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Credit: The Pokémon Company International

Detective Pikachu: From game to movie

Contributed by
Jun 6, 2019

So you've fallen head over heels with Pokémon Detective Pikachu. It's totally understandable. The little yellow mouse is winning hearts left and right so quickly you'd think we'd flashed back to the '90s and the Pokémon craze had just begun once more. People are discovering how much they love Pikachu again in a big way, and as such, the first live-action Pokémon movie is winning big at the box office. 

But did you know that long before Detective Pikachu hit the big screen, it was already a major hit on the Nintendo 3DS? If you're not a gamer or someone who follows big gaming developments, you'd be forgiven for not having been privy to this knowledge. Yes, one of the most popular movies this summer sprang from a Nintendo 3DS title that debuted as a spinoff of the major Pokémon series, putting the iconic electric Pikachu into the role of a detective. 

If you've seen the movie, though, do you still need to mess with the game? Here's something that may not be totally obvious: they're far from being the same. In fact, they're polar opposites in several key ways. Interested in seeing the movie, playing the game, or maybe doing both? Here are a few ways they differ to help you choose the path ahead of you. 

The Detective Pikachu game is very much aimed toward players of all ages, particularly younger Pokémon fans. It features none of the more adult-oriented humor and Deadpool-style jokes from the movie. Instead, it presents a straightforward "mystery" setup like that of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, where the investigations outweigh the humor or comedic nature of the game. Much of it, in fact, isn't really played for laughs. 

Detective Pikachu - Pikachu
The game follows a Pikachu with human speech capabilities who claims he's a great detective, and he's partnered up with Tim Goodman, a young boy who appears to be the only one who can understand what he's saying. He's much younger, in fact, than the movie version, and far less jaded than the iteration played by Justice Smith. But some things remain the same between game and film.

Tim's father has still gone missing, and Pikachu has promised to team up with Tim to get to the bottom of the mystery. Together, they start working on solving a series of other cases, beginning with the retrieval of a stolen necklace from a group of rampant monkey-like Aipom Pokémon.

Players must then investigate areas for clues, talk to people around each "crime scene," and work to figure out what's happened to suddenly make a group of Pokémon act so abnormally. Without ruining the kicker here, Tim and Pikachu meet up with a variety of shifty characters and civilians as well while working to unravel the tangled mystery going on behind the scenes. 

Everything about Detective Pikachu on 3DS is good-natured and wholesome, with a few jokes placed here and there for laughs, but there's no innuendo or sarcasm. If you're looking for something more appropriate for the kids than the movie, which still has some awkward bits of dialogue to have to explain to the younger set, getting the game is the way to go. 

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Detective Pikachu movie is a more adult version of the Nintendo 3DS game in several ways. While it's rated PG, it's still filled with more of a sarcastic, double-entendre-laden script that's far different from the game. It's meant to be a wry, humor-laden look at the world of Pokémon, as well as this talking Pikachu that no one but one person can understand. 

In the movie, Tim Goodman is hardly a kid. He's a 21-year-old insurance salesman and ex-Pokemon trainer with a bit of baggage — after his mom passed away and his dad Harry seemed to leave home for work all the time, he developed a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Believing his father to be dead as he traverses his everyday life in Ryme City, he eventually happens upon the talking Pikachu that only he can understand. 

After the pair are attacked by the same Aipom in the game, they work to figure out what's causing the Pokémon in Ryme City to go berserk, similarly to the mysteries that unfold in the 3DS title, but there are several differences in the story. One, of course, is the fact that they meet up with a reporter who's suspicious of Tim's father's death, and this leads to an entirely different subplot where a myriad of characters parade in and out of the narrative while working to uncover secrets about some sinister happenings in the city. 

While much of the movie shares similar thematic elements to the game, the overall tone is totally different. It's more cynical, sardonic, and oriented toward audiences with a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" at things you'd see in the real world. Pikachu has a caffeine addiction. Mr. Mime tells Pikachu to "shove it" during an interrogation scene while Ryan Reynolds rattles on neurotically. 

Both the movie and the game have their highs and some admitted lows, but they're ultimately two sides of the same coin. Which media you want to consume ultimately comes down to how much you're interested in enjoying a passive experience with more adult humor and material or an interactive adventure clearly meant for kids and adults with a more wholesome tone. With this in mind, the pair actually complement each other quite well. And with a sequel to Detective Pikachu coming to theaters and Nintendo Switch in the near future, it's just a better idea to go ahead and soak up both. 

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