Monday, May 30, 2011

Pikmin ~Seed 3~ The Forest of Hope and Yellow Pikmin

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.

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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.

Add ImageAdd ImageThe 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!

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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.

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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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remembering E3 2001 and Project Cafe

Around this very time ten years ago, the way I received video game information changed forever.

Before that, my main source of information came from, what else? Video game magazines. It seemed as if I was buying every game magazine on the market, ravaging them day after day for details on the latest Nintendo releases. I scoured through the anthology-sized Electronic Gaming Monthly, browsed the pages of GamePro, scanned the crevasses of my various code books (none the least of which was Tips & Tricks), and even read the EGM spin off known as Expert Gamer. Of course, what kind of young Nintendo junkie would be caught dead without a subscription to Nintendo Power?

In those days, Nintendo Power was my holy grail (with the possible exception of the consoles and games it covered). It's so strange how the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color aren't my favorite Nintendo consoles now, but I can still feel the red-hot excitement I had for their games. Back when I waited with baited excitement for Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong 64 and California's annual E3 Gaming Expo, and when Pokemon became an overnight success and took over my life. I had even memorized practically every video game coming out for the N64/GBC, ranging from Mario Tennis to Lucky Luke to Paperboy 64 to Bomberman 64: The Second Attack to Survival Kids to Penny Racers to Conker's Pocket Tales to WWF Attitude to...god, there were so many. It was inconceivable to think I could get my information anywhere else.

At the same time, I hadn't really been around the internet that much. Oh, sure, I cruised around Nintendo's site more than once and the same went for the official ones for Nickelodeon and Digimon (don't laugh), but I hadn't really seen much of a point on them other than playing simple Flash games. And hey, it's not like they were superior to anything I had on my Nintendo 64.

All of that changed when, ten years ago, Nintendo Power's brief internet section cited Tendobox and Nintendojo, two unofficial Nintendo websites as useful sources of information. Curious as to what this meant, I hopped onto my computer and logged on to the sites.


My mind just about exploded when I saw screenshots and trailers for sequels to Super Smash Bros, Star Fox, and more, all which had just been released from the E3 expo.



To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. What really didn't help was our connection, which at the time was a super slow MSN Dial-up. As you can imagine, it was sheer torture waiting for those screenshots to take minutes to load, as my eyes continued to bulge at every image and video that came my way. As Mom had to pry me off of my chair for bedtime, I was far from finished. I continued to watch the trailers for Melee, Star Fox Adventures, and Donkey Kong Racing over and over without pause. I dived deep into the bowels of Google, desperate for more information on every Nintendo title at E3, especially Melee. God, waiting for that game was insane.

Of course, it didn't take long for me that I had the latest news of video games right at my fingertips. I could log on to Tendobox and ogle at the latest screenshots of Melee, and it'd take several weeks for me to see them in Electronic Gaming Monthly. It didn't take a genius to figure out the difference. That's not to say I didn't stop reading game magazines, as to be honest I kinda preferred the off-beat, lively articles contained in print. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a system I had set up: Check Nintendojo, Tendobox and IGN for news every day, and read the magazine as supplements. No stone was left unturned as I continued to prowl for images and videos. I was like this for the entire year, and the launch of the Gamecube remains my favorite to this very day.

E3 means something for the industry. It's the one time of the year where you know shit is going to go down in the gaming world and even if you're disappointed by a particular conference, there will be at least one announcement that will catch you off guard. The flood of information and the prospects of new Marios and Zeldas and Metroids and whatever Nintendo is planning to revive next or when they have introduced a new concept is something I have never grown tired of. Reading up on Super Mario Sunshine in 2002, being blown away by the DS and Zelda: Twilight Princess in 2004, and the process repeating itself with the 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Donkey Kong Country Returns are permanently etched into my memory.

It's strange looking at these shots and trailers today. Despite it being the cornerstone of my childhood, I don't play Super Smash Bros. Melee anymore. Star Fox Adventures turned out to be a lackluster venture (and, upon reflection, incredibly inappropriate for its source material), and Donkey Kong Racing actually never saw the light of day. But it doesn't matter. Just by watching them, I can still feel the sparks and warmth of the third grader in me watching these videos. I can still feel the young child in me ready to dive into the wonders of the net and everything that followed such as reading up on Nintendo's history and flash games and webcomics and message boards and reading gamers reminiscence about their favorite Nintendo memories as it was the most important thing in the whole world and everything else.

Ten years later, it's different in a way. Tendobox is long gone, but Nintendojo is still around. I still check GoNintendo daily. But as I've grown older into a patient, yet passionate man, it's become harder for me to become excited over things. I jump for joy when a title's announced (The new Wii Kirby had me bouncing around the house for ten minutes straight), but then remain stoic until release, gradually absorbing all the following information with an aloof reaction. I'll never forget when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was about to be released last year at this very time, and when I was browsing the main site and listening to the main theme and it hit me that a new Mario game was about to be released. I grinned. I jumped and laughed and I think I even cried a little. A new Mario game was coming out!

Twelve days from now (soon to be eleven), the E3 Expo will be open to the press. This E3, however, will be special. Nintendo is finally ready to unveil their next console, which will supersede the Wii. Rumors and sources have flooded the internet, but we only know two things for certain: The code name (Project Cafe) and that it will be presented to the world on June 7. I'll know I'll be excited. I know I'll be happy. I know I'll be bouncing. The Nintendo Entertainment System. The Super Nintendo. The Nintendo 64. The Gamecube. The Wii. And now, whatever it is we'll be seeing on June 7. We're going to have a new member in the family.

Twelve years ago, I read about E3 in Nintendo Power. Ten years ago, I devoured every screenshot and trailer presented from E3 on the internet. Five years ago, I began to watch E3 as it happened via a livestream. And twelve days from now, I will be doing the same thing right where I am sitting right now. I may not be as easily excitable as I was back then, but the shock, celebration and intense news coverage is something that has never failed to absorb me into the old realm of that red-hot game hype (well, okay, except for E3 2008), and it is something I look forward to for this year. And for next year, and for the year after that, and then for a lifetime.

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..

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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.

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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.

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Space.


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)




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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.

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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.

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Wow, that was fun to write.

Expect another post by the end of the week!