Super Smash Character Reviews: Olimar

Do you think Pikmin can bloom, even on a battlefield?

15 August 2023
by jmaldonado 1
image

Hello and welcome back to GoNintendo’s Smash Character Review series, where we look at Smash Ultimate’s massive roster and see how will the characters have held up. Today, in honor of the release of Pikmin 4, we’re covering the first and only Pikmin character in the series Olimar! Oh, and Alph is here too, I guess.

image

Yes, one of the 3 new leads of Pikmin 3 joins the roster as one of Olimar’s alternate costumes. This means that the two explorers share the same move set so we’ll only really be discussing Alph when he’s relevant like in the aesthetics section for example.

Unlike past characters we’ve covered there isn’t really much to say about Olimar’s inclusion in Smash Bros. – Pikmin was a new I.P. released on GameCube and spearheaded by Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, so his inclusion in Smash Bros. Brawl was practically a given.

As for Alph, considering Pikmin 3 was one of the bigger known entities on Wii U pre-release, it would make sense that he would join the Smash Bros. 4 roster. According to internal data it seems that Alph was originally conceived as a clone/echo fighter for Olimar but just became one of his alts.

We highly recommend checking out our Mario review if this is the first of these reviews you read and want a break down on how the scoring works.

It should be noted that similar to Link, we will only be grading Olimar and Alph based on how they represent the games that were out at the time of Smash Ultimate’s release. This means we won’t be docking points for lacking references to Pikmin 4.

With all that said let’s see what Olimar, Alph and the colorful Pikmin are hiding underneath the surface.

Neutral Attacks

Interestingly, Smash Bros. is the first time Alph has ever been depicted using the punch attack as it was removed from Pikmin 3, though evidence in the game’s files suggest it was intended to be useable by all 3 Koppaites.

As for his smash attacks and the rest of his ariels, they all rely on his Pikmin, the main gimmick of the character; but we’ll have to get into them when we get to special moves.

Like I said, pretty simple neutrals, we’re done already! Olimar as a character heavily relies on the Pikmin both in his games and in Smash so this is perfectly fine in my opinion. The gimmick of Olimar’s specials is pretty complex so it’s nice that it has some stable and easy to grasp neutrals to fall back on.

Score: 9/10

Special Attacks

Getting into Olimar’s specials we see the gimmick of his character in his neutral, pluck.

Like in the games each Pikmin have their strengths and weakness, so it’s important to discuss them before we move on.

In Smash 4 onwards, the Pikmin are plucked in the order listed above, Red to yellow to blue to purple to white and then back to red.

Also as stated earlier, Alph was originally intended to use Rock and Wing Pikmin in his move set as opposed to Purples and Whites. While the Wings made their way into the characters’ up special, the Rocks are the only main Pikmin type not acknowledged in the move sets.

This means that unlike other fighters all three of these moves are meant to work in tandem, you pluck Pikmin, throw them at foes, and whistle them back to you.

Even the up specials feedback in to the Pikmin that are with you.

No matter the version, though; the Up specials would be affected by how many Pikmin Olimar has at his side with the distance of the tether, greatly extending and the winged Pikmin being weighed down with the more Pikmin you have.

I don’t have much of an issue with the attack choices themselves, but I do wish they were better allocated. We’ll get into this more in the improvements section but I feel like pluck and throw didn’t need to be separate specials.

Lastly, the Final Smash features a souped-up rendition of the End of Day sequences from the Pikmin series with Olimar and Alph leaving their foes behind to be ravaged by creatures only to come back to the surface the only way Pikmin protagonists know how, crashing.

It’s a really great super attack that combines the ever-present time limit in all main line titles as well as the recurring theme of the protagonists never having good luck when flying their ships.

All in all, though this is an incredible Final Smash, it was so good that they made an entire item to replicate its effect – the Hocotate Bomb!

image

I do have gripes with the way the Pikmin are handled in the move set, but I’ll save that for the Design section. For now, Olimar’s specials give depth to his neutrals and make the character what it is, though it’s possible that moves could have been allocated better.

