I have LOT to say about this game but I think I'll just boil most of my feelings down into bullet points and try to make this not super duper long.
First, my general feelings on Pikmin:
- I've found I only truly love the first game, finding the expanding world and premises less and less interesting or evocative in any way with each new entry. There is no emotional salience at all after that game; I find that the franchise is more or less unrecognizable after it. Still, I've long since accepted that we will never get another Pikmin 1.
- I severely dislike the second of these games, and a lot of the problems I have with 3 and especially 4 derive from the "original sin" of 2 in particular. To list everything would double the size of this review and I'd rather not do that. One of the most notable bits that I've found to dislike from this series after 1 is probably the lack of personality (or in 2's case, respect), though.
- Seeing Oatchi when I first looked at the cover made me think "I guess they ran out of ideas just 4 games in." I thought this reaction was wrong for a while as the game showed what fresh stuff it had, but frankly by endgame after having fought like ten Emperor Bulblaxes I felt that yes, maybe they really were somehow running out of ideas. One wonders where the next game will go from here.
- All of these games are really pretty to look at and sound great too, even my least favorite of them. I don't like the premises of some of the environments in 2 and this game, but in terms of sheer quality in presentation they're awesome. 2's probably the weakest in that regard for how much it reused assets but it's still nice since 1 already was.
As for how 4 stacked up:
- The game feels mechanically solid, though Oatchi feels a tad forced. I don't think the game feels nearly as good as the first couple do to control, but it works fine enough like 3. It's still got some issues that 2 and 3 had, but for the first two thirds of the game it's got a balanced and sound feeling to it. The more 2's design and mechanics encroached upon the game, the more of an undesigned mess it felt. Still, to a point 4 was a really addictive game with a strong sense of openness without going overboard. I do kinda hate that some of the best mechanics and toys in this game overall aren't unlocked until you've already finished it, though.
- There are parts of this game that truly tickled the collectathon enjoyer section of my brain with how much flow you can get into despite its easy difficulty. The night sections are definitely exempt from that flow, though, as they were quite boring and added nothing but a grindy time sink. The caves added their own tedium to things too, but they at least weren't as pointless feeling and could be broken up by the (generally fun) dandori challenges.
- The last quarter of this game was horrid and unfun beyond even my lowest expectations. Boss rush spam, the weakest environment in the game, and an uninspired redone version of Olimar's first game quest all reared their ugly heads right at the same time. It all made this game feel way too fucking long. I already hated how 2 was one and a half dozen hours long and dragged on for the last third of them, and this doubled it. This entry overstayed its welcome by the time the fake credits rolled, and it still had another stack of hours beyond that.
Coming into the game I didn't have any expectations, so it didn't really let me down. It just wasn't great and I don't feel too interested in picking up any future entries now. I was hoping this would be good following 3 being quite a fun game, and while this one certainly was too, it just felt like a shitty experience looking back on it and bordered on the waste-of-time feeling 2 had once given me.
And please just let Olimar go. We really don't need him back again to job or crash his ship or something.