Games Level By Level

‘Pikmin’ Level by Level: The Final Trial

As rumors of the long-awaited Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch port ebb and flow, another Nintendo series remains desperately due for a similar HD trilogy package deal. Shigeru Miyamoto’s singular Pikmin franchise is a quirky and inimitable game series that at once brought real-time strategy games to consoles and kids alike. And while Pikmin 2 may be the largest and most daring, and Pikmin 3 the most gorgeous and refined, the original Pikmin laid the groundwork for the cult favorite series as a Gamecube launch-window game back in 2001. In anticipation of both the confoundingly-long-teased Pikmin 4 and the unannounced (and perhaps nonexistent) Pikmin HD Trilogy, I will be swarming the original Pikmin to analyze its design level-by-level. In this entry, I will examine the game’s fifth and final level, The Final Trial.

pikmin final trial

After finding twenty-nine of the S.S. Dolphin’s thirty parts, Olimar can travel to The Final Trial to locate the last piece of wreckage. The Final Trial is less defined by its sense of place than for the gauntlet it houses — After all, its name doesn’t denote a location, but an event. So as a place, it falls a bit flat for having the exact same aesthetic sensibilities as the game’s first, second, and fourth levels, being just a field with some water in the middle. Compared to the similar final challenge in Pikmin 3, Formidable Oak, The Final Trial is certainly lacking flair, but since it’s essentially an optional area only intended for those seeking to find every ship part, its bland look is easier to forgive.

In terms of layout, The Final Trial is as simple as it gets. Its main area is divided into three pathways, each housing a simple task for each of the three Pikmin types (though the level can actually be completed with just Yellow Pikmin). Once those tasks are complete, Olimar and his team can move into the boss arena, which is just a small circle. While the map’s tri-pronged layout and constituent tasks are unexceptional, it certainly establishes a blueprint for the final level of later Pikmin games while also introducing a clarity to the design other levels could have immensely benefited from. Plus, it’s a refreshing change of pace to have the puzzle focus be on short discrete objectives rather than figuring out the intricacies of the map.

pikmin final trial

Of course, the level’s centerpiece is its boss fight against Emperor Bulbax, a giant grotesque Bulbax. Fortunately, Emperor Bulbax is not quite as cunning as he is colossal, with his only two moves being a lick and a butt stomp. If Olimar can get this indiscriminate eater to swallow some nearby bomb rocks hidden behind a gate, it isn’t too tough to attack him from the side until his health bar (very gradually) depletes to zero. While Emperor Bulbax is no pushover, he is less strategically complex than the game deserves, as his rinse-and-repeat strategy lacks the depth of most of the bosses in Pikmin 2 and 3. Still, he is a memorable fight and a fitting final opponent.

emperor bulbax

The Final Trial is less a final level than a bonus room for experienced players. Since its main priority is to offer one final five-minute push and house the final boss, it’s hard to say the level is a great success in anything other than being unobtrusive. As a level, it is really only noticeable near the starting area, which houses the three paths for the three Pikmin types. While this section offers a short final burst of navigational puzzle-solving, it only takes a few minutes to get through and isn’t particularly in tune with the rest of the game’s design. It’s a decent area without many frustrations, but it’s hard to feel like it lives up to its potential in its narrative, aesthetic, or gameplay design.

For deep dives into other levels from Pikmin, as well as levels from other classic Nintendo games such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, click here.

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