Lock-on is a combat and exploration mechanic added in Pikmin 3. This feature makes the camera lock on to and focus on a certain enemy, obstacle or other object. This allows players to not lose its sight, making attacking easier, as well as obtaining its name and allowing the Pikmin army to charge.
To lock-on, the player must move the cursor to an object. At that point, the cursor will change, and the player must then hold / / for roughly half a second so that the scan's lock takes place. Unlike other Nintendo games that have lock-on functionality (e.g. Metroid Prime), the player does not need to hold the button in order to keep it. Briefly tapping the same button again cancels the lock-on. Moving far enough away from the target will also cancel the lock-on automatically.
Once locked-on, the camera zooms in and focuses on the object, and rotates to follow it around. The manual camera controls will also not work. Dodging will make the leader and Pikmin roll around the object, as opposed to rolling in a straight line left or right. With the GamePad or Wii U Pro Controller, holding the lock-on button will place the cursor on top of the target that started the lock-on, and keeping it held will keep the cursor there.
Only some objects can be locked-on to. These can be identified by the cursor changing appearance when on top of them. The cursor will not change – nor will the lock-on activate – if the leader is too far away from the target. It is also possible to lock-on if the cursor is close to, but not exactly on the target. Some targets allow the cursor to lock-on to a specific location, like a Red Bulborb's eyes or back, or a section on the Armored Mawdad.
Although hard, it is possible to lock-on to some objects that are normally too far away to allow a lock-on. This can be done with the Stellar Extrusion on the Tropical Wilds: by positioning the camera such that the fruit appears on one of the top corners, it is possible to put the cursor there, and lock-on. However, shortly after the lock takes place, it will be canceled automatically given the large distance. The following is a list of objects that can be locked-on to:
When the cursor is on top of something that can be locked, it changes from being a simple circle with a dot projected on the terrain, to a circle with three triangles pointing inward, facing the screen. Once the player begins holding down the lock button, the cursor also changes aspect to indicate how much more the player needs to hold the button down for so that the lock takes place. This isn't very useful, since locking on takes a fraction of a second.
While scanning, the left and right portions of the screen darken, two curved lines appear near the darkened areas, and some textual information is shown on some corners of the screen. The bottom-right corner of the HUD shows the object's name surrounded by some Koppaite text that translates to "Space library lite" "Simple dictionary in the PIPAD" "Just has the names". The top-left corner displays an icon of the same button used to trigger lock-on, but with the string "Cancel Lock-On" afterwards: this indicates that the button can be pressed again to cancel. The bottom-right corner shows that issuing a dismiss in this state ( / / ) makes the Pikmin party charge at it. With Stylus mode, the dismiss button on-screen also changes caption to read "Charge".
By dismissing while locked-on, leaders can make their Pikmin charge at the object. This causes them to run in a hurry at the target and interact with it, much like they would if thrown at it. This effectively replaces the swarm mechanic from the previous games. After activating the charge, a horn is heard, the Pikmin jump up and perform a battle cry, and after a small delay, they run at the object. A charge can also sometimes be initiated in the small time window before a leader loses a lock-on due to distance, which can be useful for bypassing certain puzzles when combined with Winged Pikmin.
Nothing will happen if the player attempts to charge with no Pikmin or leader in their party. When charging, any leaders following the current leader will be dismissed, possibly to make it easier for the current leader to punch the target in unison with the Pikmin horde. Pikmin not suited for the task will move slightly towards the target, but will retreat shortly after and rejoin the leader. This happens for the following Pikmin:
Due to this, it is advised to stay well-aware of the Pikmin in the current leader's group, if one wishes to direct said leader to attack alongside them, otherwise a press of the punch button may end up tossing a bomb-armed Pikmin instead.
When charging, if they do not reach their destination in about one and a half seconds, they will sigh and give up. However, due to a glitch of sorts, there may be times when the Pikmin are told to charge at an object, but give up much quicker than usual, around a total of half a second. The cause for this is currently unknown.
In a much prerelease version of Pikmin 3 the lock-on screen appeared much more different and simpler.
Prior to version 2.0.0, the pieces of text on the left corners of the screen didn't exist. They were added with the update, in order to make it easier for players to know how to cancel the lock-on and how to charge.
Older appearance images