A Lesson in Animal Slavery
As you may know, my girlfriend got me a Gamecube for Christmas. She got me Super Smash Bros. Melee to go along with it, but after a couple of months I got kind of tired of watching Princess Peach beat the shit out of Jigglypuff, so I decided to get another game for the system.
I chose Pikmin because the clips of it they played at Toys 'R' Us looked really cool. The only other thing I really knew about it was the premise: you were some sort of spaceman stranded on an alien world. Your life support system was going to run out in 30 days, so you had to enlist the help of the freindly Pikmin to help with the repairs. Sounded nice and innocuous.
I should have known somethign was wrong when I took a closer look at the cover art:
Here we clearly see a terrified yellow pikmin running for its life from some bug-eyed monster, while other pikmin vainly try to stop it from devouring their fellow alive. But, hey, you know, don't judge a book by its cover, right?
So I play through the first level and, hey, this ain't bad! Them pikmin are pretty cute, and they just seem like they are really helpful, like bellhops at a fancy hotel. Sure, your main activity is to pick them up and throw them where you want them to go, but that might actually be fun for them. Who knows?
The next level, the "Forest of Hope," is where it starts to go sour. They should have called it the "Forst of Selfish Massacres." In this level you must force your friendly pikmin friends to fight to the death with monsters that are some 25 times their size. Why? So that you can collect a few parts for your spaceship. But, still, I'm thinking, "Hey these little guys are at the bottom of the food chain. I'm just helping them fight back against thier oppressors. Everybody likes an underdog, right?"
Well, I started to have doubts later on when, after a couple dozen pikmin got squashed to death by a big-ass frog, I collected a part that turned out to be A shiny thing my daughter gave to me, that has nothing to do with flying the spaceship. I was now responsible for wholesale slaughter of tiny creatures who are intelligent enough to build bridges and work in groups to carry heavy objects. And not for my own survival or to help the pikmin survive predators. But because I didn't want to leave behind a shiny thing that my daughter gave me.
I'm feeling pretty dirty now, but I still keep plugging away, forcing my pimin to march over flame-spewing geysers for a gear which the spaceman admits he's not sure what it does. Stuff like that. The spaceman starts to wonder if in fact he can take off without all of his parts. I think, "Gee, maybe he doesn't need the shiny things from his son and daughter?" But I figure, no, that must be a ruse of some sort. The spaceman's just getting goofy because his life-support system is running low.
So eventually I collect 29 items, of which proabably 15-20 are absolutely necessary for a ship to fly. And that brings me to the last level. In it, you must fight a giant thing called "Emperor Bulbax," which has a tongue that can sweep up several dozen little pikmin at a time. In fact, one of the only ways to beat it is to have some pikmin hold explosives, so that when the thing slurps them up it gets a big ol' explosion in its mouth. Kamikaze, anyone? But I'm thinking that whatever part is in the belly of this beast must be absolutely vital for my survival for me to justify the wholesale slaughter of a sapient species like this.
Eventually I kill the Emperor Bulbax. And what do I find within?
A piggy bank
A stupid, stinking piggy bank. You're telling me that I just marched about 75 intelligent creatures to their doom so that I could get my piggy bank!?
Well, now that I've done that, it's time to abandon the pikmin! That's right, the spaceman hops in his spaceship and takes off for home. After that, we see the pikmin stranded forlornely on the ground. And what do they do? They do what I taught them: They gang up on a larger creature and beat the living snot out of it. Great, not only did I kill of a couple hundred pikmin, but now I've upset the balance of nature. Pikmin reproduce sometimes as many as 100 new ones a day. The only thing keeping them from overruning the planet was the fact that everything else ate them. But now they've got the cojones to go out and kill their predators.
This game needs a sequel, where we see the planet overrun by starving, violent pikmin, the planet's ecosystem collapsing because the bottom of the food chain just became the top.
Even still, it's a really fun game.
Related Article: My Christmas 2001