This was one of the pilot games for the Nintendo Gamecube, released in 2001. Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, of Mario Brothers and Zelda fame, it's his first foray into the real-time strategy genre. Gamers assume the role of Captain Olimar, a cartoonish humanoid alien. His ship has crash-landed upon an oddly Earth-like planet. Captain Olimar is unable to breathe "poisonous oxygen", and his remaining supply of respiratory gas contains only thirty days worth. To make matters worse, exactly thirty of the ship's essential components were detached during the crash, and are now spread around the planet. If Olimar doesn't repair his ship in thirty days and escape, he'll suffocate. Days pass very quickly, each lasting only about ten minutes.

Shortly after awakening from his crash-induced sleep, Olimar discovers a large red ball sitting on a tripod, a little larger than his ship, which he decides to call an "Onion". This ball coughs up a seed that quickly grows into a large sprout. He pulls it from the ground, and the sprout turns out to be a little red man that he names "Pikmin". In an amazing stroke of luck, the mindless Pikmin follows his every command. It will fight, run, and allow Olimar to throw it to higher ground. It turns out that the little plant-man can pick up resources (dead monsters and little numbered buttons) and carry them back to the Onion. The Onion will suck up the resource and fire off more Pikmin seeds. Olimar soon has an army of Pikmin following him around, and discovers special Onions that create new types of Pikmin. However, if all the Pikmin aren't returned to their Onion by sunset, they'll be eaten and destroyed at nightfall. The Pikmin can be given the following (overly) simple commands:

  • A-Picks up and throws a Pikmin. Yellow Pikmin will drop and detonate their bombs if thrown.
  • B-Expands a purple circle in front of Olimar, calling all Pikmin within the circle to his side.
  • C-Orders Pikmin around the player to move (e.g., behind Olimar, in front of Olimar). Unfortunately, they'll never move more than a few feet away from the player.

The Pikmin must be utilized thus to defeat enemies, clear obstacles, and carry missing parts back to the ship. The resource and movement system of Pikmin is very similar to that of Sacrifice, but less intricate and much less fun. Graphics-wise, this game is pretty cool. Nintendo has done a fine job of creating a beautiful nature environment. Olimar and the other creatures are well-modelled and move realistically. The game's music and sound effects are very cutesy, and become annoying after a short while. There are several shortcomings that prevent me from recommending this game:
  • The game is too simple. Compared to real-time strategy endeavors like Warcraft and Starcraft, it's nothing. The entire concept appears to be a watered-down version of Sacrifice.
  • Enemy AI is weak. There are no enemy generals trying to defeat the player with their own armies, the landscape is just overrun with stupid indigenous creatures that can be beaten by numbers alone. Sometimes the use of a specific Pikmin is required (beetles can only be defeated by Yellow Pikmin), but combat requires little strategy.
  • Days are too short. Players must trek further (and therefore take more daylight) to find each part, as they're scattered to the edges of each map. The Onions are totally sessile, making reinforcement impossible. If the player hasn't returned the Pikmin to the Onions by nightfall, they'll die. This time constraint proved to be more frustrating than challenging.
  • There aren't enough units for the player to control. There are several different colors of Pikmin (red, yellow, blue, etc.), each with special abilities, but they all look and act similarly. Using the same units to perform the same repetitive tasks becomes boring quickly.
  • It's difficult to command the Pikmin. There is no way to order them into formations or separate groups, they just follow you in a single mob. Also, Pikmin and water don't mix. If they do drop into a pond or lake, no matter how shallow, they'll drown, and they seem to wander in without any sort of fear. When travelling across a narrow land-bridge with a large group of Pikmin, many of them are bound to fall in. There is no way to avoid this lemming-like behavior.

Despite the fine graphics and interesting concept presented by Pikmin, I can't recommend it to a dedicated gamer because of the annoying glitches and lack of depth. At best, it's a rental.