Remember Pikmin? Nintendo finally did, apparently. One of my favorite franchises that has, in recent years, been relegated to the odd cameo and okay-ish mobile game is finally back with the first mainline entry in.. 10 years? I will now crumble to dust.
A New Perspective, A New Beginning
Pikmin 4 is designed for a lot of different people, and it’s designed very well. It casts a wide net that somewhat patronizingly introduces every mechanic in painstaking detail but does so at the service of newcomers who have never played a Pikmin game before. As a series “enjoyer” (I hesitate to call myself a “vet” – I’ve seen what those guys can pull off), this honestly didn’t bother me one bit. Once the training wheels are off, there’s a heck of a lot of game to explore.
One of the bigger new changes is simply the way the camera is focused. By centering the camera closer to the ground, the world feels absolutely massive – much larger than any game before in both size and scale. It’s a simple trick, but it does wonders for the game’s sense of discovery.
Of course, there’s also Oatchi, the two-legged dog thing who I came to absolutely adore due to both his utility and his endearing relationship with your Pikmin. Idle long enough, and they’ll start clamoring over him as he rests. Along with the new lock-on targeting system, Oatchi makes combat a bit breezier than in past titles, but I’d argue precision Pikmin tossing was never the real draw. That, my friends, was the Dandori.
Pikmin 4 just loves the word Dandori. Dandori this, Dandori that. And if you mess something up? Well, buddy, that’s a Dandori issue.
That’s all to say Pikmin 4 is all about the more “RTS” elements of the series rather than the moment-to-moment combat. There are so many treasures to find – so many bridges to build and mounds of stuff to scoop up – that you’ll be scrambling to utilize the limited time you’re given each day to do as much as possible. What this means is quickly managing large numbers of Pikmin using both your customizable Captain as well as Oatchi and keeping the little guys moving as much as possible.
This is doubly important in the new Dandori Battles with the Leaflings: biologically-altered survivors stranded on the planet who must be rescued and cured of their botanically-induced condition. You’ll face off against the clock, as well as another NPC, to gather as much treasure as possible in a limited time. I was counting my lucky stars that I had the lock-on during some of the more heated engagements.
“Pikmin 4 just loves the word Dandori. Dandori this, Dandori that. And if you mess something up? Well, buddy, that’s a Dandori issue.”
Combine this new, more intuitive (if a little restrictive) control scheme with the plethora of new tools, and you’ve got a recipe for real big-brain plays. Sometimes I’d send Oatchi on his very own side-mission while my Captain plucked away at some smaller tasks, only to use the “Go Here” function to reunite them before calling all my idle Pikmin back with the all-new Homesick Signal. The Survey Drone is great for scouting out the game’s vast and sometimes very vertical maps, and the map screen itself is a wonderful tool for getting your bearings.
Just Getting Started
Pikmin 4 has a robust post-game section, featuring all new areas to explore, bosses, and even unlocks. I won’t get into spoilers, but after the credits roll, you’ve only seen about half the content the game has to offer, so be sure to keep the ball rolling.
Unfortunately, the post-game is also where a majority of the actual difficulty is found. I wasn’t expecting Nintendo to suddenly deliver a ball-buster title or anything, but a little more challenge would’ve been nice. Some bosses, for instance, are easily one-cycled using Ultra Spicy Spray, to say nothing of the more overpowered items like bombs or mines.
Boss design, in general, is a little hit-or-miss, and that’s maybe my only real complaint with the game as a whole. Some are real show-stoppers, but others are simply larger versions of enemies you’ve already fought. Getting to the bottom of a new cave and seeing what monstrosity lies in wait is one of the most exhilarating parts of the Pikmin franchise, so I would’ve liked to see a little more love given to these moments.
In all, Pikmin 4 is my favorite Pikmin game, and it’s not really close. The sheer amount of content on offer, the variety of ways in which you can tackle challenges, and the beautiful presentation work wonders to enhance the sense of adventure. I love Oatchi, I love my Pikmin, and I love my customized little gremlin of a Captain. I don’t want the adventure to end, but I can already sense a repeat playthrough in my future. But given the game’s sales, I don’t think I’ll be playing through Pikmin 4 quite as many times before the next entry.
Pikmin 4 offers not only a massive quantity of content, but also new tools with which to explore its robust worlds. Somehow, Nintendo have fully catered to veterans and newcomers alike.
- Great sense of scope and scale
- Fun new mechanics
- Ease of access
- Tons of content
- Low difficulty
- Some hit-or-miss bosses
A copy of this game was provided for review by Nintendo. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.