On the surface, Pikmin 3 appears to be a cute game about space travelers who buddy up with brave little plant creatures, searching for food and trying to find a way home! However, the dark reality of it is that Alph, Brittany and Charlie are essentially the Nintendo equivalent to the conquistadors if the Spanish had harnessed the power of animals instead of syphilis, with about the same level of regard for the locals while doing so. Contrary to the examples above, Pikmin 3 is just a pretty face that’s been put on a game that has the player take control of a species so uncaring about the damage that it causes, they only ever stop to complain about how all of this work is stopping them from being able to stuff their faces at every waking moment. I think this is the first game that didn’t have a few random creepy moments sneakily slipped in, but was created from the ground up as disturbing, with a cutesy personality on the surface to hide how horrific this game can truly be. Here are the three main reasons for why Pikmin 3, and by extension, the universe it’s set in is the darkest game Nintendo has ever published.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, the Koppai are a disgustingly selfish and gluttonous race of people whose worst traits are highlighted in Alph, Brittany and Charlie, the three space travelers that comprise our “heroic” crew. The whole point of their mission is to find new food sources for their homeworld, since, as the dominant species, they have eaten everything else on the planet; it’s with this in mind that two very important side notes, mentioned during the course of the game, should be considered: the Koppai do eat meat, but refuse to eat vegetables. So instead of widening their diet a little to try and ease the rate at which they consume food, thus allowing them to work on replenishing their global food supplies, they ate every last edible species into extinction because vegetables won’t cut it on their palette.
This really shouldn’t be much of a shock, however, because the activities of the SS Drake’s crew speak for themselves and act as a pretty damning indictment of how the Koppai regard other species. Enslaving one species immediately upon landing, and not just any species but the very first species they came across that showed any signs of being friendly, wasn’t just the first instinct of one crew member but of all three, despite the fact that they’d been separated by continents. It’s difficult to believe that it might have just been poor judgement under extreme circumstances when it’s the first thing all of them do and starts to feel as though this was something they had planned long before they had even landed, as though subjugation had been a part of their basic training. Then with their newly brain-washed, obedient masses in tow, the crew then proceeds to wipe out any and all resistance from the native populace while they rob the planet of it’s food.
Each of the three main protagonists have personal agendas which would over-ride the mission if left unchecked, and all of it stems from the unhealthy regard they have for one another. Alph is constantly worried about the safety of Charlie, the captain, initially appearing to have quite a strong case of hero worship for the man, until it later becomes clear that everything he has done so far has been driven by feelings that go beyond simple affection for the captain. Alph’s attempts to confess this are continuously ignored, consciously or otherwise, by Charlie, who instead focuses all of his attention on Brittany by making several clumsy advances towards her at any moment he thinks is appropriate (and in Charlie’s eyes, all times are appropriate). Unfortunately for Charlie, Brittany’s only love is food, and she ignores him in favor of her favorite flavors, sometimes even willing to write his existence off as an acceptable loss in exchange for larger portions. Near the beginning of the game, when the Captain isn’t around to stop her, she’ll even limit Alph’s ration sizes in favor of her own; her hunger is frightening and insatiable.
Pikmin don’t appear to have individual thought, with almost all of their actions benefiting from, sometimes necessitating, a group effort, and require a 3rd party to kick start the process with instructions that the Pikmin then carry out. What’s interesting to note, however, is that they’re still capable of feeling pain as evidenced by their shrill cries whenever they’re in some kind of mortal danger as a result of your neglect. It doesn’t just suggest that the person behind the character creation for Pikmin is demented but that the Pikmin have their own personality, outside of your influence, and it’s been crafted from panic and terror. This indicates that they operate on some kind of hive mind, one that submitted to the will of the Koppai almost immediately; If they had any kind of driving force from within their own species that possessed an ounce of ambition, then “Pikmin” would be ranked among “Tyranid” and “Xenomorphs” as space-beings most likely to destroy all existence.
