I get stressed very easily. You have no idea how much a tough battle freaks me out or the mere thought that I might be unable to progress through a game, causing me to ponder with unease all the fun I might be missing out on if I’m never able to overcome the challenges set before me. I know these are just games. They are for fun, and thus, there is no pressure to complete them. There are no global consequences as a result of our inability to traverse a series of tricky obstacles or pummel a monster into submission, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to help. And yet, what would seem like quite a contradiction is the fact that I seem to like stressful games.
Or something like that.
You see, I recently beat my first Wii U game, Pikmin 3, and it pleased me to no end to find that the game involves a time limit like the first one did. You get a lot more time to finish the game (three times as much, I think, considering the first game gives you 30 days, and I beat this one in 57, with about 30 days worth of juice to spare), but the mere fact that I could no longer waste days collecting Pikmin (well, I clearly could, since I had a month to spare, but you know what I mean), along with a greater need to rush and avoid any meaningless dillydallying thrilled me a great deal. But, I get ahead of myself.
Pikmin 3 met and exceeded my expectations for this newest installment in the Pikmin series, but the thing I hoped for most upon my realization of its existence was that it would include a time limit. The very first Pikmin game gave the player 30 days to collect the pieces of Captain Olimar’s ship, or he would die. That’s right, he would run out of breathable air…and perish. And all those years ago when I first played the game, back when there was only one Pikmin game to play, I found it to be very challenging, but very fun and refreshing. Most games give you all the time in the world to complete. I mean, yeah, the Super Mario Bros games had a time limit for each level, but you weren’t hurting yourself any replaying a level just for the fun of it. The game itself had no time limit, and you could take years to beat it, and the game didn’t care. It just didn’t.
And yet, not only was Pikmin an interesting, new concept, where you’d sprout your own, little army of Pikmin in order to fight enemies and carry back pieces of Olimar’s damaged ship, the time limit gave it an urgency that made it more fun than you might expect. I played the game over and over again, and eventually, I could not only beat the game, but I could gather up every single item, including defeating the final, but optional boss. The time limit spurred me on and motivated me to see how quickly I could beat the game, and I can now beat it with a good amount of days to spare. How often, though, do you rush through, let’s say, a Final Fantasy game just to see how fast you can finish it?
And then, Pikmin 2 was released, and while it was a good game, I was disappointed that you were given all the time in the world to finish it. And the urgency was gone in more ways than just that, as well, because the goal of the game was to collect items in order to amass a large amount of money. No one’s life was at stake here. The game was still fun and challenging, but it missed a key aspect that I thought made the first game so great.
And so, when I bought Pikmin 3, I didn’t have very high hopes for it. Sure, I thought it would be a lot of fun, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as the first game, but you know what, it was. (Well, the first game will always be my favorite, but you can’t win against nostalgia.) In this game, three spacefarers crash on this planet and have to collect fruit for food. Now, if you ran out of fruit juice in this game, I think the consequences were less severe, and you could merely start again from an earlier day, but that didn’t prevent the immense satisfaction I felt from watching those bottles fill up with juice, and I was given more and more leeway to explore without the worry of diminishing food supplies. I loved that they brought back something from the previous game, and I commend them for making this the first Pikmin game I consider to have a true plot, even if it was a simple one.
Some of the games I’ve had the most fun with were games of this nature, including not just Pikmin 1 and 3, but The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, as well, which gave the player a mere three days in which to beat it, or else the moon would fall. Now, of course, in this game, you could start these three days over again as many times as needed, but it was still pretty cool, nonetheless. A time limit is not a terribly creative concept, but it’s still not used very often, and I guess I just like putting my gaming skills to the test and being forced to plan out my actions more thoughtfully, instead of my usual method of bumbling through a game and completing various tasks at random without any strategy at play. I like games that are more than mere games, that challenge you to think and plan more than simply jumping across platforms. I’ve heard it said quite often that many gamers can’t bring themselves to play through a game without motivation to do so or without an actual point to our actions, and these games mean that every action, every move that we make, has a point. If you make too many meaningless choices, we may fail, and it’s that pressure that causes these games to make me play at my best, and I love them for it.
How do you feel about these kinds of games? Do you prefer the time limit of Pikmin 1 and 3, or would you rather the less rushed approach of Pikmin 2?
First published on The Duck of Indeed on January 26, 2015