Nintendo isn’t known for delving into the darkness of human life. While we expect high quality fun from the company, we think of it as easily consumable pleasure. We don’t leave Mario games contemplating life. Pikmin 3 is the game that may change that.
Our three protagonists have a problem. They are from the planet Koppai which was once abundant in sugary fruit and yet has none, leaving its people bereft of that which they grew dependent upon. They then scanned the galaxy and found planet PNF-404 having copious amounts of fruit and decided they needed to make the fruit their own. The fruit withdrawals must have been so great that they just needed more. They needed all they could find, taking from whoever has it.
On beautiful PNF-404, they find that it has the fruit they crave, attainable at the high price of their innocence. It is inhabited by the diminutive races of plant-based Pikmin. It is, in fact, the same planet as the previous games of the series. Much like the totalitarian Captain Olimar of those games, our “heroes” know nothing else to do but enslave these new, alien creatures. And they do need the help: in the depths of their addiction, the Koppaians have lost the cosmic drive key need to get back home.
So, you play as the three main characters—Alph, Brittany and Charlie. You control them—you ARE them—while they breed and subjugate the native Pikmin in service of their cravings. The Pikmin are adapted to their environments, with the previous red, yellow and blue returning as well as the new rock Pikmin, which deal great damage when thrown, and flying Pikmin, which hover while thrown. You can split them into multiple armies, each led by one of your invading characters, to search and rescue logbooks, fruits and tokens to breed more and more captives.
Enemies are defeated by sending servant Pikmin to battle. The other inhabitants are savage and unforgiving, but truly you have no ability to do anything without sending Pikmin into certain peril. The bodies of enemies defeated are then consumed and converted into more and more chattel, sustaining the cycle of violence.
More than anything, my characters’ sense of deprivation and hunger is keenly felt. At one point, you encounter another stranded addict, having lived on this hellish planet for so long that his morals have fallen completely by the wayside, willing to rob any friendly face he comes across.
Pikmin 3 is a strong depiction of how our very human flaws lead us to do ill. Our efforts to avoid misery often end up hurting ourselves and others. When we succumb to our flaws rather than overcoming them, we become what we don’t like. I am no slaver, yet when faced with the option of slaving or a life without satisfying my cravings, I chose to enslave. If anything, Pikmin 3’s presentation of this theme was a bit too heavy handed in between the fun, clever gameplay with interesting twists on the themes. This game was 2014’s best, deepest and cruelest game.