In the Game: ‘Pikmin 4’ is Joy Incarnate

I recently had the pleasure of going back and checking out Pikmin 1 + 2 on the Nintendo Switch after they were shadow-dropped in the latest Nintendo Direct. It had been such a long time since I have played anything in the series, and I was in heaven. I only ever played Pikmin 3 when it first released on the Wii U, but with high school ending and college approaching, I never got to spend much time with it. The fact that I can check it out whenever now is great, and I might just need to. I know it’s a beloved entry in the series, and with the quality and charm the series had up until that point, it’s no surprise . I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo has seriously kept Pikmin fans waiting for a follow-up. After a grueling 10 years and eight days after Pikmin 3 was released, we have finally got our hands on Pikmin 4!

Pikmin 4 is the first game in the series where you create your own character! It’s a very barebones character creator, but I was able to make a tiny little guy who looked just enough like me. I wasn’t able to get my patented moustache, but we can’t win ’em all. The game begins with Olimar, once again, crash landing on the planet PNF-404. He sends out a distress signal in hopes of being rescued. That signal reaches the team you happen to be a part of, The Rescue Corps. In Pikmin tradition, you and the crew also crash on the planet. It is up to you, the newest recruit of the team, to find Captain Olimar, and the rest of the Rescue Corps.

However, you are not alone on this journey. You are immediately introduced to a furry friend named Oatchi. Think Pikmin meets dog… that’s Oatchi! You and your new pal are tasked to work together with the Pikmin to find your co-workers. Oatchi is a terrific new addition to the series. Riding on his back is much faster than walking around. Like the protagonist, Oatchi has his own health bar and can do basically everything you can. Oatchi is not only good boy, but he’s an upgradable good boy! After every expedition you complete, treasure you collect, crew member you find, you gain experience to help level up Oatchi’s abilities. Some upgrades give him stronger attacks or more effective charges into battle.

You can also take complete control of Oatchi to solve interesting (albeit, fairly easy) puzzles. Seldom was I lost or confused when looking at a puzzle in front of me. But that’s okay. Pikmin doesn’t necessarily need to be difficult to be enjoyable. I found that Oatchi’s inclusion made a lot of the game much easier, but also, a lot more charming and fun. For instance, he can swim across bodies of water and can transport any colour of Pikmin safely in the water. But, he cannot actually do any commands while swimming in the water, making Blue Pikmin necessary to have in watery areas. Oatchi is there for convenience, and I’m happy he’s in this game.

We have had some unbelievably hot weather here in Toronto. Due to this weather, I’ve spent a lot of time indoors. I don’t really have any friends that have pools to swim in, but I have been able to enjoy major summer vibes with Pikmin 4. In the ways that Luigi’s Mansion is a great Halloween game, Pikmin 4 is the quintessential summer game. The world of Pikmin 4 is vibrant and radiating colour and positivity. You can’t help but feel happy when playing. The colour palette is delicious and the attention to detail is staggering. After having just played the re-releases of Pikmin 1+2 with very muddied textures and aged graphics engines, it’s very refreshing to have this beautiful game smack you in the face with its gorgeousness.

There are treasures everywhere that are highly detailed and very impressive looking on the Nintendo Switch. Early on, you come across a GameBoy Advance the size of a house. It looks so lifelike! The treasures are often common household objects, toys, fruit, vegetables, Nintendo products, etc. They all have pretty funny names, because the characters have no clue what on earth they are. The GameBoy is called the Stone of Advancement, funnily enough. There are another 238 highly detailed and tough-to-find treasures to find. I found myself addicted to making sure I got every treasure I possibly could throughout my playthrough.

The Pikmin are cute as ever. We have the returning Red, Blue, Yellow, Purple, and White varieties. On top of that, we’ve also got the Rock and Winged Pikmin from Pikmin 3, and the brand new Ice and Glow Pikmin. Ice Pikmin add a new layer to the puzzle solving. These Pikmin freeze bodies of water. The larger the body, the more of the little guys you need. Some bodies of water need all 100 of your Pikmin slots. They are also the only other variety of Pikmin who can travel in water without dying. Glow Pikmin are used only in caves and nighttime expeditions. During nighttime expeditions (which is entirely new to Pikmin 4), the Glow Pikmin are used to protect tower like structures called Lumiknolls. Creatures at night are much more aggressive and violent than they are during the day and they feed on Lumiknolls. You must use the Glow Pikmin to harvest energy from these towers. In order to do that, you need to kill a bunch of enemies in a sort of tower defence-like mode. It’s a ton of fun and much more difficult than your daytime expeditions.

There is a very fun multiplayer mode that also happens to be baked into the main story. It’s a competitive mode called Dandori Battles. Pikmin 4 explains Dandori as “the art of organizing your tasks strategically and working with maximum efficiency to execute your plans quickly.” In these battles, you must collect as many treasures, kill as many enemies, get as many Pikmin… basically just do as much stuff as you possibly can within the time limit. The person with the highest amount of points wins. I didn’t find any of the story battles hard at all. In fact, I often won in a huge landslide. But I imagine playing with a competent friend could provide a decent and fun challenge.

I went into this game not really knowing what to expect. I saw the reveal trailer and decided from that point that I didn’t really want to see much else. I’m happy I did that because I got to experience Pikmin 4 totally blind. I think this is one of the most visually stunning games on the Nintendo Switch. There is an insane enemy variety, so you never feel like you’re fighting the same bad guys over and over again. The graphics and almost photorealistic art direction is so well implemented and the cartoony characters and creatures fit right in. The music is so cheerful and exciting, and the sound design works on every level. Most importantly, Pikmin 4 is a complete and utter joy to play. I never wanted to put it down.

Nintendo continues to amaze with the Switch and the games they’ve got to give us. Not only is Pikmin 4 my favourite game in the series, but I’d also argue it is one of the best games on the system, and a total high point in Nintendo’s vast catalogue of exclusives. Pikmin 4 is a modern classic.

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