After the release of Pikmin 2 on the Gamecube, it took almost ten years for a new Pikmin game to come out. But when it did, Pikmin 3 on Wii U turned out to be one of the prettiest games Nintendo ever created. Actually, one of the prettiest games I’ve seen so far.
What makes the game so charming is how it’s set in a microcosmos. Poppy flowers, clovers and dandelions tower over the tiny creatures. They sway gently in the wind, and the sun rays give their leaves a warm glow. All these plants look true to their real life counterparts, making this funnily enough one of the most realistic looking games made by Nintendo. Not only that, but also the human made objects players can find, such as discarded cans, are instantly recognizable.
The high definition capabilities of the Wii U really help in this regard, not only by making the smallest details visible, but also by creating a clear and crisp image that makes you feel like you’re looking down in your own garden, as if you could reach down and grab the Pikmin. You can almost feel the rough, carved surfaces of the stone Pikmin, or the smooth and shiny exteriors of crystal walls and enemy shells. What also helps is that the game runs at 60 frames per seconds, so everything looks smooth in motion.
Two other factors that contribute to this microcosmos idea are the isometric perspective and the relatively small depth of field, which gives the impression of looking through a macro lens. It’s this surreal juxtaposition of reality and fantasy elements that makes Pikmin unique, the colliding of two worlds: the almost photorealistic plants and fruits combined with the brightly colored Pikmin and fantastical creatures that inhabit the world.
A cool new feature of the Wii U is the camera, which can be used by the game’s protagonists. This means that for the first time, the player can really get down to the level of the small creatures and see the world through their perspective. Suddenly you’re in a crowd of colorful Pikmin, with lush plants, puddles of clear water and shiny pieces of fruit all around you.
Inside the caves, you are surrounded by a stark contrast between pitch black darkness and bright lights. Glowing mushrooms give off a blueish glow, while realistic looking flames flicker with a warm radiance.
As the day passes, the light changes from bright and sunny to the orange glow of the evening sun. Lens flares create miniature rainbows and dots of sunlight, speckled from overhanging branches and leaves, sway over the earth, adding to the beauty of the game. When walking through the crystal clear water, the creatures leave sunlit ripples in their path. On a different day, the player may return to the same area to find that it’s now raining, providing a whole different atmosphere.
In Pikmin 3, your goal is to collect fruit scattered throughout the world, which the protagonists turn into juice and use to survive and to take back with them to their home world. These pieces of fruit all look incredibly realistic and detailed, almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
The game may not be a showcase of technical perfection: some of the textures look smeared out and when looking through the camera you can see the background is just a flat picture wrapped around the confined game world. But the other elements of the visuals in this game more than make up for this, and here, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. This game is more about artistic beauty than technical beauty anyhow. A charming, living world that looks like it could exist beneath our feet without us even realizing it.
Pictures are either official screens or taken from NeoGAF