Nintendo has a big presence at rAge 2012 with dozens of hands-on stations scattered about their expansive stand. Pikmin 3 is one of the many playable games they have available for anyone to pick up and play, which is exactly what I did.

The latest offering from Miyamoto’s beloved franchise is looking lush and colourful on the new Wii U system. There’s a strange mix of almost photo-realism surroundings with the typically cheery characters you’d expect to find in a Nintendo game. It’s pretty much exactly what Nintendo fans have been clamouring for ages for: their favourite franchises in HD.

Two different game scenarios were available to play on the rAge show floor: a Trial Course and a Boss Battle.

The Trial Course did a good job of introducing the game’s core mechanics and how to control your swarms of Pikmin. Those who have played previous titles will feel at home, if you are amongst those who picked up the previous Pikmin games once they were ported to the Wii. Using the Wii Remote you point at whatever you want your Pikmin swarm to interact with. The Nunchuk is used to control Captain Olimar (who apparently won’t be the only controllable character) and the bumper buttons are used to centre the camera and swap between your Pikmin types.

After a slightly awkward and fumbled start, I eventually began deftly flinging red Pikmin at pieces of fruit and bug corpses. They would then, like the dutiful little creatures they are, cart them off to my space ship. A few moments into the Trial Course we were confronted by a floating jellyfish creature that had captured a collection of the new rock Pikmin. Once freed from their squidgy confines, the rock Pikmin were extra useful when it came to breaking things. They’re also like the soldiers of the game and do very well at dispatching enemies and breaking through barriers.

The Boss Battle saw me starting with a collection of red and rock Pikmin to take on a giant, armoured centipede. This required a little bit of a tactical approach as rock Pikmin were required to smash away the armour. Once the armour broke off, the fleshy bits of the centipede became exposed and ripe for beating. Lobbing either type of Pikmin resulted in damage to the boss, but the rock Pikmin were extra powerful.

As is the norm in the Pikmin games, each of the levels had a time limit within which to complete them. As far as the Wii U GamePad went, it wasn’t usable in this demo but was on hand to provide a mini-map of the area. The Nintendo rep assured me that you’ll be able to use the GamePad instead of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo in the final game if you prefer.

I’ve always had a soft-spot for the Pikmin series despite never actually getting a lot of decent time with either of the previous games. Pikmin 3 is definitely looking great. Controls are a little quirky but that might be because this was the first time I’ve picked up a Wii Remote in about a year and half. Regardless, this is a title that will likely find its way into any Wii U owner’s collection.

Pikmin 3 still has no release date and is currently labelled as a “launch window” title for the Wii U. That means it won’t be out on day one alongside the new hardware, but it should be out by no later than the end of March 2013.

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