Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it has been an entire decade since the release of Pikmin 3 on the Wii U. Sure, we had Hey! Pikmin on the Nintendo 3DS and the mobile app Pikmin Bloom. They are more like an extension of the universe instead of a mainline game, so to speak. And I remember that up until this day, the fourth installment is nothing but a myth.
After the release of Pikmin 3 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, I was hopeful that one day the series would return! And now, not only did we get Pikmin 4, but also a modern HD port of Pikmin 1 and 2, it is undoubtedly the perfect timing to get into the entry as all of its mainline games are now available in one console! In this Pikmin 4 review, we would be focusing on all the new features and how this real-time strategy/ puzzle game has evolved!
▍ Save Captain Olimar All Over Again!
Following the events of Pikmin 3, Captain Olimar returns to PNF-404, an Earth-like planet he has visited before, with his old ship the SS Dolphin. A freak accident causes his ship to crash land, whereupon he is forced to recruit Pikmin once again to help him find the ship’s missing parts.
And as Olimar sends an SOS signal across the universe to get some rescue, The Rescue Corps receives the emergency call and sends a team to PNF-404 led by Captain Sheperd, to find and rescue Olimar. Unfortunately, the ship malfunctions when it reaches the planet, forcing the crew to eject from it before it crash lands on the surface. And that’s when you come in, the newest recruit from the Rescue Corps, who is entrusted to find the missing rescue members and to help them complete the mission.
After the initial cutscene, you can create your character, a system that was newly introduced in this entry. A neat feature is that the color of your spacesuit will affect other elements in the story, such as the color of Oatchi’s collar and even the look of the S.S. Shepherd, the Rescue Corps’ ship. This customization feature, while a bit limited, does allow you to feel you’re part of the game, making you immerse yourself more into Pikmin 4’s worldview and plot, and it reminds me of the Miis that were common in the Nintendo 3DS era.
▍ Discover the Fascinating World of Pikimin!
Your main objectives in Pikmin 4 are simple; to collect the various Treasures around the planet and extract their Sparklium, which is an energy source required to repair the SS Shepherd! Another objective, of course, is to save the stranded castaways that have crash-landed on the planet.
And to do that, you enlist the help of your buddy Pikmin and trust me, they are extremely helpful! You can have them carry various items back to the main base while building bridges and activating contraptions to make your journey as smooth as possible. In this mainline game, all types are present, but you must be careful, since at first, you can only have 20 Pikmin in the field at once, and once you get your fourth type, you will find out that only three types of Pikmin are allowed to be present in the field.
I would argue that Pikmin 4 is the longest Pikmin game by a long shot. There’s just so much to do, and even though you technically only need to complete a certain percentage of each area to progress the main story, I still felt the desire to complete every single area. I was instantly hooked on obtaining all sorts of different treasures and reading their quirky notes.
▍ A Great Access Point for Beginners
Because the story doesn’t fit chronologically into the main series, Pikmin 4 does not require you to have played past mainline games to understand it, making it a very competent access point for newcomers to the series.
In addition, Pikmin 4 doesn’t have any sort of time limit whatsoever, unlike Pikmin 1 and 3, so you can take your time and explore to your heart’s content. Time also moves at 1/6th of the usual pace when you’re underground, so even the deepest caves can be explored in a single expedition day.
In addition, you can simply take your time and explore the world at your leisure, and there are a multitude of accessibility enhancements that you can take advantage of. Furthermore, one thing I’ve perceived is that the objects around the world are laid out in such a way that there is no specific order to do anything, and however you choose to tackle the day, it’s extremely flexible. Plus, it’s very satisfying seeing the golden 100% when you’ve completed everything.
▍ Useful Tools and Your Trusty Companions is an Excellent Addition!
Alongside your Pikmin, you have a variety of tools at your disposal after you’ve rescued Russ, the Rescue Corps Scientist. By collecting raw material rocks, which are scattered throughout the areas, you can buy a multitude of equipment, such as headlights for when you’re exploring caves, or even Rush Boots, which increase your movement speed.
Although my favorite equipment has to be the Treasure Gauge, while you’re exploring around, it will emit auditory signals whenever treasure is nearby, with an indicator on the top left of your screen. The best part about it is that when there’s no treasure to be collected, it will automatically turn off, so if you’re unsure if you’ve explored an entire area, you can check it to see how much remains.
And of course, we cannot forget the trusty dog companion, Oatchi! Both he and your avatar can be upgraded in the Lab. For example, after an upgrade, he can carry items alongside your Pikmin. You can also split up and control him yourself to discover various suspicious locations!
▍ Exploring At Night!?
Now let’s talk about one of the first major additions: Nighttime Exploration. Up until now, venturing at night was simply not an option, because of the vicious enemies lurking around. But with the help of the new Glow Pikmin, you can now explore at night though this works a bit differently compared to your typical Daytime Explorations.
Despite what their name might suggest, you won’t be exploring the area at night. Instead, the gameplay during night expeditions focuses on protecting the Lumiknolls throughout the night, considering that their light attracts the frenzied creatures and makes them attack. The gameplay shift proves Pikimin 4 a modern entry that differentiates it from its previous installments. And soon you will get intrigued in this battle of nerves with the fast-beat soundtrack!
▍ Prove Your Multitasking Skills in Dandori!
Next, we have Dandori Battles, which test your multitasking skills in two ways. The first is Versus, where you will compete against another person to carry as much treasure as possible to the Onion. And those are deceptively hard, especially when Items and enemies can respawn. At times, a certain item will be selected at random to give you triple points, so you often have to adjust your strategy at a finger snap.
The next type is Dandori Care, where you have a fixed area that is full of treasures and enemies. Your objective is to collect a certain percentage of those within the time limit. In both Versus and Care, you cannot take your current Pikmin squad with you, so you also have to carefully see what you have and plan your route accordingly. And, you can share a controller with someone and play Versus mode against the CPU. This mode is hectic, and fun at the same time.
▍ Pikmin 4 Has Lots of Post-Game Content
If you wanted to play just the main story of the game, you can expect to take around 13 to 15 hours. I, however, decided to complete all of the in-game areas, and gather every single treasure, so my playtime clocked out at around 32 hours. Now, I’m no stranger to Pikmin’s gameplay, but this huge playtime is solely due to the post-game content, which opens up after the credits.
And I will say, this was perhaps the best post-game experience I’ve ever experienced this year. It’s like I’m playing an entirely different game, with even bigger areas and a lot more to explore, just ready for me to waste hours upon hours sinking my teeth into it. So if you play Pikmin 4, I can assure you that even after the credits roll, you’re still halfway through the game.
▍ Pikmin 4 is as Charming as Always
Pikmin 4 is an amazing game, hands down. Not only does it completely redefine the traditional formula of the series, but it has also added new elements that make your Pikimin journey more pleasurable than usual. You can explore however you please without the need to look up a guide on the correct order or the correct pathway. Just like its previous entries which promised a carefree adventure with the adorable Pikimin, you can play it however you like without any worry or stress.
Perhaps one thing that bothered me with Pikmin 4 was the overbearing tutorial and some of the typography choices, but in general, those issues were relatively minor. I honestly had so much fun exploring and completing 100% of each of the areas, adjusting my strategy when things inevitably went wrong and of course, the many accessibility features and enhancements make this a phenomenal experience not just for new players of the series but also veterans.