Pikachu's original illustrator, Atsuko Nishida, revealed that the Pokémon most associated with Nintendo's massive multimedia franchise initially had an extra evolution after Raichu. Pikachu, who would later go on to become the mascot for the series and achieve iconic status among fans, now only has one evolution, a predecessor, and several homages in the Pokémon world.
Over 22 years ago, however, the original plan was for Pikachu to have a three-stage evolutionary chain. The third evolution would have been much scarier than the previous two iterations of the character. Surprisingly, though, the third evolution's lack of cuteness isn't what caused it to be cut.
In the interview, translated by Siliconera, Nishida said that it was supposed to be Pikachu, then Raichu, and then a creature named Gorochu. The name comes from "goro", a Japanese word that is used to describe a rumbling noise, and "chu", a word that mimics the noise of a mouse's squeak. Despite the cuteness of Pikachu and Raichu, however, Gorochu would have been much scarier. Judging by Nishida's description of the final stage of Pikachu evolutions, it would have been something very different from its prior two:
"The Pokemon known as Gorochu bared fangs and even had a pair of horns."
Nishida was joined in the interview by Pokémon design all-star Ken Sugimori, who elaborated that the Pokémon who would have been known as Gorochu was not cut because it wasn't cute enough. In fact, appearance was never a factor. Instead, Sugimori indicated that Gorochu was eventually axed because of balance issues. That might also be why Raichu has been underwhelming in competitive Pokémon play.
Unfortunately, no artwork of Gorochu exists at present. While there's probably design notes and sketches of the creature somewhere, they have never been released, and it doesn't sound as though Nintendo has any plans to do so in the future. Pokémon fans will just have to imagine what a bigger, scarier, devil-like version of Pikachu would look like on their own.
The story behind Pikachu's initial design is another reminder of just how much work went, and still goes, into the Pokémon franchise as a whole. When a game still has secrets from design emerging more than two decades after its initial release, it's a sign of Pokemon's amazing content depth. Given that Pokémon eventually exploded into one of the most profitable gaming franchises of all-time, that's likely an understatement.
Nevertheless, the history lesson from Nishida and Sugimori is certainly a welcome look into the Pokémon design process. It worked out, too - constantly telling Nishida to make Pikachu cuter certainly hasn't hurt the Pokémon's ability to be instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. Perhaps we'll even see Gorochu revived in a future Pokemon title should fans show enough interest.
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