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Miyamoto unleashes the legions of Pikmin amongst us once again, and we couldn't be happier...
Away from the usual staple of Mario and Zelda titles (not to say weâ??re complaining) Miyamoto-san once again proved his brilliance back in 2001 with the release of Pikmin for the GameCube.
With inspiration coming from his time spent gardening, itâ??s little wonder that this quirky Japanese take on an RTS quickly became a favourite amongst Nintendo fans, and now Miyamoto is back with Pikmin 2, promising literally double the fun.
This time around Captain Olimar finds himself returning to the strange world where Pikmin inhabit, however this time around itâ??s not because heâ??s crash-landed, but all about the $$$. It turns out that the company that poor old Olimar is working for is going bankrupt, so to save it, Olimar must embark on a salvage mission to collect the vast hordes of treasure strewen across the landscape.
The debt is a whopping 10,000 pokos, however this time around Olimar has enlisted the help of his trusty assistant, Louie, to ensure they get it done in double quick time, although naturally theyâ??ll need the help of the tireless Pikmin to succeed.
As a brief recap to anybody whoâ??s not had the fortune to play Pikmin, the game is loosely based on an RTS, with players taking control of legions of Pikmin to scavenge the environments, salvage treasure and attack the various enemy characters that populate the planet and come out in worrying numbers at night. New Pikmin are gained by taking tokens to your ship, which in turn sprouts new Pikmin for Olimar and Co to pull from the ground and add to their numbers. Itâ??s quintessentially simple, yet oh so delightfully fun.
Pikmin are a strange type if youâ??ve never had the pleasure of meeting them. Perfectly capable and diligent creatures, these tireless guys however are easily distracted without a leader and thatâ??s why itâ??s so important for Olimar and Louie to keep a close eye on them. The Pikmin come in a variety of different forms, with the Red, Yellow and Blue races joined by the all-new powerful Purple Pikmin and the poison-resistant White Pikmin. Each of the Pikmin have special abilities, such as being invulnerable to fire, water or electricity, which provides a perfect puzzle element to the proceedings â?“ something that highlights inadequacies in many other RTS titles.
Finally Pikmin seem to have a worrying addiction with nectar grass patches, when they come upon one theyâ??ll stop following Olimar and busily expose the nectar and gorge themselves on it. Having eaten the nectar, Pikmin will evolve from leaf to bud to flowers, with a speed increase as a result.
This time around the time-limit from its predecessor has been removed; however the game is still broken into a day/night cycle, with enemy numbers rapidly increasing once the sun has gone down. This ensures the game retains that nice tempo that was evident in its predecessor and lends the game a very different feel to Western developed RTS titles.
Players take control of both Olimar and Louie and can switch between both freely; neither character has any distinct differences beyond their visual appearance, however this seemingly small introduction adds a completely different slant to the Pikmin experience, providing the player with greater strategic opportunities. Itâ??s easy to organise your various Pikminâ??s to each character, whilst you now have more opportunities to set up attacking options such as down the flanks, or getting on to make an attack from the front, whilst another sneaks up for a nasty surprise from the back.
Pikmin 2 also introduces randomly generated dungeons throughout the landscape. This may sound like a very RPGâ??ish feature, and to be entirely true it is. Players must work their way through multiple levels, fending off waves of enemy attacks and ultimately leading into epic boss encounters. Players are restricted as to what Pikmin they take into the dungeons, and as such this aspect provides yet more strategy to the overall experience, however youâ??re free to take your time, explore for hidden treasures and work things out, as the time above the ground freezes until youâ??re out of the dungeon.
Throughout the game youâ??ll have the opportunity to gain berries to make potions; one of which boosts your Pikminâ??s abilities, whilst the other casts your enemy into stone for a short duration. Olimar and Louie can also upgrade their suits and ship with various items that they find through the adventure.
The various objects you â??lootâ? within the game mark an interesting point, as itâ??s the first time that Nintendo have licensed real-world items within one of their videogames; whilst seeing such things as a 7-Up cap may not sound too enticing, such touches as watching your Pikmin struggle to carry a giant â??Game & Watchâ? is always amusing.
Without doubt Pikmin 2 makes drastic improvements to the main concern over its predecessor, which was naturally the length of the game; however having two characters has allowed Miyamoto-san and his team to incorporate a variety of multiplayer modes that are sure to keep you entertained for months to come.
The first match requires players to collect four yellow orbs scattered throughout each map, although you can also win sneakily by stealing your opponentâ??s orbs. The game contains a variety of maps with various obstacles and enemies to encounter, whilst you can be sure that frantic battles between legions of fanatic Pikmin will break out â?“ just be prepared for a huge grin to come across your face when these hilarious bouts occur. In addition the game contains a â??Challengeâ? mode, whereby players have to clear 30 maps with the ultimate challenge of not loosing a single Pikmin.
Whilst Pikmin 2 combines strategy, puzzle and action into an excellent gaming experience, without doubt the biggest pull comes from the games visuals. Despite their simplistic appearance Miyamoto has squeezed these little guys full of charisma, which puts virtually every other â??high-profileâ? gaming icon to shame. Youâ??ll laugh when they frantically bash their heads away at an impassable block or run headstrong into a fight of unmatched odds, yet cry like a baby when one of the larger enemy creatures rolls over a legion of 100+ Pikmin in one foul swoop.
Coupled into this are some of the most ludicrously detailed environments, which border on photo-realism, whilst the sequel packs in the smaller details such as leaves falling from trees and insects flying around. An improved lighting engine drenches the scenes in oranges and various hues from the sun, creating one of the most visually impressive titles weâ??ve seen on the GameCube, both from a technical and style point of view.
It’s certainly a Japanese take on the RTS genre, and as such it deals with many of the issues we have with this genre in its own way and style, providing a compelling experience that exceeds many of the tiresome romps we’ve had with recent Western developed titles of the same ilk.
Do yourself a favour and pick up Pikmin 2; it’s a game you’ll simply fall in love with.