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E3: Hands-on with Pikmin 3

5:20 PM on 06.06.2012 // Chad Concelmo

This is it. The moment I have been anticipating for years.

I am a giant fan of the Pikmin series. GIANT! And every year for the last few years, I have hoped and prayed Pikmin 3 would be official and announced at that year's E3. At first I thought it would be a Wii title ... and that never came true. Then I could have sworn it would launch with the 3DS ... and that never panned out as well.

Well, here we are, all these years later, and Pikmin 3 is finally official. And I have played it! I still can't believe it.

But what did I think about the game? Did I love this new iteration of the series? Or was I so disappointed that I dramatically knocked over the demo kiosk and ran out of the Nintendo booth with my arms flailing?

There were two levels to play in the E3 demo. The first was a more traditional Pikmin level and the second was an extraordinary boss battle.

Let's get into the first, more classic level first.

Pikmin 3 can be played with either the new Wii U GamePad or the Wiimote-and-Nunchuk combo -- very similar to the way the Pikmin Wii re-release plays. Actually, exactly like that. The GamePad was great and comfortable (and the map on the touch screen wonderfully helpful), but I actually preferred the Wiimote and Nunchuk. It felt great and made controlling the Pikmin easy and accurate.

But I have to reiterate: the GamePad is fantastic and I will most likely use that when the final game is released. Not being that familiar with it yet, though, the Wiimote and Nunchuk made it easier for me to jump right in.

The first thing you will notice about Pikmin 3 is that it is DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS! The animation and colors on the Pikmin are slick, but the backgrounds -- my God, the backgrounds are exquisite. The lush foliage and swaying grass are so detailed and almost photo-realistic that they need to be seen to be believed. Everything just looks so amazing. I can't imagine how incredible everything will look once more varied areas are introduced in the final game.

As far as gameplay, things were instantly familiar.

For the demo -- a level that is most likely not in the final game -- some things were left out. Your Pikmin couldn't die (and, if they could, not easily at all), and there was no respawning by growing Pikmin from the home base onion. There was only a limited time with the demo, so some sacrifices had to be made to let players do as much as possible.

But keep in mind that this stuff will be in the final game. I mean, what is Pikmin without growing and managing your multi-colored troops? The classic Pikmin we all know and love will be back and better than ever. This was just a simple demo.

In the level on display, you must use your red Pikmin to collect fruit and kill enemies. The blue and yellow Pikmin were absent from the demo, but they will, of course, be in the final game.

After traveling through the gorgeous level, you run into a giant floating jellyfish. Throwing your red Pikmin on the jellyfish to destroy him unlocks the newest member of the Pikmin family: the rock Pikmin.

Outside of being AWESOME, these rock Pikmin are very similar to the purple Pikmin in Pikmin 2, as they are super-strong. Instead of just using them to easily kill enemies, though, these new rock Pikmin can do so much more. There are glass walls and rocks everywhere that can only be broken with these powerful Pikmin. This use of specific-colored Pikmin adds more strategy to the proceedings. (More on this deep mechanic when I get to the boss battle later.)

A wide variety of enemies and environmental obstacles was present in the booth demo, each more beautiful and daunting than the last. One nice change to the formula comes in the form of bridges and slides. In the last two Pikmin games, bridges were automatically made by Pikmin in certain spots. In Pikmin 3, there are piles of rocks that much be carried to make the bridge. Each rock piece forms the bridge, so it all feels much more realistic than before.

The slides are fun pieces of the environment that Olimar and the Pikmin can slide down. (In the demo it was a blade of grass formed in a fun spiral.) These slides are great as shortcuts, but can only be used one way and Pikmin cannot carry certain items down them. They just add to the subtle strategy of the level layout.

I really can't stress enough how beautiful and polished this game looks and feels. Everything just comes together perfectly and truly feels like a classic Nintendo game.

After collecting a bunch of fruit, killing a bunch of meddlesome creatures, and traveling through a gorgeous world, the demo came to an end and I couldn't have been happier. It felt exactly like Pikmin, just more detailed, smooth, and BEAUTIFUL! Everything I could have asked for.

And then I played the boss.

And I think I may have died from happiness.

The boss in the Pikmin 3 demo was a giant caterpillar/scorpion/beetle kind of thing. Huge, fluid, and gorgeous.

The bosses in the other two Pikmin games were great and well-designed, but this boss took things to a new level. Both the red and rock Pikmin needed to be used in this fight. The rock Pikmin had to be thrown first to break apart the hard metallic shell of the monstrous creature. Once the individual sections were shattered, the red Pikmin had to be used to do damage.

You see, the only way to damage the boss was to have the Pikmin grab onto the exposed skin and attack away. The heavy rock Pikmin, with their skinny arms, could not grab onto the fast-moving beast, and therefore could not do damage outside of breaking the shell.

This attention to detail made the boss even more fun and challenging than I could have imagined. I loved it so much.

There's no word on whether the final version of Pikmin 3 will be more like the first Pikmin with its above-ground levels and more straightforward goals, or Pikmin 2 and its deep, wonderful dungeons and higher challenge.

I am hoping for something closer to Pikmin 2, but, either way, Pikmin 3 promises to be an unbelievably welcome sequel and an outstanding addition to the early Wii U library.

I adored my time with Pikmin 3 and think it is my favorite game of the show so far.

I can't wait to play more.

No, seriously, I am going to lose my mind waiting for this to be released.

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destructoid's previous coverage:
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