Partnered with his co-worker, Louie, Olimar returns to the Pikmin planet in order to drag Hocotate Freight out of an enormous debt.
Single Player Story Mode
August 30, 2004 (Gamecube)
June 10, 2012 (Wii)
Gamecube, Wii (reviewed)
Originally released in 2004 on the Nintendo Gamecube, Pikmin 2 directly follows its prequel—the aptly named Pikmin, which released three years prior. Now considered one of the rarest Gamecube titles out there, Pikmin 2 was re-released on the Wii, along with new motion-controlled gameplay, after Nintendo heeded the cries of deprived fans who longed to once again take flight with Captain Olimar and his army of vegetative helpers.
Despite the port to the Wii, though, Pikmin 2 continues to be as elusive and sought-after as its in-game white and purple Pikmin. Today, over ten years after its initial release, it continues to sell for at a consistent forty dollar rate—either a testament to the collective mentality of Nintendo fans, or a product shortage due to the discontinuation of the game itself.
After spending thirty harrowing days surviving among the Pikmin and their natural predators, Olimar at last returns to his home planet, Hocotate, via spaceship… just in time for another disaster.
While Olimar was away, fighting for his life, the company that employed him, Hocotate Freight, fell into severe debt, forcing the president to sell every last bit of corporate property—lock, stock, barrel—oh, and Olimar’s prized spaceship, too.
Of course, Olimar isn’t too happy about losing his space-worthy vessel and, in his shock, drops a bottle cap that he’s brought home from the foreign Pikmin planet. A nearby ship’s AI takes interest in the trinket, announcing its worth to be around 100 pokos.
Suddenly very interested in Olimar’s space flights of fancy, the president orders the tiny adventurer to return to the planets of the Pikmin and scavenge enough money to pay off the 100,000 pokos debt he’s incurred. Along for the ride is Louie—a supposedly rookie co-worker of Olimar’s—who the president believes holds promise.
Good stewardship is more than merely encouraged in this game: it is a must-have quality for all successful Pikmin players. Though Olimar has many Pikmin under his control, the player must use them wisely. If Pikmin are improperly managed or commanded, they will be killed in massive numbers by predators. Pikmin also have a tendency to get lost and trip up along the journey, forcing players to keep a careful eye on them and even go on last-minute rescue missions in order to “save” any missing Pikmin before nightfall, when hungry predators come to call.
While Olimar has little say in the decisions of his company, he clearly cares for it. Even when the corporate president sells his beloved spacecraft, Olimar doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against him and goes on another long adventure in order to drag the company out of debt.
Teamwork and uniqueness are celebrated and encouraged in Pikmin 2. Players are unable to progress without proper collaboration between Louie and Olimar, and certain types of Pikmin must combine their unique talents in order to succeed throughout the game. The ship’s AI acts as a narrator to Olimar’s silent adventures, and often quips on about the importance of teamwork.
One enemy in the game is called a “Water Wraith,” and is a sort of translucent amoeba/humanoid hybrid. A proper explanation is never given for this entity, though the ship’s AI suggests that it may have a “physical form anchored in another dimension.”
A can of deviled ham features a red, cartoonish devil on it. A Jack O Lantern collectable is dubbed a “Possessed Squash.”
When Pikmin and/or their predators fall in battle, a wispy, ghost-like figure floats into the air and vanishes.
There’s an unspoken implication that one of the characters is controlled/possessed by a boss at one point during the game, but it’s vague and unspiritual at best.
In the opening cutscenes, a spaceship crash lands cartoonishly and one character falls from the cockpit. All the same, the ship’s AI warns the player to find the missing character before he “freezes to death.”
Gameplay violence basically consists of Pikmin attacking various creatures. Using the leaf stem on their heads, Pikmin latch onto enemies and strike them with starburst-laden smacks. Pikmin can be eaten or trampled (flattened) by foes and give rather pitiful death cries. Some Pikmin are sensitive to certain elements and can drown, catch on fire, or fall prey to poison.
Defeated enemies usually give a death cry and then topple over. Their bodies remain behind unless Olimar leaves the level and returns, or the Pikmin carry off the enemy bodies—ant-style—to one of their Onions in order to spawn more Pikmin (more on this in the gameplay section). A long-necked enemy bird explodes when dispatched, leaving behind only its head. Some enemies are more mechanical in nature, and fire machine gun-like turret rounds and lob-shoot canons at Olimar and his Pikmin.
All fighting is bloodless with one possible exception. A spike-nosed enemy ensnares Pikmin by impaling them on its pointed proboscis, which briefly sends out spotty red flecks when piercing a Pikmin through.
Pikmin 2 is profanity-free, but has a handful of words (only used once each) that some parents may want to take note of: “dolt,” “darn,” “stupid” (in reference to a person), and “heck.”
A beetle enemy expels poisonous gas, accompanied by a rather appropriate sound effect. There’s a similar visual/auditory combination present when players encounter the Empress Bulblax, who ejects fluid-trailing larva from her backside.
