Developer: Creatures Inc.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Release Date: 3rd of February, 2018 (JP) & 23rd of March, 2018 (EU & NA)
Welcome to Ryme City, the home to the Pokémon experience you need in your life.
Since the Pokémon franchise first showed its face in 1996 thanks to the initial release of Pokémon Red and Blue, in the decades that followed, we have seen Pokémon games of varying kinds. There’s been the core series that in all its instalments, across 7 Generation, has us embarking on an epic quest to become the greatest trainer we can be. There has been an ongoing trading card game and a video game instalment of it and even the reasonably popular Pokémon Rumble series.
But, while a number of the different games remain similar enough to the original concept, there have been other games that we just different. I’m talking Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Pokkén Tournament, Pokémon Shuffle, and both Pokémon: Magikarp Jump and Pokémon Playhouse for mobile devices. While some of these spin-off games were a little too gimmicky that maybe they shouldn’t have been as popular as they was, the fact is, they did something different. While a number of them, still focuses on battling, they show us another side to Pokémon, we normally only see in TV series and films. They show us the importance of Pokémon and their feelings, but there was always something missing.
As someone who has been a fan of the franchise since the beginning, I have always wanted a game that truly defines what it means to have a Pokémon as your partner, in the same way that Ash Ketchum has Pikachu and now, my wish has come true, enter Detective Pikachu! First released on February 3, 2016, Detective Pikachu was a Japan exclusive 3DS game that cast Pikachu in a different light. It threw him into the role of a detective, undertaking cases in Ryme City, with a boy by the name of Tim Goodman acting as his partner.
Although the game itself was short, due to only having 3 chapters for players to sink their teeth into, and less than 5 hours was needed to beat it, it was simply the beginning of more to come. A second game would pick up where the first one left off and the Pokémon world it created would be expanded to become what it was always meant to be. Well, after a couple of years of waiting, Detective Pikachu was finally brought to the West, only now it’s three times the size. Instead of just localising the first part for us, the second part was developed, localised and bundled with the first one, so Western audiences can enjoy the full experience. (Don’t worry, Japan hasn’t been left out, they’ve got it to.)
Speaking of experience, Detective Pikachu is an outstandingly remarkable title. On the surface, it might just look and sound like an investigation based game where a Pikachu that is not voiced by Danny Devito, is going around town with a magnifying glass, but it’s so much more than that. Blessed with the ability to understand humans and Pokémon, but unable to have most humans understand him, Detective Pikachu opens up a whole new world that we have only ever had the pleasure of watching and not playing. We get to meet Pokémon of many different kinds and talk to them.
We get to see their unfiltered personalities, hear their remarks regarding their partners and even learn how certain Pokémon met their companion. (For instance, there is a Scraggy that took to befriending and coaching a boy, all because the boy kicked a football in its direction.) It is worth pointing out though, that Tim’s ability of understanding Pikachu is actually vital to the story, so although it may seem gimmicky at first, it’s not. Talking of personalities, the titular Pikachu, stuffs his face with sweets, adores coffee and is so quick to attack with a pun or a quip that his gruff voice will charm you and have you smiling in no time at all.
In addition to seeing things from the perspective of Pokémon, we also get to see it the other way around as well. There’s humans commenting on Pokémon, but this time, the love and admiration is more keenly felt and it just makes Ryme City feel so much more alive. It’s not just a home to humans, but a home to lively Pokémon as well and the relationships shown, are “a bolt of brilliance.” Only, this home, is undergoing a crisis as Pokémon are acting up, but that is where Tim and Pikachu come into it.
As the story goes, Tim Goodman comes to Ryme City, looking for his father, who disappeared a few months ago and on the day of his arrival, he encounters the Great Detective Pikachu. Like Tim, the titular Detective Pikachu (aka the first Pikachu I have ever actually liked,) is also searching for Tim’s dad. The Pikachu was his partner and worked together at the Baker Detective Agency. Only one night, whilst working a case, an accident occur, Tim’s dad disappeared and Pikachu lost his memory.
Although the two were destined to meet when Tim makes it to the Baker Detective Agency, there actual first encounter is in the street, when both run into a pair of mischievous Aipom. Having stolen a young girl’s necklace, Tim and Pikachu agree to work together to get back the necklace the pair must work together to get it back, only the Aipom escape. That’s alright though, because the Great Detective Pikachu is on the case and before you can even go to the park and begin Chapter 1 of this 9 chapter long adventure, there is something of a tutorial to be had.
