Pikmin 4 is the long-awaited entry for, in my opinion, Nintendo’s most underrated franchise. Seriously, it’s criminal how much time goes by between titles for as brilliant a series as Pikmin. Nine years between Pikmin 2 and 3, and then ten years between 3 and 4.
But when looking at the timetable, it’s no wonder why interest in the series isn’t bolstered as much as with The Legend of Zelda or Metroid. Multiple console generations pass without Pikmin represented, leading to a gradual decline in interest in the IP.
Yet, with the Switch’s immense success and the beauty that is Pikmin 4, maybe the tiny spacefarers and plant-like aliens will finally receive the love they deserve.
- Developer – Nintendo EPD
- Platforms – Nintendo Switch
- Release Date – July 21, 2023
- Price – $59.99/€59.99
Modernizing A Cult Classic
At its roots, Pikmin 4 is a traditional Pikmin game, even down to its story of rescuing yet another stranded space captain. You are a lone rescuer who controls a large group of Pikmin, fighting vicious monsters, turning them into nutrients for the onions, collecting treasures, and blazing your way through each zone.
If you’ve played any of the previous Pikmin games, Pikmin 4 will feel about as familiar as tying your shoes. You fall back into the rhythm of time management, troop management, the ebb and flow of battle, and the stress of attempting to collect “one more treasure.”
There’s cave exploring, parts of the map that will be blocked until you discover more Pikmin types, and everything that’s had franchise fans fawning over the series for the better part of two decades.
But Pikmin 4 does a bit of much-needed modernization to make it feel like the best entry in the franchise. For starters, you have more control over the camera than in past entries. This allows players to enter a third person or a top-down view, or anywhere in between. This does take some getting used to and can sometimes make aiming feel wonky – especially when battling motion controls – but over time, it becomes freeing.
You’re also partnered up with Oatchi – a dog-like companion that proves to be much more useful than Louie. Oatchi not only makes transporting goods a bit easier, but he also lets players take a more active role in battle, something that felt missing from past titles. Normally, you throw your Pikmin at beasts and watch on the sidelines, but with Oatchi you can tackle, stun, and even kill enemies without using any Pikmin.
You can ride on Oatchi, making traversing areas a lot more enjoyable, which presents some unique problem-solving methods that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Like in the first area, where you aren’t supposed to gain access to Blue Pikmin quite yet – or so it seems – but by using Oatchi’s extra carry weight, you can escort the Blue Onion back to the ship without any aquatic Pikmin on your team.
That is one of my highest praises for Pikmin 4. Where past entries felt very linear in the way you solve puzzles, Pikmin 4 feels more malleable. There are multiple ways to conquer obstacles or trench through caves, making me – the player – feel like an actual qualified space rescuer.
On top of that, allowing players to create their character at the start of the game is the icing on the cake. The character creator is a bit limited, but it’s cute, and I love looking at my dorky lil’ guy in cutscenes. He may struggle with the correct lingo from time to time, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.
Rescue Mission or City Building Simulator?
One way Pikmin 4 departs from the franchise is how it resets each day. In Pikmin 1-3, you’d end the day, launch up into the stratosphere, and scroll through menus until you were ready for your next expedition. But Pikmin 4 ditches the menus and allows players to hang out in a hub space where all of the rescued castaways reside.
The best part is they aren’t useless NPCs taking up space. Each castaway came to the mysterious planet with a special set of skills, and you unlock different missions and catalogs by rescuing them. Want to unlock the bestiary? Well, you need to find the exotic animal lover first. It sure would be nice to upgrade that suit, huh? Better rescue the inventor.
With each rescue, your camp feels more and more alive, adding layers of depth to the game. Specifically, being able to upgrade your gear and Oatchi’s stats add an immeasurable amount of gameplay diversity when compared to previous Pikmin games.
At the end of the day, you are doing the same activities you were in the past three games, but with a lot more flare, style, and quality-of-life changes than before.
Same Captain, Different Aesthetic
I truly believe Pikmin 4 is the best entry in the franchise, but I also think it’s missing some of the most gripping undertones from Pikmin 1 & 2. Pikmin 3 sort of departed from this more-serious, almost melodramatic feel and replaced it with a lightheartedness that I’m not a fan of.
In Pikmin 2, you start in a snowy tundra. You’re lost and aren’t sure what to do or where to go. It feels like you have to claw your way back to some semblance of safety, and that anxiety of survival never really leaves you, no matter how far you are into the story.
Pikmin 4 doesn’t have that. Instead, it’s a fairly cozy experience with a lot of forgiveness if you falter. Heck, there’s even a rewind feature that saves you from any mistakes you want to quickly back-peddle on.
This isn’t a bad thing outright. In fact, it makes the series a little more approachable. But I would much rather prefer the dreary, edge-of-your-seat survival drama over the saturated, happy-go-lucky, go-team-go vibes of Pikmin 4.
That said, the beautiful scenery and emotional compositions in Pikmin 4 are unmatched on the Nintendo Switch. If you thought Tears of the Kingdom was visually stunning, just take a second to boot up this game. From the moment the camera panned down on the Sun-Speckled Terrace and the whimsical music filled my headphones, I knew Pikmin 4 was going to sweep me off my feet, regardless of its overly cheerful beats.
There were many times when I took in my surroundings and thought, “How is a game this gorgeous running on my Switch?”
If you love Pikmin, you’ll love Pikmin 4. It only improves on the franchise’s tried and true formula. All of your favorite Pikmin return and even a couple of new ones squeak their way in. It is undoubtedly the best entry in the franchise, albeit a bit too merry.
While it can be a bit exposition heavy to start, you’re quickly handed the reigns to your own rescue adventure. If you’ve never played Pikmin, 4 is as good a place to start as any. And hopefully, if given a chance, the Switch will allow Pikmin 4 the spotlight it deserves.
Pikmin 4 is the culmination of 20 years of space rescues and treasure hunting. It’s the definitive entry in the franchise, and it needs to be played.
9 / 10
|+ Stunning visuals and a beautiful soundtrack|
|+ Tons of improvements to an already fantastic formula|
|+ Accessibility options that make the game more approachable|
|– Story doesn’t feel as dire as past titles|
|-/+ Formula is pretty identical to previous Pikmin games|
Gamepur team received a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.