Pikmin 2: The Unseen Submerged Castle
The era of the Nintendo Gamecube is a time of my life I often look back on fondly. Being a time of many experimental Nintendo games, and of course a large portion of my childhood, it was a time of wonder and innocence that I’ll never get back. But one thing about your childhood is you’re always discovering things about or from it that you might have never noticed before. I can safely say that happened to me quite recently, in a bit of an elaborate and interesting way.
Many games I’ve played from way back include titles such as Kirby Air Ride, PMTTYD and so on. Pikmin, both 1 and 2, were other entries I remember going through quite clearly. They were basically strategy games where you control a space captain (or two captains in Pikmin 2’s case) on an uncharted planet, commanding large groups of plant-like creatures called “Pikmin” in an effort to both help obtain key objects and fend off the planet’s hostile creatures.
Anyway, with that said, it was a crisp October afternoon and I had just gone off to the flea market. It was the final week before closing up for the season, so I thought I’d browse a bit to see what cheap trinkets I could possibly find. Maybe old magazines or even cheap DVDs. Upon arrival, there weren’t too many people roaming about. It was a pretty brisk day, so people likely just wouldn’t want to go to a flea market of all places at this time. I picked up a couple DVDs, an old Sears Christmas Wish Book, and then strolled up to a booth of used video games. Used video games, consoles, and even vintage posters adorned the lengthy table’s bins, but something caught my eye. It was a Gamecube, and nearby were quite a few games I grew up with.
My Gamecube was unfortunately given away long ago, so this was a sight for sore eyes. “Those aren’t cheap” I thought, staring at it from afar. Now a man in my mid 20’s, not only am I nostalgic for elements from years past, but I’ve become more like my father and refuse to purchase things at ludicrous prices. A stark contrast from when I was a teenager.
I must’ve been standing there longer than I thought because the owner eventually approached me, asking if there was anything I needed.
“Yes, how much for the Gamecube?” I sputtered.
“The Gamecube? That is…”
He walked over to the shrink-wrapped console, checking a sticker that was apparently at the bottom.
“...that’s $25.” he finished.
Quite a steal considering the bubble surrounding much of the Gamecube today. For all I know it could’ve been broken or in terrible condition, but from the looks of it, it seemed to have been in nice shape. For all I know it could’ve been mine after sitting around for years upon end.
“Alright, I’ll take it.”
He took the Gamecube to the front along with a ZipLoc bag full of hookup cords and a controller. I grabbed a few games to purchase along with it, including PMTTYD, Kirby Air Ride, and Pikmin 2.
I was oddly giddy driving home with this purchase. Sure it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, but it feels good to not only see stuff from your childhood again, but to have physical copies of specific elements. It’s a comforting feeling in a time as weary and difficult as independent adulthood. I got home and immediately unwrapped the Gamecube from its plastic prison. Minus a crack on the disc lid and a small stain on the bundled controller’s analog stick, everything was in great shape. I then proceeded to spend Christ knows how long trying to hook it up to the TV. I’ll just say the process of retro console setup is far more straightforward with a CRT.
I tested the now hooked-up console, and to my favor, it worked. I had the week off, so I thought I may as well try a game out now. Upon looking over my purchased games, I immediately noticed something odd. Something I somehow missed. Pikmin 2 had a rough “beta” label under the cover art title, and the disc was blank except for the words “Audience Testing Only”. This got me thinking that I may have just got ahold of an early version of Pikmin 2, made and seen only by specific testing groups. These should’ve been destroyed or archived somewhere by Nintendo, but this one somehow leaked into the wild.
I was both disappointed and excited by this outcome, because on one hand I wasn’t playing the game I grew up with, but on the other, this could possibly be a look into something familiar yet new. Like those dreams you have that take place in your home or at a favorite vacation spot. It’s familiar, but there’s always something off or new about it. What better place to start than that I suppose.
