Monday, January 14, 2013


Pikmin was the very first game I received  for the Gamecube.  I'm not going to lie, I was in love with the game as soon as I read about it in Nintendo Power.  I think that not only the concept behind the game got my attention but also the promise of potential that a new Nintendo IP had.  As with the N64 I didn't get a Gamecube very close to it's launch date however I had taken advantage of the opportunity to play the game while I was staying at a friend's house.  I started to play it and I didn't stop until my 30 in game days were up.  I don't remember much about my first experience with Pikmin as far as the actual game itself went, I just recall it being a very euphoric experience for me.  I imagine I was quite overwhelmed at what seemed like daunting levels with powerful enemies with complex puzzles to solve and perhaps that likely contributed to my initial failure.  Still that first experience was probably quite valuable as I got practice with the game's controls and mechanics.  Whatever knowledge I had gained would doubtless be useful in my next play through.  I had Pikmin on the brain for the next several days after that and I was eagerly anticipating the upcoming holiday season when I expected I would receive my very own Gamecube and copy of Pikmin. I got what I wanted of course, and I commenced with my second play through.  Again I don't remember most of this play through however one thing left quite a memorable impression.

I managed to reach The Final Trial this time.  Two things immediately strike me as foreboding about this level.  For one thing the name, The Final Trial suggests that it is to be a difficult undertaking.  The second foreboding thing that is immediately noticeable is that this level only contains one ship part, meaning that the entire level is devoted to the task of getting this one part.  Those of you who have played Pikmin know that this is very atypical of the game as up until this point there were many parts to collect in most levels and the challenge was being able to get enough on each day so that you could survive.  Bearing these two things in mind I entered the level.  Pikmin has, in my opinion pretty great music.  It is quite relaxing and each tune is well suited to its respective level.  The music in The Final Trial was unlike anything I had heard before.   It evoked feelings of happiness, hope and whimsy.  It felt uplifting and yet it also simultaneously gave you this unique sense of dread and foreboding.  But don't just take my word for it, listen to it yourself.

The obstacles of the level aren't very complicated, it just required proper use of each type of Pikmin in order to advance.  What awaited you at the end was far more terrible and daunting.  Buried in an arena of sand it lies waiting to ambush you should you get close enough.  Emperor Bulbax, the final foe.  Emperor Bulblax is a fearsome, gargantuan and intimidating foe; especially when it's your first time playing.  With one attack he can devour 100 Pikmin, crush any beneath him by sitting on them and begins to jump around like crazy once he takes a certain amount of damage.  My first encounter with him was brutal for me. I attacked him the way one usually attacks an enemy, by throwing Pikmin at him.  It was a long fight that lasted the entire day and I led scores of Pikmin to their deaths.  My Red Pikmin even tragically became extinct as a result.  By the end of the day, just before the dusk the final blow was struck and Emperor Bulblax met his doom.  The fight took so long I didn't even have time to collect the ship part I needed to finish the game but luckily it wasn't the final day.  On the next day I retrieved the part and completed the game.  The feeling was triumphant but also somewhat melancholy due to the heavy losses I took.  Nonetheless I was satisfied that I had completed the game, at least for awhile anyway.

Emperor Bulblax, the final boss, is the most massive of all his species.  He dwarfs all other enemies by comparison.

