Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Support for 3DS continues
Given the runaway success of Nintendo Switch, Nintendo could have easily made the console its sole focus in 2018. But as Detective Pikachu proves, they’re still very committed to supporting the Nintendo 2DS and 3DS. This is great news for the over 70 million owners of Nintendo’s popular portable console.
Humans & Pokémon
While it’s been a long two-year wait for Detective Pikachu to arrive westward, I’m glad it was worth the wait. I enjoy my time with this crime-solving adventure game immensely, and I hope the spin-off series continues.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the game was learning more about how humans and Pokémon interact. The game takes the time to show how various Pokémon have integrated into society, and how humans take care of their beloved friends. It’s another side of Pokémon you don’t normally see (at least to this degree) in the mainline series.
A missing father
Detective Pikachu sets you in the role of Tim Goodman, a teenage boy whose father recently went missing. His search brings him to Ryme City, a bustling city full of humans living peacefully with numerous types of Pokémon. Early on you bump into a Pikachu… who just happens to be wearing a brown detective hat. He can talk, too, but for reasons unknown only Tim is able to hear him. To the rest of the world his voice sounds like the usual “Pika, Pika, Pikachu!”
Detective Pikachu is, by far, a highlight of the entire adventure. A major reason for this is his incredibly funny voice and constant comedy one-liners. He sounds like a gruff middle-age man with a spunky attitude, and is always grumbling for his next coffee. He also believes himself to be a detective and loves shouting the catchphrase “a bolt of brilliance!” Hearing him shout this with an enthusiastic, raspy tone, gets me chuckling each and every time.
Over the game’s 9 chapters you’ll travel around different districts of Ryme City solving a variety of cases. These almost always involve Pokémon that have suddenly—and temporarily—became filled with rage. As to why this phenomenon is happening, or how it relates to the disappearance of your father, is something you’ll unravel over time.
In order to solve cases you’ll need to investigate crime scenes, gather testimonies, and discover clues. As Tim, you’ll be the one interviewing the city folks, but when it comes times to chat with Pokémon, that’s a job for Pikachu. It’s here where you’ll learn some pretty amusing information, including how some Pokémon feel about other Pokémon.
You’ll also learn interesting ways that Pokémon help humans, such as Fletchlings delivering letters in their beaks, or Hoothoot being great TV show time keepers. Past Pokémon games have never delved this deep into the human/Pokémon relationship and as a longtime fan I found it all very fascinating.
Record the facts
As you talk to people and Pokémon, Tim will record his findings in his trusty Case File notepad. Here he’ll jot down facts about those you meet, their specific testimonies, and any evidence at the crime scene.
When you’ve gathered enough information it’s time to open up Tim’s Case Notes to start solving. This could involve recreating a crime in the right sequence, locating a missing Pokémon, or choosing the correct branching path to take. Solving puzzles generally involves completing a mini-puzzling, all of them I found very easy breezy. If you do happen to find yourself stuck don’t worry—you can always ask Detective Pikachu to solve for you.
A talkative Pikachu
Another element of the game I really love are the Pika Prompts that happen at a regular click. These initiate a mini-cutscene on the 3DS’ upper screen starring Pikachu, and almost always involve him helping you piece together clues. His insights are generally quite useful, and he does a great job at recapping important events. During the cutscenes you’ll often see Pikachu make the most adorable gestures, which further adds to the charm.
At any time you can also tap on the Detective Pikachu image on the bottom touchscreen to chat with him. Most of these scenes are mini comedy sketches where Pikachu teaches you how to become a better detective. Again, the wonderful voice acting really makes these moments memorable.
A superb presentation
Detective Pikachu uses a new art style for the Pokémon series and it absolutely works here. It abandons the more colourful, cartoony graphics from the main series in favour of a soft CGI style. Tim and Detective Pikachu look especially excellent, with both having very natural moving and speaking animations.
This high bar extends into the supporting cast, including news reporter Emilia Christie, camera operator Meiko Okamoto, and at least a dozen more. There are quite a few fully voice acted cutscenes that brings these characters alive and draws you deep into the story.
Speaking of the characters, what’s interesting is that Detective Pikachu strays far from the typical relationships seen in Pokémon stories. Tim is not a Pokémon trainer, in fact nobody in the game is, so there’s no training or battles to speak of. Occasionally you may be asked to tap the “A” button to complete a quick-time move, but that’s about it. While it may not be what we’re used to, this buddy-buddy friendship with Tim and Pikachu is extremely refreshing. I really hope this is not the last time we see these two solving crimes together.
I had a blast playing Detective Pikachu and highly recommend it to all Pokémon fans. The story is interesting, fun, often hilarious, and unlike any Pokémon game before it. It helps that Detective Pikachu is extremely likable, and his jokes constantly had me laughing. Overall, the presentation is wonderful, and a particularly enjoyed how well all the Pokémon were animated.
With a Detective Pikachu movie currently in production for next year, I sincerely hope we’ll be seeing more games down the road. This is a character I got invested in early on, and I would love to embark on new adventures in future games.
+ Wonderful presentation
+ Detective Pikachu is extremely likable
+ A charming story
+ Lets you learn more about various Pokémon
+ Highly accessible game
– Low challenge
– Drags a bit in the middle
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5