Monday, May 23, 2011

Pikmin ~Seed 2~ My Gamecube, Introducing Olimar's Predictament and How the Game Works

Hey, all. Ready to get this thing rolling?

A quick disclaimer: While gathering screenshots for games I'm going over, I attempt to find ones without watermarks as I generally feel they're cumbersome to the screenshot I'm trying to present. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for this particular title as nearly every image I came across had some sort of watermark, so I didn't have any other choice. If any screenshot during this series of posts happens to belong to your webpage, please contact me and I will remove it as soon as possible. If you know of a site with clean Pikmin images, please inform me of that as well!

Gee, I gotta get myself a screen capture device at one point or another..


The hums and clicks of the Gamecube whir to life as I press the Power button. The system emits a familiar orange glow as the start-up screen engages in its usual intro, depicting a purple cube winding along a set path to a ditty tune as the Gamecube logo is formed.

I'm back in my childhood. I still have my original purple Gamecube, and it still works. Several years after its purchase, it stopped reading game discs and was replaced with a platinum version, but it only turned out to be a case of dirty lens. Its problem can still persist, however, and it can be fickle with reading discs. The clicks and clacks of its inner mechanisms have gotten louder through the passage of time, but it still works.

I described in the first Seed how the Gamecube is the only console with a smell, which is even more stubborn than reading discs. The smell was something I had taken for granted, as are most things from when we're children, during the console's time. As such, it was an attribute I had always associated with the Gamecube. You didn't even have to open the case. Just by being near it, the console exuded an unique scent that only served to intensify the system's magic. The smell isn't really around anymore, and even when it appears, it's only there for a fleeting moment. I haven't been able to smell it at all recently.

That's how nostalgia gets to you. You're reminded of a familiar fragrance or feeling that perfectly mirrors how you felt during a certain period of your youth, and you desperately try in vain to contain it. You attempt to revel in it to make the feeling last a lifetime, and you think of how you were an excited ten year old browsing through all the message boards and you were surrounded by all these awesome teenagers and adults talking about the things you love and you looked up to them and you were playing Earthbound and Spongebob Squarepants was still your favorite television show and you still had all your friends. It's a several month, perhaps year long experience all packed in a few seconds, and then it's gone.

But it doesn't matter. While I would love to tap into that feeling any time for as long as I want, I'm okay with it being a quick experience. In a way, it's as if it's giving me a tap in the back to remind me that it's still there. It's letting me know that it's proof that the way I felt actually happened and that I didn't just imagine it. For example, I mentioned before how nostalgic it is when I'm playing with the 3DS AR cards and when Kirby pops up from his card, a sound effect from Kirby's Adventure appears. It gets me nearly every time. When I'm nostalgic, I make the same warm smile that Carl does near the climax of Up when he's looking through his wife's adventure book. He felt the same way.

The Gamecube and I are tight. I doubt we'll probably ever see anything top the Super Nintendo's regime, but there's always been a connection between me and the small, purple block that I've never had anywhere else. I can't smell it much anymore, and I probably will never feel the same way I felt back then while playing it, but I play it anyway because it happened. We're buddies, and that's why I am playing Pikmin on it instead of the Wii.


After the Gamecube start-up screen, the Nintendo logo appears alongside a cute sound effect. Than the title screen appears.

The music from the demo trailer in Seed 1 serves as the background music for this menu. I like the sound, but a simple screenshot just doesn't capture the magic. So in that case, I'd like to take the opportunity to reach out to the non-gamer readers of my blog and introduce to them a common staple of video games: The File Select screen.

To those not in the know: You'll find this screen in practically 99.9% released nowadays. This screen relates to the concept of "saving" your game, in which you keep a record of the progress you've made in a game, and this screen allows you to go back to your "file" and begin where you left off. In order to distinct your files from others (or if you took a long break from a game and forgot which file is yours), many games go the extra mile and detail various achievements you've amassed in your file. For example, how many stars you collected in Super Mario 64 or how many emblems you've earned in Sonic Adventure 2.

