I was being a little coy in my last post, on Pikmin 2 when I said I'd be writing more about its successor, Pikmin 3, before too long, because (much to my surprise) I'd actually already finished it! It took me soooo long to get through Pikmin 2, so I was astounded that I got into Pikmin 3 so much that I literally completed it in three sittings. For a speed run that might not be a significant amount of time, but for my slow, casual first playthrough it was definitely noteworthy.

It's doubly surprising that I got through the game so quickly, because at its core the gameplay is pretty much identical to the previous two titles. You're still commanding an army of cute Pikmin to collect items (in this game, mostly fruit), fight enemies, and clear paths. The main difference is that in this game the spot-on pacing makes the game incredibly addictive. Nintendo has clearly learned from the two previous outings, and with this entry they strike pretty much a perfect balance between having too much time pressure as in Pikmin, and the complete lack of time restraints that was in Pikmin 2. In this game you have to make sure that you have enough fruit juice for your crew to survive to the next day, but once you get past the first few days it's very easy to stockpile a healthy reserve of juice and you can then play pretty much as slowly as you want.

The game also purposely restricts the types of Pikmin you can use, so much so that you only have two types (red and rock) for quite some time before the others are gradually introduced. The two new Pikmin types add some new wrinkles but don't really change things up much, but the simple "put key in lock" gameplay is still fun and the focus does become more on efficient time management. I ended up doing probably a little worse than average in terms of the number of in-game days it took me to get to the ending (and I didn't even bother collecting all the fruit), but of the three games, this is the one I can see myself much more likely to go back and dip into again. The game makes it easy to redo a day if you're not happy with how much you accomplished. The game also is much more casual-friendly in that boss enemies keep their damage level to the next day, so you don't have to worry about defeating them in one go.

The game also has tweaks, many of which are small, that just make everything feel so much better. Directing Pikmin is much easier since you can lock onto targets, thus preventing them from randomly jumping into a task that you don't want them to do. The whistle (which calls Pikmin to you) can be directed now, and so it's much easier to pick out which Pikmin you want to control. The game also introduces the ability to switch amongst three captains instead of the previous game's two, and although having three captains doesn't really introduce much new in the way of puzzles, this small change actually makes getting things done feel much easier as you can have a captain shuttle between two other captains that are supervising two groups of Pikmin. I tried out the gamepad touch controls (the game also supports the Wii remote pointer controls seen in the Wii-makes of the first two games), but I preferred regular button controls. Having the map easily accessible on the gamepad is extremely convenient, and you can also use it to direct paths for your captains to follow, which adds another layer to the gameplay.

Although the main campaign is shorter than the second game, the game has quite a few mission modes that can be played solo or co-op (which reward you with medals based on your performance), and a multiplayer vs. mode. Even more missions are available as paid DLC. The game also looks amazing, and is the first first-party title that I felt really wowed me with the level of visual polish and detail. All in all as a whole package I was impressed with this game, so much so that I just couldn't deny it a spot on my list of favorite games of all time. It's hard to imagine how Nintendo can top this, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Tickle these Pikmin 3 links:
- Official site, includes wallpapers
- E3 2012 trailer
- E3 2013 trailer
- Funny video with Miyamoto and Bill from E3 2013
- Interview with Miyamoto about the game, at Kotaku
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry on Miiverse
- Entry at pikmin.wikia.com
- Entry on Wikipedia