Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pikmin 2

I wrote this review on Pikmin 2 on December 21, 2005. I will repost it here, as I plan to use this blog as a forum for my thoughts on video games. Video games are one thing that I can chat up like crazy.

December 21, 2005

I think I'll review Pikmin 2 for you today. I have just finished my first real chunk of time playing it, and I am really feeling satisfied with my choice for a Christmas gift this year.

Pikmin 2

I want to say, first of all, that I realize it is grossly inappropriate to review a game when you've only put in a few hours, but I am bored and it's on my mind. If my opinions are strongly changed, I'll let you know.

What is Pikmin?
Pikmin is a game released soly for the Gamecube. The first Pikmin game was released in 2001. In the first Pikmin, Captain Olimar crash landed on a mysterious planet (Earth) and had to fix his ship in 30 days in order to live and return to his home planet, Hocotate (which in Pikmin 2 we realize is probably Saturn). In his search on Earth he meets small, flower-headed creatures that he names Pikmin after PikPik carrots on his home planet. They assist him in repairing his ship, the Dolphin.

What are Pikmin?
Pikmin are, as previously stated, small, flower-headed creatures. In Pikmin 1 you had 3 varieties, Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Now, in Pikmin 2, Captain Olimar meets 2 new species, Purple and White.

As you play you realize that Pikmin have special abilities, according to their color. Pikmin are bred through their home, the Onion, which they bring fallen enemies and numbered pellets to. The Onion then spits out seeds which grow into more Pikmin. White and Purple Pikmin do not have an Onion, and must be found during gameplay.

What is Pikmin 2 about?
Pikmin 1 was all about saving Captain Olimar's life by repairing his ship. In Pikmin 2, Olimar has returned home to find that the business he works for is hopelessly bankrupt. He drops an item he has brought back as a souvenier (a metal pop bottle lid) and finds out that on Hocotate it is priceless treasure. Pikmin 2 is the story of Captain Olimar, and his sidekick Louie, returning to Earth to gather treasures to get the business out of it's financial trouble.

I am not that far into the game, but I think the story is not going to consist of more than the bankrupt business and the trip back to Earth. I think that this was an extremely creative way for the creators to get us back into the Pikmin world, and I am interested to see how the story will continue to unfold in maybe upcoming installments. Pikmin 3 - The Sim version - build a farm, a Pikmin World Life...

Pikmin 1 vets will feel right at home with the controls. They haven't changed a bit! But they have been improved upon by the addition of Louie. Now Pikmin can be split into groups and led by Olimar and Louie separately, allowing the player to have control over two groups simulataneously and to get more done in the short days. As time progresses and you find more treasures, the player is allowed to do more and more to ease the game. I recently unlocked an item that allows the Pikmin to carry the player back to base, so you don't have to leave him out in the world alone. The Olimar & Louie situation didn't seem very advantageous to me in the beginning, but as I progress I find it to be a stimulating and interesting development.

The new Pikmin also add an interesting element. I can't say that I am very happy about the lack of the White and Purple Onions. It is a pain in the butt to go down into the caves and search for the flowers that allow you to change one colored Pikmin into another color. And each flower can only convert 5 Pikmin at a time before wilting until the next time you reload that level. I do enjoy the powers they were given, as they are strikingly different than the Red, Yellow and Blue -- whose powers were basically the same, with a couple minor differences. Purple and White add a lot to gameplay.

The levels are vast. Almost unmanageably so. I've only unlocked 3, and I have read that there are only 4 maps to get total -- but they are so large that it is hard to explore the whole thing in even a few days, so I don't think they'll get boring. Also, Pikmin 2 has introduced caves into gameplay. You enter the underground worlds, which there may be 2, 3, or even more holes on a map, and time no longer passes - but you are also stuck with only the amount of Pikmin you brought along. And you must continue passing through the cave in order to get to the geyser which will bring you back up to the top. I like the addition of the caves, although I am not happy that the enemies do not become seeds for Pikmin, but rather money for the debt. It makes the Pikmin deaths in the caves seem really pointless.

I have always thoroughly enjoyed Gamecube graphics. I think that they are sophisticated and realistic, but with a cuter edge than, say, XBox. The graphics of Pikmin 2 are even better than what I thought were amazing graphics in Pikmin 1. The plant life is depicted extremely realistically. There are dandelions that seed when you walk by them. Plants that rustle. Grasses move. It's really amazing looking. And the water looks totally real. (It also looks real when your poor Pikmin are drowning in it!!) The animated characters sometimes leave something to the imagination as far as the detail of the standard scenic items give. But I belive this is to be expected from all games that I've seen. I think that the Gamecube handles the moving pieces really well, Olimar and Louie are adorable and realistic (or as realistic as a 1" space pilot can be), and the enemies are shaded and mottled and textured, etc, to the point of extreme realism. My only beef is the Pikmin! They're really boring looking. They're plain colored, little to no detail, and scary fish eyes. You'd think the title character would bring a little more to the table. But they are adorable nonetheless.

Pikmin 1 players beware -- the Pikmin of 2 now sing or something as they walk around! It's really bizarre coming from someone who hasn't heard that...but I sort of like it. It's really pretty cute, because they sing little ditties like "na na na nana" (like little kids). Olimar and Louie also say their names. And the ship has a mechanized noise it makes when it's "speaking". The addition of these sound devices is ok. It wasn't something that was lacking in the 1st, and it doesn't make the 2nd phenomenal, but it doesn't detract from it either.
The music is as repetitive as always. It's quiet enough that it really doesn't bother me, but I wish there was some more variety. Maybe a Harvest Moon-esque situation where Olimar could collect records/tapes/CDs and change the background song? At any rate, it doesn't suck, it just isn't as awesome as it could be. Many of the short songs (like the end of the day song) are the same as Pikmin 1 which is comforting to an old player like myself.

I've never had issues with the Gamecube controller, and I have none with the set-up for Pikmin 2. I do think it's interesting that they've chosen to assign sprays to the little arrow controller at the bottom left, which is seldom, if ever, used. I haven't found myself using the sprays because I'm just not accustomed to reaching down that way with the ole left thumb. Sometimes the camera angling can be tricky, and I would prefer a control system like Mario Sunshine, where the camera is controlled by the yellow joystick and can be moved freely, not necessarily aimed only at the direction Olimar/Louie is facing when you hit R. At any rate, once you're used to it it is not a big deal at all.

Replay Value
I have had a great time replaying Pikmin 1, and I believe 2 will do the same for me. Although there may not be any need for a Replay since you have an unlimited number of days to explore. I don't know what happens when you earn the 10,000 pokos -- maybe you're immediately sent back to Hocotate, maybe not? I will let you know replay when I get done with the first run.

To Buy or Not To Buy?
I would say if you have a Gamecube, pick up Pikmin 1 somewhere for like, $10 and give that a shot before blowing your $50 wad on Pikmin 2. They are so strikingly similar that you can know if you'll enjoy the gameplay, but 2 adds enough that I am happy with owning both.

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