It has been a bit of a mystery as to how Nintendo was going to approach the GameCube library on the Nintendo Switch. Many feared / suspected that it would get the NSO treatment, with a higher bracket for those who wanted to play these fancier games. But then we got Super Mario 3D All Stars, with its emulated version of Super Mario Sunshine. Sure, it was far from perfect, but it was fine.

And then Metroid Prime Remastered came alonga frankly stunning upgrade to an already fantastic game that, whilst not adding anything new, had visuals that were updated to such a degree that it is probably one of the better looking games in the Switch library. Fans adored this remaster, and rightly so, but it also begged the question as to would happen with other Nintendo properties from the GameCube era.

This question was finally answered in the June 2023 Nintendo Direct as HD ports of Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2 were dropped out of nowhere, presumably as a way to help drum up hype prior to the release of the fourth entry. With a somewhat reasonable asking price, they didn’t add a huge lot to the original title aside from a HD visual boost, but they were yours to keep.

Is this the good future that we should be hoping for, or is this just a lazy attempt at a cash-grab?

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TAKE YOUR PIK
The original game in the series follows Captain Olimar, an astronaut from the planet Hocotate, who has crash landed on an unknown planet after a meteor smacks his ship. His life support system is damaged, leaving him with only 30 days to find the missing parts of his ship and escape.

An impossible task is made feasible once he stumbles across an indigenous life form that he dubs ‘Pikmin’, due the their resemblance to pik-pik carrots back home. Their combined strength and their allegiance to the unfortunate Hocotation means that making it home alive is now a very real possibility.

The plot of the Pikmin series has always remained pretty straightforward, and the original is as simple as it gets. It has a couple of cutscenes to bookend the main plotline, but other than that any other advancement in the story is told during diary entries at the end of each day. What it lacks in storyline, it more than makes up for in general lore as the worldbuilding here is especially well done as it hints at the origins of the Pikmin homeworld.

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ARE WE NOT ‘MIN?
What struck me the most when replaying Pikmin 1 was just how well everything holds up when compared to the newer entries. Sure, the visuals look a little dated now, especially with the rather blurry grass textures, but they’re also nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated. The few stages within the game may look a little simple at first glance, but it’s the art direction and all the little details make it still quite pleasing to look at: the crop circles that appear underneath the War of the Worlds style tripods that the Pikmin call home; the cardboard boxes that your little helpers can push around; the lighting effects and shadows from all the plants and trees – they all help to make this world far more believable.

It’s the creatures inhabiting the world that are worthy of the most praise though, as there are some delightful designs here that make them feel largely like earthly creatures whilst remaining distinctly alien. My particular favourite are the birdlike Snagrets that burrow under the ground, only to pop up and peck furiously at your Pikmin; however, there are so many classic designs here and almost all of them will cement themselves into your memory as you strive to take them down before they kill all of your loyal followers.

Which brings us to the Pikmin themselves, and the original game onlyhas three types for you to play with: Red Pikmin, who are the backbone of your workforce and are able to walk through flames without being damaged; Yellow Pikmin, who can be thrown higher and are also able to pick up explosive bomb rocks; and finally the Blue Pikmin, who are able to survive under water. As a veteran, I found the limited number of types to be quite refreshing, but I am sure newcomers will appreciate that the game doesn’t throw too much at you considering the limited time you have to collect all of the ship pieces.

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These pieces can be found scattered around the map, and often require the use of specific Pikmin to access them. It could be as simple as crossing a body of water or defeating a boss creature, but sometimes puzzles can be far more complex and require full knowledge of how everything works. One particularly noteworthy example has you using the command function to ensure that your Pikmin stay against a wall as you guide their path from below. There’s nothing too taxing, especially for those who have played later games, but the threat of the time limit helps to make each piece feel rewarding regardless.

To actually get the pieces to your ship, you’ll need to ensure that you have a healthy number of Pikmin that are able to carry it back. Some of the larger pieces require quite an army to transport, so it’s always good to have plenty of the little blighters to hand. As you only start with a single Pikmin, getting more will necessitate sprouting more by harvesting either coloured pellets or the corpses of your dead enemies at the tripod structure I mentioned earlier. There’s one for each Pikmin type, so it’s always best to consider which will benefit the most. I often found that getting into bigger fights would usually result in large Pikmin losses, so I always let that type make up for their fallen comrades by harvesting the mighty beast that they took down. The game does a great job at encouraging you to keep as many Pikmin alive as you can too by making every loss seem like a heartbreak due to their sad little cries as their spirit floats away from their bodies.

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Of course, your main concern will be your ship, so you’ll likely accept losses if it means getting your ship pieces back. The time limit does add a real stress that can be quite off-putting to new players, but it’s far more lenient than you may think. With 30 pieces to collect, your target is to get at least one piece per day. Whilst some days require a lot of prep work making bridges or blowing up walls, there are others where you can easily collect two or three before the day ends. Even though subsequent entries in the series drop this time pressure, it does lead to the original feeling far more arcade-like in comparison – especially as the game keeps a continual tally of days taken, Pikmin lost, and so on. For me it make the main campaign far more replayable than the other entries in the series as you try to improve on your previous results.

Which is good really as doing better really is the main draw of the game when it comes to replayability. The game does feature an additional challenge mode where you have a single day to grow as many Pikmin as possible, but I never found it to be particularly engaging. It’s nice for a small dose of Pikmin without starting a whole new game, but it’s pretty pitiful when compared to the offerings in the following entries.

You may be wondering why I’ve barely touched on the specifics of this Switch version and how it differs from the original, and that’s really because it hasn’t been altered all that much. The visuals have been upscaled to HD, which does make it look especially nice, and they’ve even added motion control support reminiscent of the Wii version, but there’s really nothing else here to note.

But then, the game doesn’t really need anything more either.

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The original Pikmin is considered a classic for good reason. It’s tight gameplay mixed with fantastic world and creature design make it an absolute joy to play. Nintendo made the right move making this first entry available for newcomers to the series, and hopefully it results in more people discovering just how fantastic the series is.