When dawn breaks and you're ready to explore for the sake of your survival, Olimar's rocket hovers over the land of this mysterious world, and you guide it to its destination through the view of this world map.
And this is the music that plays in the background.
This scenery captivated me every time when I was a child, and so much of it had to do with the music. The rising, space-like euphoria of the beginning slowly evolves into strides of discovery, before settling into a familiar Nintendo-trademarked ditty that somehow finds its affinity within nature, perhaps representing a young child naively exploring his surroundings. Even if I find myself not in the mood to play Pikmin, I can always count on this screen to lift my spirits.
There are so many reasons why I love this song, and so much of them have to with the message expressed in it. As children, we all grow quite sensitive to the the concept of danger, and distance ourselves from anything dubbed as such. Danger is everywhere in video games, and Nintendo is not exempt from this rule. When underwater, Mario is in constant danger of being eaten by Cheep Cheeps, Fox McCloud can be shot down in his Arwing at anytime, Captain Falcon can crash his Blue Falcon within a nanosecond's notice, and Yoshi can be crushed by a spike-ridden ball near the end of Yoshi's Story. I suppose the thought of beloved characters dying right in front me at a tender age spooked me.
As I grew, though, most of my fear was subconsciously tossed away (with the exception of Super Mario 64's Unagi the Eel and the Sonic drowning music) and was replaced with a vigor for adventure. Did I still fear scary levels and deaths? Yes, but I no longer mourned a character's loss of life. I instead grew to percept them as having just as much fun as I did with playing their games, except that they were living it. I was in control of their actions and decisions, but they were laughing and smiling and living the adventure I was guiding them through. The princess was kidnapped, the food supply was stolen, the land of Hyrule was plunged into an evil tyranny, and the world was in danger from a collision with a space colony, but the characters and I had fun together and smiled through it all.
Olimar's predicament mirrors this message. While a silent character on-screen, his inner monologues detail a mixture of fear and excitement. His situation is as dangerous as they come, as he has only thirty days before he suffocates from the planet's poisonous atmosphere, and he must brave through the planet's deadly flora and fauna in order to repair his spaceship. He fears he many never see his family again. And yet, he finds solace and companionship within his new Pikmin friends. While a freighter, he is a natural born researcher and is delighted to research not just their behavior, but even the monsters of the world as well. He eventually notes in a later monologue that while he was initially apprehensive of this frightening planet, the Pikmin have opened his eyes to the beautiful scenery around him.
And that's why I love this music. The world of Pikmin is fraught with abhorrent creatures and a perilous landscape, and there were many times in my youth where there was a point where I couldn't deal with it all and put the game down. But this song encourages you to forget all about your troubles for just a moment's rest, to just look around and appreciate what's around you so that you can give it your best effort next time. Nintendo's games are full of moments like this to relax the player, such as the save hut in Kirby Super Star, the chattery banter of the Star Fox team amidst the chaos of lasers and spaceships, and even the Chozo Lore of Metroid Prime. Nintendo games always contain a healthy juxtaposition of joy and danger, and that's why this song symbolizes all of that.
It tells you to make the best of your situation.
While The Impact Site was the first area Olimar had explored, its true purpose was to ease the player into the mechanics of the game. You have three other much larger areas to explore, the first of which is the Forest of Hope.
The Forest of Hope provides the only real serene experience in Pikmin. However, you probably won't be ogling at nature the first time around, as our first obstacle in this area revolves around the art of teamwork and combat! Yikes!
As you land in an enclosed area of the Forest, Olimar notes that the Onion had followed him as well. The Pikmin are still residing into it, so you have take them out. Observe the following screenshot.
As the game eventually informs you, you can only command up to one hundred Pikmin onto the field. This leads to some serious strategy planning later on, as the player is forced to choose between leading large groups of Pikmin (large and powerful, but a bit unwieldy), or controlling a small group (quick and easy to move around, but a bit week). New players won't have too much of a choice at the moment, as all of the harvesting done at The Impact Site produced maybe 25 Pikmin at most. Either way, it's time to call them out!
The Pikmin burst out of the Onion and slide down the legs at a frightening pace, all the while giggling and squealing like children. Think of it like a popcorn machine, except it is popping things that are actually alive.
Anyway, we're trapped by two walls. The Rock Wall behind Olimar's ship can only be opened by a special means we'll describe later, but we can demolish the white wall depicted above! Take the Pikmin over and toss them at it to get them working!
Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip. Bip-bip.
...it doesn't take long for you to notice that it takes a while.
As you've only just sprouted them, the Pikmin you're commanding right now don't have a lot of oomph in their prowess. You've probably noticed the leaves protruding from their heads, which indicates that they're the runts of the group. Take a look at this picture.
The leaf, bud, and flower all represent the three stages of a Pikmin's growth (not the colors!). The Leaf Pikmin are by far the weakest, and you'll often notice them lagging behind the rest. It's best to keep them working on minor tasks (such as carrying pellets and dead creatures) while the rest take care of more important manners. Then you have the Buds, which are much quicker and can stand on their own as a genuine fighting force. The Flowers, of course, are the head honchos and excel at everything (quick at everything, including building and taking down enemies).
Why these flowery appendages bring down structures and harm organisms remain a mystery. If you ask me, I always thought the bud would hurt more. Bap bap bap bap bap bap!
