Second Chance Gaming: Pikmin 2

We\’ve all been there: instances where we can\’t understand why gamers and critics are giving endless praise to a certain game. Sometimes we think the game is “bad” or simply “okay”, but not “excellent” like everyone else says.  Over-hyping, nostalgia goggles, or blind following of a brand can all alter one’s opinion of a game.  That’s why I came up with this monthly feature called Second Chance Gaming, where I pick a game that I was disappointed with or disliked, but which got praise from the majority of the internet, and give it a second chance to see if I can finally appreciate it.  Similarly, I may pick a game that is considered a “classic” and see if it holds up to this day, and that even goes for games that I myself truly love.

Before we start however, I want to explain the breakdown.  I will begin by talking a little bit about my history with the game, then go into what I liked and disliked about it on my first playthrough. Then I play the game again and talk about which opinions changed and why.  With that out of the way, let’s look at Pikmin 2.

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Back when I actually did work for the site, I did a retro-review for Pikmin 1.  I was late getting on the bandwagon for this franchise so I jumped in with a fresh perspective and what I found was one of my favorite games of all time.  You can click the link above to find out exactly why I loved it, but the bottom line is that it is an intelligently crafted strategy game that balances fun and challenge extraordinarily well.  I had such a good time with it that I immediately bought the sequel – expecting a game at least on par with the original – but I ended up massively disappointed.

I had heard from many people that Pikmin 2 was a superior product with more strategic elements but I found that the new additions mostly frustrated.  The one exception was the addition of a second character to control, which helped immensely with multitasking.  I loved how getting treasure, fighting monsters and growing an army wasn\’t as tedious as in the first game, thanks to the ability to switch between two different groups on the fly.  I found that the areas were well designed once more, with many ways to alternate groups to get the job done.

In Pikmin 1, if I had to break down a wall I felt like I almost had to wait for my Pikmin to finish breaking it in case an enemy wandered nearby and killed most of them, but in 2 I loved the fact that I could take another group to do something else while having a character near the previous group just in case.  The core of Pikmin, to me at least, is trying to balance out multiple tasks at once in a timely manner.  I\’m in the group of people who loved the time limit in the first game; it pushed me to do all I could do while also being cautious in case I made a huge mistake.  It’s this core concept of multitasking that led to the biggest issue I had with Pikmin 2: the caves.

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When I first played Pikmin 2, I found that the caves destroyed this concept.  Pikmin can\’t be created in caves: all you get is what you bring with you, and all you can do is fight enemies and find treasure. There are environmental hazards that can only be bypassed with the right Pikmin colour, but for the most part caves only feature combat and it annoyed me quickly.  They can range from two to fifteen floors and one mistake can wipe out the vast majority of your army.  I remember fighting bosses that squish the Pikmin, essentially doing just that.

I wouldn\’t have minded the caves so much, except that they constitute the majority of the game.  Each of the four areas has around five treasure to find in the overworld, along with three or four caves in which to go spelunking.  It seemed backwards to take out what made Pikmin so much fun to me, and the salt in the wound was how great the overworlds were, when they just stuck us in a dark claustrophobic hole for the most part.

Truth be told, the caves are the sole reason why I consider Pikmin 2 to be the inferior product.  I did like how you can spend Pikmin to create new White and Purple ones, I just wished that the caves were incorporated more intelligently and weren\’t so jarring.  I found that the overworld and cave areas just didn\’t mix together seamlessly, and felt almost like two separate games in one.  I do appreciate trying new ideas and not simply rehashing a game but, for me, caves were not the way to do it.

With Pikmin 3 finally releasing I decided to replay both previous Pikmin games.  Pikmin 1 still remains a solid game that I enjoyed powering through, and Pikmin 2, admittedly, surprised me with how much I enjoyed it this time around.  The caves didn\’t annoy me as much this time, and I actually liked the amount of strategy that went into successfully navigating each room while minimizing Pikmin causalities.

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For example, one boss in particular requires one character to have Pikmin and the other not to.  The character who doesn\’t have Pikmin acts as a decoy while the other character throws Pikmin on the monster’s back.  If this strategy isn\’t followed, then it becomes much harder.  Environmental obstacles (poison, fire, electricity, walls) can also be dealt with by one character while another protects a group carrying back some treasure or enemies.

I do admit however that I think this newfound enjoyment is due to this being the second playthrough. When I came to a boss, I already knew the correct strategy to beat it, and in general i just remembered how to play through the game.  On my first run I always cursed when i made a big mistake that would kill 40 Pikmin at once, or when i got really sick of the caves because they took a long time to get through.  This time, my total play time was lower by several hours so I didn\’t feel so worn out from being in the caves.  On top of that, I realized this time I could reset the console to restart the current floor of the cave.  It’s a bit annoying to have to manually reset instead of having a retry button, but it works all the same.

Other than that, what I initially liked about Pikmin 2 still remains great.  The overworld areas are still fun to explore and multitask in, while growing more Pikmin is as satisfying as ever.  The music fits whatever environment you\’re currently in, the graphics still stand strong even after all these years, and of course, the Pikmin are still as adorable as ever.

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I mentioned earlier in this piece how I wish the caves would have been integrated better, and thankfully the newest Nintendo Direct seems to have confirmed this for Pikmin 3.  At the time of writing I\’m not entirely sure but it seems that, while exploring an area, you will discover caves that you can simply walk in to reveal a small yet dangerous area, rather than jumping into a hole in the ground to explore 10 randomly generated levels.  It seems to flow better and I hope this is the way they\’re designing it.

In conclusion, Pikmin 2 was a case of me not expecting what it offered.  On the second playthrough I was more familiar with the caves so I had a better grasp of it and found it much more playable. Looking back at my first playthrough, I still understand why I didn\’t like it, so I stand by my claim that it can be unforgiving to newcomers if they don\’t fully understand the concepts.  On the second playthrough however, I found it much more welcoming due to me already knowing what to expect.  In general, my mind changed about it and I can now say I enjoy it.  While I still prefer the first game, I can finally appreciate the changes that make Pikmin 2 its own experience.

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