Saturday, November 27, 2010

Completion Bonus?

The day after Thanksgiving doesn't always feel like a Friday. Sure, I could go out to the stores and score some awesome deals, but I think it's the sort of shopping one would have to do without kids in tow. Frankly, I felt a little zombified - or maybe it was food coma, nobody was going to school, I wasn't going to Walmart. It seemed more like Saturday than Friday. I did a little bit of laundry, wrestled with the weed whacker, and put up a few strands of Christmas lights.

In between loads of laundry, I decided to pop in Pikmin 2 into the GameCube. Like its predecessor, once you beat the main game once, it opens up a "Challenge Mode". Where Pikmin has you play in the various areas from the single player game and try to grow as many Pikmin as you can in one day, each of Pikmin 2's challenges has you completing a small underground dungeon. Olimar and Louie command a small army of animal/plant hybrids that they call Pikmin - they are able to manipulate objects in the environment, and you cannot. You call them to you, throw them at objects to make them attack or carry them, and you have to figure out which of the five types of Pikmin are suitable for the task at hand. You get points for hauling back treasures, time left on the clock when you finish, and for how many Pikmin you have when you're done. There are 30 of these, unlike Pikmin's 5 areas in Challenge Mode. They are not all available at once, so you have a screen that shows you a leaf for each board that you have available, which turns into a white flower once you have completed it. If you are able to finish a board without losing any Pikmin in battle or to environmental hazards, it shows a pink flower instead of a white one. So, for years I had 24 pink flowers and 6 white ones on that screen. At some point I came back to the game and reduced it to 2 white ones, and then over the summer I reduced it to only one white flower.

Now where was I? Yes, in between loads of laundry. I pop the game in Friday, thinking I will give that last white flower another chance. Why do I bother to get them all? I bother to get them all because I know that the game has one more cinema that I haven't seen that is only unlocked by getting all pink flowers in challenge mode. I know that this movie is called "Louie's Dark Secret". I'm sure I could have just gone on youtube and watched the video, but I felt that it would be more rewarding if I actually did it myself. Happily, I finally got it - I went a little quickly and skipped a few treasures in the interest of having more time on the last level of the dungeon, and it paid off. My score was not as high as it could have been, but you get a pink flower for not losing Pikmin, and the score doesn't really matter. I'm not going to spoil it here, since I don't want to ruin it for anyone else. However, I will say that actually getting a perfect run on the last board was way more rewarding than the bonus movie. The one that I had not done until yesterday is the Emperor's Realm, and there are lots of opportunities to screw it up. The first four levels of the dungeon are easy enough, but each one has things that will trip you up and lose a Pikmin or two if you're not careful. The last level is genuinely difficult in the face of the time restriction. There are only three enemies, but only one of them has the key to the exit. A little bit of luck helps. If you don't get the key the first or second time, you don't have quite enough time or opportunity to defeat the third Emperor Bulblax.

Pikmin 2's bonus movie was cute - I think it might have been funnier for me if I had gotten it while I was still playing the game all the time and was more wrapped up in the storyline - but it wasn't much of a reward for mastery. Resident Evil 4 had the Handcannon that you got for skillfully getting a 5 star ranking in all of the Mercenary Mode levels, and that seemed like a reward. It actually gave you a reason to go back and replay the single player game, especially if you were able to upgrade it to infinite ammo. It completely changes the dynamic of the game without having to change any other part of the game - because you go from carefully conserving ammo to John Woo-style shell casings everywhere. Yes, it makes the game easier, but if you have already completed the game the hard way, it's a fun reward.

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