There is no Pokemon without Pikachu. The little electric mouse is synonymous with catching 'em all, and Pikachu is the one Pokemon that all grandmothers around the world can name without fail. Pikachu and Ash's bond is the lynchpin of the Pokemon series, which was central in blasting Pokemon to the very stop of our cultural pyramid. Pikachu's great. I'm not here to see Pikachu is trash. But I am here to say I'm done with Pikachu, and we should all move on.
I try to fight the urge in Pokemon to be a hipster and claim that popular Pokemon are bad because I know best. Gengar, Gyarados, and Gardevoir are all in my top six Pokemon dream team, and if I avoided popular picks, the G Squad would miss out for nonsense like Noivern. I'm not ragging on Pikachu because it’s popular, but that's because I would question how popular Pikachu even is. Think of your favourite Pokemon right now. Hell, think of your top ten. Is Pikachu in there? Didn't think so. Pikachu's fine. Good, even. Top half of the Dex for sure. But somewhere along the way it moved from being a mascot to being an icon, and as Pokemon games get more selective, Pikachu's prominence is starting to wear thin.
As a mascot, Pikachu is excellent. There is a rumour that Clefable was originally envisioned as the mascot, and that sort of makes sense. Clefable bears a strong resemblance to Kirby, and it might have been that the developers were banking on Clefable hitting the same notes and becoming a success. In the end, Pikachu turned out to be a stroke of genius. Pikachu is cute, but not to the point where it is unbelievable when it acts tough or performs feats of strength. It’s an incredibly expressive creature, endlessly marketable, and malleable for whatever situation it is put in. I loved Pokemon Yellow, and it’s clear Pikachu is a massive part of the anime's success. But why is it in New Pokemon Snap?
As more and more Pokemon get added to the Dex, games have to make choices. In Pokken, Smash, Mystery Dungeon, New Pokemon Snap, Unite, and Legends: Arceus, the choice was made to include Pikachu. In Smash, Pichu comes along too, while both Pichu and Raichu make the cut in Snap. We don't have anything close to a full roster in Scarlet & Violet yet, but we know from the trailers that Pikachu is there. My god, I ask you why?
'Pikachu sells games', is probably your response, but does it? Do you know anyone who loves Pokemon yet considers no Pikachu a dealbreaker? I get that Pikachu is the most recognisable 'mons around, but if you care enough about Pokemon to search for who's in a game before you buy it, chances are you know a lot more than just Pikachu. It feels weird to go to bat against Pikachu, and I understand that, but when was the last time any of you ran a Pikachu or a Raichu in your team? It's famous, but it's fodder.
As competition for places gets tighter and as the most unique Pokemon lose out, it’s starting to get irritating that Pikachu gets a pass. In Smash? Fine. Pikachu is the best representation of the franchise, and deserves its place – even if Pichu being there feels very silly. But there are very few Pokemon who make the cut in all the rest. Tsareena, up there with the G Squad in my heart, missed out in all but Unite, where it was added as post-launch DLC. And, just like every other Pokemon in Unite, Tsareena starts in the base form then evolves up. Every Pokemon that is besides Pikachu, who gets special treatment so Raichu can get in the bin.
Pikachu just takes up one slot (three, in games with evolution, but the point stands), so it might not seem like a major issue. But it feels like the only Pokemon above reproach, and as more games need to make more tough choices, a mascot that hardly any player bothers to use feels like a waste of a slot. Basically, instead of Pikachu, put Tsareena in every Pokemon game from now on. Agreed?
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