I carefully put the disc into the tray and hit the power button. After that iconic Gamecube startup, I was greeted with what was pretty much the same and indistinguishable Pikmin 2 title. Nothing was different until the opening cutscene. A few lines were different, or at least I think they were. It had been years since I’ve played this game. As I progressed more, I started to spot the bigger differences. Almost all object and area names were different. “Awakening Wood” was “Forest of Awakening”, and “Snagret Hole” was “The Snagret's Nest” for instance. Some textures looked more akin to that of Pikmin 1, like the water ripples and certain plants. Enemy placement was a bit off from the finalized release, for example a breadbug wandered Perplexing Pool, and an armored cannon beetle sat at the edge of Valley of Repose. There was also a container of “OFF! Insect Repellent” in Awakening Wood, a treasure featuring product placement that was not in the final version.
By now I had nearly cleared all of the Perplexing Pool (here titled “The Perplexing Spring”) except for one cave. Submerged Castle. For those who don’t know, the Submerged Castle is an eerie cave that only Blue Pikmin can enter due to the entrance literally being submerged in water. If you stay more than 5 minutes on any sublevel, the cave’s boss the “Waterwraith” will drop down and dangerously patrol the corridors on two stone rollers. However, if you’ve played through the game more than once and you know what you’re in for, this cave isn’t too much trouble.
I was now marching a horde of Blue Pikmin to the notorious Submerged Castle, which in this beta is revealed to be named “The Submarine Castle”. The ship hesitates to follow Olimar and Louie into the cave as usual, but instead of reasons being “delicate machinery”, it states it senses “overwhelming detections of abnormalities” and recommends you contemplate your actions carefully before you enter. A bit odd, but this was in fact an eerie cave. It was inevitably going to acknowledge it I guess. Maybe it was a hint to the Waterwraith’s role? I jumped in, ready to race against that 5 minute timer.
Before I could move I was interrupted by the ship. It was telling us “an anomaly is interfering with the functionality of our devices”, and “the radar and enhanced light features will not function in this cave”. As the cutscene ended, much of the floor was dark. The lighting upgrade, an object you find in the Subterranean Complex that improves lighting in caves, was no longer active. A bit strange, yet I don’t really know what I was expecting. This was an early version afterall. For all I know this could’ve been scrapped for unnecessary bloat. The music was a slightly lower pitch than the finalized one, with a reverb that sounded as if the track was echoing through the corridors of the cave itself.
The fiery bulblax holding treasure lay asleep as it was in the final version, but then I spotted a new enemy. An almost ghost-like slug that would seemingly phase in and out of visibility. Like any slug, it slowly moved across the grainy blue floor in its own natural fashion. When I approached it, it simply phased away again, except this time it reappeared looming over my Pikmin. I took no chances with this new creature and started tossing Pikmin. Just as I did so, it opened a “mouth” from underneath its body, which increased in size by the second. It began inhaling Pikmin accompanied by a frail screeching. I killed it before it could do any damage, and pursued. The geyser to exit was nowhere to be found, and far more bodies of water spilled across the floor as I explored. Water trickled down the walls in various crevices, giving a bit of a claustrophobic feel to it all. As I took down the Fiery Bulblax and collected the last treasure, I made my way to the next sublevel.
The next sublevel was even darker. Like the battery dying on a battery-powered lamp, the lighting was about as dull as I’ve seen it so far. As I began to gather my Pikmin I heard not the familiar sounds of Bulbmin walking around, but something unfamiliar. Like those off putting dreams. An occasional clicking and pitter patter followed by a low grumble. While I had my Pikmin knocking down one of the gates, I then noticed a shadowy creature zipping across the wall and around the corner. Have you ever seen those large Huntsman Spiders from Australia? They’re super quick, and this creature’s movement closely resembled the dash of a huntsman. It then came back around the corner, running in my direction. It revealed itself to be a large black whipspider-looking creature. Before I could react, it used its two long and slim arm-like appendages to grab a handful of my Pikmin. It then zoomed off into the void of the ceiling, killing the captured Pikmin offscreen. Trying not to waste time, I began work on the second gate, only to be interrupted again by the returning wall-spider. I managed to avoid casualties as I successfully took it down, then continued onward with Olimar, leaving Louie back at the ship with some Pikmin.
