Detective Pikachu

Pokémon’s Very Own Great Mouse Detective


The Pokémon franchise has dabbled in many video game genres. Their experimenting with the roguelike genre gave us the well-regarded Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spinoff series. On the negative side, its experiment with pet simulation gave us the infamous Hey You, Pikachu! So how does its venture in the adventure/mystery genre fare?

Pretty well, I’d say.

The game in question, Detective Pikachu, originally released in February 2016 as a short web download-exclusive, was available only in Japan. This short version never got an international release. However, the full game was released on March 23, 2018 in all territories (except Australia, where the release date was one day later).

The general story concerns a young man named Tim Goodman who is looking for his missing father Harry. He meets a talking Pikachu in Ryme City, where Pokémon are going berserk for an unknown reason. The two team up to determine the cause of the Pokémon misbehavior and also to find Harry Goodman.

Despite the title, Pikachu himself is not the player character. The player can understand Pikachu’s words just as Tim Goodman can, but everyone else just hears “pika pika” as if he was a normal Pikachu. Due to this Pokémon-to-all-other-humans language barrier, Goodman is the actual player character while Pikachu is the coach. Pikachu does also function as a Pokémon-to-human translator for Goodman, which helps in all the game’s cases as certain Pokémon see what humans don’t, so they can give good insight on the problem at hand. Cases are generally solved by talking to everyone in the area, human and Pokémon alike. Once all the necessary information is gathered, Goodman and Pikachu determine the solution to the case. In most occasions, it’s a culprit committing a crime, but in others, it’s simply a solution to a predicament.

As games should do, the difficulty and intricacy of the cases get more complex as the game goes on. Of course, as the game (and the franchise itself) is mainly for kids, the complexity of the cases might not stump adult players. Child players could find it to be an intuitive experience, though. For those hopelessly stumped, there is an easy mode that allows crucial hints to be revealed with the tap of a mode-exclusive light bulb icon on the 3DS’s touch screen.

Of all the games on the Nintendo 3DS, this is one of the most graphically stunning on the system. In fact, when playing on the original 3DS model, the most elaborate areas of the game causes framerate lag. Still, this is quite a nice game to look at. So nice, in fact, that some wonder why this game wasn’t made for the Nintendo Switch instead.

Though fans’ dreams of having Danny DeVito voice Pikachu were dashed, The Pokémon Company International did still cast someone with a deep and rough voice. Kaiji Tang, to be exact, and his performance is truly impressive. Daring as this would be to say, Ryan Reynolds, who got the part for the upcoming movie, has quite an act to follow. It does seem weird hearing such a gruff voice come out of a cute mouse-like creature (especially since said species has had an appropriately cute voice in all other forms of the franchise, most especially the TV show), but this casting decision was for the character of this particular Pikachu rather than for its species. Though there are no Hollywood celebrities voicing in this game (don’t worry; along with the above-mentioned Ryan Reynolds, they’ll be in the movie), the rest of the voice cast does an amazing job as their corresponding characters. Khoi Dao gives a good determination-filled voice to Tim Goodman.

Perhaps this is my empathy to Pokémon fans around the world talking here as the problem I’m about to mention doesn’t apply to an English-speaker like me, but I do feel it was a huge missed opportunity that there is no voice dub for any language other than Japanese and English. All the other languages the game is available in has text and subtitles in those languages, but the audio can only be in Japanese or English. And honestly, the gameplay isn’t too involved; it really is just going around, talking to people, gathering evidence, and reacting to the occasional quick-time event. You could get bored of it, which is why I’d personally recommend not marathoning the whole game in three days or less. Try going one in-game chapter per day.