When this game arrived in its little box from Japan in an exotic looking box, we could not help but get excited, and the excitement never stopped coming as we played our way through what is one of the most innovative and utterly awesome titles on the GameCube. Stuff E3 and the Reggie-lution, this is what gaming is really about and it is utterly stunning. Shigeru Miyamoto has done it again, and has reaffirmed his position as the greatest man gaming has ever seen, and probably ever will see...
Thankfully a way has been found to remove all the Japanese text from the game with one clever little code, so we have been able to give the title a good going over, without wondering about not know what we are doing. And we can also understand the story! The normal fare of controlling Pikmin, building bridges, flattening walls killing things and the like, but its all got a bit more advanced. Captain Olimar has returned to his home planet only to find that the company he works for is in serious financial trouble, not wanting to become a little space-hobo, he hits it fast back to the world of the Pikmin to salvage the planet's numerous valuables. But this time you are not all alone in your quest (admittedly last time you had the Pikmin, but as far as intelligent conversation goes the little guys aren't much use), joining you on your quiz this time is Louie! And a lovely guy he is, too!
It is a great little addition and one that adds a whole new angle to the game. You can switch between Olimar and Louie by a tap of the Y-button. The advantages of this are a little limited perhaps, but if you experiment enough we are certain that you will find its many hidden joys. Primarily it is all very tactical. Switching between can send you from attack to defend and visa-versa, it can also be used in formations and such like. It takes quite a bit of thinking and working out, and is one of the games real thinkers...
Those of you that have been paying unscrupulous attention to this game during its development will know that there are some new colours of Pikmin sitting about the place. The new vogues come in purple and white, and are much more rare than all the other Pikmin. To get a purple or white little dude you have to do some gardening, of sorts. By throwing a blue, yellow or red Pikmin into certain flowers (amazingly coloured either purple or white) and you get either a purple or white coloured Pikmin out of it (those of you confused, we despair). Each flower can only be used five times, hence it is very difficult to build up an army of these coloured Pikmin, you can try...but you will more than likely fail or die trying.
So what of the Pikmin's individual characteristics? Well the white little buggers are very small and fast, are immune to poison, and rather amusing poisonous to enemies when eaten. Purple Pikmin are seriously wide-loads, and thus are very strong fighters. They can sit on enemies to stun them, have the strength of a thousand men (or about ten Pikmin), but alas they are very slow and tend to waddle when made to go fast; not good. Finally, the yellow versions have received a little overhaul, and are now not harmed by electricity, meaning they can deal with certain enemies and remove certain objects that the other Pikmin can't.
A lot of work has gone into making the Pikmin stupidly loveable, and they are more expressive and entertaining than ever before. It really is the most amusing and sickening thing we have ever experienced, and we love it! The little guys sing together when you are winning or doing well, and mourn the loss of other Pikmin. It makes the game even more special and made us feel very attached to each and every one of them, making you fight hard to keep them alive for as long as possible.
As before, there are four main areas in the game, with seven valuables dotted about them for you to battle for and salvage. Everyone complained that the original game in this series was a little bit on the short side, thankfully this has been remedied to an extent. Within the game there is the new addition of some lovely new areas. These are essentially challenge areas hidden in the levels. The areas are hidden underground and can only be accessed by dropping straight down into them. Before you jump into these mysterious black holes you are told which Pikmin you will need to complete the challenge, meaning you don't go into a water-based area with no blue Pikmin (which would be a bit annoying, no?). The areas are huge, with loads of sections to them and if you really take your time can easily take over an hour to get through. To progress in these areas you have to collect all the valuables on each level, get them all and you move up and up and up until you get out...oh and did we mention that you will only find the flowers needed to get purple and white Pikmin down here, just a minor factor.