One collectable in the game is a replica of Nintendo’s “Love Tester”—an item said to indicate how compatible two people are for each other. The item does not utilize this function in the game itself, however, and merely enhances the player’s ability to find treasure.
Other Negative Content
It’s revealed that an important character in the story lied and wrote up a false report about the fate of a freight of Pikpik Carrot cargo, saying that he lost it mid-space. In reality, he ate them all but was afraid to admit it. This resulted in Hocotate Freight plunging into debt.
Nintendo’s rather adept with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. The release of Mario Party—what is it we’re at now: 10?—along with a handful of Super Mario World and Wii/Wii U [insert custom Mii characters] titles showcases Nintendo’s ability to rehash the “same old, same old”… and keep gamers coming back for more each time.
Pikmin 2, then, follows the age-old Miyamoto trend—maintaining the formula of its predecessor game, while “fixing” a thing or two that made players want to rage quit the original, and adding in a generous dash of exciting novelty.
Gameplay is based in real-time strategy where the player maneuvers their tiny space adventurer through a world of much larger (and more dangerous) creatures. Of course, survival is difficult when you’re the world’s smallest space explorer, and so the vegetable-like Pikmin (in their usual red, blue, and yellow variants) come out in force to help. In basic terms, the goal of the game is to literally grow an army of assorted Pikmin by breeding them from collected fallen foes and food pellets, search out and gather treasure, and survive the various creatures who’d like to have a piece of you.
New to Pikmin 2 is the gimmick to swap between Olimar and Louie, real-time. It’s not a strategy that parades itself as overly necessary, but as the game progresses—and the player’s knowledge and skill with it—opportunities to make use of the split gameplay reveal themselves. Deeper into the game, they even become necessary, as certain bosses require double-timing to defeat, and a puzzle or two forces the player to literally be in different places simultaneously.
The biggest shake-up, however, is the removal of a day limit. In the original Pikmin, players were limited to a punishing thirty days and warned that Olimar would die if he couldn’t collect the pieces of his combusted space ship by then. Pikmin 2 is far less dramatic, sending the tiny adventurer on yet another Nintendo-spawned quest to escape debt, and offering no penalty for taking all the time in the world to do so. In fact, after completing the most basic requirements for the first couple days, the game forces players to go to the end-of-day tally, coupled with the Hocotate Freight President demanding that Olimar and Louie take it easy and telling them that “haste makes waste.”
Coming off the back of the original Pikmin title, such demands feel nigh hypocritical, but the lack of a doomsday clock does have its advantages. In addition to making the sequel easier for younger gamers to pick up, the unlimited time encourages players to focus on exploring. Want to spend a day building up your army of red Pikmin? Go ahead and spend two (or three, or five, or twenty). Want to walk around solo and see what treasures lie strewn about? Take all the time you need. You’ve got nothing but time. You’ve got time to kill.
The side-effect is, of course, that the resource management and risk/reward system that kept gamers pounding on their “reset” buttons in the first Pikmin game is no longer present. Occasionally, a dungeon or two will require the “stocking up” of resources in advance (and lots of “Should I use the purple/pink potion right now?” moments), but the player is given unlimited time to prepare beforehand, and the franchise does lose its sense of urgency as a result.
Perhaps the only remaining “urgent” aspects of Pikmin 2 are the underground Caves—dungeon-like challenge zones where players enter with 100 Pikmin of their choosing and must survive a series of “floors,” collecting treasure and fighting off enemies along the way. The finest treasure of all lies on the final floor and belongs in the hands of a boss, who’s more likely than not going to lay waste to half the unfortunate Pikmin that entered the Cave with Olimar and Louie.
Caves are challenging—arguably the only true challenging aspect of Pikmin 2—but enter Caves the player must, for that’s where the white and purple Pikmin can be found. Purples are the equivalent of Pikmin Sumo wrestlers—weighing the same as ten individual Pikmin and able to carry as much. Whites are tiny but fast, as well as the only type that can breathe poisonous gasses and survive.
Graciously, Caves offer save points of sorts along the way, but at the expense that players must fight their way through from the first level each time they enter the Cave again. Treasures and profit are carried over; progress within the Cave itself is not. Entering a cave with 100 Pikmin in tow, and exiting with only five left, is one of the game’s most punishing aspects, and perhaps the only lingering sentiment left over from the original Pikmin’s brutality.
In most ways, though, Pikmin 2 is a vast improvement over its forbearer. The Pikmin are malleable—sometimes too much so, as they’ll pick up most any work that needs doing (sometimes when you don’t want them too)—yet at the same time, they’re somehow smarter. Their AI has improved. Pikmin now walk around some troublesome blockades automatically, stick closer together while crossing bridges, and are slightly better at avoiding enemies instead of waltzing right into them and initiating a royal Pikmin massacre.
That being said, there are still AI issues to be had—Pikmin getting stuck behind walls or falling behind and getting lost. As a player, you literally don’t trust your Pikmin much farther than you can throw them, unless they’re set on a specific task (carry the bulborb back to the Onion, break down the wall, dig up the treasure, etc.). They don’t mean to misbehave, but they’re rather like sheep without a shepherd when they’re unattended, and tend to get into things they ought not.
