Pikmin 3 Deluxe Review — An Excellent, Yet Lacking Port
While the full MSRP for Pikmin 3 Deluxe might be hard to justify, the port is the definitive way to experience the best entry in the series.
It was almost inevitable that Pikmin 3 was going to one day make its way to the Switch. Nintendo has made it blatantly apparent that it doesn’t mind porting over an overwhelming amount of Wii U titles to the console so that they can pad out the Switch’s library. Not only is Pikmin 3 Deluxe a great port that will provide an enjoyable time for returning players with more difficulty options and a brand new game mode, but it also gives players the opportunity to experience what I think is the best game in the series on new hardware, especially since not many people bought a Wii U.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe tasks Alph, Brittany, and Captain Charlie with gathering enough fruit to save their home planet of Koppai. The game begins when the crew finds a far planet that offers a beacon of hope for the inhabitants of their home. However, their ship crash-lands, leaving the team stranded. You then must gather the team and explore the strange planet to gather missing parts from your ship while also acquiring different fruits to bring back to your home planet, all by utilizing those adorable Pikmin we have come to love.
From a pure gameplay point of view, nothing really has changed. Players will explore a variety of levels and find different colored Pikmin that have varying abilities. Red Pikmin are immune to fire and are great in battle, blue can breathe underwater, yellow are resistant to electricity and can be launched higher than others. Rock Pikmin offer more damage in battle and can break glass and pink can fly. On top of that, players can control three different characters which can all gather their own Pikmin and explore other areas of the world. Organizing and planning out your day is the name of the game and nothing is sweeter than creating a hyper-efficient squad to gather fruits or takedown enemies while you are off completing another task.
As I stated, this isn’t just a simple copy and paste port job. Yes, there might be a few nitpicks I will get to later that could have been handled a bit differently, however, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does offer new things to do and new ways to experience the game for veterans of the series. Firstly, there are 3 different difficulty options that you can choose from; normal, hard, and ultra spicy. I do wish the nomenclature for these difficulty options was clearer because normal can probably be characterized as an easy mode. I spent about 25% of my playthrough on that option and found it to be ridiculously simple. I would recommend starting on hard and only change it to normal if you would like a more relaxing and stress-free experience. Hard mode gave me a challenge without being too brutal whereas ultra spicy can really test your skills on a second playthrough.
The new side story mode featuring Olimar and Louie was also a fun break from the normal Pikmin experience. This can be described as a small prequel to the main game and shows how the tag team got stranded in the first place. Each level tasks the two explorers with finding as much treasure as possible in a certain time period. If enough treasure is found, the next level is unlocked with each becoming progressively harder. The levels from the story mode are reused here, but parts are sectioned off to create smaller walled-off areas. Some levels feature a different assortment of Pikmin that can be found that might provide a different theme to each level.
For instance, one level might have an abundance of yellow Pikmin with electric gates surrounding multiple areas. It isn’t widely different than the story mode, meaning you will still be exploring and gathering materials, but the smaller time limit creates some tension that sometimes isn’t there in the base game. It also is a cute way to show a different side of the story for Olimar and Louie to flesh out the narrative of Pikmin 3.
I do appreciate the added mode, but I was a little disappointed. It definitely doesn’t feel as “new” as I would have liked and didn’t offer much that wasn’t already in the existing story mode. It was nice to see Captain Olimar back in the saddle, though it does feel like the mode was simply added to help justify the full price.
The story mode for Pikmin 3 itself does not differ much if you played it on Wii U. The three ragtag team of explorers will still venture through different environments to gather fruits and Pikmin while simultaneously searching for their losses that will help the ship leave the planet. What is a bit different in the story mode is how you control your arsenal of Pikmin. You will still be able to control them using the analog stick or by holding a Joy-Con in each hand replicating the Wii Remote and Nunchuck.
I was a little surprised to find out how tedious it was to use the motion controls option. Rather than having an IR sensor that can read where the controller is pointing, Pikmin 3 Deluxe uses the gyro capabilities of the Joy-Con. While I love gyro controls for things like aiming a bow in Breath of the Wild, I noticed that the controllers became less and less calibrated as time went by. Usually, after a couple of minutes, I would have to aim the controller in a different direction than where I wanted to actually aim. The controllers can be recalibrated with a simple click of the R button, but it became increasingly tedious every time.
Luckily enough, I believe that controlling your Pikmin army has never felt better when using the analog stick. I was able to accurately place Pikmin even without locking onto enemies or fruits. Pikmin titles have always been a little weird when not controlling them with a Wii remote. I have always felt that having pointer controls work best for this type of game. But something about Pikmin 3 Deluxe just clicks so well with the analog sticks.
Another big plus of this port is the map system. The original title on the Wii U kept the map on the gamepad. That idea is good in theory. Having a giant screen in the palm of your hands dedicated to the map touch controls sounds great in theory. But constantly looking down from the TV to the gamepad then back at the screen became a strain. On top of that, it utilized touch controls, which caused some issues when trying to accurately tap a certain place on the map. The Wii U did some things right (not many), but a great touchscreen was not one of those things. Deluxe resolves this issue by relocating the map to the screen while also adding a mini map to the corner. Plus, touch controls are gone and you can pinpoint places on the map to send other explores to with ease by using the analog stick.
Pikmin 3 is a fantastic game and is still the best in the series, in my opinion. Deluxe is great for those who want to return to it or jump into the series for the first time. However, Nintendo could have done just a tad more to this remaster to make it at least look like a newer experience. Pikmin 3 Deluxe still only runs at 720p at 30fps, even when docked. This is the same as the Wii U version. The game then only runs at 576p when playing in portable mode. I am not one to harp on the resolution of games, but there are times that the lower resolution is noticeable. With so many games running at 1080p on the Switch, it would be hard not to notice, especially if playing on a large TV. If you are someone who doesn’t mind the occasional blurry texture or pixel, then you might not even notice. But those who have a keen eye for lower resolutions, you might have an issue adjusting to this.
From the point of view of someone who has played every title in the series (Hey Pikmin doesn’t count), Pikmin 3 Deluxe also might be just a tad overpriced for a returning player. It is a little difficult to justify the full $60 MSRP. The added mode and difficulty options are a nice feature, but I wouldn’t advocate that it’s a must-play or topples the already excellent story mode. Deluxe does come packed with all of the DLC from the original game, but that still doesn’t justify its price, in my eyes. On top of all that, the graphics haven’t been updated at all and look dated. As we all know though, Nintendo can get away with charging full price for most of their ports anyway. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still the best selling Switch game and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is up there as well. I doubt the pricing for Pikmin 3 Deluxe is going to affect the final sales that much, especially since the Switch is so dang popular.
This was a perfect time for another port from the Wii U. The Switch was starting to reach a dry spell since the last major first part release was Paper Mario: The Origami King. I couldn’t recommend this game enough for those who have never played a Pikmin game. The third entry just has a certain flow to it that is unmatched from its predecessors and also contains some of the best boss battles in the series. While it might be hard to justify the price of the port, there is no question that Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the best way to experience the third entry into the series.