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Review: ‘Pikmin 3 Deluxe’ sprouts new life for Nintendo’s plant-based protagonists

TORONTO — While the Nintendo Switch has seen its share of new games starring Mario, Link and other video game stars, it’s also been a platform for overlooked older titles to find a new audience.

Mega-hit “Mario Kart 8” and popular titles “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” and “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” are among the games that have found new life on Nintendo’s hybrid console.

The latest to get the Switch treatment is “Pikmin 3 Deluxe.” Originally released in North America in August 2013, the new version of the game includes all the after-release downloadable content from the original, as well as new side story missions and the ability to play the main story in co-op mode.

The main story mode of “Pikmin 3” centres on three intrepid space explorers from Koppai, a planet facing a food crisis due to a booming population and bad leadership. In search of a planet with a reliable food source, the heroes’ ship crashes on a strange world, where they befriend the cute plant-based creatures known as Pikmin.

The explorers can gather a horde of Pikmin and command them to harvest fruit, remove obstacles, build bridges or fight enemies. The creatures come in a few different varieties, each with its own strengths. Red Pikmin are immune to fire and strong fighters, while Rock Pikmin can’t be crushed by leaping enemies and can smash through glass or crystal structures.

Resource management is key in “Pikmin 3.” You can only have 100 Pikmin active at a time, which can be split between the explorers. It takes multiple Pikmin to accomplish individual tasks, such as bringing giant pieces of fruit back to the explores’ ship or harvesting seeds or defeated enemy to create more Pikmin (it’s less disturbing than it sounds).

Players will find an interesting world to explore but there is little time for idle sightseeing. Each day has a time limit, and any task not completed before sundown will have to wait. Any Pikmin not sagely at home base or under the player’s control when night comes will be eaten by the planet’s predatory wildlife. This time limit is pretty forgiving, however, and there is the option to replay the day for those unhappy with their results.

You assign tasks by literally throwing Pikmin at the problem. To do that you move a cursor around the screen and then lock onto the object or enemy that you want your Pikmin to interact with. Then throw as many Pikmin as necessary to accomplish the task. The game will normally tell you how many Pikmin are needed to move or carry an object.

While players will have hordes of Pikmin at their disposal, with more available through harvesting, some care will be needed to keep a healthy squad. Hazards such as water and fire are lethal to Pikmin who are not immune. And enemies pose a constant threat and can be hard to take down without losing a few plant protagonists in the process. 

The explorers each carry a whistle that brings any wayward Pikmin back into line. This can be used to call back Pikmin that are drowning in water or wandering around aimlessly. Holding down the button to activate the whistle increases its range.

This system is not without its growing pains. Some minor pathing issues make it difficult to bring wayward Pikmin back to the flock. And those not used to the whistle’s range may end up unintentionally calling for Pikmin from the other side of a hazard and have them walk right into it in an effort to reach you. These issues become less frequent after some trial and error.

Those wanting a break from the story mode can play missions, where players have a limited time to harvest resources or defeat enemies, or a head-to-head mode called “bingo battle,” where players race against each other to harvest treasures and fill out their bingo cards.

“Pikmin 3” was praised for its graphics in its original release, and the improved visuals on the Switch version come across nicely. The planet boasts a wide range of environments, from desolate tundra to teeming jungles. The whimsical art direction should appeal to players of all ages.

A few minor control issues aside, “Pikmin 3 Deluxe” is a chance for Switch owners to try an overlooked title from the Wii U days. With the extra content in the deluxe version, as well as the ability to play through the story with a friend, those who enjoyed the original might also find a reason to give this title a second look.

“Pikmin 3 Deluxe” is rated “E,” suitable for all players, and has a suggested retail price of $79.99. A free demo is available on the Nintendo eShop.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2020.

Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press

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