'Pikmin' Vs 'New Play Control Pikmin' - Impressions Of The GCN-To-Wii Port

Pikminvsnew Play Control Pikmin Impressions Gcn Wii Port

Nintendo 's first port of a GameCube game to the Wii left me with mixed feelings. This is a case of pros and cons.


I tried two game-days of ' New Play Control Pikmin ' on Saturday. That's the Wii port of the 2001 GameCube game that mixed real-time-strategy with gardening and vegatable-vs-insect combat. It's out this week.

Then, failing to find my GameCube copy of ' Pikmin ,' I popped in my GameCube copy of ' Pikmin 2 ,' the 2004 sequel that added more Pikmin, more levels, more characters but left the core mechanics of the series unchanged.

I wanted to compare the games and test whether the change from GameCube controls to Wii controls was for the better, the worse or just different.

I'm going with: just different.

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The GameCube and Wii games both had the player moving their hero, Captain Olimar, with a left thumbstick and both plucking and tossing little Pikmin with the A button under the player's right thumb. This allowed OIimar to amass and lead an army of up to 100 Pikmin, all scurrying behind him until he tossed them at flowers to harvest or enemies to peck.

The same control changes that improve the summoning of the Pikmin make tossing a Pikmin harder.

The controls differ in that the GameCube version forced the player to deal with some tight control constraints. The Wii loosens those limits.

With the GameCube, Olimar could call scattered Pikmin to his side with a blow of his whistle, a summoning that would manifest itself as a circle emanating from Olimar. The player would only rope in those wandering Pikmin who stood within the small radius of Olimar's circle (about a quarter of the visible playing field, at most).

The Wii version of the game lets the player put a cursor anywhere on the screen and blow the whistle there. The Pikmin at your target run back to Olimar. The result: it's easier to summon distant Pikmin to your side. That's an improvement.

The same control changes that improve the summoning of the Pikmin make tossing a Pikmin harder.

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The GameCube version of that action forced all Pikmin to land on a purple reticule that always stayed a fixed distance in front of Olimar. This made a Pikmin's jumps predictable, a key quality when trying to get a Pikmin to land on a giant enemy's back for an attack -- rather than into its mouth to serve as a snack.

The Wii version of those controls allows the player to point at any spot where they want the Pikmin to land. This might seem like an improvement, as it gives the player more control, but I found that it made precise attacks more difficult. If I have 100 Pikmin to hurl at a rampaging enemy, I benefit from being able to launch them in a pre-determined arc, rather than worrying that a shake of my hand might cause ruin for half of my group.

For the Wii game I found myself sitting back, further from the set, feeling less directly engaged but also more relaxed.

Camera movement is improved in the Wii version. While little appears to have changed, I find that holding the camera behind Olimar (by pressing the left shoulder button on the GameCube controller or Z-button on the Wii nunchuk) works better when my right hand can then be freely used to point at the next area of interest. Using the Wii remote pointer, I point my targeting reticule at the next thing I want to interact with and, because I'm holding Z down and moving forward, the perspective swivels to what I am pointing at.

In the original GameCube game, the camera could lock behind my character and then turn when I made him start walking. Technically that's the same as the Wii version, but the Wii version directs your eye to where you're pointing, not where Olimar is standing. The distinction is subtle, but it feels like the difference between the camera following where I want my character to look (Wii) rather than where I want my character to walk (GameCube).

Button accessibility is a wash, surprisingly. I found the control scheme of the Wii game no more complex or ergonomic than that of the GameCube game. What did change was my playing posture. For the GameCube game, I found myself sitting forward on my couch, elbows on my knees, controller reaching toward the TV. That position put my physically closer to the screen. For the Wii game I found myself sitting back, further from the set, feeling less directly engaged but also more relaxed.

Graphically, I couldn't compare the two. 'Pikmin 2' was designed to play at 480p and benefitted from Nintendo's developers having three more years of famliarity with the GameCube hardware. The original 'Pikmin' understanadably looks worse. While it was made widescreen for its Wii port, its graphics do not appear to have been improved.

One other touch: the sound of Olimar's rally horn comes from the Wii remote speaker in the 'New Play Control' game, instead of from the TV. That's a change.

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The big achievement of 'Pikmin' when it launched in 2001 was that it's developers took a typically mouse-driven PC genre, the real-time-strategy game, and make it playable using the controller. Olimar himself was a mouse pointer turned into a controllable game character. That design worked.

One promise of the Wii remote was that it would allow mouse-pointer style controls to games that needed them. 'Pikmin' isn't ruined by such controls, but it proves, again with the release of 'New Play Control Pikmin,' that the game didn't need them.

The Wii port is well worth getting for those who missed the very good original, but I'm hard-pressed to recommend it as an improvement. It's just different.

(And, hey, I've preferred 'Pikmin 2' to the first GameCube game for five years now, so don't forget that game as an option if you've yet to discover this low-key Nintendo franchise.)