Pikmin 1+2 is a great accessible introduction to the beloved series for newcomers and a gem for existing fans, but the steep price tag and lack of features drive a hard bargain for a series that lets you jump in at any point.
I never had a GameCube growing up and I somehow missed Pikmin 3 despite being one of maybe ten Wii U owners in the world, so until now I’ve never experienced the comforting puzzle experience of a Pikmin game. Sure, I’ve seen the little guys around in Super Smash Bros and on Nintendo merch, but I’d never understood the appeal of Pikmin until trying out Pikmin 1+2 for the Switch.
Pikmin 1+2 is the most modern HD port of the original two Pikmin games for the GameCube. These games can be pretty hard to get your hands on as their only other ports were on the Wii. Pikmin 1 tells the story of Captain Olimar crash-landing on a mysterious planet and finding a race of plant-like creatures which he calls Pikmin. Together they record their findings and collect the missing parts from Olimar’s ship. Pikmin 2 continues this story, sending Olimar back to the planet with his colleague Louie to collect enough ‘treasure’ to pay off his boss’ debt.
Getting to experience this iconic Nintendo series for the first time, I can see why it has so many fans. There’s no doubt that Pikmin is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises for a reason and I can’t wait to take the experience I’ve had playing this port into Pikmin 4 when it releases on the Switch.
As I’ve not played these games before, I can only assess them based on this port. Pikmin 1’s GameCube layout is awfully charming and still looks modern with the HD graphics. Olimar’s inner monologue is extremely entertaining and I love getting to roleplay as this intrepid explorer making friends with Pikmin and fighting against scary critters. Although Pikmin 1 starts off as a soft puzzling experience, it quickly gets quite stressful.
Not only is there a time limit on each day you spend on the mysterious planet, but you only have 30 in-game days to completely repair your ship before its life support runs out. That’s right, Olimar describes the planet’s oxygen as ‘poisonous’, suggesting he will literally die if you don’t complete the ship. Not all of the ship parts are essential for take-off, but it’s really hard to figure out which parts you need and which ones you don’t.
Then there’s the added stress of killing your Pikmin by accident. Whether they get eaten by a monster, drown in a puddle, or burnt to a crisp, it’s always horrifying to see your Pikmin perish. I care so much about these little guys, and although I logically understand that they are more of a puzzle tool and the game is trying to get you to understand resource management, it still stings whenever I leave some behind or take a wrong turn and lead my team to their untimely demise.
This is why I found Pikmin 2 a lot more fun. Nintendo removed a lot of the stressors including the 30-day time limit and the hidden importance of the different treasures. The story is even goofier and Louie has an extremely meme-able face. That being said, I’ve found it a little harder to progress in Pikmin 2 despite the new systems and the addition of the purple and white Pikmin (the purple ones should be called thick-min in my opinion). The emergence cave challenges are an interesting addition, especially as they pause the clock, letting you take the time to map out the best solutions to the puzzles.
These caves have also been the cause of death for a lot of my team with their particularly difficult boss fights. I lost 70 Pikmin in one fell swoop to a giant rolling worm and I’m still devastated. As progression seems to be tied more to the emergence caves than treasure-hunting and I’ve been struggling to beat the bosses, losing so many team members feels like a real setback. I believe it’s partially due to the controls as using the Joy-Cons in both handheld and docked modes aren’t the easiest to use. Plus, the ‘pluck Pikmin’ button is the same as the ‘throw Pikmin’ button which can be very frustrating in high-stress situations.
As much fun as I’ve had with this bundle, I’m not sure that it can be classed as $50 worth of fun. These games definitely aren’t remastered, they’re just HD ports of the original games, so the extra price tag seems excessive for games that came out in 2001 and 2004 respectively. I’ve also learned from playing these games alongside the Pikmin 4 demo that this series is designed to let you jump in at any point.
Sure, if you’re a die-hard Pikmin fan, the physical edition of this bundle that comes out in September would be great for your collection, but people like me who are looking to get into the franchise for the first time are probably better off trying out Pikmin 3 Deluxe or waiting a couple of weeks for Pikmin 4. All of the games in this series are beginner-friendly and have comprehensive tutorials for all gameplay elements, old or new. There is an overarching story, but it’s not so complex that you can’t get the jist from jumping in later in the series.
Overall, Pikmin 1+2 is a nice bundle of two classic Nintendo games made more accessible to fans by porting them to the newest console. They play as well as they did on the GameCube and Wii and the quirky writing and unique gameplay hasn’t changed. At its current price tag, this bundle is definitely better for collectors and existing fans than it is for newcomers to the franchise, who can get just as good an experience without the clunkiness of previous generations by playing Pikmin 4, which is made specifically for the Switch.