As I pursued down the long dark pipe, I realized that bulbmin were in fact here, though the mother instead had the footstep sound effects of a regular bulborb. As I collected the bulbmin, yet another new creature caught my eye. A pair of bioluminescent Dweevils, sporting the beautiful yet creepy glowing patterns of a deep sea creature. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to know what they did, so I just ignored them and focused on getting the treasure ASAP. Not only was I on a timer, but I’m not even sure if it’s still set to 5 minutes with all of these strange changes. When I reached the first treasure I realized it had changed as well. Rather than the chocolate donut seen in the final version, this was a crucifix. My Pikmin had it carried off, and in the meantime I switched captains to explore the other half of the map.
Louie, with his squad, entered the second area only to see yet another large wall spider scattering around in the distance. I had to say, for this game’s whimsical and fantasy-filled atmosphere, these newer creatures did not fit in with the vibes at all. It’s almost like they were imported from another source. As I took down the spider, I noticed more water flowed down the walls. The room may as well have been flooding. I had my Pikmin take another treasure back, this time a boot rather than another sweet tooth-themed item. Checking back on Olimar, I now realized the Pikmin had barely gotten anywhere. The glowing Dweevil had lifted the treasure onto its back, as they annoyingly do when you don’t pay attention. I called the Pikmin off and began to attack the Dweevil, dislodging the treasure. This is where it gets interesting, because I had no idea what this thing was gonna do. All Dweevils have elemental attacks they initiate when they are provoked, and I was most certainly provoking this one. The Dweevil began to glow brightly, ready to attack. Just as I called off my Pikmin, the screen filled with static and went black, as if the TV had just been unplugged.
Now sitting in a pitch dark room staring at a TV I couldn’t even see, the Gamecube’s power light softly illuminated a small radius with its red glow. I must’ve sat there in the dark for maybe 5 or more seconds in confusion. Thinking the game had crashed, I got up slowly to reset the console, but just then everything came back. Squinting my eyes as the TV blew me away with the sudden dose of bluelight, I noticed the Pikmin were frantically running about in panic. My eyes now adjusted, I whistled them back and properly took down that Dweevil, then took what was mine. By this point I was just about ready to proceed to the next sublevel, and there was no time to lose with that timer. As I made my way to the next hole down, I heard a distant echoing wail, cut off by the cutscene of jumping down the hole.
As I sat through the saving and loading screens I was a bit unnerved by all of this. This was vastly different in tone from the final Submerged Castle, and I can’t imagine why any child would’ve had fun with this. Again, probably why this all ended up on the cutting room floor.
Falling into the pit that was sublevel 3, yet again, it was even darker. Very dark. Like an old camera trying to record at nighttime. The already spooky music was a bit more muffled and off key as well. At this point I wasn’t even sure I wanted to collect every treasure. I just wanted to claim the upgrade at the final sublevel and move on.
One of the first things I noticed is the entire floor was covered in water, and odd-looking plants were scattered about. The weird slug thing was back as well as the Bulbmin, and I could only see what was within the room I was currently walking through. Continuing on, clearly not intending to 100% this anymore, I wandered about and was nearly startled shitless by something large that unearthed from beneath me, screeching in a loud high pitch. I didn’t notice it before, but a Bulblax was burrowed underground, waving a “plant” around like a frogfish. Much like that glowing Dweevil from before, this looked like one of those creepy deep sea fish. It was a pale ghostly white, with thin jagged teeth, rounded pupil-less eyes that looked as if they were glazed with a milky substance, and transparent frills on its back. As it gobbled up a good chunk of my Pikmin, that cursed spider showed up yet again, claiming a few of my Pikmin as it clicked up the walls. A bloodbath ensued as I managed to push my way to the end of this brawl. The bulblax dropped treasure that looked to be a vintage photograph of a human family, the image heavily damaged and wethered.