With advisement by Pikachu, Tim, who is controlled by player, is instructed to interview the witnesses, to see what he can learn. Depending on which stage you are at, during your investigation, will impact on how much you can ask people and Pokémon, at any given time, as the more clues and events, will allow you to ask things that were previously unavailable. Also, while it is vital to remember some of the information and responses you’ll gather, as they’ll help you crack the case, everything is jotted down in your Case List. So, should you forget anything, all you need to do, is take a glance at the bottom screen that is home to a number of usual things, and click on the Case List tab. Doing so will present you with a not just a recollection of the dialogue that was spoken to you and testimonies, but details on the Pokémon and people you’ve encountered and even evidence.
When you’ve collected everything you could need, it’s time to head over to Case Notes and start putting the pieces together and coming to a mutual conclusion with Pikachu. Entering the correct combinations will always be down to you, and you won’t be able to advance with your investigation, until you get it right. Should you require assistance though, there is a lightbulb tab that can solve the combinations for you and even give you hints, when investigating, but only if you’re playing in Easy Mode. Should you choose to refuse to start a new game in Easy Mode, you will need to try and figure things out, mostly on your own.
I saw mostly, because whether playing in easy, or regular mode, Pikachu himself will help you out from time to time, by signalling you to stop what you’re doing and come have a secret conversation with him. (Due to Tim being the only human capable of hearing Pikachu talk, it’s decided the two of them should only ever converse when alone or away from people. Sometimes though, Pikachu will have one sided conversations with Tim as well, to urge him on.)
Something else Pikachu can do, is delight you thanks to Pika Promts, which are animated cut-scenes that will have him interacting with Pokémon, trying and failing to perform attacks, as Pikachu lacks the ability to do, but he’ll even give you tips. Tips on how to be a better detective and how to be a coffee connoisseur. Sadly, unless you’re constantly tapping Pikachu on the bottom screen constantly, all throughout the game, you will not get all 158 Pika Prompts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them via other means. Although it is true the ginormous Detective Pikachu amiibo can be used to view all videos, up until the chapter you’re on, you can also replay previously completed chapters, by choosing another save and selecting a level.
Sadly, although Detective Pikachu is a game that will take you to various locations, such as a closed down fair, a research facility, and even an ocean cruiser, you are always limited with how much you can explore, as the game is not the open world game it appears to be. Limitations aside, each chapter gets larger and longer, but fundamentally Detective Pikachu can quickly get repetitive and a little frustrating, due to the fact older players could probably solve each case about 10 minutes sooner than you’re allowed to, but are unable to speed things along, as you are compelled to follow a strict narrative, until it is the correct time for you to do what needs to be done.
Thankfully, the whole game isn’t like, as there are instances of quick-time events that gives the game a change of pace, thanks to interesting cut-scenes, but they’re not really all that important, as the game actually gives you ample enough time to mash the required A button. But you know what? While the gameplay can get stale, given what I know about the game, I can easily see myself replaying it over and over and hoping for a sequel. Sure, the short-lived adventure took me less than 13 hours to get through, but it had me interacting with 97 different Pokémon, I got to see a Pikachu wearing a lifejacket, whilst in a boat and get seasick. There’s a Ludicolo that makes for a fantastic waitress, a Feebas who doesn’t know when to give up. Heck, there’s even instances where Tim and Pikachu get everyone together in a room, so they can solve the case Death in Paradise. But most of all, the animation, overall design and feel of Detective Pikachu, is simply wonderful.
It’s not quite a masterpiece as there are things that could be expanded upon, but Detective Pikachu is one of the most remarkable Pokémon games I have ever played. It’s also an exceptional 3DS game that comes packed with an English voice cast that have been involved with a number of series available on Nintendo platforms, such as Fire Emblem. (I kid you not, there are a lot of Fire Emblem Warriors, Heroes and Shadows of Valentia voice actors.) But yes, Detective Pikachu is simply a must play title that has really set the bar high for what both Pokémon games can be like and absolutely deserves a sequel. I only hope the film is equally as good, because it has a lot to live up to!
While it may be greatly disappointing that Detective Pikachu did come to the 3DS and not the Nintendo Switch, it did start its journey on the 3DS, so it was only fitting it did get to end it there as well. Lack of a Switch aside though, Detective Pikachu is simply the most creative and wonderful Pokémon game we’ve seen in recent years. The gameplay may not be as great as it could have been, but Detective Pikachu is exactly what the Pokémon series. It’s a breath of fresh air that gives Pokémon a voice, whilst at the same time, it is the perfect final hurrah Creatures Inc., The Pokémon Company and Nintendo, could have given the 3DS, now that the core Pokémon series is moving away from the handheld, in the hopes of a fresh start on Switch. So, to state the obvious, if you own a 3DS and have not brought Detective Pikachu yet, you should. You don’t need to be a fan of Pokémon to play it, but you might be one, by the time you finish it!
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Nintendo