Why the Western Debut of ‘Detective Pikachu’ Is Such a Big Deal

Alexa Ray Corriea
Games Pokémon
Games Pokémon

This morning, Nintendo announced a new Pokémon game for the 3DS: Detective Pikachu. The game stars a young boy and a Pikachu wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat that can use human speech. The two are apparently embroiled in a town conspiracy, and embark on a journey to solve the connecting mysteries together. It’s the first game we’ve gotten featuring a talking Pikachu — even though it isn’t the first time we’ve seen Pikachu say something other than “pika pika” (looking at you, recent Pokémon movie).

If this seems weird to you, that’s because it is. But the story behind its long road to localization — and why Pikachu sounds kind of like Frank Reynolds — is even weirder.

A Long Time Coming

Detective Pikachu is not a new game — it’s an old one. It released in Japan in February 2016. There was a stir in Western territories at the time, with Pokémon fans very eager to get their hands on this new, unique adventure. Up until now, most Pokémon games followed the traditional, standing series RPG formula. Some were puzzle games, like the spin-off Pokémon Dungeon series.

But there was nothing quite like Detective Pikachu out there. An adventure game with a Pikachu you could actually converse with? A setting similar to our real world, and something so unlike the fantasy locations we’d seen in Pokémon up until now? Sign us up.

But sadly, it would take at least two years for Nintendo to even talk about localizing Detective Pikachu. And so here, here we are the start of 2018, with the game firmly in our sights for this spring.

A Movie in the Works… with An Actual Reynolds

Because when I think Pikachu, I think Ryan Reynolds.

Not having a Western release date didn’t stop Western filmmakers from jumping on this perceived goldmine. In July 2016, Legendary Pictures announced that it had made a deal with Nintendo to make a live-action Pokémon movie. What this movie would be about was not announced at the time of the deal, leaving fans to speculate. Would it be a retelling of the original Pokémon Red and Blue story? Would it follow the anime? Or be something totally different?

Less than a week later, we got our answer: It was going to be about Detective Pikachu.

Immediately fans had an idea for who they wanted to voice Detective Pikachu (we’ll get to that in a second). But imagine everyone’s shock when Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds was cast as the titular Pokémon. So we now live in a world where Ryan Reynolds is starring in a film about a crime-solving Pikachu. We’ll find out just how good Reynolds is at playing a talking electric rat as filming begins early this year — and even more so when the film hits theaters on May 10, 2019.

The Danny DeVito Thing

Imagine DeVito's voice coming out of this guy.

Here’s where it all gets really weird. When Detective Pikachu was first announced, Western fans petitioned for an English localization. But not just any localization. For some reason, they thought It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Danny DeVito to voice Detective Pikachu. Fans even made an online petition begging Nintendo to make it happen — and it collected over 50,000 signatures.

Fans went wild, dubbing lines spoken by DeVito’s It’s Always Sunny character Frank Reynolds onto the trailer. Here’s just one of the many offerings you get when you search “Danny DeVito Pikachu” on YouTube (Just a warning: it’s very vulgar):

When asked about the game during an interview in 2016, DeVito responded: “What the f*** is Pokémon?”

Weirdly — perhaps, too perfectly — the English language trailer announcing the localization of Detective Pikachu includes a talking Pokémon that sounds a lot like DeVito. It seems that Nintendo got the message and did their best to give its fans what would make them happiest. It’s the least they could do, given how long we had to wait to get the game to begin with.

So why is this all a big deal? The phenomenon of Detective Pikachu getting a localization — with a gritty sounding Pikachu — was lead by two things: the movie deal and fans’ eagerness to have Pikachu sound like Frank Reynolds. We’ll see how this all plays out when we finally get our hands on the game on March 23.

Alexa Ray Corriea
Alexa Ray is Fandom's Senior Editor for Games, with a borderline unhealthy interest in Kingdom Hearts (she literally wrote the book on it) and all JRPGs, with a more healthy affinity for the anime. When she's not gaming, she's obsessing over Star Wars, all things Disney, and Taiwanese glove puppets.
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