Update: Screens and trailer added.
When it comes to first-party offerings, Nintendo didn’t have a whole lot on display during their E3 2012 press conference. New Super Mario Bros. U looks predictably great, but the publisher spent a large amount of time (and closed the show) with the lackluster Nintendo Land. Thankfully, Mario wasn’t the only familiar face for Nintendo fans. Shigeru Miyamoto opened the show by announcing the return of the fan-favorite Pikmin series. I had a chance to play a quick demo of the game, and came away confident that this installment will retain the charm and entertainment value of its predecessors.
As stated in the press conference, players will not be assuming the role of previous protagonist Captain Olimar. They weren’t ready to elaborate on his whereabouts, but it’s likely that he’s lost or captured. In his place, Pikmin 3 introduces four as yet unnamed “leaders.” Nintendo implied that players will be able to swap between the four characters on the fly, but this mechanic wasn’t available during the E3 demo.
Collecting and utilizing Pikmin is handled in the same fashion as before. Your leader can whistle to assemble nearby Pikmin, who will then follow him throughout the level until thrown or killed. My demo required the use of the Wii remote and Nunchuk as the primary control method, with the GamePad functioning as a map. A Nintendo rep confirmed to me that it will be possible to play the game exclusively with the GamePad, but the recommended method is still the remote and Nunchuk. For the purposes of the demo, the GamePad was propped up at an angle below the TV, and having access to a large, adjustable map at all times was handy.
While I wasn’t collecting parts of a ship like in previous installments, directing my Pikmin to collect fruit and destroy enemies felt familiar. I only had access to two types in this demo: the standard red version and the new Rock Pikmin. The latter are exactly what they sound like -- standard-sized Pikmin that are shaped like tiny rocks. They follow you around just like any other breed, and they’re especially useful for destroying hard glass-like structures that block paths or hide fruits.
Rock Pikmin were particularly helpful once I encountered a large boss creature. This caterpillar-like baddie featured sharp pincers and was protected by a hard shell. By directing a barrage of Rock Pikmin at his exterior, I was able to shatter it and expose his skin. Once I had his head and tail uncovered, I made sure he was covered in red Pikmin. As my red buddies stuck to his skin and assaulted him, I continued with a steady stream of Rock Pikmin. This combination of attacks proved too much for the boss, and his death signalled the end of the demo.
Fans of the first two Pikmin games should definitely look forward to this long-awaited sequel, even if it all feels a bit familiar. It doesn’t seem to utilize many of the Wii U’s control options, but the HD nature of the console makes for one of the prettier Nintendo games we’ve seen. Nintendo seems to be playing their cards close to their chest when it comes to the narrative, and the brief demo offered just a tiny glimpse of the gameplay. Even though the E3 demo was fairly limited, I walked away confident that Pikmin 3 will be one of the early Wii U standouts.
Check out the official trailer below.