Read about Miyamoto's take on the real-time strategy genre.
The Nintendo GameCube kicked off in Japan just a month ago, though Shigeru Miyamoto's updates of popular titles like Mario or Zelda won't be making an appearance until 2002. His latest creation is a quirky game called Pikmin, which was recently released for the fledgling system. Players take the role of Captain Orima (an anagram of Mario's name), a pilot of the spacecraft called Dolphin, gathering and transporting space resources across the galaxy. One day, a meteor strikes the craft, forcing a crash landing on a mysterious planet. With parts of the spacecraft shattered into numerous pieces, Orima's life containment suit has only 30 days left until it ceases operation. You must find all the parts to repair the ship within those days with the help of Pikmin, which is an odd-looking creature that appears to be related to plants. Its seeds are derived from an onion with three legs, which is also apparently capable of flight. The seeds come out of the onions and land in the ground, and eventually they'll grow sprouts so that you can pull up a Pikmin. You begin with just one of the little guys, but once you feed pellets and dead monsters to the onion, it bears more seeds, thus breeding more Pikmin. They are loyal to its master, so they always follow Orima wherever he goes--or at least as much as they possibly can. There are various colors of Pikmin, which have different attributes. For example, the red ones are resistant against fire, so they serve well when fighting against fire-breathing monsters. The blue ones have the ability to move across bodies of water, so unlike other colored Pikmin, they do not drown and die. And lastly, the yellow ones have the ability to pick up bombs and throw them at enemies or destroy walls to expand places to explore.
Pikmin is pretty much Miyamoto's interpretation of the real-time strategy genre, which includes PC titles Command & Conquer and Starcraft. Since you have only 30 days to gather 30 different parts of the spacecraft, you require swift decisiveness, as well as efficiency, in micromanagement. You can breed as many Pikmin as you like, but you can have only up to 100 of them in the field. Pikmin die when monsters eat them up, drown in water (with the exception of blue Pikmin), or when left in the field at the end of the day. In case all your Pikmin have died, the onion will breed more Pikmin for you to start fresh again the following day. That doesn't mean you should keep sacrificing, though, because the longer you keep your Pikmin from the start of the game, the further they tend to develop, increasing their abilities. You can tell by looking at the tip of their heads, which change from leaves to flowers in full bloom.
The controls are relatively straightforward. The analog stick controls Orima, the A button pulls out the Pikmin from the ground as well as throws them to designated targets (enemies or objects). The B button summons the Pikmin that are "away" from your group, and X either disperses or divides your group into separate colors, which will serve useful when you assign them separate tasks. The Y button is the map and information, which can be accessible once you find the radar part. The graphics of the game are simple, yet they are designed uniquely. So far, there hasn't been much issue in terms of frame rate or slowdowns during the gameplay. You will find that it's easy to rotate, zoom, and even change the view of the field from isometric to a top view. With all that, it still somehow lacks the attraction it does with other Miyamoto titles, such as Mario and Zelda. The intro movie was really not on par with those of the current generation, but perhaps that's not what really counts. The music and sound effects go well with the design, especially when your Pikmin is in action.
Pikmin will release shortly after the North American launch of the GameCube. We'll have more impressions from the game for the English version in a few weeks.
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