brown one and nabbing their red or blue marble is second to none.

I guess another problem with Pikmin 2 is that finding it might be a little hard, at least in North America — and once finding it, it will cost you around 40 bucks. That is how much I spent on it, but honestly I feel like I got a deal; this game feels and plays like a 2011 game, and if it were released this year it’d probably be game of the year for me. It’s that good.



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