Pokémon isn’t something we cover much on this blog. But we recently remembered this weirdly innovative Nintendo 64 game where you get to chat to Pikachu. Cool? Cool.
Now, Nintendo didn’t develop this spin-off. Japanese developer Ambrella did, so thanks for that!
Pikachu is the most popular Pokémon character. Nauseatingly cute and highly identifiable, the creature is custom made for Japan’s relentless kawaii culture (anything cute does well).
The series typically frequents Nintendo’s various handheld console. So Hey You, Pikachu!’s arrival on its home console of the day was something unusual.
In December 1998 Pikachu is Fine-achu (ピカチュウげんきでちゅう ) launched in Japan, before making its way to America in November of 2000. The N64 didn’t survive much longer after that, so a European release didn’t take place. Bastards.
Anyway, kind of like Tamagotchi this is a digital pet type life simulation. The big deal at the time was you could speak to Pikachu.
You got a microphone peripheral (Voice Recognition Unit—VRU) bundled with the game, which you inserted (lol) into the back of the N64 controller. You then engage the yellow one in mindless conversation.
He knows circa 200 words. Which is a bit rubbish sounding these days, but back then was impressive stuff.
The aim of the game is to win the character’s trust. When you do that, Pikachu will come and live with you.
Across different days, you complete objectives such as collecting food, fishing, and other guff.
As you progress, you earn Pika Points, which you use to buy stuff from the local shop.
There’s kind of a sad ending, too, as you have to say goodbye to Pikachu at the end of it as, for whatever reason, the thing can’t live with you no more.
But in a God-like twist ending, during the closing credits the character returns and you get to live happily ever after forever into perpetuity.
Of course, with the VRU one of the things most people will want to do is immediately curse and berate Pikachu. The temptation to do so is simply overwhelming.
You’ll likely want to bellow at the cute little git, “You total bastard, sod you and your yellowness, die, die, DIE!!!”
Apparently, Pikachu will look a bit angry at you if you do that. Talk to the hand, you electric freak.
But we indicate “apparently” as we’ve never played the game, nor will we ever. But we remember Max Everingham reviewed it for N64 Magazine. And he covered the whole swearing thing.
As for the critical analysis of Hey You, Pikachu? Well, reviews do appear favourable. But obviously the technology will likely have aged rather poorly by this point.
Erm… yeah. Fun, eh? This was all pretty rad at the time but it’s all been utterly eclipsed since by the digitial revolution.