Late last year, Nintendo announced the New Play Control series — GameCube games refitted with Wii controls and a lower price tag — and there was much scoffing. After a pretty meagre Summer/Fall/Winter lineup, this is what Nintendo had up their sleeve? Reheated leftovers? Adding insult to injury, GameCube games already playable on the Wii? But when you think about it, this whole New Play Control thing might not be a bad idea. Bringing forgotten gems from the company's worst-selling home console (save Virtual Boy) to what will probably be its best is a great way to introduce new gamers to great Nintendo titles they may have missed. And there are few GameCube games greater than Pikmin.
A signature Miyamoto brainchild, New Play Control! Pikmin tells the story of an intergalactic explorer named Olimar. His trip takes an unexpected detour when a meteor causes his ship to crash and its pieces to scatter on a mysterious planet inhabited by strange beings. Luckily, a devout group of primary-colored plant/animal hybrids known as Pikmin are all but willing to aid Olimar, a hundred at a time, as he explores the planet and attempts to rebuild his ship before his 30-day supply of air runs out.
The Pikmin are divided into three groups — Red Pikmin are immune to fire, Yellow can wield bomb plants for massive damage, and Blue can traverse underwater. All three can aid you destroying obstacles and enemies, often giving their lives to take those of the planet's more nefarious creatures. If you run low, new Pikmin are spawned when seeds or dead enemies are delivered to their ship (always conveniently located near yours.) Speaking of ships, you've got to get the Pikmin back to those ships before nightfall, lest they become overnight prey to the hungry nocturnal creatures roaming the planet.
Nintendo is always at its best when it's creating new concepts, as the Wii and DS can attest to. Pikmin is no different. At the game's heart, you're constantly exploring and discovering things things that will surprise and amaze you in a few games do outside of Nintendo consoles. Like the first time you jumped down a pipe with Mario or conquered a dungeon as Link, finding a new piece of your ship after solving a taxing puzzle or fighting off a fierce enemy with a lightly-applied layer of war and resource strategy applied to the process, Pikmin's gameplay is unforgettable and fun.
Having just limited interaction with the GameCube Genus Pikmin, I initially found New Play Control! Pikmin's new playing controls to be a bit awkward. While herding the Pikmin and summoning them to attack has been made slightly easier due to the Wii Remote's pointing ability, the new D-pad based camera movement is just atrocious. Hours into my adventure, I still found swiveling and zooming the camera to a halfway decent perspective took way more work than corralling a hundred tiny alien creatures. Additionally, the time limits felt a bit too restrictive, as you only get to explore the planets 10-15 minutes at a time, often being summoned back to your ship right as you're reaching a new piece of your ship.
As a seven-year old game, Pikmin's graphics have lost a bit of their luster. While the Pikmin, their enemies and the planet they collectively inhabit are plenty colorful and cute, and the game does increase the aspect ratio to fit into widescreen, most of the characters have become a bit rougher around the edges. Playing this game after Super Mario Galaxy will show how much Nintendo's improved on the graphical fidelity of their games over the last decade. On the audio side, however, the music and cute squeaks and yelps made by the Pikmin are still endearing and immune from improvement.
As one of the first budget-priced GameCube-to-Wii upgrades, New Play Control! Pikmin is a perfect example of what the series is capable of. Giving more intuitive controls to a game that features the innovation and charm people love about Nintendo has made Pikmin even more attractive on the Wii, even if the visuals are a bit uglier.