Nintendo's Wii U showcase at E3 2012 had a few titles for the hardcore gamer, including New Super Mario Bros. U and Zombie U. There's one game that really piqued our interest, though, and it's one that's bound to bring Nintendo fans running to the store when the system finally comes out – Pikmin 3.
The Pikmin series, which has been on a hiatus of sorts over the last eight years, came roaring back onto the scene during the Electronic Entertainment Expo when Shigeru Miyamoto showed the sequel for the first time – featuring high-definition visuals. The first two games looked great on the GameCube (and, more recently, the Wii through motion sensitive releases), but one gander at Pikmin 3 and you're not likely to go back. Watching this game in action is a sheer delight, from the larger enemies that you'll chuck the Pikmin at to bring down to the crystalized chambers that you can break through with your newfound Rock Pikmin.
There's more than just character design at play, though. The levels themselves provide a huge dose of challenge, based on the seven-minute demo we recently tried at a New York City Nintendo event. There are a few things you'll need to overcome such as sand that gets in your way (relax, the red Pikmin eat right through it) and some very large enemies.
Thanks to the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo set up an excellent way to find your way around. The game action occurs in real time on your television screen while a map is displayed on the GamePad, showing you where you're at, and where you need to go. Even newcomers will find this system to their advantage.
Oddly enough, Captain Olimar, the heroic scientist from the previous Pikmin games, is taking a breather for Pikmin 3, but the delightful little creatures have made a return, in multiple colors, including yellow, red, "rock" and blue. Each one serves a particular purpose, and it's great how you can manage them and they loyally follow you around, scampering around like a mini-parade. The Wii U technology actually allows a bunch of them to appear on-screen, in high definition, without any sacrifice to the in-game action. It's really a stunning sight.
They're easy to manage too. With a press of the B button on your GamePad, you can gather them together with ease, and then use the coordinating Wii remote to aim at targets on the screen, sending Pikmin off to do their job. Though the multi-management controls can be tricky at first, it becomes second nature just a few seconds into the level. Before you know it, you'll be lobbing around groups easier than you would Frisbees. (Plus, these things are cuter, too.)
Pikmin's lobbing system not only proves useful for destroying items in the environment, but for big boss battles. There was a huge anteater like creature that required defeat at one point in the stage, but you have to carefully chip away at its hard outer shell without sacrificing so many of your precious Pikmin. It's a matter of strategically moving around and finding enough of a weak point that you can eventually bring it down and move on through your journey.
The way that the game is set up, it's far less violent than it really sounds, and, what's more, it teaches you a thing or two on how to properly balance your Pikmin groups. And you're able to fill in reinforcements if the boss becomes a bit too overwhelming, so there's that.
The Rock Pikmin are a great new addition to the game, and they look like a funky, shielded version of some of the normal Pikmin. Think "warrior Pikmin." They do serve a greater purpose, though as their strength can be used to shatter the crystal sections on each stage, as well as perform better in battle. You know that anteater boss with the hard exterior shell we mentioned earlier? Yup, you use these guys to crack that boss wide open, allowing your other Pikmin to really attack.
These creatures aren't just about destruction, though. At one point, we assigned the red Pikmin to put together a bridge for us, which they did to magnificent effect. Later stages of the game will require you to put together other makeshift items, and we're bound to find out more as we go hands-on with the game over the next few weeks. (Prima Games will, of course, have the new details right here on their site for you.)
When the Wii U comes out, we're pretty sure people will flock to the new Mario game and the curious will give Nintendo Land a try, but Pikmin 3 deserves its own place in the spotlight. It puts a fun twist on the classic Pikminl gameplay and adds beautiful high-definition visuals that really bring out the most with the system. Look for it around the system's launch later this year.