An interview with some of Pikmin 4‘s developers ahead of its launch shed some light on the earliest days of the series. In fact, we got a glimpse at some early designs for Pikmin, which look much different than what ended up in the final game.
While the original Pikmin would ultimately see release on Nintendo GameCube in 2001, a new Ask the Developer interview from Nintendo revealed that its origins stem much earlier from that. Developer Shigefumi Hino revealed that the concept for Pikmin first emerged during the transition from the Super NES to Nintendo 64 because Nintendo wanted to create a game where a large number of characters with smart AI could be seen on screen and commanded by players. The titular characters looked a bit different at this stage of development, though.
“At the time, our vision was to have a top-down view of the game on screen, so we made the gender and personality of each character identifiable from what’s on their head,” Hino explained before sharing the art you can see below. “It looks a bit Yoshi-like, don’t you think? But we felt it lacked impact as a character.”
The designs are certainly much different from what we know today, with large hands and feet as well as a big nose. Gender also originally played a role in differentiating these creatures, although in the final game, color ended up being the big differentiator. Nintendo didn’t love this design, though, so artist Junji Morii went back to the drawing board and created some sketches that look more similar to the final designs, with leaves going on the creatures’ heads to help the small creatures visually stand out.
The main inspiration for these new designs? Tim Burton. “Back then, I really liked the world of Tim Burton, so I wanted the designs to not just be cute, but also give a sense of eeriness, or some emotional weight,” Morii explained.
Ultimately, this was the style of design that stuck for the Pikmin. It’s what made it into the game at launch in 2001, and it evolved into what we see in the newest entry. The latest game in the series, Pikmin 4, launches for Nintendo Switch on July 21.
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