Pikmin 4 Impressions – A Return to a Beloved Planet

There’s so much charm surrounding the Pikmin series. Each entry is an evolution of the gameplay systems of its predecessor, but that charm is always consistent. I wouldn’t say it’s the most popular Nintendo IP, but it holds a warm place in my heart, which is why I’m excited about the release of Pikman 4. Regardless of any rumors that said this game wouldn’t see the light of day, it’s coming, but before release, a demo allows us to dive in and see what new elements of gameplay this entry brings.

Before you begin Pikman 4, a quick summary details the controls, and you meet up with Olimar. The opening serves as a prologue story setting the premise of this new adventure. As I’m playing through these early moments, I thought the in-game cutscenes were giving me a rundown on Pikmin 1’s storyline, but there are some added elements that I don’t remember, although it’s been quite a few years since I last touched Pikmin 1 and its lore so I’ll just trust them with their summary.

As Olimar, you must use Pikmin and their abilities to get through mission-based levels. In this entry, you now have a dog companion who is capable of rushing by pressing X and even helping your Pikmin carry objects. Still, I had some trouble understanding some of the controls because instead of saying “Hold X,” the dialogue said “Press X” with an icon of a button being held, which looks confusing at a glance.

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Surely you couldn’t just say, “Now I’ll hold B,” rather than showing this weird combination of icons?

After you obtain the Interstellar Radio, Olimar sends an SOS signal across the galaxy, which attracts the attention of the Rescue Corps. They all load up inside the S.S. Shepherd on a mission to save him, but as fate would have it, they also crash land into the planet. All right, what now? That’s where you, yes, you, as a rookie of the Rescue Corps, must hop into the spaceship and head on over to the unknown planet in order to rescue Captain Olimar and the Rescue Corps. This is where you’ll then be taken to the character creator and make your own avatar.

The avatar customization is quite limited. Although, it seems that the color of your space suit will affect certain visual elements of the story. So, for example, if you select a blue one, the S.S. Shepherd, the Rescue Corps, and even Oatchi, your dog companion’s leash, will match the color you’ve chosen. The game also automatically uses your Switch profile name and assigns it as your character name unless you wish to change it.

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After you’ve landed, you find the communications officer and the captain of the S.S. Shepherd. You then discover the reason that the ship had crashed was due to an overheating problem with the engine, which caused its energy to completely deplete.

But there exists one way to solve the problem: Sparklium, an energy source found inside the treasures scattered across the planet. You can extract their energy and hopefully strengthen the radar of the ship to find the missing crewmates and, hopefully, Captain Olimar. This demo version lets you explore and collect to your heart’s content until you acquire 1500 Sparklium.

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It’s a relatively easy task, especially since if you manage your time correctly, you can collect much more than that. You see, it’s not as if the demo will end the moment you hit that amount, but rather, only once the day ends. I ended up challenging myself and actually managed to collect a little over 2800.

One small annoyance is that your crewmates are constantly telling you what you can do, such as when you’ve lost your Pikmin or if the game thinks you’re lost. I honestly thought that was a bit much, but that may be because I’m already used to the controls, and I feel they could’ve just lessened down on the hint dialogue.

On that note, Pikmin 4 is a rather accessible game. Before you start the day expedition, your base of operations has a couple of flowers you can use to get more Pikmin, and any actions you do inside it don’t advance time. Furthermore, Oatchi, your doggy companion, has a plethora of useful skills, and you can even train him to carry items alongside your Pikmin and sniff out treasure. This opens the door to ways to make the game a bit easier but also adds an optional layer of new strategic elements.

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There’s still a lot to explore in Pikmin 4, and this demo honestly just showed what appears to be the surface level of the full game. This demo experience highlighted the ease of relearning these controls, but I believe it’s an adventure that newcomers could also find comfort in. I’m personally excited to just lose track of time trying to micromanage and find all sorts of cool treasures scattered across this huge landscape of Planet Earth.

Pikmin 4 is coming to Nintendo Switch on July 21, 2023.

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