Detective Pikachu: Birth of a New Duo is a crazy, Pokémon-filled fever dream. I don’t know how to open this piece with anything but that. It rides on decades old clichés set up in detective dramas here in Japan and heavily draws on more eccentric portrayals of Sherlock Holmes (a la The Great Ace Attorney) – yet, somehow, it never loses itself in these themes and fully remembers the world it originates from. It’s a charming adventure that takes full advantage of its natural world roots, and while the story is simple, the mysteries are fun and the characterizations of the Pokémon alone are imaginative enough to pull you through it.
Alright! That said, let’s take a walk through an abridged version of Detective Pikachu’s first case.
Our straight-out-of-the 90’s hero Tim Goodman emerges from a subway station in search of his recently-gone-missing father. His plans to meet with one of his father’s acquaintances at the Baker Office are abruptly stopped by a number of rambunctious Aipom – one of which steals a little girls Necklace. When Tim tries to seize it, the Aipom jumps on his face and he grabs at it – but his hands reach not Aipom, but our titular detective Pikachu. After a brief litany from Pikachu, and discovering you are the only one who can understand him, it’s off to pursue Aipom!
Knowing full well you are giving chase, the Aipom commandeer a hot dog stand and messily prepare an offensive of street meat, one dousing the other’s tail-hand in ketchup. A brief quick-time event ensues as you dodge the fresh franks (the animations change if you fail, otherwise the story doesn’t change) and the Aipom manage to get away, vandalizing the city with ketchup and paint covered tail-hands all the while. Indeed, the pranksters give you the slip – leaving only red and white hand prints in their wake.
You ask around to see which of the two Aipom was holding the necklace – the one with white paint, which ran towards the Bank, or the one with ketchup, who ran toward the park. Humans aren’t the only ones open to testimony – Pikachu can relay information from other Pokémon to you, and it is indeed with a witness account from a Diggersby that you piece together the clues and pursue the ketchup-covered Aipom into Tanti Park – WHEN BAM!
YOU DISCOVER THAT AIPOM’S BEEN MURDERED BY ANOTHER POKEMON!
…no, not really, he’s just been KO’d. You’ve caught the necklace thief red-handed (heh), but the necklace is nowhere to be seen! The only clues you have are a red berry clutched in its hand, and a black feather that somehow made it underneath him. You consult Pidov obsessed man who insists that the feather does not belong to his beloved bird friends, and learn from the groundskeeper that there are three types of birds in the park it could belong to. The man near the fountain is too busy looking for his lost pen to even give you the time of day, so I continued to Tanti Park’s Pond Area.
Noticing three Starly on the bench by the pond, I decided to have a word with them regarding the incident, and kindly request a feather for comparison to the one found at the crime scene. They oblige in giving you a feather, which is not a direct match, and ask them about Murkrow in the area. The Starly mention that they often scour the park for shiny things – just one instance of how the short story ties Pokémon biology in to the story – and you decide it merits investigation.
You try to speak with one of the Parks’ resident Aipom, however, they refuse to come down and speak while a Poochyena is roaming around. Speaking to the Mightyena, you learn that one of her pups wandered off while she napped – so you run over to Tanti Parks’ Café Area, find the Poochyena behind a bush, and return to speak with Aipom. It tells you that there have been boundary disputes in the park between Murkrow and Aipom, and that the Murkrow’s nest is in an adjacent tree.
Time to search the nest!
Pikachu climbs up to the nest only to be chased out by an incoming Murkrow – and an interrogation ensues. The Murkrow claims to know nothing about the knocked out Aipom, but later admits to fighting with it for the necklace after you present the feather it left at the scene. Pikachu demands the necklace, but the Murkrow desperately squawks back, saying “The necklace disappeared during the fight…!” and points you in the direction of a third party – Burmy – who make their homes in the tree directly next to where Aipom and Murkrow were quarreling.
The mystery is nearly unraveled!
Burmy are Pokémon based on Bagworms, which build cocoons from items found in their environments. Caddisflies, another aquatic insect, do the same thing – variations include stone, twigs, sand, dirt, pine needles – it all depends on where they are. Burmy, on the other hand, have three forms – plant cloak, sandy cloak, and trash cloak. The two Burmy in the main park area mention they were not there at the time of the incident, but that another Burmy may have been. Your investigation leads you to the Café.
A nearby Tailow mentions that while it hasn’t heard anything about a missing Burmy from the fountain area, it did see a pink (trash cloak) Burmy come running from that direction not long ago. What’s more, the garbage in the trashcans out front all seem to have disappeared. You return to the Burmy at the fountain to inquire when – in the middle of conversation – a soccer ball hits the two Burmy, ruining their cocoons and…revealing a lost pen?
Could it be? Is this the pen belonging to the busy grumpus meandering about the fountain earlier? You bet it is! The Burmy quickly rebuild their cocoons from leaves scattered below the tree – and then it clicks. After a brief scene putting clues together with Pikachu as to why Burmy changed its cloak, you know what happened. It’s time to confront the family of Wormadam In the café area, and return the necklace to its rightful owner.
Confronting the Wormadam and their newly trash cloak covered Burmy, you lay down the facts. Aipom came running into the park, necklace in hand, when it was suddenly assaulted by Murkrow. The fight caused a nearby Burmy to lose its cocoon, which it quickly rebuilt using litter scattered about the park – including the necklace. A quick search of its cocoon reveals the necklace, which you and Pikachu deliver to the little girl, bringing the first case to a close.
Detective Pikachu adds a new dimension to investigation games that I haven’t seen before – a biological one. The game has me yearning for more complicated cases – imagine the possibilities of Ghost Pokémon in “perfect crime” scenarios! I imagine that theme will be explored later.
The chapter ends with a cliffhanger though, as Pikachu reveals that he is actually your father’s partner. You head off to the Baker Office and decide to investigate his disappearance together. That’s a story for another time.