As in the previous game valuables are not to be found lying casually about any-old-where. You have to fight, battle and feel the costs of war in order to find a object of value, and the strategy fun is better than ever! Items are worth anything between thirty to one-hundred-and-forty. Another interesting twist comes thanks to the white Pikmin. When you managed to get your hands on one a little gauge appears on the screen, this is like a radar of sorts. It tells you how close you are to a valuable object, and (annoyingly) beeps incessantly when you get very near to an object of value. How is it annoying? Well imagine finding an object of value, only to not be able to reach and for the little bugger to go "beep-beep-beep-beep" all the time to taunt you.
As we mentioned earlier, the characters of the Pikmin have been improved greatly, not only in all the Pikmin but also in their individual characteristics when related to their colour. The new hidden sections that ask you to chose which Pikmin you will take into the area with you make for some real thinking. You need to think what you will need, what you want to leave behind and then hope you get it right. If you get it wrong there is no going back. The purple Pikmin are real fighters, and we found compelled to send masses of them to their deaths early on, which was not too smart.
The enemies are as good as ever before, if not even better! A lot of the old enemies have made the move from the previous game, and they are joined by a plethora of new and hideous foes. The new enemies are generally a lot better than the old ones, both in looks and special little touches. There are electric beetles (hence the need for the yellow Pikmin's resistance to being electrocuted), insects that blast out sound-waves that cause some serious damage; and the best of the rest, a git that looks like a flower, until you get too close, when something rather large and ugly pops out and starts eating all your little Pikmin! There are also loads of bosses to look after (or to put it another way...kill), we will let you discover them for yourselves.
The real big new feature is the multiplayer mode, allowing two-player Pikmin action! One person gets red Pikmin, and the other blue (they are essentially the same, as none have individual characteristics/advantages). You select how many Pikmin each player gets, chose a level and you are away! Each player has an onion, this is the base, and you can beat your opponent in a number of different ways. Firstly you can kill them (the spaceman that is, we do not advise killing your friends), secondly you can collect four marbles before your opponent does (there are a lot of marbles, which can make it a bit tedious at times), and finally by stealing one of your enemies marbles straight from their base and bringing it back to your own. The real fun can come in the carnage! We had great fun setting our Pikmin on each other, man to man (or Pikmin to Pikmin) and fight it out! The carnage that ensues is hilarious, not to mention frantic and deadly. However, you cannot win by killing all your enemies Pikmin, as for everyone killed, a new Pikmin seed is planted back at their base. If a creature kills a Pikmin though, they will die and not come back, so if you come under siege from a beast and it kills all your Pikmin, your days are numbered.
Now we said that Pikmin 2 was longer than the original, well the good news is, it is longer than the original, the bad news is, it isn't by much. It took us just over sixteen hours to complete first time through, but there is loads of replay value and of course the new versus mode.
We will finish off with how the game looks and sounds: in a word amazing. A lot of work has gone into making this game look and sound the best in the business. The graphics have seen a major overhaul, with loads of new effects and masses of detailed textured being thrown about all over the place, and it looks stunning. Admittedly, the game is outdone by numerous others on the GameCube in terms of looks, but the general style of the title visually, is second to none! The music in the game isn't as good as it was before, but a lot of work has gone into the sound effects and into the Pikmin themselves, adding to the whole feel and theme of the title excellently.
Amazing, what more can we say. It is addictive, it is difficult, and it is innovative, fresh and always enjoyable. The controls are tight, and challenges will really make you think and the whole thing plays like a dream.
The theme and style of them is excellent, and the game looks stunning. However it is not technically the most well rounded title on the GameCube.
The Pikmin sound excellent, and there are some very nice tunes, but it lacks a bit of soul sometimes. Still good though!
Longer than the original, but still a little bit off the mark. The two-player mode means there is a massive new option for you to enjoy, and the hidden areas add quite a bit. We can't help but think it should still be a bit longer...
Gaming excellence! Shigeru Miyamoto has done it again, and we are in love with another of his stunning titles. There is so much fun to be had and it is all so fresh and different that you can't help but enjoy it from start to finish. It is true Nintendo and the reason why everyone out there should be proud of owning a GameCube.