The protagonist of Pikmin 4 does not need more company, considering they are surrounded by hordes of the titular creature at all times. This is par for the course for Nintendo’s exploration and group-management franchise. But in pursuit of adding something new to the tried-and-true formula, Pikmin 4 figures that since you already have a big crowd why not add one more to the party?
Enter Oatchi, a loveable dog-like creature who immediately stole my heart during a hands-on preview through his adorable design and inventive additions to the Pikmin formula.
The beauty of the Pikmin franchise is that the core gameplay loop has remained relatively unchained throughout all three entries. As a space explorer who finds themselves on an Earth-like planet, you must command the tiny Pikmin to find treasure, defeat enemies, and explore the world around you. The major improvements from title to title mainly come in the form of new types of Pikmin — to date there are seven different types and Pikmin 4 adds two more.
More than just diversifying the type of Pikmin at your command, Pikmin 4 adds larger gameplay features to the series. The most interesting — and cutest — of which is Oatchi. He is Pikmin 4’s version of man’s best friend. A furry creature with big ears that walks around on two little paws.
Immediately, I would die for Oatchi.
Functionally, the best way to describe Oatchi’s role in gameplay is to consider him a very unique Pikmin that only comes in a crowd of one. As each type of Pikmin has its own strengths, weaknesses, and applications around the world — so too does Oatchi.
At first, the two main benefits of using Oatchi come in his size and his sense of smell. As a creature much larger than the Pikmin, sending Oatchi charging at enemies or demolishing pots blocking my way became my go-to strategy for navigating most obstacles. But to progress the game’s main narrative you must use Oatchi’s ability to pick up scents. You see, you have been sent to this planet to rescue the shipwrecked Captain Olimar... and the rescue crew that got shipwrecked. Oatchi can also pick up the crew’s scent and lead you to caves around the map — subterranean dungeons with more challenging enemies and puzzles.
In the short time I spent exploring the world of Pikmin 4, I was able to see Oatchi’s potential expand. Like any good dog, he can learn new tricks — and you get to determine what he focuses on. Having learned quickly that using Oatchi’s charge to knock out enemies quickly was my preferred style of play I decided to choose the upgrade that decreased that ability’s recharge time, but there were also options to make him faster or his attack ability stronger.
One of the benefits of Oatchi’s size is that he also acts as a mount for you and the Pikmin. In the vast expanse of Pikmin 4’s areas, being able to quickly navigate on Oatchi makes things so much easier. Oatchi also has the ability to jump, which lets you explore new areas of the map. It was only after a hint from Nintendo staff that I also realized I could use Oatchi’s charge to hit walls and knockdown treasures on ledges that I thought were completely out of reach.
What seems so great about Oatchi’s inclusion in Pikmin 4 is that despite not actually being a Pikmin, his mechanical purpose is built on the same foundations as the titular creatures. By learning his strengths and weaknesses (which are semi-customizable through upgrades) Oatchi becomes another tool for the player to explore the gorgeously designed world of Pikmin 4.