Ten years is a long time to wait for something original from Nintendo. When Pikmin arrived amid the first wave of Gamecube titles, the brash flash of Rogue Leader and the expectant clamour for Mario Sunshine and cel-shaded Zelda meant its gentle charms were drowned out. Nintendo had finally decided to innovate for the first time since the days of the SNES, but the public was mostly looking the other way.
Those that took the Pikmin plunge were treated to a delightful hybrid of exploration and strategy. Free of the restrictions and stylistic catchphrases of Nintendo’s other big titles, Miyamoto could enchant himself, and us, once more. It felt unique. It felt special.
Pikmin 2 has a lot to live up to. Will it still give me that butterflies-at-Christmas warm feeling inside? Can it rekindle the love for my dust-gathering Gamecube?
“Look, don’t just sit there with it. It’s a Gamecube! Get it open so I can play Pikmin 2.”
I needn’t have worried. Pikmin 2 takes all the best elements of its predecessor and nurtures them to grow bigger and stronger. The most obvious refinement is the lifting of the restrictive 30-day time limit, allowing the rest of the game to breathe. It encourages inventive experimental play and unhurried exploration of a delightfully rendered game-world.
There’s a rich seam of natural wonder that runs through Pikmin 2. Your moneymaking mission is as much to do with gathering fauna and flora as dollars and cents. This sense of looking at the familiar through fresh eyes is nowhere more evident than in the everyday nature of the ‘treasures’ you seek. A bottle top or a battery is transformed into something magical and valuable through the game’s curious gaze.
“Oi! Pikmin! You don’t even like water, what do you want with that?”
“I’ll just take it for, erm, research purposes…”
As new species and items are found they are added to your Piklopedia and Treasure Hoard respectively. Although that’s hardly groundbreaking, Pikmin 2 wins you over in the presentation. These are no static slides of your finds, but captive examples which you can watch in their natural habitat. You can even throw them Pikpik carrots and study their behaviour. Half game, half interactive nature documentary.
Accompanying each discovery are Captain Olimar’s notes, written with the inquisitive but affectionate tone of an explorer in love with his strange new world. The use of language in Pikmin 2 is exceptional. Rich and colourful with a wonderfully literate voice, it both shames most other games for their stunted vocabulary and makes a mockery of the notion that Nintendo’s games are “for kids”.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 2004.9. We have discovered a curious species on this planet.
They follow us everywhere, and seem absurdly interested in my hair.”
Enhancing and expanding upon what worked beautifully before are a host of new features. Switching between characters, new varieties of Pikmin, the all-or-nothing forays into ever deepening caverns… But it’s the way the Pikmin look at you so adoringly that make it special. This is Real Time Strategy for people with heart. When they sing in those lonely echoing caverns you can’t help but love them. Watching one accidentally drown/catch fire/get eaten and seeing its ghostly spirit float away ranks as one of the most upsetting moments in any videogame.
With my best girlie by my side, we’d sing, sing, sing…
Everything in Pikmin 2 feels hand-crafted with love. It’s a magical and enchanting experience - an all too rare and precious treasure. The everyday made special again.
RODENT CASH RATING -
“Tha’s one fucked-up garden!”
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