Over the years I went on to replay the game more times then I can even remember.  I even got the "New Play Control!" version for the Wii.  Naturally my performance improved over time as I replayed the game over and over again.  I also got Pikmin 2 which I enjoyed a lot and thought was a great sequel but I'll talk about that game some other time.  So, recently I found myself mulling over Pikmin again and I realized that it had been quite some time since I had played it.  So, I busted out my copy of Pikmin for the Wii and started playing once again.  Although it had been quite awhile since I had last played Pikmin my most recent play through of the game went quite smoothly.  There were some things I had forgotten, mostly pertaining to fighting strategies for some enemies.  In spite of this though I still managed to do just fine.  I even managed to finish the game a day faster than I had previously.  I was also far more prepared for the fight with Emperor Bulblax then I had been the first time.  There are exactly 53 bomb rocks, weapons that only Yellow Pikmin are capable of using, in the level.  It is best to get 53 Yellow Pikmin and 47 Red Pikmin as the Reds are the strongest fighters.  When I started the fight I took about half of the bomb carrying Yellow Pikmin and put them right in front of the Emperor Bulblax.  Upon eating them the bombs exploded in his mouth doing a lot of damage and stunning him.  With Emperor Bulblax stunned it was a perfect time for the Reds to attack without putting them in any danger.  After repeating this tactic again with the rest of the Yellows, he was defeated in what must have been record time for me.  I had plenty of time to carry the final part back and my losses were pretty minimal, I was pretty proud of myself.

While playing Pikmin again I thought on what made me enjoy the game so much.  What makes it such a good game?  What sets it apart from other games?  In this section I'll share my thoughts on this.  Pikmin is a real time strategy game.  I've found that most people enjoy real time strategy games so it's not surprise that Pikmin was so successful but what sets it apart from most real time strategy games is that it's not a game about war like most other real time strategy games.  There is combat involved of course, you need to defend yourself against some of the more aggressive creatures that you come across and some of them have swallowed the parts you need to get Olimar back home.  There is no major conflict and no real big bad.  It's about Olimar's struggle for survival.  Man vs. Nature if you will, and there certainly is a wide variety of nature.  Enemies that are so varied that they will keep you on your toes the first time you play.  Although most animals are aggressive there is some flora and fauna that can be helpful.  There is a bit of puzzle solving here and there as well which definitely adds variety to the experience.  Each day is time limited, roughly 13 minutes long, so there is a certain amount of time management and multi-tasking in order to make the most out of the time you have.  It's a fairly non-linear game, there are certain milestones for advancement but other then that it's pretty open ended.  The graphics of this game have always looked good to me.  The game's environments are usually pretty beautiful to look upon, even The Forest Naval; which is one of the darkest level.  As I said before the music is well suited to each level and there is quite a variety of tracks.  There are battles where things get intense, usually when fighting a boss level enemy, and the music changes to a more intense track.  Overall it makes for what is mostly a relaxing and pleasant experience that is pretty consistent throughout with the exception of the occasional boss battle that really intensifies the experience.  All of these elements together make up the reasons that I think Pikmin was such a successful and good game.

Original vs. New Play Control!

In this section I will talk about the changes made in the new version of Pikmin.  There are several minor changes I'm not going to mention.  The reason being is that I want to discuss each important point and whether it was an improvement to the game or a hindrance.  The first major change was the addition of widescreen support.  Personally it's not a feature that is important to me but it nice to have when you are playing on a 16:9 ratio.  This next one is quite possibly the most significant change.  It's the new control scheme that is supposed to be the selling point for this version.  The cursor that is normally in front of Olimar can now go anywhere on the screen via use of the Wii remote.  It allows for greater throwing distance and also greater calling distance.  The downside of this, in my opinion anyways is that the group control function is also affected.  The group control function allows you to move the group of Pikmin currently under your control in different directions.  It's a function used primarily to get Pikmin to complete a task without having to throw each one individual.  It's the function I always use for precise control over my group of Pikmin.  Unfortunately one of the side affects of using the Wii remote as the cursor is that group control is no longer as precise as it was when it was mapped to the C-stick.  It's nothing that is damning to the control scheme and it probably isn't that much of a hindrance overall but it's a personal point for me since I was almost constantly using the C-stick in the original game for more precise control.  The new version does have exclusive controls that allow you to organize your Pikmin by type and then organize that type group by rank. This is definitively an improvement over the original and was something that was originally introduced in Pikmin 2.

