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Once in a rare while you come across a game that reminds you what it was like when you started playing video games.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
By Ridwan Khan

You've crash-landed onto a hitherto unknown planet, and your space suit can only keep you alive for another thirty days. Your one glimmer of hope is finding all the pieces to your ship and rebuilding it before time runs out. This is the grim situation Captain Olimar finds himself in, before he stumbles on a bizarre pod-like object. The pod rumbles to life and spits out a single red seed...and after a few moments, Olimar picks the seed to find not a plant, but a critter. They bear a striking resemblance to his favorite brand of carrots, and thus he dubs them Pikmin.

It's a bizarre concept. I myself viewed the game warily as reports of it were leaked out. In fact, I probably never would have even bought the game if Shigeru Miyamoto hadn't directed and produced it. However, having played the game, I can say his brilliance is pervasive throughout the entire game.

Olimar grows the one red Pikmin he finds and the Pikmin is able to find pellets around the area where Olimar crashed. Feeding these pellets to the Onion (Olimar's name for the pod) results in it spewing out more seeds and, eventually, more Pikmin. The Pikmin quickly prove their usefulness in other ways; moving obstacles out of the way and, most importantly, finding and retrieving parts of Olimar's ship. And thus, the rest of the game; Olimar and the Pikmin work in something of a symbiotic relationship so that Olimar can find the thirty pieces of his ship before his thirty days are up.

Olimar finds three kinds of Pikmin in the course of the game; the red Pikmin he meets at first have the best attacks and can withstand fire. The next group of Pikmin he meets, the yellow ones, can carry explosive bomb rocks and can be thrown highest. Finally, the blue Pikmin can survive in water. The Pikmin can be ordered around either by throwing them at an object (the Pikmin will pick up pellets they're thrown at to take back to the ship, or attack monsters they're thrown at). Olimar can only have a 100 Pikmin outside Onion at once, but Pikmin can be stored inside the Onion and called out later.

Of course, as in nearly every Miyamoto game, things come in stages. First you find new Pikmin, then you get to play with their new abilities, and then you're encouraged to use them, until finally you're required to do so. You'll also have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Pikmin, especially considering the thirty-day time limit. For example, one level has a long beach with a ship part submerged in water and an indentation with a ship part on one end. The beach itself is infested with fire pigs and frogs, which can decimate a group of Pikmin. So, after trial and error, one learns to bring in the red Pikmin to clear out the enemies. Then the blue Pikmin can take the submerged piece and help build a bridge on one side of the water, containing bomb rocks. Then yellow Pikmin can grab the piece on the indentation and build a bridge to the bomb rock island, and take the bomb rocks to destroy gates on the other side of the level. If it sounds complex, it is for the first ten minutes or so. Like Mario 64 before it, the Gamecube controller seems built for Pikmin. After an initial adjustment period, the game controls come very naturally.

Each day in Pikmin lasts for about twenty minutes or so. In this time, one can engage in a myriad of tasks; building bridges, growing new Pikmin, fighting enemies (quite an exciting endeavor); all in a quest to find the ship pieces. It's a process of exploration and experimentation. It's not frenetic action, like the recently released Smash Bros. Melee (also reviewed in this issue), so it won't appeal to everyone. However, it seems to capture the better part of excitement and exploration so as to appeal to a vast majority of gamers. The real tragedy is that this quirky little title will hardly get the attention it deserves outside of the hardcore gaming community, thanks in part to it's lack of a recognizable mascot and the release of Smash Bros.. However, this is a gem that should not be missed.

Shigeru Miyamoto once said, "My basic policy of making games is to create some kind of 'miniature garden', and this concept has remained the same with me. But despite how much technology improves, it will never catch up with my original concept." Despite this, I believe Pikmin comes closer to this ideal, to his miniature garden, than any game in Miyamoto's illustrious career.

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