Rather than just continuing the story from Pikmin 2, Pikmin 3 follows three new captains from a new planet called Koppai, as they crash land on planet PNF-404. Thanks to a quick discovery of the Pikmin and how they operate, the captains are able to actually survive for longer than a day. The captains (Alph, Brittany and Charlie) were originally on a mission to collect fruit for their starving planet. Now that they have crash landed, you must collect fruit and turn it into juice until you can escape PNF-404. This is how you will spend each day in the game, finding the best way to use the Pikmin at your disposal and collecting fruit while defeating any monstrous wildlife that may cross your path. Eventually you’ll be wrapped up in the even bigger mysteries surrounding the planet. If you fail to keep your juice supply up you will starve, ending the game, so that is your number one priority. There isn’t an unlimited amount of fruit lying about though so you don’t want to waste days just getting one piece to get through the day and not progressing in the story and through the world.
Even the Pikmin you control aren’t a true continuation from the previous games. You’ll discover the now standard, blue, red and yellow, but white and purple are nowhere to be found in the main story. Instead two new Pikmin arrive in this game: a rock type and a flying pink one. How they are controlled ( by extension of the captains) remains essentially the same. Each Pikmin type has its own strengths and weaknesses and you have to use them appropriately to survive the world and solve the puzzles within. For example, red Pikmin are immune to fire, the blue ones can survive in water and the yellow ones are immune to electricity.
You can play the game using the GamePad, WiiMote, or Pro Controller. The WiiMote controls like it did in the Wii ports of the first two games, which allows for a lot more precision since you have an actual pointing device. I decided to use the GamePad though (just for the true Wii U experience) and while it may not have been as precise, I found it to be just as fun. The GamePad displays the map of the entire world and to me feels integral to the experience; showing locations of fruit, secrets and paths so you can plan your day. Even better it allows you to select one of the three captains and set them on a path, allowing you to delegate your tasks for the day and maximize your time.
Visually, Pikmin 3 is great. The art style is vibrant and charming and the graphics are striking and engaging. There are some lower resolution textures but this is not a problem with the Wii U, but rather merely a product of the real time strategy genre the game is based on. Since you spend most of your time high up and looking down on your characters the ground doesn’t need to be the most detailed thing, but all of the characters, enemies and bosses are great to look at. The music is also very enjoyable with some very well composed pieces making up the soundtrack, and the story and writing in general keeps you interested. I had a few laughs at the dialogue and actually felt connected to the three captains; it is hard to ask for more than that in this type of game.