Pocket Power: Detective Pikachu

Handheld gaming is more than a compromise of power and portability. Whether it’s the ability to play anywhere, multitask or hold an entire console in your hands, it’s a special experience consoles have never replicated. In a world where high resolutions and teraflops reign supreme, we take a look at a portable relic every month and reflect on what makes it memorable. Be warned, spoilers may occasionally populate these articles.

Most of my life was spent believing that there’s one movie that chronicles the the exploits of the greatest rodent detective to ever have lived, and that movie was The Great Mouse Detective. After being alive for more years than I am comfortable admitting, the other half of my broken soul found its way back to me and informed that this was incorrect and this cinematic honor should go the 2019 film Detective Pikachu. Remember, he’s not just a detective, but a great detective, a detective that relies on deduction and educated thought. In a process not unlike reneducation, we watched this movie, and then subsequently played the game that was the source material for this cinematic triumph. During the gameplay, it was apparent that the great yellow mouse detective had many liberties taken with his personality in the movie.

In the movie the supercharged super sleuthing mouse detective was voiced by Ryan Reynolds, and while his portrayal was enjoyable and worked with the movie, he was essentially Deadpool without all the F bombs and innuendos, though the mouse did let a couple surprising lines slip through. In the film the great mouse detective has some detective like qualities but seems more like a vessel for Ryan Reynolds to basically just be the mouse with a mouth.

Detective Pikachu, at least the original 3DS incarnation, is an actual gruff detective, the type of gumchu archetype you may see in classic film noir but he does have a soft spot for his human’s son Tim. He’s a bit more hard nosed and grizzled, and probably prefers coffee to whiskey because this game is meant for children, but when this mouse puts on his detective cap he’s no nonsense. He isn’t exactly mean or tough, partly again because they want him to be friendly to all the kids playing this games, but looking past that it’s not hard to imagine the Detective in a cigarette smoke filled bar addressing Misty as Dame. Which is to be expected because as he likes to remind the player, he’s not just a detective, he’s a great detective, and has to play up all the detective tropes. Especially when he uses a bolt of brilliance to solve a case.

Ash’s pikachu is the leading mouse everyone is familiar with so the Detective has some big pikashoes to fill. The Detective acts more like he’s a person (more on that later) than the typical cute animal antics the other pikachu is known for. The Detective as stated enjoys his coffee and does try to hit on the human ladies he encounters, but much to his dismay Tim is the only one who can understand him and none of the women give him a second glance beyond something they’d give to a dog being walked in the park. But for those who enjoy their pokémon when they act like pokémon, players can tap his belly on the bottom screen and be treated to a pikaprompt where the Detective either offers a clue for the case at hand or some other random act of cuteness. There’s also some comedic cutscenes, such as shooting the Detective out of a giant cannon.

The detective work begins when Tim is introduced to his father’s pokémon, the titular Detective Pikachu. Soon after this some mischievous aipom go on a rampage and end up scampering off with an innocent bystander’s necklace. The Detective guides Tim in how to investigate the scene, which after examining the clues and consulting with the great mouse detective the mystery solving duo are able to deduce which aipom ran off with the necklace and where they disappeared to. This case seems elementary for someone who claims to be as intelligent and noteworthy as this pikachu, but cases become more high stakes as the game progresses, such as escaping from a cave and eventually escalating to the point of unraveling a conspiracy involving Mewtwo explaining why pokémon are going berserk. There isn’t a whole lot of battling other pokémon in this title but there are a few quick time events to keep the pocket monsters’ battle skills sharp. Unlike other Pokémon games, there’s no emphasis on having to catch other pokémon for battle. This is a game about solving mysteries by investigating the environment, talking to people and pieces the clues together.

Detective Pikachu is a departure from the typical Pokémon game but does still have its own charm. The Detective has a different personality than the average lightning mouse but does have his moments that cater to those who enjoy cute pikachu behavior. Instead having endless energy like a typical pokémon, the Detective acts like a middle-aged man who has aches and pains from exerting himself. The Detective shares a few personality traits with Tim’s missing father, some of the more notable ones being an affinity for coffee and acting like he’s a person. He does walk on his hind legs instead of scampering about on all fours like a regular pikachu. This can lead to speculation that in some weird way the Detective may be the mind of Tim’s father in the body of the pikachu, but that’s just silliness and wouldn’t be plausible in any context. Detective Pikachu isn’t a traditional Pokémon game and doesn’t have the most challenging mysteries to solve, but can be an entertaining variation for Pokémon fans.

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