E for Effort: One million tiny screams

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Every single aspect of the Pikmin franchise is nothing short of magical. From the concept to the characters, this game just oozes with charm and wonder — The types of things usually reserved for Pixar movies and classic children’s books. It’s a shame it’s also oozing with something else: RTS gameplay.

Allow me to set the scene for you. It’s late 2001 and I’m heading home from a local retailer with shiny new copies of Super Smash Bros Melee and a strange game called Pikmin. Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t really research that second purchase. I originally went to the store with the sole intent of buying a copy of Smash Bros. I guess I just got caught up in the excitement and bought Pikmin as well. I knew a few things about it. I knew it came from the genius mind of Shigeru Miyamoto and I knew it was a brand new Nintendo franchise. Two things that, when combined, had lead to some of the greatest games in history.

When I got around to putting in the Pikmin disc, I was PUMPED! It was still early in the GameCube’s lifespan and every game I was playing was making my jaw drop. From the weather effects in Wave Race: Blue Storm, to the shear amount of action on the screen in Super Smash Bros Melee, everything leading up to this point was keeping my expectations unreasonably high. Pikmin met those expectations and then some.

The graphics were (and still are) simply beautiful. Its nearly photorealistic backgrounds were complimented by these cute little creatures that wanted nothing but to follow my commands. They would run to me at the sound of my whistle and instinctively carry important items back to my wrecked ship. It was like I was teleported back to when I was six-years-old; squatting down in the backyard to peek between some blades of grass hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiny ecosystem beneath my feet. It was a unique feeling that no other game since has been able to capture.

Seeing as I hadn’t played an RTS until this point, I was ignorant to the amount of strategy involved. I’m sure the infinitely more tech-savvy kids at school (already years into their StarCraft careers) would have laughed at some of my stupid mistakes. I drowned countless Pikmin. I led them to their inevitable deaths at the mercy of some evil lady bug things. They were only following my misguided commands, completely innocent and pure. I watched, in horror, as they each let out a tiny scream before falling limp. Watching all those little souls float up and disappear in unison was not only depressing, it was frustrating as hell! I worked hard to bring those miniature soldiers into this world. I had to spend precious minutes of each limited day harvesting numbered pellets which led to seed production which led to sprouts which led to lots of plucking which led to casualties.

Too many times I would gather my army of 100 Pikmin strong and head out on a mission confident of my success only to come running back to my ship moments later with whatever stragglers were left. I’m surprised they still followed me back after watching the atrocities I had committed.

I wasn’t totally hopeless, thankfully, and I did eventually begin to understand how the game worked. I managed to get through the first couple of environments but sadly not much further than that. I’m usually stubborn enough to stick with a game until I can finish it. Not this time. I finally conceded that this type of game just wasn’t fun for me. I was never going to see Captain Olimar rebuild his ship and fly back to his home planet safely. He would never tell his grandchildren about the strange world he crash landed on. How these strange plant creatures came to his aid and helped him battle giant insect-like monsters. He would just disappear into my pile of games and his quest would go unfinished.

That is, until Pikmin 2.

Apparently, Captain Olimar was able to find a way home without my help. Good for him! Knowing that he was safe allowed me to shed all the guilt I was holding onto since I left him stranded years ago.

Needless to say, I bought the sequel too. The series is just too alluring for me to pass up. My adventures weren’t any more successful than the first time around although I did appreciate the many improvements Nintendo made. It’s still a favorite of mine even if I commit Pikmin-genocide every time I play it. I bought the Wii remake as well, but I chose to leave it in the shrink wrap. It’s better that way.

I know I’ll be picking up Pikmin 3 whenever it is finally released and I’m really looking forward to jumping back into that magical world. Unfortunately, I doubt Olimar feels the same way.

This promoted blog was written for our April Monthly Musing assignment, “E For Effort.” You too could get promoted if you write something about games you hate but respect over on the Community Blogs.

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Corduroy Turtle
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