The Pikmin franchise began in 2001—over twenty years ago—when the original title was released on the Nintendo GameCube, where the series was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, who is perhaps best known for being the creator of Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda. Taking things in a different direction with real-time strategy and time constraints, alongside action and puzzle gameplay, Pikmin 4 continues the series’ storied history with yet another completionist’s dream.
Seeking out the emergency beacon of the famed Captain Olimar, the Rescue Corps has sent a vessel equipped with a team ready to dive in and save the day…until they also crash land and get scattered around this mysterious planet, where an intrepid rookie must gather up the missing members, save several civilians who have found themselves stranded here as well, and finally get to Captain Olimar before it’s too late.
“Most of your time in Pikmin 4 is set to the various tasks needed to complete in each area or the objectives given to you along the way…”
The story becomes a bit spread as you go from area to area searching for the stranded survivors and the valuable Sparklium, which is used as fuel to repair your ship and prepare it for travel. Most of your time in Pikmin 4 is set to the various tasks needed to complete in each area or the objectives given to you along the way, so most of the story is dolled out day by day as you meet a new person to join your camp or listen in on the Rescue Corps discussing current events overnight aboard the ship.
While the story does a fine job connecting the past games to the present, you can easily play this title without it, as the story oftentimes takes a back seat to the gameplay.
Meeting up with some of the more important characters in Pikmin 4 allows for bigger movement in the story. Making headway through the game at a faster pace keeps the passing story tidbits a bit more common, but with Pikmin 4’s attachment to completionism, with every level having a ton of items to gather, caves to explore, and survivors to rescue, the slower-paced movement to new areas when playing in this style makes the major story portions a bit more rare to see.
“With that being said, the gameplay in Pikmin 4 is superb.”
With that being said, the gameplay in Pikmin 4 is superb. Starting off with exploration across a specific region, you’re tasked with gathering a sufficient number of Pikmin before jumping into clearing the map. Between breaking down walls or moving ramps to increase efficiency and movement and defeating the various enemies making things harder for you, the task at hand is simply to find your way around and make the movement as easy as possible. While most of this is done simply by completing tasks in the proper order and having the right Pikmin for the job, it keeps areas from being completely accessible from the get.
Each day you spend in an area is timed with a day-night cycle, giving you a certain amount of time before your day comes to an end, and you must start fresh in the morning (unless you decide to partake in nighttime exploration, which works a bit different than daytime runs). That’s why making sure every area is open and unlocked is incredibly important—you only have so much time to get as much done as possible. This keeps the pressure on to be strategic and timely, which makes pathing and optimization a fun and crucial part of the game.
Once you’re a bit freer to move around, you have a few different items to gather—onions, treasure, and raw materials. Onions and Flarlic are gathered in order to increase the number of Pikmin you can use at any one given time. This makes them incredibly important for taking down bigger, tougher bosses or just to load up enough little guys to carry a gigantic pumpkin, for example.
Treasure are the little sparkly bits that get turned into Sparklium, which are generally basic items that could be found in any person’s home, like rubber ducks, potatoes, or even toothpaste. These are needed to progress in the story, unlocking new areas with improved radar aboard your ship, as well as getting said ship up and running. Finally, raw materials are gathered from various locations, like piles or holes, which allow for upgrades or new, usable items to be purchased from the Rescue Corps engineer.
“…finding everything across an area is a rush similar to gathering all the Korok seeds in Tears of the Kingdom or Power Moons in Super Mario Odyssey…”
All of these items are unique and exciting to discover and solve a way to get them back to your ship. As previously mentioned, finding everything across an area is a rush similar to gathering all the Korok seeds in Tears of the Kingdom or Power Moons in Super Mario Odyssey, with one very important caveat—the sheer number needed to complete the game fully—just like you’ll find in Tears of the Kingdom or Super Mario Odyssey—is astronomical and not for the faint of heart, but is just as rewarding for those really enjoying themselves in Pikmin 4.
From there, each area also has a variety of caves to explore, which is where you’ll generally find the new Pikmin to add to your roster. Additionally, these areas are where you’ll find the vast majority of your survivors, which are useful for giving quests that earn more raw materials, as well as being a great source of Sparklium. Some of these caves also offer side quests called Dandori Battles, which challenge the player in a new, unique way.
“Pikmin 4 is truly another completionist’s dream…”
Dandori Battles give each drop into a new area a bit more spice, really challenging your skills of efficiency. Given a map, you’ll either compete against someone or be given a timer in order to gather as many resources as possible, getting scores based on performance. Finding ways to, again, optimize your actions through your various Pikmin types is a blast, while some may find it to be more of the same, just a bit more stressful. Either way, the real-time strategy of Pikmin 4 mixed with these time constraints won’t be for everyone.
One of the final big mechanics found in Pikmin 4 is your companion, Oatchi. This big oaf of a dog-like creature helps you fight in battle, becomes your steed, and even helps dig or carry items back to base. He’s an all-arounder and is crucially important from start to finish. The upgrades found with the engineer generally make two characters better—yourself, as well as Oatchi—showing the importance of keeping him in tip-top shape. Additionally, training can be completed for Oatchi, where he can learn new abilities that make him even more useful. Oatchi is life.
“Pikmin 4 is impeccable at taking the same basic set of mechanics and throwing them into different modes…”
If you decide to brave the night in order to gather a resource that allows you to transform survivors who have spent a bit too much time on the planet back to normal, you’ll be tasked with a tower-defence mode. Here you’ll need to protect a dirt-mound pyramid from aggressive, attacking enemies of increasing difficulty with the help of some nighttime-only Glow Pikmin in order to get the much-needed resource at dawn.
Pikmin 4 is impeccable at taking the same basic set of mechanics and throwing them into different modes, like this tower defence version, the timed version, or the competitive version—all of which come together for that more-of-the-same but entirely different feel.
Pikmin 4 is an incredible title that shows Nintendo continues to be able to take entirely new and unique franchises and make them thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. While the gameplay won’t be for everyone, sometimes inching towards the realm of being repetitive, the various modes that utilize those samey mechanics show the brilliance of changing a small portion of the game in order to make it feel entirely fresh and exciting.
Pikmin 4 is truly another completionist’s dream, taking the long-running real-time strategy genre and adding a setting, characters, and art style that is all the way Nintendo—keeping the genre on its toes.