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Challgenge Mode

Four of the five levels (Impact Site, Forest of Hope, Forest Navel, and Final Trial) have been "perfected," in that runs have been achieved where every pellet on the entire level has been collected and returned to the correct onion, maximizing the score, before time ran out. Forest Navel was the most recent and extraordinary of these perfections - for a long time, it was believed impossible, until mikepharvey achived the only known perfect 482 - and taped it. The other level (Distant Spring) is too big to be perfected in the available time, but the top score (currently also held by mikepharvey) is awfully high (620).

The Challenge Mode DVD has all five of the top runs. See its section for more information.

A Brief History of the GameFAQs Challenge Mode Warriors

On December 11, 2001, someone by the name of SnapDragon poked his head into the Pikmin boards on GameFAQs and left this message:

I'm just a little curious what people have achieved in Challenge Mode so far. I haven't really tried seriously, and probably won't, but I got a 202 on Impact Site. Anybody willing to beat this?

"...and probably won't". Right. :P All hell broke loose not too long after this post. A full-fledged competition took off, and the boards very quickly became the gathering place for all serious Challenge Mode'rs.

Early Challenge Mode runs were hectic: run around and grab as much as you can, without much rhyme or reason. It didn't take long for people to realize that runs that were carefully planned could yield much better results - timing was crucial, and making the best use of your pikmin (i.e. not having them standing around bored when they could be carrying something) was essential to any measure of success. Going out too far, too early with a small group didn't work well because they needed time to get back before they could be reassigned to other work, and meanwhile you've had none growing, so you're hosed.

It also didn't take long for people to realize that there were theoretical maximums on the levels, if every pellet could be collected and returned to the correct onion before time ran out, and to begin to strive for these maximums. Getting a "perfect score" became the grail, of sorts, for the hardest of the hard-core challenge mode'rs, the obsession of us all.

SnapDragon quickly emerged as the Babe Ruth of Pikmin. He set all the early records, and had long since moved on by the time people finally began to catch up to him. In January of 2002, it was calculated that the Impact Site, the first level, had a maximum score of 264 if all pellets were retrieved and returned correctly. SnapDragon surpassed this with a 269 on January 18, 2002, by gathering everything, and also hitting the flint beetle on the level and getting 5 more from him. On January 20, Snap put up a 273, which was a complete run plus nine from the flint beetle, which required an immense amount of skill and luck in addition to a perfect run. To get this score, you had to hit the flint beetle five times in the very short time he was above ground when drawn out of his bush, and keeping control of your pikmin while doing this was extremely difficult.

Not content with this, he was also forging ahead on other levels, posting scores in the 500s on Forest of Hope and over 290 on The Final Trial. Maximums were soon calculated: 569 for Forest of Hope, and 299 for Final Trial. Snap would reach these scores in the weeks ahead, and also set records on the other two. He also began taping some of his runs, and made a few early videos for people to watch.

On February 12, 2002, SnapDragon posted the first high score list to the board, which spurred competition on furiously. Nathan Ian Bowers stormed onto the scene and matched SnapDragon's 273 on Impact Site, and put up very high scores on the other levels as well. Other heavyweights began to emerge: topoftheclass, Ferret, spenser, and many others - the competition was vigorous and a lot of fun.

My own small place in Challenge Mode history came after I finally got my 273 in late February 2002. There had been a few whisperings about whether 273 was actually the maximum score on Impact Site after it was discovered that an eighth hit on the flint beetle would yield another five-pellet, making the theoretical maximum 278. To make a long story (fully recounted in the section "278") short, 278 became my obsession, and on March 27, 2002, I hit it. It was the first known 278 anywhere (although it's been matched many times since).

Over the summer, competition really continued to heat up. Ahlyis matched SnapDragon's 299 on Final Trial. SuperStein matched the 278 on Impact Site, and Rogue7 smashed his way onto the scene with very high scores right across the board, including a new record high of 442 on the Forest Navel. By this time, techniques were becoming extremely sophisticated, and discussions of strategy on the board revealed immense attention to detail. Leaving a one-pellet for later in the level might allow you an extra second for a five-pellet to return. Ferret put up a 582 on Distant Spring, demolishing SnapDragon's 516.

By October 2002, the maxxed scores on Impact Site, Forest of Hope and Final Trial had been reached by many, and attention turned to Forest Navel and Distant Spring, the two levels that could not be maxxed (it was believed) and therefore there was room to grow in. The "five-level total" score emerged as a kind of top-ranking system, where your top scores in each level are added for a total score. Once perfect scores had been reached on Impact Site, Forest of Hope and Final Trial, the only way to bring your score up was to improve these two other levels.

Nathan Ian Bowers smashed the Forest Navel record with a 452 on November 3, 2002, in a heated competition with Mikepharvey. Mike tied this score a few days later. It was thought to be unbeatable - a 20 and a 10 remained on the level, but were thought not to be reachable. Nathan finally broke Ferret's record with a 587 on Distant Spring on November 28, and he and Mike would have a furious race, leapfrogging each other in a constant dizzying ascent. Mikepharvey broke 600 for the first time on any level with a 609 on December 9, and Nathan followed soon thereafter with a 615.

Rogue7 tied Mike and Nathan with his own 452 on December 13, and then Mike put up a 462 with a strategy shift on the 18th. On the 22nd, he hit 472 by trading a 20 for a 10. On Christmas, he did the ungodly 480, which was the first time every pellet was collected (one misfiled 5 right at the beginning was all that went wrong), and it was proven that Forest Navel was theoretically perfectible, and on the 27th, he did it, with the 482. His taped run is still the only known 482 ever reached on Forest Navel. It's on the DVD.

Finally, on Decemeber 31, Mike also hit 620 on Distant Spring, which remains the highest known score on any level.

That about brings us up to the present. Of the five levels, four have been perfected, so their scores can be tied but not beaten (as far as anyone knows). Only Distant Spring is theoretically improvable. 620 stands as the high score as of March, 2003, and it may very well never be beaten. Anybody who begins to get close should tape their runs, just in case.