E3 2001 Hands-onPikmin

Miyamoto's latest creation is free-for-play at Nintendo's booth. Check out our impressions.

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Shigeru Miyamoto's latest project, Pikmin, is a very unique console game. While it's not anything too radical, seeing a game of its type functioning very well on a console is surprising, especially when you consider the broad spectrum of gaming. Essentially, Pikmin is a real-time strategy game, albeit one that has been designed for both console hardware and a console audience. In it, you take the role of a marooned space man who must traverse an alien world in search of his crashed spaceship's parts. To brave the hazards of the alien planet, you must enlist the aid of pikmins, little plant people who are native to the alien planet. You use the pikmin to do your bidding--they attack enemies, destroy obstacles, and carry objects for you. Do things right, and you're rewarded with more pikmin. Do them wrong, and your pikmin will be killed.

The game's control scheme is very simple and intuitive. You move the spaceman (your onscreen persona) with the analog stick, and you control your herd of pikmin with the C stick. The A button serves as your standard action button, letting you uproot fresh pikmin and call back those who are currently on tasks. The B and Z buttons, finally, let you deploy pikmin by hurling them at an object or creature. Throw them at a creature, and they'll attack it; throw them at a wall, and they'll tear it down.

The stages we've played don't seem to have any concrete objectives; rather, they seem open-ended, letting you explore the world, harvest pikmins, and destroy enemies. You acquire pikmin in a variety of ways--some are available at the outset of each scenario, and you can recycle the bodies of fallen enemies to harvest more. Your home base consists of a small area with three stilted pods resting in it--one yellow, one blue, and one red. Each one corresponds to a color of pikmin--the yellow pod yields yellow pikmins, and so forth. The pods are also where you'll put your pikmin to sleep for the night. Also, scattered around the maps we've seen are plants, which, if you set a large enough horde of pikmin upon them, will fall and yield counters that you can "cash in" for extra pikmin. The actual counters look like giant hockey pucks with numbers on them; the numbers correspond both to the number of pikmin needed to haul it and the number it will eventually yield.

According to Nintendo, the game will work under a Majora's Mask-like time limit, but it hasn't gone into effect in any of the demo games we've played. There is a time meter on the game's interface, however, and the gameworld gets darker as time passes. And, apparently, you have to get your pikmins into their pods before nightfall, lest tragedy befall them.

It's very interesting to see a game like Pikmin being developed primarily for a console. What's very encouraging, though, is the fact that Shigeru Miyamoto is developing it. We'll have more information for you as soon as it becomes available. Look for more impressions from the show floor soon.

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