Taking it back to the ship, I just decided to head for the next sublevel. I got the picture at this point, and the picture wasn’t a familiar dream. It was a familiar nightmare. By now, water was pouring down the walls as if a pipe had just bursted above, and the echoing wails were returning. While running to the next hole I encountered two more Bulblaxs emerging from beneath the water, catching me off guard me yet again. I made it to the hole and jumped down, feeling a bit uneasy. I wouldn’t exactly call this experience a frightening one, more so a shocking one. It all was just something I never expected to see from a game like this.
Happy Halloween I guess…
The same song and dance was expected at this point. This sublevel was gonna be darker than the last. Somehow, I was still surprised by what I saw. When I dropped in not only was the entire level seemingly flooded, but I could barely see anything. It looked like a goddamn found footage film in the black of night. The only true light I had was a soft glow that spanned a small radius around Olimar and Louie. I could see one of those bioluminescent Dweevils off in the distance, but honestly what good does that do me? I wasn’t having this anymore. I was gonna find the hole and exit. The radar of course still wasn’t working and, from what I remember, this sublevel required Pikmin to open up the exit. Taking a deep breath, I wandered the darkness looking for the exit.
In the official release, this sublevel is notorious for having explosives of all kinds falling from the sky. Here, however, there was none of that. Instead, bones of all sorts fell. A bug-eyed eel with a perpetual gaping frown was swimming about the corridors, appearing to emit toxins every so often. The ghost slugs again made an appearance, sneaking up on me with their cloaking attacks. Turning around a corner I saw what looked to be a human skeleton hanging from the ceiling. Leaning down as if it had fallen out of an old coffin above. Walking underneath it was revealed that the hand of said corpse was in fact a treasure to be collected.
I must’ve had the worst possible luck because at this point I had spent a large chunk of time looking for the exit. I was almost completely lost, and just like that the Waterwraith dropped in. Almost right on queue. In the cutscene, I noticed that the Waterwraith’s appearance was different. Rather than a watery specter, it had a more blurred shadowy appearance. Almost two-dimensional in a way. After the ship told us there was nothing we could do and the cutscene finished up, the gameplay resumed. The music was vastly different. Not suspenseful. Just ominous and dreary. Low and high notes on the occasional banging of a synthesizer. I decided to split captains and have Louie look for the exit with a few Pikmin while Olimar huddled the rest in the corner of a dead end, a spot of which the Waterwraith is incapable of reaching.
Hesitantly, I began to scout the other side of the map with Louie and his small squad of Pikmin. Still dark as ever, I felt like a rat in a maze. A maze full of giant whipspiders, glowing static bugs, and ghastly slugs. More items fell from the sky, such as a Wollywog and a bottle of sage. But I was done with it at this point. The exit was my priority. And speaking of the exit, there it was behind a gate. I began work on it immediately as the unnatural sounds of the Waterwraith distantly echoed.
I sat there on my couch tapping my finger anxiously on the controller. While waiting for the gate to be destroyed, the deafening sounds of my smartphone ringing caused a boost of adrenaline to shoot through my veins. The controller flew through the air as I came back to reality as quickly as my phone rang. “Perfect timing with those robo-calls” I thought, exasperated with nearly everything about this evening. A trip to the bar was needed, or some Halloween festivities with my friends later this week.
While lost in my own thoughts, thoughts more comforting than the infernal scenario playing out in this unreleased test, the Waterwraith ambushed me from around the corner. Crushing the Pikmin at the gate, as well as Louie. The screen faded to black, returning with not “Louie is Down”, but text that read “Louie is Unconscious”. I lost Louie and now it was only Olimar and a select amount of Pikmin and Bulbmin. At this point I just had to b-line it through the dark and take the gate down faster. I used some Ultra-Spicy Spray to make my Pikmin as quick and strong as they could be, and ran.