There is also an updated save system feature that allows you restart your game from the previous day. This was apparently implemented due to a fatal glitch involving a ship part that can be game breaking.  Some sound effects are now produced by the Wii remote's speaker.  Again this is a point of preference, I feel the use of the Wii remote's speaker is usually hit or miss.  In this instance it just sounded out of place and low quality to me but it's a pretty minor change.  In the original version of the game sometimes Pikmin would attend to tasks while under your control without any command given to do so.  This is no longer the case and Pikmin only do tasks when directed to or are idle.  This is kind of a minor point but I suppose it is an improvement as it allows for more precise micromanagement.  This next change provides some leniency when it comes to the game's difficulty.  Pikmin now survive longer when on fire or drowning.   This probably makes it a bit easier to do a sequence break that allows you to get a ship part you would normally need Blue Pikmin for.

Yellow Pikmin who are equipped with bomb rocks will no longer drop them when called and they will now automatically try to get out of range of the bomb rocks explosion as well as toss them at enemies.  The first part of this change fixes a problem but inadvertently causes another.  Although now you can no longer accidently force your Pikmin to drop their bomb-rocks now you can't get them to drop them at all.  This can be a problem for those looking to defeat Emperor Bulblax without any deaths.  He will still eat the bomb rocks if they are dropped right before he sticks out his tongue.  If they can't drop the bomb rocks then your only choice is to let them die or defeat him a different way.  Other than that it's really too much of a problem but it would've been nice to include a way to make them drop the bombs.  The second part, an improvement to the A.I., is a welcome change.  It makes it so that bomb rock equipped Yellow Pikmin  require less micromanagement then they did previously.  The final change that I'm going to mention relates to Pikmin carrying items.  This was another feature first introduced in Pikmin 2.  The numbers displayed while Pikmin were carrying an item changed depending on which Onion it being carried to.  This is an important thing to keep track of when increasing your Pikmin population.

Many of the changes made in the "New Play Control!" version of the game were implemented to improve the experience of Pikmin and make everything more convenient and streamlined.  I would say that they did succeed overall.  The new control scheme is never much of a hindrance to the player despite the decreased precision.  Most of the features implemented make it easier for the first time player.  I think that there is still a place in the world for the original version though.  Like I mentioned previously, the new control scheme just doesn't allow for as much precision.  While I do love the Wii remote and nunchuk, it just doesn't provide the same level of speed and precision you can get using the Gamecube's controller.  Perhaps if using the gamecube controller had been an option in the "New Play Control!" version then the original version would truly be obsolete.  I would bet that more hardcore Pikmin players who attempt speed run and zero-death challenges still prefer the original version to the new version.

Did you know?
In this section I'm going to cover some cool things about the game that I'd like to share.

Did you know that Blue Pikmin are capable life guards?  If they are in the water near any drowning Pikmin they will rescue them by tossing them on to dry land.

Did you know that if you go to The Distant Spring on or before Day 15 you can encounter a secret boss?  It is known as the Smoky Progg and it resides inside an egg that is east of the landing in the center of some islands.  If you approach the egg it will hatch and the Smoky Progg will break out.  The Smoky Progg is a dangerous enemy.  The trail of poisonous gas that it leaves behind as it moves will kill any Pikmin instantly.  After it breaks out of it's shell it will usually begin heading towards the landing site.  The Smoky Progg has a unique ability that no other enemy in the game has; it can uproot any Pikmin still in the ground which leaves them susceptible to attack.  The Smoky Progg is vulnerable to attack on the head.  Care must be taken to attack it from the front as to avoid the gas it emits.  The golden pearl that it drops is worth 100 Pikmin, making it well worth the fight.  The Smoky Progg can also be destroyed before it hatches from the egg but this will leave you with no reward.

The Smoky Progg.  Notice the trail of poisonous gas from it's rear.  It is quite possibly more lethal then Emperor Bulblax himself.