When targeting foes, for example, it’s occasionally difficult to get them to “latch on” to an enemy, especially one that’s airborn. The lack of a visible “arch” makes guiding Pikmin to their flying targets a painful task, and most often results in a slew of Pikmin strewn about the area—some standing idly, others vainly trying to lift whatever fallen objects lie around them and generally making themselves very vulnerable. The Z-trigger pivot camera only serves to augment this frustration, as Olimar and Louie must fully face the direction they desire in order to pull the camera along with them.
Ultimately, it boils down to skill. There’s a bit of a learning curve involved with the Pikmin franchise, and each installment requires some form of re-learning, especially for those who haven’t played one since the first title in 2001. Mastering each Pikmin’s trajectory, strength, and abilities, is something that takes time, and it’s a genuinely trial-and-error experience that lends itself well to the real-time survivor/strategy genre.
Pleasantly enough, there is a wealth of replay value in Pikmin 2 in the form of Challenge Mode and Multiplayer Versus—both worthwhile time-spenders that successfully extend the life of the game.
There are times when Pikmin 2 shows its age—in 16-bit graphics, 2D textures, and musty backdrops—and other times when the presentation pays homage to a more impressive graphical interface. The enemy and treasure gallery is especially noteworthy, with each in-game object rendered in close-up, animated splendor for the gamer’s viewing pleasure.
Nintendo also incorporates an appropriate amount of photorealism to the gaming graphics. The ending sequences literally combine real-life footage with computer-animated characters, akin to the game’s Claymation-like coverart. It’s a subtle touch that’s almost unnoticeable at first, but demands a double-take all the same. Water continues to be the game’s most impressive feature, with shimmering, photorealistic contouring and sunlit motion.
Characters come to life through sparse, but animated (read: bubbling with life), CGI sequences. Olimar, Louie, and the President each have their own set of organic, comical motions that aren’t “looped” for ease of animation. The character models themselves aren’t anything ground-breaking for the Wii or Gamecube console, but the animation is simplistically pleasant, not to mention a nice new addition to the Pikmin franchise.
As for the auditory side of Pikmin 2, sounds and music aren’t quite in their A-game, but certainly have more to offer than the original work. The soundtrack itself has expanded, along with the plethora of available sounds. Forests and caverns come to life with a barrage of natural chirps, squeaks, and rustles.
In a series where voice acting is limited to gibberish and the main characters remain almost universally silent, music gives them their voice. Both Louie and Olimar have unique themes, and switching to one or the other slightly changes up the background music of the game. Louie’s scores tend to be more off-beat and “lazy,” while Olimar’s are on-cue and “alert.” This is accomplished by nothing more than tiny tweaks in the pacing of the same musical piece, but it does much to characterize these tiny adventurers.
Each Cave carries an environmental soundtrack and theme—sometimes mystical, sometimes playful, and occasionally foreboding—that tells the player all they need to know about the journey ahead.
Sound effects, despite their realness, sometimes lack direction and only lend to confusion. Entering a Cave and hearing a sharp snipping sound, for instance, may be immediately alarming to the player, but when the source of the sound is never discovered, the player has no grounds with which to understand it. Pikmin 2 does suffer from a handful of these obscure sounds, and it’s a shame that they aren’t put to better use.
It’s worth noting that, thematically, Pikmin 2 is much lighter than its original work, which changes the gameplay experience. The first Pikmin feels considerably dark, with Olimar losing life support, worried for his family, feeling grief over Pikmin deaths, and even falling into mild insanity and depression when failure becomes imminent. While Pikmin 2 maintains the “food chain” and “survival of the fittest” brutality in terms of the natural world, it loses much of its dark forebodings of isolation, psychological abandonment, inadequacy, and the struggle for survival.
Amidst the sword-swinging adventures of Zelda, the platforming antics of Mario, and the chess-like RPG battles of Fire Emblem, Pikmin is a franchise that Nintendo pushes as its staple strategy series. Half ant-like microcosm and half exploration-expedition, Pikmin encourages players to grow curious about what might be crawling through the grass beneath their feet
In Pikmin 2, gamers are finally given the opportunity to slow down and thoroughly immerse themselves in that curiosity—exploring the Pikmin’s tiny world without worry of a time limit. Begrudgingly, the game does lose its sense of urgency, and reaching the end goal ultimately feels more like a hard day’s work and less like a well-fought battle for survival.
Ultimately, though, Pikmin 2 is a worthy sequel, and one that manages to carry on the spirit of its predecessor without being swallowed up by its bulborb-sized shadow.
+ No more day limit
+ More Pikmin
+ Two characters to switch from
+ More animation and dialogue
+ Music helps convey the "narrative"
+ Versus mode
+ Product placement
+ Encourages good stewardship
- Turning the camera can be tedious
- Flying enemies are hard to bring down
- Misplaced SFX
- Loses its sense of "survival"
- Less emotionally engaging than the first
- May still be too difficult for young players
- Some violence and crude imagery