Pikmin's always had one of my favorite file select screens, and as you can see it details a number of factors that will make sense later. Probably what I love about it though is the spacey music (Here, have a listen!) and space motif, as if you're slowly floating through a starry void. In a way, it's become a staple of the franchise. If Pikmin 3 has this, I'll know I'm at home.

In any case, creating a new file treats you to the following opening cinematic.



The eternal void that is left to its own devices. Asteroids hurtle and stars are born by their own laws, separate from the badgering interference of mankind. Of course, these are merely the rules in our life. In this particular world, a man-made wormhole rips through time and space, producing a lone, one-man spaceship.
The Dolphin is piloted by the famed Captain Olimar, the protagonist of this title. A native of the planet Hocotate, Olimar is well-known as a navigator of the stars and the best freighter in his company. The manual describes as him having been overworked, which happens to be a bad habit of his. To soothe his stress, he decides to embark on a solo vacation, of which he does not plan any destination. With his ship on autopilot, he kicks back and travels the deep darkness of space.

All of that changes when this happens.

Whether a freak accident or a stroke of fate, a stray meteor impacts the Dolphin. The force sends it careening towards an unknown area, as the captain blacks out soon after the disaster. The ship is eventually pitched towards a lush, blue planet with large traces of green. As the Dolphin tumbles through the planet's atmosphere, chunks and significant fragments peel off the vessel. A storm of fiery machinery scatter across the sky and batter the surface as the Dolphin breaks up, crash landing in parts unknown.

You can watch the whole thing here (starts at 0:33)


As Olimar awakes in a daze, he is shocked to discover the pitiful state his beloved Dolphin is in.

While a voiceover is not provided for Olimar, he instead converses through a chattery text box. After introducing himself to the player, he quickly details the situation. Many of the required machine components of his spaceship have been blown clean off, most notable of which is the ship's engine. Worse yet, the planet's atmosphere contains of oxygen, an element poisonous to his people. His life-support system is undamaged, but it can only function for thirty days. Time is running out, and he embarks immediately to recover the ship parts. Control is then handed to the player.

The scenery of Pikmin immediately arrests the player, particularly if they were playing the game at its release in 2001. As the player is handed control of Olimar, one can't help but notice the lush scenery of foliage, tree roots, plants, and even stone monuments. Even man-made objects are littered across the planet, as a cardboard box impedes Olimar's progress into this strange land. What really defines this is the contrast between Olimar's dimuinitive stature and the sheer size of the landscape around him. To our tiny captain, plants are as tall as lamp lights and trees, the aforementioned cardboard box is roughly the size of a small house, and the tree roots are the foundation of a skyscraper. It serves as a charming, even genuine depiction of an alien world.

As the player explores The Impact Site, he spots a mysterious, bulbous shape in the ground. As he approaches the mound, the shape suddenly gains a red color as the flower appendage suddenly spins. Olimar attempts to take a step closer, but the object springs out of the ground and sends him tumbling away. Legs spring out of the shape as it settles onto the ground, expelling a mysterious red light and a single seed.

Olimar is fascinated by this development, wondering what exactly he had activated. Taking note of how it popped out a seed, he ponders the question of it being alive. Noticing its similarity to the vegetables on his home planet, he decides to dub it the Onion. Olimar's musings continue when the seed eventually grows into a leaf-protruding sprout. The character notes that he feels compelled to pluck it, which the player does by pressing the A button.

And this is what pops up.

Olimar discovers he has pulled up none other than a sort of humanoid critter. The alien and the astronaut lock eyes as Olimar notices the similarities between it and the unique PikPik carrots on his home planet. As such, he names the creature a "Pikmin." Despite being stranded on a distant planet, Olimar can't help but wonder what uses he can have for the Pikmin. Through his following monologue, we discover the controls for the game, most notably the A button for throwing a Pikmin and B for calling it to Olimar's side.