Did you know that The Impact Site is home to 2 unique enemies you won't see anywhere else in the game?  On Day 8 and every other even numbered day after that a Mamuta appears.  On Day 9 and ever other odd day after that a Goolix appears.  The Mamuta is one of few non-aggressive creatures in the game.  It is perfectly content to leave you to your own devices unless you provoke it.  Even then it is incapable of actually killing any Pikmin.  It does hit them hard enough to replant them into the ground though but to your benefit they are all upgraded to flower rank.  Goolix is something that resembles a giant amoeba.  It's made up almost entirely of water with the exception of the two nuclei.  It is capable of drowning Red and Yellow Pikmin but it poses no threat at all to the amphibious Blue Pikmin.  The Blues will attack the smaller nucleus automatically but it will take awhile to defeat this way.  More damage can be done if they are tossed at the larger nucleus.  They will only bounce off the larger nucleus but the damage done will be more then an attack on the smaller nucleus.

Goolix.  Take notice of the two different nucli.
A Mamuta enjoying his flower garden in Pikmin 2.

Did you know that it is possible to complete a game of Pikmin in just 6 out of the 30 days you are given?  This means getting all the ship parts in each level in one day, with the exception of the parts located at The Impact Site which require 2 days to get.  It requires near perfect planning, management, and speed in order to succeed.

This concludes my post on Pikmin.  It was a long post I know, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.  Pikmin was a very memorable game for me being that it was the first in the series.  The experiences I had with this game stayed with me for years so I wanted to pay it the tribute I felt was due.  Pikmin 2 was a great sequel but it just didn't give me the same kind of memories I got from Pikmin.  So, I'm going to replay Pikmin 2 in hopes that I remember some repressed experiences.  I'll make a post about Pikmin 2 as well.  I can promise it won't be nearly as long as this though.  Pikmin 3 is going to be out in due time as well which I am very excited for.  Hopefully I can get my hands on a Wii U before it comes out.  Well, thanks for reading!

Allow me to introduce myself

Hello there, my name is James and I am a gamer.  I have been for most of my life in fact.  When I came into the world there was already a Nintendo Entertainment system in my house and that's where it all started for me.  I was very young when I first started playing video games.  Although NES games made up my first experiences in gaming the NES era didn't leave much of an impression on me.  Perhaps I was too young and hadn't reached that impressionable stage every child goes through.  Although with the games I had for NES it's no small wonder that it didn't leave an impression.  Sure, I had the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet cartridge but anyone who owned a NES owned that.  I suppose I did have some good games including; Super Mario Bros. 3, Battle Toads, Double Dragon 2 & 3, Willow and Excitebike.  Perhaps my young mind couldn't handle their complexity or difficulty.  That said I also had several bad games including Back to the Future, Fester's Quest, Dance Aerobics, and The Mafat Conspiracy(I'd like to go into detail about this rare little gem later) which all left much to be desired.  Although the NES era didn't leave much of an impression on me it did make up my first experiences in gaming and left me with some nostalgic memories.  Unfortunately for me I pretty much missed out on the 16 bit era as I had no console other than a NES.  Everything changed for me when the Nintendo 64 came into the picture though.

The first time I saw an N64 was at a friend's house.  This was fairly recently after the launch though and not many games were out but I was very interested in getting my hands on one and the only game I knew at the time Super Mario 64.  For my next birthday I happily received both an N64 console and Super Mario 64.  I sunk my claws into Super Mario 64 and didn't let go.  You see my birthday is just at the beginning of the summer and all I can remember from that summer was playing Super Mario 64.  Looking back on it, it seems rather odd that I spent such a long time on that game considering it doesn't really warrant that kind of time.  Then again it was all I had and it was my first major experience with a game of that caliber.  I suppose there was a bit of a learning curve as well, I'm sure it must have taken me some time to master the controls and figure out where all the stars were.  Certain things that seem obvious now must have seemed quite enigmatic back then.  I was still a kid after all with so much to learn still.  Super Mario 64 did a lot for me as both a person and as a gamer.  It opened up a whole new world of possibilities and paved the way for the coming years of pure gaming bliss.

