2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pokemon franchise, and the legacy is being celebrated in a big way. In addition to re-releases of the original three Red, Blue, and Yellow Game Boy titles, a slew of unique and unusual spinoff games are also planned. The hotly anticipated Pokemon Go will reimagine the franchise is the form of a geocaching-style mobile game, and the bizarre Tekken crossover Pokken Tournament takes Pokemon battles out of turn-based action and into an arcade-style 3D fighter.
But the latest new Pokemon venture, revealed in a Japanese teaser trailer, might be the strangest new twist of all: A crime-solving talking Pikachu with a Sherlock Holmes hat and an absurdly deep voice.
Of course, Pikachus, like most Pokemon, tend to talk already -- just usually not in a gutterall barritone and certainly not in full sentences. Titled Great Detective Pikachu: The Birth of A New Duo, the mystery-solving game features this unusual specimen of the series' most iconic Pocket Monster species donning Sherlock Holmes' signature deerstalker cap and knocking back copious amounts of black coffee in a hazy, noir-ish landscape that appears to be inspired more by Western/European cityscapes than regions traditionally the focus of Pokemon adventures.
Though details are scarce about the actual game beyond the title and premise (it had been rumored for several months, but unconfirmed until now) it's believed that Detective Pikachu is, in keeping with the traditional Pokemon arrangement, the partner of a human child who serves as the player character. The pair unite to solve mysteries, presumably with the aid of whatever skills beyond speaking human language in the affect of a traditional Japanese crime-thriller protagonist this particular Pikachu possesses to have earned him the title of "Detective."
The Japanese text in the teaser refers to the character as "Bossy, talkative, lovable" and "a Pikachu like you've never seen before." It's not immediately clear whether the game takes place in the broad continuity of the main franchise, or if the crimes and mysteries being investigated strictly involve Pokemon or Pokemon-related activity. However, several species are visible in the brief snaps of gameplay footage, including a second Pikachu who speaks in the more familiar fashion.
While Pokemon has settled into consistent pop-culture ubiquity worldwide (it's even getting a superbowl ad for the anniversary), Pikachu's stature as franchise mascot remains even bigger -- particularly in Japan, where The Pokemon Company routinely summons dozens of costumed Pikachu performers to publicity events and the yellow electric mouse's image adorns everything from restaraunts to high-fashion. He also remains the central (non-human) character of the Pokemon tie-in anime series, which continues to air new episodes and will celebrate its own 20th anniversary next year. On the gaming front, a second alternate-look Pikachu, dressed in the spandex garb of a Mexican professional wrestler, will appear in Pokken Tournament as "Pikachu Libre."
While spinoffs are fun and frequently embrced by fans, many continue to wonder when Nintendo and The Pokemon Company will make a significant generational upgrade to the main series. While many console sub-series, like Pokemon Snap, have been beloved, there has yet to be a full console version of a traditional Pokemon game- - to say nothing of the MMO-style game many fans have fantasized about for over a decade to no avail.
Great Detective Pikachu: Birth Of A New Duo will be released as a downloadable title to the Nintendo of Japan eShop on February 3. At this time, no date has been set for an English language localization.
Source: Pokemon Company Japan