I have to say, this week has been perhaps one of my favorites for a while, at least as far as gaming is concerned. In between getting my hands on Pikmin 3, the Wii U’s first real system seller (or at the very least the first reason to own the system), the new re-imagining of Ducktales and the demo for The Wonderful 101, my time this week has almost rested entirely on video games. More importantly, the impression they have had on me is pretty reassuring and with that, the next few months only seem to be getting better as Nintendo rallies up its triple-A’s (two Zelda releases, The Wonderful 101 etc). Not only is Nintendo finally sorting out its line up for the Wii U as well as strengthening its already bulging 3DS line-up, we have two, count ’em, two console releases after. I’m terribly excited to get my hands on the new PlayStation 4, I’m excited to see what the Xbox One is capable of and I’m doubly excited to be playing The Wind Waker HD. But for now, without looking to the future too much, I want to live in the now for a bit and talk about three releases: Pikmin 3, Ducktales: Remastered and The Wonderful 101 (Demo). I want this to be a bit of an informal pow-wow discussion, just a way I can tell you guys how I feel about these games after playing them for a prolonged period.
I’ll tackle The Wonderful 101 first, considering it’s a demo and the shortest of my experiences. The Wonderful 101 starts up pretty much as eventfully as it possible could, pushing you instantly into a battle. The graphical presentation is fantastic, delightful in its style. It is actually incredibly reminiscent of The Incredibles, whether this is intentional or not, I’m not sure. The mechanics are a lot of fun and hold up well over time, beating up baddies never gets old and the more I play it, the more I want to experience the full version of the game. The controls are incredibly responsive and work as well as they possibly could, which is great considering this game could have easily been faulted with terrible controls. The level design is well thought out and the way the game halts progression until you have beaten the enemies of that specific location is a smart move and reminds me of older games such as Streets of Rage. On negatives, the sound at times can seem repetitive but keep in mind that this is just a demo after all and things could certainly change up in later levels. Characterization is also a low-point, considering you really learn nothing about the fighters in your party, but once again and without reiterating too much, keep in mind that this is a demo. The Wonderful 101 is indeed wonderful, structurally and graphically built to make a guy like me, a man who is not interested in the slightest by comic books or superheroes, interested in both those things.
Next is Pikmin 3, a game I’ve been hotly anticipating since the Wii U’s release (also, annoyingly, one that was supposed to release alongside the Wii U) and since getting my hands on the game… well, I can’t stop playing it. I mean seriously, I thought I was getting withdrawal after not playing it for a couple hours. It’s pretty much that good. Pikmin’s mechanics are fantastically crafted and makes for an incredibly addicting RTS game, although I should warn to anyone going in without prior knowledge: do not use the Wii U gamepad. Go dust off your old Wii remotes and nunchucks. Using the Wii U gamepad just brings too many problems which are so easily rectified by using your old Wii system controllers. The graphical presentation is bubbly, very Pixar-ish and screams optimism. The music is very floaty, very much representing what you are in: space. The music doesn’t heat up too much except for the few occasions (boss fights, enemy encounters) but considering the constant dreary-tempo it keeps, the music never drowns out into monotony.
What I really love about Pikmin more than anything else is this fascination with exploration. There are parts of the level that will be out of bounds for your player until you find what you need to progress. This is great because a lot of the time it just isn’t possible to go to that part of the level at that precise time, but later on when you have the item/pikmin/whatever to pursue that location, it feels like you really achieved something and is a really neat mechanic which makes you learn more about this world you’re inhabiting, if only for a short time. Pikmin also really makes me feel like a kid again. There are few games that I can play and every time it takes me back to that innocent, curious mindset of being a kid. Pikmin also has what seems like a love-affair with the environment. Pikmin kind of plays out like some interactive Studio Ghibli experience, really bringing the artistry of the world to detail.
Pikmin also doesn’t treat its audience like idiots, which I like. Starvation is a legitimate concern if you don’t find enough nourishment for your team, Pikmin can be eaten by predators, you use the corpses of dead enemies you defeated to make more Pikmin… it’s a game that is made for kids, but actually shows the consequences of actions. Obviously this isn’t supposed to be some social-commentary on murder or starvation, but it’s nice to know that enemies don’t just turn into ghosts, etc. Also just as an ending note, Pikmin’s boss battles play out a lot like The Legend of Zelda in style, so for Zelda fans… you’ll probably notice pretty sharpish.
Pikmin is a game you should pick up right now… if you own a Wii U. Pikmin 3 isn’t a Wii U seller for most, although it’s the game to come closest so far. It’s a game full of beautiful environments I cannot stop exploring, it’s a game with characters that although have pretty straight-forward personality traits, are adorable. The controls are practically perfect for the genre and the graphical and sonic presentations come together perfectly, this is a game you should own.
But what about the last of the games? Well, let’s get into Ducktales: Remastered. If you’ve played the NES game, you know what is going on. Scrooge McDuck is on a never ending quest to find more treasure for his already incredibly rich fortune-bank. In doing this, he’s searching five different places: The Amazon, The Himalayas, Transylvania, African Mines and The Moon. Much like Mega Man, you can go to whichever level in whichever order you want, which is fitting considering Capcom developed the original NES version. The game is really beautiful. I mean, it looks like an episode of the show. The music is just as good as it was first time around and the remixing brings it into the 2010’s. The controls are about the same, except that the pogo-stick is controlled with a button instead of down on the D-Pad/Stick. This for the most part works well but sometimes it just feels like the button isn’t as responsive as the original control.
But the biggest gripe, by far, is the cut-scenes. I think most people have given their two-cents about this, but it really is as bad as people say. For every level, an intro ensues, then more cut-scenes as you progress through the level… and more… and more. Oh, there’s a cut-scene for the boss too? This shouldn’t be an issue. Gaining a coin in the level and then having to wait for Scrooge to explain the coin should not be an issue. It’s especially annoying because well, Ducktales: Remastered is a side-scroller. This isn’t a game with some profound, complicated story. Scrooge wants more money. We’re done here. When you play it, you will understand just how unrelenting the cut-scenes are. But that aside? It holds up on pretty much every level, but it isn’t game of the year material and doesn’t hold a candle to the fun you can have with Pikmin, or even the demo for The Wonderful 101.
Of the three? Ducktales: Remastered is probably the game you can ignore safely. Some of you will have already played the original game and if you haven’t, it isn’t breaking new ground, it’s just an entertaining ride. It has its problems but they are minimal and it’s very easy to be sucked into the fun-filled world. The Wonderful 101 is a great demo which shows real promise for the game. Any superhero-type game that can make me interested has to be doing something right. As for Pikmin 3? Probably one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory for all of the reasons explained prior. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play more Pikmin, until next time!