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Ask the Developer Vol. 10, Pikmin 4—Part 3

  • This article has been translated from the original Japanese content.

  • The images shown in this interview were created during development.

In this tenth volume of Ask the Developer, an interview series in which Nintendo developers convey in their own words Nintendo’s thoughts about creating products and the specific points they are particular about, we’re talking to the developers behind the Pikmin™ 4 game for the Nintendo Switch™ system, which launches on Friday, July 21.

Check out the rest of the interview:

Part 3: Pikmin are all around us

The game world seems more three-dimensional than in previous titles. Could you tell us what went into creating the environment?

Hiramuki: In the first three games, you basically looked down at the ground from up high. But in the fourth game, we've created it in such a way that players can get a better sense of what's around them in this world. For example, players can go under benches and desks or dive into deep water. We wanted players to experience the world from the perspective of these tiny Pikmin, so we've given them more control over the camera than ever before.

Kida: We've also adapted the sound to match this change in perspective. When the camera is close to the ground, you can hear Pikmin's voices and footsteps loud and clear, as if you were listening with your face close to the ground. In contrast, when you zoom out and look down, amidst the ambient sounds, you'll hear the faint noises from the world of tiny creatures spreading out below.

Kando: By setting the camera angle at a near-ground level, you’ll look up at the objects in the environment and see things from a Pikmin’s perspective instead of a human’s. We wanted to emphasize how small Pikmin were by showing how the world looks to them. As we developed the first three Pikmin games, we formed an idea of how the environment should look, but over time we became less conscious of how small the Pikmin were, and the environment was often designed to facilitate the gameplay. When we showed Miyamoto-san the prototype, he said, “Something doesn’t seem right.” Then, when we saw the characters pass under the slats of a wooden pallet in another prototype, a ray of light was shining through it nicely... And we finally got a sense of how small the Pikmin really were.

Come to think of it, the trailers give the impression that the game starts from a location with even more man-made objects than in previous games.

Kando: One of the things we wanted to achieve was to make it believable that Pikmin actually exist by depicting them as very small compared to humans.

Miyamoto: However, if you show a Pikmin next to a battery, for example, it gives people an idea of its exact size. I don't feel entirely comfortable with this. While we want to show a good comparison between Pikmin and man-made objects, we don't want to determine their specific size.

Kando: That’s right. We've been careful to convey their smallness as realistically as possible, while making it difficult to tell their specific size.

Kida: When creating the sound effects, our staff had lots of discussions about what size Pikmin and creatures were, and whether we should make them sound realistic or exaggerated. In Pikmin 3, there was a greater focus on making the sounds impactful, and they had a comical feel. However, Pikmin 4 incorporates sounds that remind players of the smallness of Pikmin and give a sense of reality. It was tough to get the right balance, but we focused on creating sounds that would make it seem like Pikmin exist in real life.

I see, so various factors such as the environment, sound, and size combine to give players the sense that these little Pikmin really exist.

Kida: In fact, previously Pikmin didn’t have a footstep sound effect when walking, but we tried adding one in this game.

We wanted players to have a natural, enjoyable experience, and recognize that they’re actually guiding a squad of little Pikmin. We also adjusted the sound of Pikmin carrying objects to reflect the number of Pikmin, their types, whether they're on the ground or in the water, and so on.

We hope to use the game's sound to draw in players who haven't yet discovered the true fun of Dandori and to make them fall in love with it. But I’m still nervous that Miyamoto-san might secretly be thinking we didn’t need to give Pikmin footstep sound effects.

Miyamoto: You have nothing to worry about!

Everyone: (Laughs)

Kida: Well, that's a relief! (Laughs)

I almost broke out in a sweat knowing how much weight Miyamoto-san’s words carry, but I’m glad everything is okay. (Laughs) Are there any other features that connect the game to reality?

Kando: We hope players will also feel a connection to the real world through the treasures they'll collect.

Matoba: In this title, we selected treasures that would make players feel nostalgic and that they would want to take home. We also chose items that make the smallness of Pikmin palpable. We didn’t limit treasures to a specific time period, so there are both new and old items.

Hiramuki: When we were kids, even things that are considered junk seemed like treasures to us, and we collected them. This game contains a bounty of treasures that’ll stir up memories of your childhood.

Picking up a Game Boy Advance SP (14) made me feel nostalgic. Thinking back to a time when the treasure was a part of your life and wondering what year it's from, it feels as though you're carrying home not just the object itself, but the memories you have of it. That makes me happy.

(14) A portable video game system with a foldable and compact design, released in 2003. It featured an LCD screen with a front light, and you could play Game Boy and Game Boy Color software in addition to Game Boy Advance exclusive software.

Kando: Since Pikmin 2's development, the team had been discussing the idea of adding something that would appeal to the parents' generation. It’d be nice if parents and children had conversations like, “Mom, Dad, what’s this?” “I had one of those back in the day. Want to know how I played it?”

Hiramuki: We hope you'll enjoy reading the Treasure Catalog, where you can see explanations of the treasures you've collected, and the Piklopedia, where you can take a closer look at the creatures.

Hearing all your stories, I can really see how much you want players to feel the presence of Pikmin in their daily lives. Now I'd like to ask Miyamoto-san a question. What does Pikmin mean to you?

