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Nintendo released the original Pikmin in 2001 and its direct sequel in 2004. Both games were created for the Gamecube platform and both went on to be fairly big hits with both fans and critics. The original won a 2001 Excellence Award for Interactive Art at the Japanese Media Arts Festival, Pikmin 2 was named one of the top 200 Nintendo games of all time by Nintendo Power magazine, and both sold well enough to become part of the company's "Player's Choice" line of greatest-hits titles. A third Pikmin title is on the way for the Wii, but before that happens, Nintendo decided to give player's a sneak-peek of sorts by releasing enhanced versions of the original two games for their current generation console, starting with March 2009's New Play Control: Pikmin.
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The story has been unchanged from the original version of Pikmin. Captain Olimar, an employee with a company called Hocotate Freight, has crash-landed on a foreign planet. He has a limited supply of life support, and must hurry to fix his craft before his time runs out. Thankfully, during the course of his journey, he comes across a species of tiny plant-like creatures, which he dubs "Pikmin" due to their resemblance to a type of vegetable known as a Pik-Pik Carrot (a real delicacy on Olimar's planet, apparently). Olimar finds that these Pikmin look to him as a leader, and with their help, he sets out to find the missing parts of his spacecraft and begin repairs. It isn't the most epic story ever featured in a video game, but it does take that whole familiar lost-in-space concept in a new, somewhat more lighthearted direction. And even the most hardened gamer has to admit that the Pikmin themselves are adorable.
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Like the story, the core concept behind the game has not changed. Olimar must use the Pikmin to retrieve the parts of his damaged ship, commanding them much like units in a real-time strategy game. First, to use each of the three types of Pikmin, the player must guide Olimar to each of their ships, known in the game as "onions" due to their shape. Then from a single Pikmin of that color, he must gather pellets, which cause new Pikmin seeds to sprout in the ground, which can then be plucked and used to solve puzzles, combat enemies, and find new pellets to keep Olimar's troops well supplied.
Each of the Pikmin have different abilities. The player first stumbles across the fireproof red types, then must later acquire the water-based blue ones and the bomb-carrying yellows. The downside is that, as mentioned above, Olimar only has 30 days to rebuild his ship and leave the planet, and each planet lasts about 15 minutes of gametime. There's very little room for error, and that makes this game somewhat unforgiving as a result.
So what is different in the Wii version? The controls have been completely redone and optimized for the Wii, and while that may not sound like much, it absolutely makes a world of difference. The New Play Control version of Pikmin requires use of both the Wiimote and the nunchuck attachment. The nunchuck's control stick moves Olimar around, while the remote's sensor function controls the targeting icon and tapping the A-button throws the Pikmin. It feels incredibly natural, like this was the way the game was meant to be played, and it seems like you can toss the little guys much further and with much greater accuracy than in the Gamecube version. While it may not have the depth of Pikmin 2, and while the tight time constraints are still annoying, in terms of controls this is the definitive Pikmin experience.
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Graphics and Sound
There is a newly added short clip that has been added when you start the game via the Wii menu, but more importantly, New Play Control: Pikmin features 16:9 widescreen support and is thus more HDTV friendly. That said, this is still basically just a port of a Gamecube game, and a fairly early one at that, so its not like its going to wow you visually or anything. Still, it looks okay, and the music and sound effects are pretty solid here. Not up to Wii standards, mind you, but acceptable.
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Outside of the brilliant new controls and the high-definition support, this is still the same Pikmin that Nintendo released some eight years ago. If you've never played a Pikmin game before, this one is definitely worth a rental and quite possibly a purchase. However, Pikmin 2 is, truthfully speaking, a much better game on the whole, and considering Nintendo has already announced plans to give that title the New Play Control treatment, you might want to consider holding off on a purchase until the sequel gets released. On the other hand, if you already own the original Pikmin, this is definitely relegated to rental-only status, just so you can see how the new control scheme works. With no new actual content added to the game, there just isn't enough here to justify an MSRP of $29.99.