It is very rare that the Pokémon Company and Game Freak take chances with their beloved, almost sacred, series. Being a core game series that is held at such high standards with thousands of dollars behind it, it’s almost become expected that with each new Pokémon game, players will essentially encounter a slightly altered version of the previous game. However, both fans and critics have loved the strange Detective Pikachu game that recently released, and multiple accounts agree that it’s simply because Creatures Inc. took a brave, much needed spin on the decades-old series.
Specifically, Detective Pikachu’s setting is what makes the game so rich and enjoyable from the moment players open the game. Without a doubt, Ryme City, the main location of the game, is the most realistic and most desired Pokémon destination. Though it may not feature the sandy beaches and grassy open areas that players have come to know while traversing Alola, Ryme City more closely resembles a mixture of the metropolitan feel of Calestia City in the Unova Region and the chic, compact feel of Aquacord Town in Kalos. Ryme City utilizes its less-than-formidable size to strengthen the surprisingly impactful story that the game offers.
As one may guess, Detective Pikachu centers around a talking, walking Pikachu that sports the traditional “detective hat.” After its trainer goes missing in a mysterious accident that somehow gave Pikachu the ability to speak, it sets out on a journey with Tim Goodman, Pikachu’s partner’s son, to find the cause of its trainer’s disappearance. The pair solves Pokémon related cases while on the trail for Tim’s missing father.
With its dark themes of abandonment and depression the story is surprisingly compelling. Though, there are varying complaints about the game’s lack of twists and overly-simplified cases. The game relies on the interactions between humans and their partner Pokémon, which is where Ryme City and the aspects of the game begin to shine.
Unlike any other town we’ve seen in the Pokémon games, Ryme City and its residents resemble the loving, affectionate characters from the anime. Rather than Pokémon simply lounging next to their trainers on beach towels or pacing in front of a construction site, Pokémon are shown to have actual roles and personalities though well-voice acted cut scenes and Pkachu’s ability to speak with Pokémon.
Whereas the mainline games have lost sight of, and arguably never fully grasped, the concept of actually caring for Pokémon, Detective Pikachu gives players their first look of how Pokémon are fully incorporated into daily life as pets or assistants rather than a means of battling one another.
“There are no Pokémon battles or gyms; Pokémon exist as partners, even coworkers, not as members of a party trained up for competition,” Allegra Frank, a reporter at Polygon, said. “Pokémon are friends here, a core part of the franchise that feels oft-ignored part of the Pokémon universe. Detective Pikachu’s setting is the one that belongs to non-playable characters who carry on simple lives while dutiful trainers soldier on to become the very best.
“It’s cool to experience a story-based Pokémon game where the story is actually entertaining and interesting. I’m not dissing the classic ‘Be the very best!’ storyline, but it’s more of a bare-minimum purpose for collecting and fighting Pokémon.”
The NPCs are vibrant and brimming with thing to say about their lives and Pokémon, but another realm of enjoyment is breached once players reach the Pokémon Comprehensive Laboratory. Scientist and researchers at the PCL are tasked with learning more about Pokémon in order to develop revolutionary ways of using Pokémon abilities to better society. Here, players are presented with the different possibilities that Pokémon may provide, including using Garbodor to turn trash into purified air or creating medicines with the liquid that Solosis secretes.
Beyond the PCL, players encounter multiple Pokémon that assist with garden work, serve at cafes or even assist on investigative cases. Creatures Inc. truly managed to create something special with Ryme City, and hopefully Game Freak will encapsulate the aspects of this town in its later titles; the Pokémon Switch game may be the perfect place to show off this new approach.
This game will surely be held as one of the best Pokémon spin-off games, much like its much-loved cousin Pokémon Snap. Detective Pikachu will forever be a gem of the Pokémon franchise, and it feels like a crime that Americans are just now able to experience it.