After the Drake crash lands, all three crew members are stranded in completely different parts of the planet’s surface, but all are still in areas where the Pikmin are not only living, but thriving. Their presence on the planet is virulent, perhaps even parasitic, and the other species on PNF-404 seem to have an instinctual understanding of this about the Pikmin, since the Pikmin, and by extension their new slave masters the Koppai, are universally reviled across the planet over the planet. While playing the game, I watched three different enemy types peacefully roam around an open field without as much as a glance at one another, before turning into ravening, merciless murder beasts at the first sight of a solitary Pikmin. This behavior becomes understandable, even justifiable, once you see how the Pikmin reproduce: After brutally beating something to death, the Pikmin will then drag its lifeless corpse back to their nest, which consumes the body and converts the organic matter into more Pikmin.
If the Pikmin were a real species, then that last sentence alone would be enough for every government on Earth to immediately launch their collective nuclear arsenal directly at them. This is assuming that humans were even around anymore since the Pikmin’s presence on the planet of PNF-404 has a sinister connotation to it once you start looking at the environment of the planet and how it looks suspiciously like Earth. The continents all appear pretty similar to our own, after several million years of continental drift, and many of the “artifacts” that are found from past civilizations all look like common-place items of human invention from around 1990’s to early 2000’s era. I’m not saying that mankind went mad with power, created the Pikmin, and were then destroyed for their attempts to play God. I’m just saying that, when all other creatures on the planet are at their very core averse to the mere existence of the Pikmin, it might be a distinct possibility.
When the single player campaign ends, the Koppai leave with Olimar and Lou, and in doing so abandon the Pikmin to whatever fate the rest of the planet’s hungry and violent inhabitants has planned out for them. It’s at this stage that the player is left to wonder about the possibilities of what happens after the credits have finished and the adventure has come to a close. What’s next for our intrepid “heroes”, and what will happen to the discarded animals that they left behind? Well in this case, the multiplayer mode picks up from where the single player left off and answers with a swift “exploitation and blood sport!”. There are two multiplayer modes, and neither of them spell out a happy ending for the Pikmin, having both the Koppai and the Hocotatians come back to cast the titular beings into roles of total subservience.
There are the missions which have two players co-operate to in finding treasure, fighting monsters, or taking down boss creatures, depending on which mission type you choose. The treasure missions have you hunt down gold, which gives the whole thing a “forced slave mining and labor” vibe, and you’re still commanding the Pikmin around without actually doing any real work yourself (except when you hurl the poor creatures at objects and monsters across the room). This definitely takes place after the events of the single player game, since golden objects weren’t something you could obtain in the main game, meaning that this is something that they’ve come back looking for after having returned to their home planet. When you consider that the other two mission types are all about either killing the most dangerous creatures of the planet or learning how to survive in the planet’s environment, it begins to feel like the missions form some kind of extended “How to strip PNF-404 of any value and crush local resistance” training camp.
The other mode is called “Bingo Battle” which allows players to go head to head, collecting objects to fill out a virtual bingo card, but if you think “Battle” refers to the mode being competitive, then clearly you underestimate the depravity of the Koppai and the Hocotatians. In a game like this, you naturally want to stop your opponent from getting hold of their objective first, but outright killing each other isn’t really an option since this is a “child friendly” game, and even for Nintendo that’s a little grim. Making the Pikmin fight each other, however, is a much safer and entertaining alternative, one that gives you a brief moment to reflect on the sanity and motives of Nintendo while your Pikmin tear their brethren limb from limb. It’s sci-fi cock fighting scavenger hunt for cash and prizes and, given what has already been established about how the Koppai treat other creatures, I can almost guarantee that this has become the championship bloodsport of choice in the Pikmin universe.
It’s been said Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the original concept for Pikmin, gets his inspiration for games from real life experiences, even Pikmin was conceived as the result of a gardening project he had undertaken. The mind struggles to comprehend what horrors could have unfolded in that backyard which lead to the creation of the most adorable virtual genocides ever, and whether the child-like nature was inherent to the source or if it was added afterwards to soften the blow. Just in case that was never his intention, however, to pen a story that plays out like the thinly veiled subjugation of an entire planet, you have to hope that Mister Miyamoto paused to think that something was off at least once.