Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pikmin Short Movies HD (Wii U) Review

Today, I'm going to give a brief review of three short films, a first for this blog! In terms of how faithful they are to the source material and how well-produced they are, Pikmin Short Movies HD is how video game-based films should be done. These three shorts, which were directed by Masaru Matsuse and executive produced by Pikmin series creator (and general Nintendo guru) Shigeru Miyamoto, are a wonderful homage to the Pikmin series as well as a beautiful and charming work on their own. Putting a lens on the world of the Pikmin and illuminating their day to day experiences through short films was a brilliant idea, and I'm glad Mr. Miyamoto decided to try something new. The stories here are humorous and even touching at points as well as consistently entertaining the whole way through. The films look gorgeous, the animation is fluid, and the sound design is also spot-on, including sound effects from the Pikmin games and other Nintendo titles. The music was done by several composers, including Pikmin series veteran Hajime Wakai, and features both familiar tracks and new ones. I'm going to fully spoil what happens in these films so if you haven't seen them, I'd suggest you run to either the Wii U or 3DS's eShop right now and check them out; they're well worth your five dollars (I opted for the HD Wii U versions, which I think probably do the Pikmin's miniature world more justice, although the films can also be viewed in 3D on the 3DS, which I imagine has its own merits). Come back and read the rest of this review when you're done! ...please!

While 'The Night Juicer' is more of a brief taste (no pun intended) before the two longer films, it's still enjoyable and just a little creepy (if not predictable for anyone who's a fan of the games). Seeing such grizzly imagery in a colorful Nintendo-produced work is a little surprising at first, but it's actually not that out of place for the often unforgiving world of Pikmin.

'Treasure in a Bottle' is probably my favorite of the three shorts. It's interesting seeing the Pikmin go about their business without the aid of any captain guiding them, and seeing the Pikmin displayed as intelligent, sentient creatures here capable of communication, laughter, and planning makes me feel even more horrible for all the ones that I've sacrificed in the games or carelessly let perish! It's actually touching seeing all the Pikmin trying to help their trapped buddy (the different-colored Pikmin coming up with plans that utilize their unique skills from the games is a nice touch) and the moment when they all form a chain to grasp hands with the trapped red Pikmin and pull him out of the bottle is actually quite heart-warming. These films as a whole, especially the way the Pikmin are characterized, actually remind me of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, with the Pikmin reminding me of the Soot Sprites from My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away and the Totoros of My Neighbor Totoro. Actually, when presenting these films at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Mr. Miyamoto collaborated with someone who works at Studio Ghibli, and while I won't jump to conclusions, I can't wait for that Ghibli-animated Legend of Zelda film!

'Occupational Hazards' is the longest and fullest of the three films and it delivers on both an amusing first half and an exciting second one. The giant construction vehicle is an excellent set-piece and the many ways in which the Pikmin interact with it and harvest its many parts is a highlight. One of my favorite aspects of the Pikmin series is how ordinary settings and human objects become intricate levels for the captains and the Pikmin to explore, and this short demonstrates that central charm of the series well. The encounters with the Fiery Blowhog and Bulborb are also highlights, although I felt a little sad when the Bulborb fell to its doom (not to mention after the numerous Pikmin casualties during this film, especially when the poor little 'Min who got curious died from electric shock). The Pikmin series has always been relentless in its casual depiction of the slaughter of the countless adorable little titular creatures as well as the gruesome deaths of the territorial enemies of the Pikmin and these films are no different.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed watching these movies. I think that these short films are an experiment for Nintendo and Mr. Miyamoto, to see how Nintendo's lovable properties fair in a different medium. I think the prospect of seeing more Nintendo characters and worlds making the faithful transition to film with the close involvement of the original creators like Mr. Miyamoto is an exciting one. After all, I can only think after watching these films that I want more. I joked before, but seriously, an animated Legend of Zelda film (that's not this), maybe? Or perhaps an actually faithful adaption of Super Mario Bros.? Actually...


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