I wish there was a hole I could just crawl into and die
By 2004, the Gamecube was running out of steam. Nintendo had come out swinging with their new console, but their fists had hit very little meat. A number of certifiable classics beloved to this day came out in its first few years, but the console still managed to lose further ground to its competitors. Still, that year we got some memorable titles like Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Pikmin 2, and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
Of those games I just named, I only love one of them, and it’s not the one we’re talking about.
In preparation for Pikmin 4, Nintendo surprise-dropped HD versions of Pikmin 1 and 2. I’ve already covered their shiny new port of the first game, and now it’s time to delve into Pikmin 2. Delve deep down. Deep into its endless labyrinths that don’t end and drive me completely mad.
Pikmin 2 (Switch)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Released: June 21, 2023
Okay. Deep breath. Pikmin 2 starts off strong enough. Olimar finally manages to return to his home planet of Hokotate after being stranded on a Gods-forsaken planet for a month (or 18 days). Rather than immediately taking the chance to spend time with his family, his boss turns him right back around. The company he works for was mismanaged and is deeply in debt. It’s Olimar’s job to collect enough treasure from his former prison to pull the company out of the red. Because shit rolls downhill, and it’s never the people in charge that have to take responsibility for their mistakes.
Anyway, while Pikmin was about trying to retrieve all the parts of your ship, Pikmin 2 is about collecting as much treasure as you can get your mitts on. By treasure, I mean garbage, because one person’s garbage is another person’s ticket out of debt. Apparently, all our litter is worth something on Hokotate, so those little spacemen are here to pick it up for us. Wouldn’t that be convenient?
So, really, you’re looking for things like discarded bottle caps and Famicom Disk System games. This is easily my favorite new part of Pikmin 2. However, the Switch port does something blasphemous and removes the game’s product placement.
As with the port of Pikmin, Pikmin 2 is largely just a straight port that is now in a higher resolution. It plays largely the same but offers motion controls if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a pretty nice port, even if it doesn’t really change anything. However, I want the product placement back.
I hate advertising, but I’ve always thought it was a nice touch that all the garbage in the game utilized real-world brands. You weren’t just collecting bottle caps. You were collecting them from drinks like A&W Root Beer. A plastic lid would be from a recognizable yogurt brand. It never really felt like Pikmin 2 was actually trying to sell you things, it was just an extra touch that hammered home that the alien planet you were exploring was Earth all along.
Getting rid of the product placement didn’t kill me inside like I thought it would, but it does make the discovery of treasure a smidge less interesting. If you never played the original version, the change will be entirely lost on you, but for me, it feels like a part of the game’s personality has been excised.
The value of life
Unfortunately, that’s not Pikmin 2’s biggest issue. Its real problem is going to be one that some people appreciate and others (like me) will absolutely hate: That’s its change in focus to being more about combat. This culminates in the introduction of underground dungeons. As you explore the various areas, you find holes in the ground that lead to isolated labyrinths buried in the ground. In these, you go floor by floor and try to loot each one of its treasures.
The floors are all procedurally pieced together. Rather than giving you the challenge of figuring out how to safely use your Pikmin to grab out-of-reach items, you instead must try and take down enemies while losing as few of your carrot-people as possible.
The most annoying part of this is that it gets really aggressive about killing your Pikmin. Bombs drop from thin air, enemies pop up in precarious spots, and some bosses make it feel that losing Pikmin is an inevitability rather than just the result of mistakes or poor judgment. In the depths of the world, you’re not given the luxury of taking care of your little helpers. They’re reduced to just a number; a health bar that slowly ticks down.
If you’re someone who treated the first Pikmin title more as a survival experience to be played with empathy toward your units, that’s just not allowed here. Pikmin 2 is more of a game than the first title. A series of challenges rather than an immersive experience.
One person’s trash
The result is at least, a much longer game. Getting all the treasures, as Pikmin 2 encourages you to do, can take 20 hours or longer. However, you will spend most of this run-time in the dungeons. A comparatively small fraction takes place above ground, so if the caves don’t jive with you, then it’s hopeless.
Beyond that, this is the game that introduces white and purple Pikmin. The white ones are immune to poison and are, in turn, poisonous to anything that ingests them. However, the purple Pikmin are absolute beasts that clobber anything you throw them at. Throughout the series to date, the purple Pikmin are my favorite. So, at least Pikmin 2 has that going for it.
Okay, throw her in the hole
The thing about Pikmin 2 is that there are some who will appreciate or even love the changes it made. To me, the reliance on procedural dungeons just makes the experience feel wrong-headed and heavily padded. Others are going to see them as something that makes the title feel bigger and badder than its predecessor.
I get that, but to me, Pikmin 2 is a misstep in the series. Pikmin 3 would delight me enough that I’ve been anticipating Pikmin 4 since Shigeru Miyamoto hinted at it back in 2015, and it’s the game release I’m most excited about this year. However, the inclusion of dungeons gives me pause. The demo for the game at least hints that they’ll be short obstacles and not just long chores that I slog through just to check them off the list. However, the first few hours of Pikmin 2 also mislead in that very same way. So, I’ll have to wait and see.
The new port of Pikmin 2 is a fine way to experience this game, but whether or not you think it’s trash or treasure is going to depend on your preferences. It’s at least cheap enough that you aren’t going to be too out of pocket to give it a try. It’s probably worth it just for the first few hours when it’s at its prime. But just beware that after introductions are made, it’s going to throw you in a hole.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]