Miyamoto: I’ve been saying for a long time that Pikmin games tend to stand out due to their world and characters, but I think they're also interesting as a game genre. Furthermore, I want people to have this real sense that Pikmin are all around us, that they aren't just fantasy creatures. Pikmin have no set age or nationality. They have a unique presence as creatures that exist somewhere on Earth. That's not the case with Mario. We know he's of Italian descent in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but it’s not like you can bump into him walking down the street, because he lives in the world of Mario. (Laughs) In fact, I consider Pikmin to be Nintendo’s most global characters. Since the promotional campaign we launched over ten years ago, we've been saying, “Pikmin are all around us.” I think we've finally reached a point where people can find Pikmin in various places, not just in their imaginations. I hope more and more people become aware of Pikmin and play Pikmin games.

Hiramuki: In that sense, I think Pikmin Bloom is a good example. We'd be delighted if people who were first introduced to the franchise with Pikmin Bloom also tried out Pikmin 4.

Miyamoto: Absolutely. I consider video games to be just one of the worlds in which Pikmin live, while other Pikmin inhabit our reality. Right now, you can find Pikmin in Super Nintendo World™ at Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Hidden Pikmin in Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan. (Image courtesy of Universal Studios Japan).

You can find them in the official Nintendo stores in Japan too. The single-flower vase is perfect for Pikmin. (Laughs)

I'd be thrilled if Pikmin cropped up in everyday conversation, like, “I wonder if Blue Pikmin will come out if it rains,” or “Do you think there are lots of Pikmin in Nintendo's headquarters?”

Speaking of which, I heard rumors that they also appear in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Miyamoto: I'm not supposed to talk about that... (Laughs)

Kando: Right, I’ve also heard about that, but I haven’t been able to find them yet. (Laughs)

Miyamoto: Maybe they do... Please try looking for them yourself.

Thank you very much. I can feel Miyamoto-san’s level of commitment toward Pikmin. Last but not least, could each of you comment on how you'd like Pikmin 4 to be played and what you hope to see?

Kida: I think lots of people know Pikmin as characters, but have never played the games before. I’m sure some people are fans of Pikmin because of the merchandise, but I think Pikmin are at their most charming when they're moving around in the game. The sound team also put their all into creating sound expressions that best convey that charm in this title. Those of you who might feel intimidated by the mainline Pikmin games can enjoy the game simply by observing the world and listening to the sounds made by Pikmin, so I hope you won't hesitate to give it a try. And while enjoying the world of Pikmin, it would be great if you discovered the fun of Dandori without even realizing it.

Matoba: Actually, I've also played and completed this game multiple times for testing purposes. Not as many as Kando-san. He's done 20 playthroughs. (Laughs) Testing usually feels tough from the second playthrough onwards, but I never got tired of this game, no matter how many playthroughs I did. I was able to move forward in the game while thinking, “Maybe I’ll give this a go next time,” and things like that. I'm proud of the work that went into creating a game that can be enjoyed over and over again. If I can add one more thing, each time you complete a series of treasures by collecting them all, you'll get to see something special. I hope everyone will do their best to collect all of them.

Hiramuki: We talked earlier about the battle between Pikmin 1 people and Pikmin 2 people, but I think this has become the Pikmin game I'd like newcomers to play as their first in the series. The planet where Pikmin live is a mysterious one that shows a different side of itself with every visit, but this time players arrive in an age with the strongest traces of past civilizations. You'll be seeing plenty of familiar things that will help you feel closer to Pikmin than ever before. The story is something newcomers to the series can understand and enjoy even if they don’t know the previous games, but existing fans can enjoy it even more. You actually get a glimpse of the scary side of the Pikmin world, too. (Laughs)

Kando: Although it's the fourth mainline game in the series, I also hope new players will give it a try. But that's not to say we've forgotten about existing fans. I did 20 playthroughs while testing the game, and Matoba-san...seems to have done a bit less. (Laughs) But even the developers, as Pikmin fans ourselves, can say that we were able to put together everything nicely so that those who have played the previous titles will be satisfied once they get their hands on it. It also has plenty of content, so I recommend aiming for 100% completion. And it's got a feature called Pebble Pitcher. If someone who's just watching another person play the game thinks it looks fun, they can grab a Joy-Con controller and join the action to cause a little chaos. I hope parents will use it to lend their kids a hand if they get stuck.

Miyamoto-san, may I ask how you'd like everyone to play not only Pikmin 4, but also the Pikmin series as a whole?

Miyamoto: Pebble Pitcher came up just now, but I'd love to see this game being played in the living room. Just watching the gameplay is fun in itself, so I'd be pleased if moms and dads jump in and chat about it with their kids. And above all, by mastering Pikmin, you’ll obtain Dandori skills that aren't taught in school! (Laughs) Nintendo often creates games that require some thinking to progress, and The Legend of Zelda™: Tears of the Kingdom is another example of that. So, I'd encourage parents not to dismiss Pikmin simply because it’s a video game, but to enjoy it together in the living room to make it a common topic of conversation.

I can't wait to feel closer to Pikmin than ever before and to have fun with some Dandori together in my living room. Thank you very much!