I could not see the Waterwraith, but could only hear it through stereo sound. Moving closer, and farther. Panning around as I moved the camera in the flooded black abyss. Luckily by now the Waterwraith had already run over and killed nearly all of the floor’s enemies, so this really came down to being quick. I got to the gate and made no haste. The spray I used sped up the process significantly, but not fast enough. I heard the Waterwraith coming. Considering it targets the active captain, I decided to act as bait and run around far from my Pikmin at work until their progress was complete. As I thought, there was the Waterwraith. Looking like a menacing shadow being casted by nothing. Stalling and baiting it, I carefully made sure to both stay close and not get hit. Louie got a one hit death from the rollers, and I didn’t intend on redoing this hellhole.
I heard a jingle play, a notification that the Pikmin had finally finished their task. I ran through the dark watered corridors and to the hole like my soul depended on it. Jumping down the hole, I exhaled a breath of relief.
“Fuck this game” I muttered leaning back, my eyes fixated at the ceiling fan. Spinning clumsily and almost mockingly.
I was so ready to beat this thing up and call it a night. Pile drive it with those stupidly overpowered Purple Pikmin and claim the Pluckaphone upgrade. But again, The Sub(marine) Castle seems to be one step ahead of me each time.
Sublevel 5: Final Floor
The lighting was a bit more generous on this floor, with glowing mushrooms creating pockets of light like street lamps. The water was reduced to only a couple of puddles in the arena ahead. But the biggest change was the Candypop Buds. They weren’t purple. They were white. I was dumbfounded. How are you supposed to defeat the Waterwraith? Maybe you don’t in this version? Accepting what was given to me, I flung some Bulbmin into the White Candypop Buds, creating a group of 10 White Pikmin that I had no clue what to do with.
As I was knocking down the arena and geyser exit gates, I almost wondered if they’re only here to dig something up. Like the final version, the treasure gauge was pointing to the arena, so maybe there’s something special buried there. I gathered my White Pikmin and headed for the arena, scanning around to see if I was right. The only source of treasure pointed to the center, where the boss drops in. I hesitantly swarmed my Pikmin through the center and not only did they begin to unearth something, but the Waterwraith didn’t drop down.
They dug and dug until eventually it was revealed to be the “Professional Noisemaker” treasure (in other words, the “Pluckaphone” upgrade). I rushed back to grab a few more Pikmin to help dig and carry it back. The crimson treasure was now fully unearthed and ready to be hauled away. I guess no boss battle was needed? But just as always, this cave is ready to surprise me. The Waterwraith was falling down as the treasure was being taken back. All I could do was watch and hope the nimble White Pikmin could make it before the Waterwraith started to move. I contemplated gathering my other Pikmin, but quickly trashed that idea after the lights dimmed back to darkness. The shadowy wraith was now rolling its way to the ship as I ran to the geyser, ready when the Pikmin were. Thankfully, the Pikmin did make it back with the treasure and I got what I came for. Without thinking, I skipped through the ship’s text almost as if I was speedrunning this shit, then exited the cave through the geyer.
The result screen came up, and of course, I barely collected anything and I lost about 65 of my Blue Pikmin. But honestly, I didn’t care. It was the least of my concerns. I was baffled, confused, and on the blurred line of agitated and disturbed. What the hell kind of cave was that? What kind of family would be satisfied with this on their TV? The original Submerged Castle was perfect the way it was. The best spooky Pikmin experience.
As I was contemplating the choices of the developers, I then realized that this WAS the original. The one we all know is the redone version. Remade after test audience feedback. Whether kids or adults, they must’ve had mostly negative things to say about “The Submarine Castle”. Well I don’t blame them, because it wasn’t fun. It was surely an interesting experience, I'll give it that. And in the end I’m glad I know it exists…but it wasn’t fun nonetheless. It was nightmarish and gloomy, and it made me appreciate Nintendo’s knack for balancing “all-ages” family appeal all the more.
Yes, I did play the rest of the game, but I never went for 100%. I know people are gonna be asking for screenshots and footage after this, but I really want to put this behind me. I don’t intend on going down that unfinished cave again, and I now prefer to keep this copy preserved in a protective casing and stored away for historical purposes.
And yes, I did have a Happy Halloween.
Credited to FuegoJupiter
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