Nintendo has scraped the bottom of the garden barrel in search of one of the final Wii U to Switch ports and unearthed a delightful, yet under-appreciated gem, very deserving of a rerun. With improved controls and a fitting co-op mode, Pikmin 3 Deluxe on Switch is the best way to play; but without a trace of remastering, it also feels old in 2020 in the company of a new generation of consoles.
It has been seven years since I last hurled a conglomerate of indigenous flowering vegetables at inanimate objects to do my bidding — and that was this very same game, having skipped the lesser received 3DS release in 2017. It has been 16 since the prior mainline instalment, yet Pikmin still carries the reputation of a relative newcomer to the Nintendo stable that is yet to fully establish itself. It effectively did that with Pikmin 3, but like so many Wii U games, quickly faded without the spotlight of a large install base.
On the surface, Pikmin 3 masks itself as a niche child-friendly affair, like many Nintendo games. But beneath the outer layer is a deep ecosystem of time management, risk versus reward, and weighing up the future of many against your own selfish desires.
The story doesn’t exactly see it that way. The people of Koppai have chewed through their entire food supply. There’s nothing left in reserve, not even a stockpile of three-bean mix cans. To solve a conundrum which threatens their very survival, Koppai sends a seemingly undermanned crew of just three people into space on a desperate search for food — it’s really no wonder they almost starved themselves into extinction.
In classic Pikmin style, it all goes horribly wrong upon entry into a neighbouring planet’s atmosphere, forcing the keen trio of explorers into a small crash. Unlike the original Pikmin — which gave you just 30 days total and was happy to deliver failure as a final conclusion — Pikmin 3 gives you as many days as you need to complete your mission, but you will need to find at least one jar’s worth of food for each day you’re on the planet.
It follows the same dusk to dawn daily formula that sees each day lasting around 15 minutes. As the countdown to sundown begins, you must madly gather your Pikmin crews and ensure they’re either returned to the Onion, the Pikmin’s aeronautical home that ascends into space with the explorers, or under your command. Otherwise they’ll be eaten by the planet’s extremely ravenous nocturnal wildlife.
The Switch version tacks on a prologue and epilogue to the existing story. These expand the role of Captain Olimar and Louie, who otherwise take a backseat to newcomers Alph, Charlie and Britanny. These extra side missions aren’t substantial, but they do give the original protagonists more screen time. After all, with two generations since Pikmin 2, Olimar’s appearance in Super Smash Bros is the only exposure to the series for many players. These missions also repurpose the videos unlocked by collectibles that showcased Pikmin 3 from Olimar’s point of view — and to be honest, I never saw them the first time around.
Aside from a light story expansion, Pikmin 3 Deluxe offers a more modern control scheme and full split screen co-op — the perfect addition in 2020. The multi-protagonist design lends itself perfectly to two players teaming up and working together. It’s up to you how to split objectives; some are best tackled together, while others can be completed more efficiently if you split up and tick more things off the list in a single day.
The co-op mode is drop-in-out, seamlessly switching between one or two players. But a word of warning — this isn’t Mario Kart or Clubhouse Games. It’s more tactical than most key Nintendo franchises, and you’ll need a capable partner well versed in the medium. It’s great for siblings who regularly game together, but not so good for more casual players.
I dusted off Pikmin 3 on Wii U prior to playing Deluxe, and its control scheme has aged like milk. Forcing players to use the GamePad is clunky and awkward, and nothing is lost by removing its second-screen functionality.
It also offered a touchscreen control scheme aimed at more casual players, but the target market for those never gravitated towards Pikmin. There is also a Wiimote option, which still forces the GamePad, which I recall liking the best at the time. The optional gyro controls replicate it somewhat, but don’t work very well in handheld mode, and are best ignored this time around. Taking a less is more approach, Pikmin 3 Deluxe’s default control scheme works best for handheld or TV play.
Once you have a grasp on the controls, lend yourself to Pikmin 3’s magnificent level design. The levels are the perfect size for the short days to allow you to locate new dwellings, without enough time to explore them as you please. You must have definitive plans and avoid wasting time — which is where a well organised co-op duo will thrive. As you progress, new Pikmin become available at the right times to unlock new paths and offer solutions to puzzles you didn’t realise even existed. It’s the perfect blend of strategy, exploration and evolution over the course of a nine hour adventure.
Despite few games in a series spanning almost two decade, I still suspect the biggest audience for Pikmin 3 Deluxe is existing fans, returning from the GameCube originals or their Wii ports. You already know, then, that you play as a shipwrecked spaceman commanding a horde of plant-people to rescue equipment, fight enemies, clear paths and generally do your dirty work. Most of the same Pikmin return, but a few have been omitted from the single-player, which is headlined by trusty old red.You’ll also get some newcomers such as the rock Pikmin, joining the electric yellow Pikmin and flying pink ones.
Each day you’ll knock down walls, find vital components, scavenge for fruit and generally advance that little bit further to open new possibilities for tomorrow. Like previous games, much of the challenge is splitting up your crew to simultaneously accomplish several tasks throughout the world and then remember where they all are to collect the well-drilled minions before the sun goes down to save them from imminent doom — I felt bad listening to their cries of death when leaving them behind to be eaten by the native inhabitants, but we’re talking about saving a starving planet here. Sacrifices have to be made.
The purple and white Pikmin reappear in the co-op Boss Rush and Bingo Battle modes. The latter introduces a competitive spin as you’re seemingly working together, but you each have your own bingo grid of items to collect. By collecting items and returning them to your Onion, you’re shutting out your opponent from being able to use that piece of fruit to clear one of their lines. It’s a nice spot of fun, but isn’t the sort of multiplayer that demands your attention.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the best way to play Pikmin 3, but for a full priced game I’m a little disappointed it hasn’t been touched up at all. I directly compared it to the Wii U original, and it doesn’t look any better on Switch. Handheld mode covers up some of the flaws, but the ground and background environmental textures look quite murky and old by current standards, and there are a lot of rough edges on a common size TV by 2020 standards. The Pikmin themselves have the distinctively vibrant Nintendo style, but the garden-inspired environments don’t have the timeless Nintendo aesthetic that has helped other Wii U ports look current on Switch; this one looks old at times.
Pikmin 3 is still a delight all these years later. Its well crafted levels and strategic exploration still hold up, and are improved by the addition of a full two-player co-op mode that fits perfectly — as long as you have an able accomplice. While the gameplay remains strong, and is improved in this Deluxe repackaging, Pikmin 3 is visually a dated game, and it’s a shame Nintendo refuses to remaster last-gen games, whilst still charging full price. Nevertheless, the cracks are covered up to a degree in handheld mode, as Pikmin 3 almost rounds out the full Wii U collection on Switch.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe was reviewed using a promotional code on Nintendo Switch, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.