Nintendo's experimental launch-window RTS for the gamecube

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date published: 10.4.23
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Did you know that sunflowers are actually 1,000-2,000 individual flowers joined together? What about that some of the best fruits are actually distant relatives of roses? Ever try altering the pH level of your soil to change the color of your hydrangea blooms? Unfortunately, I myself have never had a green thumb - Sunflowers ravaged by rabbits before they could grow even 3 inches, the most bitter strawberries you’ve ever tasted, and under-watered cacti - Just a glimpse into my gardening past. Even though I’ve never had great luck with plant-life, I know so many people who have a deep appreciation for it and that’s where I’ve learned the facts I mentioned before. Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto has a love for gardening and even designed a video game inspired by it. The game he created was a launch title for a purple cube with a handle, and said to be inspired by a carrot. That game was Nintendo’s

I was not real hot on this game when it came out - I can remember playing the game at a little demo kiosk in 2001 at the K-Mart in my hometown. I wasn’t into the visuals, had never played a game like it before, and thought the main character was dumb. Fast forward to 2023 - I have a fully developed brain(?) and Pikmin is awesome.

Pikmin running away from an enemy

I would classify Pikmin as a real-time strategy game with some light puzzle solving. You play as a tiny spaceman named Olimar whose ship crash landed on a strange planet. Shortly after crash landing, Oliver discovers a tiny, red, carrot-like creature that follows him around called a pikmin. Olimar also discovers a machine called an onion that converts the local flora & fauna into seeds that grow pikmin. When the pikmin deliver goods to the onion, the onion sucks them up and plants a number of seeds. The seeds then sprout in about 5 seconds and Olimar can uproot them to add more pikmin to his crew.

Olimar’s main objective is to collect all of his missing ship parts that he lost in the crash landing so he can escape from the planet. Over the course of the game, Olimar directs his pikmin followers to fight enemies, transport ship parts & goods, and assist him in exploring the planet. Olimar can take up to 100 pikmin with him wherever he goes and if he has more than that, the extra pikmin are stored in the onion. As the player progresses through the game’s different levels, they will find new types of pikmin to add to their crew as well. Olimar start off with red pikmin which are resistant to fire, then he gets yellow pikmin, which can carry bomb rocks to blast down thick walls. Lastly, Olimar adds blue pikmin to his team. The blue pikmin are resistant to water and can safely walk through water that would drown any other pikmin. Each different type of pikmin has their own onion that generates their seeds.

Dazed Pikmin

The game has 5 different areas to explore. When you land in an area, a timer starts ticking down the time you have until it gets dark outside - about 13 minutes of real time. Once it becomes night time, the area is no longer safe because that is when the local fauna will be active. Olimar must gather all his pikmin and return to his ship and the onions before night time. Any pikmin left behind at night time will be eaten by wildlife in the area.

I’ve really come around on this game since I first played it at that K-Mart. This was my third full play through of the game and I still think it is fantastic. The other games in the series of course improve on many of the mechanics of the first game, but it is really awesome that this game even got made in the first place. In my opinion, this was really experimental for Nintendo and it was released as a launch-window title for the Gamecube! Most developers want to come out swinging with their new consoles and not release something completely different from anything they have done before.

Diagram showing the scale of Olimar and pikmin

My favorite thing about this game is that Olimar and his pikmin are soooo tiny! Walking around giant blades of grass and flowers feels so cool. It also doesn’t hurt that the pikmin are really cute. Not sure what was going through my head as a kid to make me not like this game. Visuals aside, the gameplay is also really strong - just as you would expect from any Nintendo game. However, it is a really terrible feeling you get when you command your pikmin to attack an enemy and you see the enemy just decimating your little friends.

One major issue I have with this game is the pathing for the pikmin when you are commanding them to move somewhere as a group. The player has to do this very often throughout the game and these little guys are incapable of moving in a straight line. I think some of this was fixed in the sequels, but when you want to maneuver 100 of these guys over a bridge with no railings, you are going to have major casualties. That just felt particularly unfair, because there isn’t really a way around it unless I wanted to press A 100 times to throw each pikmin across the bridge individually. I get that maybe some of this is intentional because the pikmin don’t really seem like they have too much going on inside their heads, but some QoL improvements in this area would have been nice.

Shigeru Miyamoto has taught me many things - plumbers have very interesting jobs, foxes make for great pilots, and there can be faster racing than formula 1. After playing Pikmin, I am happy to add to that list. From Pikmin, I learned you should always do whatever it takes to protect your little buddies. Even if it means throwing them one by one across a bridge. Unfortunately, I still didn’t learn much about gardening from the game, though. Nonetheless - Pikmin maintains its spot in my list of favorite games.

Honestly, unsure how to describe this but the image is not important


"Pretty awesome that this game got made"

"Pikmin is a 5/5 idea, but these little guys piss me off"

"I love my stupid little guys"