How do Pikmin mature? If you take a quick look around the landing site in the Forest of Hope, you'll notice some long grass that the Pikmin instantly take a shining too. Upon shifting through the grass, blobs of yellowish sap spill across the ground, which the Pikmin absolutely adore and digest with reckless abandon. After entering an idle state, the leaves instantly transform into flowers. A shortcut through puberty!
In any case, at least the long wait provides you with a nice view of the area.
Once the wall goes down, you'll come across a group of toothy Bulborbs and a collection of Pellet Posies (the numbered flowers) to your left. In case you can't see the critters, here's an up-close piece of art of him.
While they looks cuddly and chubby, the Dwarf Bulborbs are not to be trifled with. While they're among the easiest of creatures to deal with, one careless move can lead to your Pikmin getting munched. Granted, you still have to fight with them! You can toss your Pikmin over for a quick fight, but by far the easiest way to deal with them is to land them square on their backs; they keel over in an instant. Or just do what I do: tilt the controller's C-stick around to swarm them with Pikmin. Fun fact: If a Dwarf Bulborb is munching on your Pikmin, you can still save them so long as they haven't been swallowed yet. Just be quick about it!
After they're dead, you can send your Pikmin over to transport their dead bodies to the Onion, where they will be converted into Pikmin seeds. You don't have to pluck the sprouts immediately. While the sprouts initially begin as leaves, they eventually transform into buds before blooming into flowers. A useful tactic.
To Olimar's right, you'll find a ship part in plain sight: The Eternal Fuel Dynamo. It takes a certain number of Pikmin to carry each part, so much sure you have enough left to defend yourself and your transport crew!
However, danger lurks around the corner. Not far from the Eternal Fuel Dynamo, a lumbering nocturnal beast snoozes near the entrance to a further path into the forest. It is the Spotty Bulborb, a much larger version of the critters we fought earlier.
While always napping in the day, they wake up quickly upon approaching from a close proximity or upon contact. There are times when you can avoid them, but they have a habit of blocking your paths. Luckily, we still have the element of surprise, but Olimar must use it effectively.
Throwing Pikmin at its face is out of the question. The Bulborb readily awakes from its drowsiness and will immediately chomp away at any Pikmin it can spot. Swarming is also not a viable option, as shown above. The cluster of Pikmin immediately get shuffled into the chaos, and as the Bulborb shakes off its foes, your warriors stumble and trip, thereby becoming easy pickings.
The back, however, is a much different story. As you quickly gain the first strike, the Bulborb will awaken and focus on shaking off your Pikmin. Since you don't have to immediately worry about your Pikmin being eaten, you steadily replace the ones shaken off by throwing new attackers. By the time it turns around to face you, it's all over. This was a difficult strategy to employ when I was younger, but it's like second nature to me now.
A bountiful harvest!
Furthering into the forest (and entering a skirmish with more Bulborbs), a familiar dull mound is spotted on the side. Could it be...?
It is! Another Onion has made its home here. As it gains color and pops out of the ground, a single seed spurts from the organism. Olimar quickly wastes no time in plucking the sprout.
It's a new type of Pikmin!
The Yellow Pikmin differs in many ways from its red counterpart. The yellow aesthetic is a no-brainer, but it also continues the pattern of one established body part per Pikmin. The Red Pikmin have unusually long noses, and the Yellow Pikmin posses unusually large ears. I bet they can wiggle. In any case, this Pikmin is a favorite amongst the female fanbase.
Gameplay wise, there's a number of uses for the Yellow Pikmin. Upon discovery, Olimar notes that the Yellow Pikmin are much lighter than their cousins. Their lack of weight actually comes in handy, as they can be thrown much higher than the Reddies. In the screenshot above, the Red Pikmin can probably only be thrown to approximately half the size of the stump, but the Yellows can reach all the way up. It's incredibly useful to nab elevated objects (such as the huge pellet above) and in fact is required for certain ship pieces (why, there's one as such in the Forest of Hope!).
Unfortunately, this proves to be a weakness in fending off monsters. The Yellow Pikmin are thrown in much higher arcs, and don't land quite as fast as the Red Pikmin. As such, throwing the Yellows displays a noticeable delay in attacking. It's also evident that Yellow Pikmin are not as strong as the Reds. Speed and power are the key in battling with Pikmin, so it's best for Yellow Pikmin to handle cargo work while your Red Pikmin do all the fighting.
That is, if you can't utilize their secret weapon! Yellow Pikmin remain the only ones of their kind who can wield the dangerous Bomb Rocks, which are scattered at random points of the world. These explosive stones have a variety uses, none the least of which is blasting open rock walls. Bomb Rocks are proven to be a deadly force in battle, as they can be used to initiate the first strike (make sure it's always from the back, though!). If the event in that you're actually a heartless prick, you can also have Bomb Rock-carrying Yellow Pikmin be devoured by a creature, which then induces an explosion within their mouths. The result is effective.
I just wanna stretch their ears.
Annnd that's about it! For the next two posts, we'll take a break from discussing the game itself and focus on two central themes! It'll be a thumping, thought-provoking read for sure!
To tell the truth, I was planning to stick one of 'em to this Seed, but didn't want this post to run any longer, so...yeah. Not trying to rush or anything (having a lot of fun with this one..WHEN I'M NOT SEARCHING FOR SCREENSHOTS).
E3 NEXT WEEK