Japanese Pikmin 2 to launch in April

And in Europe not too long afterwards.

Nintendo has announced that Pikmin 2 is due for release on April 29th in Japan, lending weight to recent reports of a planned summer release in the US and Europe. Nintendo Europe reportedly has the game tentatively pencilled in for a June/July release, while retail sources in the US variously point to an early July/August launch date for the yanks.

The original Pikmin was once expected to usher in a new era of "shorter games, more often" on Nintendo platforms, but when it launches in Japan on April 29th it'll be the end of a development period most noteworthy for its delays. Despite appearing in playable form at both E3 and European used-to-be-equivalent ECTS last year, the game missed its fall 2004 target and contributed to another fairly light run of Christmas Cube titles.

Still, the game's long gestation period does at least mean we know plenty of things about it. Having once enlisted the services of the indigenous walking plant population to help rebuild his damaged spaceship, this time Olimar lands on the Pikmin homeworld deliberately - and along with his assistant Loojie - with hopes of clearing his mounting debts back home by using the leek-like legions to unearth buried treasure.

For lone players, control will now alternate between Olimar and Loojie, who will have more varieties of Pikmin to master this time and some 60 different species of enemy to avoid. This time out however organic conveyor belts and peculiar combat are by no means the extent of things. With the time limit now apparently gone the game could be very different indeed (perhaps Olimar and Loojie come prepared for a fight), and besides that there will be randomly generated levels to boost replay value, not to mention a co-operative mode that splits the action between the two treasure hunting companions. We'll let you know how Pikmin 2 is received when it launches in Japan this April.

Oh, and if anybody knows how Olimar and Loojie are referred to in the Far East, we'd be delighted to know, having realised just now that Olimar is only one letter and a bit of shuffling away from "Mario", and Loojie sounds pretty familiar to boot as his sidekick. EXTRAORDINARY SPACE MARIO NEWS!!!

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