Score: 8/10

Uniqueness

Much like the series from which he hails, Olimar has uniqueness to spare. In many ways, Olimar’s depiction in Brawl was rather prophetic for the series’ design philosophy moving forward.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first game in the series that really tried to adapt mechanics from the fighter’s home series into gameplay, something that is extremely commonplace now with Ultimate. Back in the days of 64 and Melee, characters were more designed to fit existing fighting game tropes rather than be fully representative of their series (Mario is a shoto, DK is a heavy grappler, so on and so forth).

Starting with Brawl, the series took more of a chance to make the characters feel like themselves and represent their games more than just being archetypes, with Olimar and Pokémon Trainer being prime examples.

If Olimar had premiered in Melee, it’s very likely he would’ve been much more simplistic and just been Smash’s puppet fighter trope (A fighting game trope of a character that controls two separate entities simultaneously). But the team took a chance to make him stand out and there really isn’t any character in the roster like him.

It’s especially bizarre when you consider that Rosalina and Luma was a much more traditional take on the puppet fighter trope, but she came to the series after Olimar.

Weird character concepts like Olimar paved the way for much more faithful character concepts down the line. While faithfulness isn’t everything to a Smash character it definitely goes a long way in making them stand out from the crowd.

Score: 10/10

Aesthetics

I’ve been pretty positive on Olimar so far, but now I’m afraid we have to get into some negatives. I should preface this by saying that Olimar is quite possibly one of my favorite Nintendo characters purely from a writing perspective. It might sound odd to praise a Nintendo game for its story, but if you’ve played the Pikmin games and really read Olimar’s journals you might understand where I’m coming from.

I don’t think there’s been a Nintendo character before or since who we are able to get in the mind of as much as Olimar. In every Pikmin game he is always writing notes and journals about his experiences on the planet, even in games where he’s not playable.

In these notes we see inside the mind of a humble yet oddly intelligent man who has fallen for the charms of the wilds of PNF-404 and the Pikmin that inhabit it. We learn about his personal and work life, how he loves his children, is annoyed by his boss, and constantly feels like he lacks the respect of his subordinates.

To get to the point, you don’t really get a sense of any of that characterization in Smash. Obviously, deep and introspective is hard to convey in a fast-paced fighting game, but honestly it feels like the team didn’t even try.

Olimar’s taunts and victory animations portray him as very…odd? robotic? I don’t know how to describe but he just seems off, in a similar way to how Luigi or Mega Man are portrayed in Smash. In the gameplay of his series, he isn’t that expressive himself, but one look at cutscenes or the Pikmin Shorts shows that he is capable of expressing way more than Smash would lead you to believe.

I’m not asking for him to be the most dynamic character in the world, I’d just wish he didn’t feel so childish; it’s almost like they tried to make him cute rather than making him act like himself.

Basically, you don’t look at Smash Bros. and get the impression that Olimar is a salary man with a wife and kids.

image

They do get points for including his bugged-out eyes when he gets hit, it’s one of my favorite recurring visual gags of the series.

image

Speaking of childish; while I feel Olimar’s current taunts actually work pretty well for Alph (as he is portrayed in Pikmin 3 as young and a bit naïve) they still aren’t the perfect fit for Alph – but they work better on him than with Olimar.

Another thing that’s missing from both Olimar and Alph is their voices. For some reason the Pikmin retain their original vocalizations, but the actual astronauts are completely mute. For me, this is like if they added the Inklings without their vocalizations – they are inseparable from the characters to me.

A minor joy I have when watching people play Pikmin for the first time is their reaction to how deep Olimar’s voice is. I’d like for Smash players to be able to have the same treat.

You can actually see some mockups of what Olimar and Alph would sound like with voices down below!

Lastly, let’s cover Olimar’s costumes.

image

While you get some pretty subtle references to other characters like Charlie and Brittany, there is a part of me that wonders if those characters could not have been added as full-on costumes. That would have taken more work, but it would’ve been more interesting than the recolors to the suits that aren’t really references to anything.