The player is allowed to experiment. By tossing the sole Pikmin at a nearby flower, it extracts a numbered Pellet that it carries to the Onion's strange light. Upon digesting the pellet, the Onion expels more Pikmin seeds. The seeds eventually sprout into Pikmin leaves, which, when plucked, greet Olimar with a squeaky greeting. Pellets aren't limited to flowers, as they are also scattered across the area. Despite having just met you, the Pikmin become intensely loyal to Olimar. They follow him wherever he goes and obey his every command.

Once you've amassed a veritable army of Pikmin, there's only one obstacle: The cardboard box. The problem is solved immediately as a group of ten Pikmin work together to push the box out of the way to pave a new road. A glimmer of hope begins to burn in Olimar, perhaps he can use the skills of the Pikmin to find his way home!

A desperate pipe dream, perhaps, but one that is eventually proven when you stumble upon the most vital ship part of all: The engine! While excited, Olimar realizes he can't transport it back to the Dolphin by himself. Using the help of the Pikmin, his goal of escape becomes a reality.

While excited over the fact that his ship can now liftoff, Olimar remains satisfied for the day by accomplishing his most important goal: Getting the ship to launch! Night quickly follows, and as Olimar clambers into his spaceship, the Pikmin climb up the legs of the Onion and into its pod. The two vessels soar into the night sky, remaining there as they are unable to pierce through the atmosphere.

As Olimar pens his log, he ponders over the various mysteries of the Pikmin. Do they follow them because they cannot survive the nightlife of this strange planet, or do they follow him for another reason? His thoughts eventually trail back to his predicament, as he needs to find 29 more ship parts in 29 more days. As he spots a lone forest outside of his cockpit, he realizes it is the key to his survival and as such names it the Forest of Hope.

He will explore it tomorrow.


Now that the introduction's out of the way, here's a brief rundown on how the game works from here on:
Olimar continues to command an army of Pikmin. It is up to the player to not just utilize the critters to recover Olimar's ship parts, but to make sure they aren't killed off. The world of Pikmin is a dangerous place, as deadly creatures roam the land. While they are capable warriors when used correctly, they only succeed through the efforts of teamwork. Without any Pikmin, Olimar will be unable to escape the planet. Either party cannot survive without the other.

Therefore, mastery of the controls is key. Tapping the A button will make Olimar rapidly toss the Pikmin at whatever is nearby, whether it's a lone Pellet, a ship part, or a dangerous monster. If you need to separate your Pikmin, press the X button to dismiss your group, which will render them idle. When you are in need of their services again, press B to activate Olimar's whistle (as depicted above). Thankfully, Olimar's monologues and nightly logs detail the many nuances of the Pikmin world through his discoveries, which serve as a clever way to not only ease the player in, but to let the character grow on them and eventually make them care to get him back home.

Recovering the ship parts is the goal of the game, but you will need to accomplish various tasks in order to realize that goal. Bridges will be built, rock walls will be blown down, monsters will have to be defeated, and dangerous geysers will have be traversed. More often than not, there is no single way to accomplish every goal. Pikmin encourages you to experiment with the tools it provides you, such as hinting that there's more than one strategy to defeat every ravenous creature you meet. Or, perhaps, there is another way to recover that ship part.

But, as previously implied, you are under a time limit. Each day in the game lasts about 15 minutes in real time, and while that may sound like a short time, you become so absorbed into the game that it doesn't matter. It is important, however, to plan whatever it is you plan to do on any given day. Perhaps you feel the need to spend the day by exterminating every creature and destroying every obstacle so they won't get in your way tomorrow, or you might want to grab as many ship pieces as possible. Either way, you must take extra care in making sure you have every one of your Pikmin by nightfall, as their only safe refuge is inside the Onions. Any stray Pikmin remaining will be devoured by the gluttonous monsters of the night.

Play it safe and recover the ship parts gradually, or constantly gamble by grabbing them as quickly as you can. Succeed, and Olimar returns safely to Planet Hocotate. Fail, and Olimar succumbs to the atmosphere of the Pikmin world.

The choice is yours.


Wow, that was fun to write.

Expect another post by the end of the week!

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