I did not start this blog to tell my life story as a gamer but I merely felt I should provide some insight into my origins as a gamer.  This period in my life helped to shape me into the person and gamer I am today.  I'm sure my own story is not unique.  There must be thousands out there who share an experience similar to my own.  We were truly blessed to grow up in such a time.  We were granted with the opportunity to experience such works of art at an age where our childlike sense of wonder and impressionability were at their peak.  It was truly a wonderful time for us all.

I decided to start this blog for my love of games.  Gaming is more than just a hobby for me, it's a passion.  Lately though I just don't feel satisfied just playing a game.  I want to write about the games that I'm playing and the games that I've already played.  I've been trying to think about games on an intellectual level and I feel I need some sort of outlet for my thoughts.  The internet is a place where we can open up a discussion and share our thoughts.  I'd like to start asking the important questions and answering them to the best of my ability.  I'd like to talk about what makes a game good and what makes a bad game.  Reasons why I enjoy a game or reasons why I dislike it.  What works?  What doesn't work?  Of course that's not all, I'd share any knowledge about a game I that I think is worth sharing.

I have so many things I wish to write about.  I'd like to take a little time to explain my initial plans for my writing.  I plan on using this blog as a personal one, likely most posts will be about games that I'm currently playing or my thoughts about upcoming games.  I also plan on making a separate blog for a game I've played a lot over the past year, Skyrim.  Any game or series of games I plan on making numerous posts about I will dedicate a separate blog to, while continuing to write this main blog.  Ideally I would like to end each post with a question for discussion by the readers, including this post of course.  I would like to end it with the following question.

What kind of gamer are you?  No, I don't mean hard-core or casual.  Those categories are to broad and non-specific for me.  Maybe you're an online gamer, someone who spends most of their time playing games online improving your skills by going up against other players.  Do you do it for the sport, for the fun or just for the satisfaction of putting some noobs in their place?  When you play a game do you play it for the sole enjoyment of it or is there something more driving you to play?  Do you stop playing if you're not enjoying it?  Maybe you press on for the promise of a challenge or maybe you keep playing in an attempt to preserve the experience the game is giving you.  Are you a social gamer or a lone gamer?  Do you enjoy playing with friends in the traditional multi-player sense or do you just feel that others hold you back?  Maybe you really enjoy playing games on nontraditional platforms like flash games, facebook games or phone app games.  Are you a fanboy who primarily sticks to one console or do you own them all?  Adventure?  RPG?  Strategy?  MMO?  Platform?  First-person shooter?  Racing?  Puzzle?  Sports?  Does the genre matter to you or not?  Are you a completionist?  Someone who refuses to put a game down until you've completed it 100%.  When you're done with a game do you hold onto it as a reminder of the good times you had playing it and so that you can relive the experience again someday?  Maybe you decide to sell it or trade it in even though you had such a good time with it so you can play new games and have new experiences.   There are so many different aspects of gaming and as gamers we are all just as varied.  We all have different preferences for games and we all have developed different habits.

Personally, I tend to play games by myself.  I do enjoy the occasional online session now and again but I try to avoid getting sucked into playing too many hours as I would rather put my time towards another game.  It's for this reason I generally avoid MMOs.  I don't want to get sucked into a long term engagement when I can spend the time playing more games or spending time playing games I enjoy.  I do enjoy playing mutli-player games a lot; it can completely change the experience when you're playing with friends.  I suppose that ever since I first got 120 stars in Super Mario 64 I've been a completionist.  Lately though I feel like my completionist nature has developed to an unhealthy level.  Sometimes I find that I will continue playing a game I don't enjoy just for the sake of getting 100% completion.  I'm trying to break away from this ideology of perfectionism and try to play a game for the sake of the enjoyment and challenge that it offers.  How would you describe yourself as a gamer?  Is it important to identify yourself as belonging to one group of gamers or another?