Sorry if I felt like a stickler about Olimar’s portrayal in this section, but it feeds into a bigger issue I have with Olimar in Smash that we’ll get into… right now!

Score: 4/10

Design

While I feel Olimar’s moveset has all the right tools to be great, I dislike how the Pikmin are treated as disposable. Don’t get me wrong, they are disposable; but the characters of Olimar and Alph don’t see it that way.

“The Pikmin have all perished because of my own carelessness. I am an utter disgrace as a leader… How can I continue to collect parts without them? Still the Onions join me in low orbit, as if this Pikmin extinction had never happened. I shan’t sleep tonight…”

[Captain Olimar after experiencing a Pikmin Extinction.]

“Oh, horrors! A bomb-rock explosion engulfed my Pikmin! That last horrified facial expression is burned into my memory… I must review my procedures for handling Pikmin with bomb-rocks so that I do not repeat this mistake…”

[Captain Olimar after experiencing a bomb-rock accident.]

“I lost all of my Pikmin. I wish the captain were here, as I clearly have a lot to learn about leadership. Tomorrow, it’ll just be me all alone out there. I still have the Onion, though. Maybe I can find some way to get some use out of it…”

[Alph after experiencing a Pikmin Extinction.]

The above journal entries show that while Pikmin are disposable and easily replaceable for us, the player, the loss of multitudes is something that weighs heavy on the hearts of the in-game explorers.

This is why I take umbrage with the character animations and lack of voices; they feel like robots just using the Pikmin as meat shields rather than leaders who work with their troops. I distinctly remember hearing and seeing people online for years think that Olimar is some cruel slave master because of his Smash portrayal.

I understand, in the grand scheme of things, none of these things matter to making a compelling fighting game character. This is really a problem that would only bother people who are huge fans of the Pikmin series and its characters, but then again – who else is a Smash Bros. Fighter meant for than the fans of that character?

Losing your Pikmin in Smash is barely a punishment considering that more are just a neutral special away. Most people don’t even bother to use the down special for this very reason. I used to be fine with this because I had assumed there was some incentive to keep the Pikmin alive other than saving time… until I did my own research for this review.

image

So, in the Pikmin series, when Pikmin grow a flower on their head (either from being left in the ground or by drinking nectar) they move faster, so it’s generally desirable to keep Pikmin in their bloomed state as much as possible within those games. However, Smash Bros. is different. The Smash games allow the Pikmin’s leaves to grow into flowers over the course of a match, but while I always assumed this meant that the Pikmin would receive stat benefits, I was shocked to find this was not the case.

The Pikmin Flowers in Smash are purely a visual flourish, the only time they’ve ever impacted gameplay was for a single event match in Brawl. This confuses me to no end.

I understand that this move set is already extremely complex, but a system ensuring that the player would want to keep their Pikmin alive feels like something so fundamental to making this move set work. Olimar has all the pieces for a great design, but the lack of this one element really holds it all back

Score: 5/10

Final Score

Olimar’s final score is 36/50 or 72%.

While Olimar has one of the cleverest move sets in the entire series, some missing character driven decisions really hold the design back from the heights it could be.

Improvements?

Starting with the simple stuff, give the characters their canonical voices and redo their taunts and victory animations to make them more expressive. I don’t believe a Smash Alt has ever had separate animations from the Default, but considering that this is actually Alph and not Olimar recolored to look like Alph, I’d say the extra effort would be worth it.

Getting into gameplay improvements, there should be benefits for keeping your Pikmin alive until they reach flowers. Not only would this give down special more of a clear purpose in getting your Pikmin out of hairy situations, it would help sell Olimar’s role as Pikmin guardian.

Before I put forward my idea, I want to emphasize that I don’t really play Smash competitively, so while I will try to keep these changes balanced, if anything sounds too busted just know it’s not what I intended.

Basically, the flowers would serve as health meters for the Pikmin. A flower Pikmin that takes a lot of hits will be reduced to a bud and then back to a leaf. Flowers would have an increased throwing speed and will be able to hang on to enemies longer at the risk of taking more damage. For balancing purposes, the Pikmin would have to be made a bit bulkier than they are currently but also have weaker attacks so they don’t become terrors that are impossible to kill.

