While playing Pikmin 4, you read the word “dandori” a lot. Though there doesn’t seem to be a direct English translation from its Japanese origin, Pikmin uses it to mean effectively planning how you will use your time. In the game, that means choosing where you will send your Pikmin in order to maximize your troops’ efficiency. If there’s a dirt wall in one area of the map, and a buried treasure in another, it doesn’t make much sense to throw all of your Pikmin at the wall, wait for them to finish, then move on to the buried treasure. Good time management means juggling dozens of the little creatures, balancing a variety of tasks at once, and not leaving any of your Pikmin idle.

But while playing through the main maps, you rarely get a chance to really test your Dandori skills. Exploring the overworld levels does burden you with a time limit, but it’s forgivingly long and, even if you run out, you can always go back the next day and pick up where you left off. Throughout these levels, there are various caves you can find where you tend to meet bosses, but these aren't any harder. They can be challenging in some ways, but they're even less difficult from an efficiency perspective because time ticks by six times slower in the caves than it does above ground.

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In this way, Pikmin 4 can be pretty frictionless. You don’t need to get good at Dandori to do most of the main content. Instead, you can simply have a good time exploring with your Pikmin friends. But the longer you play, the more cool game modes you find, each providing more of a test for your optimization than the main mode.

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Two even take their name from the game’s conception of strategic planning: Dandori Challenge and Dandori Battle. In the Dandori Challenge, you’re tasked with finding everything valuable and bringing it all back to your ship. Treasures, enemies, and Sparklium rocks are all fair game and you need to Hoover everything up for a shot at the high score. Dandori Battle is similar, but it matches you up against an NPC opponent. Instead of collecting everything, you just need to grab more than them. Both of these game modes require you to think through the order you should attack the playing field and neglecting the planning phase will result in failure.

Another mode, Night Expeditions, tasks you with protecting a glowing anthill called a Lumiknoll from bug attackers with glowing red eyes. The tower defense-style gameplay pushes you to think about Dandori in a way that the main game mode rarely does, as you collect star fragments from piles around the map. Returning a star fragment to the Lumiknoll produces more green Glow Pikmin which you can use to fight the red-eyed beasties and collect more star fragments. Protecting the Luminkoll effectively means making sure you have a healthy supply of Glow Pikmin and that you have them in the right places at the right times.

All of these game modes are enjoyable, but the true Dandori is figuring out how to balance your playtime between them all for maximum fun. Thankfully, you can't actually fail.

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