Detective Pikachu comes thoroughly recommended.
Detective Pikachu is still a game the existence of which baffles me—I am perennially curious as to what the pitch for this game must even have been like. Take one of the most recognized icons across all of media in the world, known for being unbearably cute, and turn him into… a gruff, grumpy, womanizing, coffee drinking detective, with a Danny de Vito voice? What? How? Why? How do you even come up with something like that?
The even more pertinent question is, how do you make something like that work? And it’s one that I will be wondering about for a very long time, because somehow, miracularously, Detective Pikachu manages to stick the landing very well, and deliver a memorable, outstanding experience that I feel every fan of Pokemon as a series owes it to themselves to check out.
Note that I said the Pokemon series—I don’t mean just the mainline games. If you have ever been a fan of Pokemon, whether the games or the anime, or just the world and its lore and setting, then Detective Pikachu is absolutely a game you need to check out. This is because it gives us a look at the dynamics of the Pokemon World in a way that few pieces of media have yet, showing us more of what life for people and Pokemon together is like.
"Take one of the most recognized icons across all of media in the world, known for being unbearably cute, and turn him into… a gruff, grumpy, womanizing, coffee drinking detective, with a Danny de Vito voice? What? How? Why? How do you even come up with something like that?"
It also gives us an outstanding reinterpretation of Pikachu. As mentioned above, he’s a gruff, cynical detective with a Danny de Vito voice—and somehow, it all works. Detective Pikachu fancies himself a detective (and he manages to back all that swagger up pretty well over the course of the game’s story). He was originally the partner Pokemon of protagonist Tim’s father, who was a detective. Tim’s father got into an accident some time ago, and has been missing since. Pikachu, meanwhile, was found at the scene of the accident, with all his memories missing, but with the mysterious ability to understand what people are saying.
He also has the ability to talk to people—but no one seems to understand him except for Tim, who has come to Ryme City himself to try and track down his missing father. When in Ryme City, Tim runs into Pikachu, and together, the two resolve to try and track down Tim’s father, Harry.
The interactions between Tim and Pikachu are fantastic to behold, written with genuine wit and charm, and lending each of the two so much charm and personality. Seriously, just the Pika Prompts—which is when Pikachu tries to get your attention, and talks to you in a short cutscene—are almost worth the price of admission by themselves (Nintendo probably knows this, because it has made them all viewable from the main menu, once you unlock them in game).
For that matter, the writing in the entire game is fantastic: it’s sharp, it’s snappy, and it’s bursting with personality. Seeing how other characters interact with each other, and their Pokemon, and with Tim and Pikachu, lends weight and life to the story and its world. Seeing Tim tell a cafe barista that Pikachu enjoyed her coffee, and her shock upon being told that, or the very distinct and unique personalities each Pokemon gets, and how those influence their interactions with one another and with Pikachu, makes this feel like as real place and a real story.
It helps that the writing is backed with great voice acting, too. The star of the show here really is Pikachu—while Danny De Vito isn’t actually acting as him, the performance we get here is close enough, and adds a hilarious dissonance between the cute Pikachu you see and the voice you hear. Tim and Emilia are other characters which get great performances (which is just as well, given how important they are to the story), and really, I am struggling to think of a single instance of bad voice acting in the game.
"For that matter, the writing in the entire game is fantastic: it’s sharp, it’s snappy, and it’s bursting with personality. Seeing how other characters interact with each other, and their Pokemon, and with Tim and Pikachu, lends weight and life to the story and its world."
The interactions and writing help buoy and fuel a pretty damn good feel-good story. A lot of it is predictable, while there are some curveballs thrown along the way, and while the story won’t win any awards, it’s hugely satisfying, and the weight lent to it by how well done it is makes it more than worth it.
The gameplay here is similarly good enough, but nothing outstanding. Detective Pikachu plays like a hybrid of Ace Attorney and Professor Layton, with some DanganRonpa thrown in for good measure; you investigate areas and look for clues, collect evidence, talk to people and Pokemon to try and gather their testimonies, use all of what you’ve gathered to put together a picture of what might have happened, and then solve the case or problem at hand. Often you have minor puzzles available, too—but neither the puzzles nor the evidence and testimony gathering is ever too complex. Which makes sense, given that this is meant to be a game that young kids can complete, too.
Thankfully, for all its simplicity, the game never gets so simple as to disengage the more sophisticated player, and the sharp writing and fantastic interactions should be enough to hold your attention regardless—but you should be warned beforehand that this is not a game where you’ll be challenged as you play it.
I absolutely ended up adoring Detective Pikachu. It’s a sharp, clever game with fantastic writing and some great characterization that knows that it has a ridiculous premise, and runs with it. It looks great, has great voice acting, and plays fine as well. As I said before, too—if you’ve ever had even a passing interest in the world of Pokemon, you owe it to yourself to play through Detective Pikachu.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Fantastic writing with great character interactions and an engaging story; wonderful voice acting and great graphics; the game knows it has a ridiculous premise, and it runs with it
The gameplay can be a bit TOO simple
If you have ever had even a passing interest in Pokemon’s world, you owe it to yourself to play through Detective Pikachu.