Speaking of balance, while I know some people miss Olimar being able to have six Pikmin at his side, if this change were to be made, I feel like keeping the three would be best.

I commented earlier that plucking and throwing being two separate moves felt like a bit much, so I think an interesting idea could be that plucking is now tied to pressing B while shielding similar to Inkling’s Ink refill.

Simply tapping this combination makes Olimar pluck a Pikmin in the set order. Holding the button combination, however, will have a wheel pop up around him similar to Shulk’s Monado arts allowing you to choose which Pikmin you want to pluck. This means that you don’t have to throw Pikmin away to get the team you want.

Hitting neutral without shield would then have Olimar throw the next Pikmin in line like the side special, but now a U.I. element will be added near Olimar’s percentage meter to show clearly which Pikmin is next in line. A good interpretation of how this could look can be seen down below.

Image Credit: PJiggles
Image Credit: PJiggles

Tapping B will have Olimar throw the Pikmin forward as always, but holding B will allow him to pick up the Pikmin and move back and forth with it allowing him to adjust his throw; he will not be able to turn or jump while readying the shot, though.

This clears up the side B to have a brand-new move, charge.

image

Whether it’s swarming in the first two games or charging in the latter two, the Pikmin games have always featured a way to send out the full force of your army and this move will do the same thing.

Upon Pressing Side B, Olimar will send out any Pikmin at his side forward in a charge. If the squadron comes across an item, they will carry it back to Olimar where it will automatically be picked up. If an enemy is encountered, however, all Pikmin will immediately swarm the foe (except Purples they will just repeatedly ram into the enemy.), attacking as if Olimar threw all the Pikmin onto them himself.

The drawback is quite obvious; while this has the potential to dish out massive damage, it also puts all your Pikmin in one place and easily able to be taken out by your opponent. You’ll have to use your judgement as a leader to determine if that’s a risk worth taking and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences.

While I don’t think the rest of the Pikmin are necessarily needed for this move set, here is some ideas of how they could function in Smash if they were to be added.

I’ve seen some concepts thrown around that if they were to make Alph and echo fighter like was originally intended they should give Olimar his jetpack from Hey! Pikmin as a new up special instead of the winged Pikmin. While I’m personally fine with Alph staying as a costume this would definitely be an interesting idea if the next game brings back custom moves.
I’ve seen some concepts thrown around that if they were to make Alph and echo fighter like was originally intended they should give Olimar his jetpack from Hey! Pikmin as a new up special instead of the winged Pikmin. While I’m personally fine with Alph staying as a costume this would definitely be an interesting idea if the next game brings back custom moves.

Speaking of Alph being a costume: I’d like to see Nintendo go all in with the idea for the next game by adding in the other playable protagonists or some alts based on Pikmin 4’s character creator.

The next Smash has the potential to give Olimar’s alt costumes a similar treatment that Bowser Jr. got with his costumes, and I’d be all for it.

If I only had top pick one change it would be implementing systems that encourage keeping Pikmin alive, it’s possible Sakurai and the Smash team could come up with something even better than what I wrote here.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you again for reading this review. Sorry if I came off a bit too passionate, but like I said earlier: Pikmin is one of my favorite series and Olimar is one off my favorite characters, so the way he’s perceived in Smash means a lot to me. Maybe one day I’ll write a piece for this site about how interesting I find him as a character but until then…

What’re your thoughts on Olimar in Smash? Can you think of a better system to encourage preserving Pikmin? What characters would you want to see us tackle next? While we can’t guarantee they’ll be next it helps us know who you want to see.

Let us know down in the comments and have a great rest of your day and enjoy your time exploring in Pikmin 4!

About jmaldonado

jmaldonado

A recently graduated creative writer hoping to work his way into the greater gaming sphere.

Add Comment

Comments (1)

wiired

10M ago

This was an amazing read! Thank you for posting