Hey You, Pikachu! (N64) Review

(This review is dedicated to Mario Chuman)

The Short

Pros

– Can talk to Pikachu and make him do things

– Actually has a lot of stuff to do

– Looks ok for an N64 game

– Is probably good if you are a kid. And live in 2000.

Cons

– Pikachu is either an idiot or hates me because he never does anything I say

– Required microphone only works for this game and another game released in Japan. Useful!

– Lots of games, but most aren’t particularly fun

– The definition of “crappy cash-grab spinoff”

This is going to be awesome.

The Long

So Nintendo has this thing for releasing crap to go along with their consoles. I think this probably stems from back in the NES days, where they marketed it more as a “toy” than a “video game console” due to the stigma following the great video game market crash. In an attempt to make the NES appear more like a “toy,” they unloaded a massive amount of garbage for it (or allowed third party people to do it) such as the R.O.B. robot, the Power Glove, etc. Most of these crappy add-ons were expensive, annoying, and only worked with one or two games before they were swiftly abandoned.

Nintendo has continued this practice to this day, though it took a slight break during the SNES period (Super Scope, anyone?). The N64 was graced with a memory card, a rumble pak, an actual RAM expansion (that became required to play some games), a CD-Drive (that never made it out of Japan), and this microphone. In fact, now that I think about it, they had a microphone on the Gamecube too, for that one game…Odama. I think that’s the only game that used it there, too.

Oh, and Wii Speak, for the Wii! That worked in…uh…Animal Crossing? Was that it? I guess you could voice chat in like The Conduit, but who would want to; it was a thing that sat on your TV (like my Kinect, only somehow dumber). The DS and 3DS also have microphones, but they only use them on early DS games to blow on things (usually for minigames or in Zelda: Phantom Hourglass) and…that’s it.

In a world where Siri is actually pretty brilliant, and Microsoft is making their Kinect toy more and more powerful, it’s weird to look back and see that Nintendo had a piece of that pie, but instead of eating it or selling it they sort of left it in the fridge to get moldy. But this isn’t a post about Nintendo’s pie aversion, it’s a post about Hey You, Pikachu! a game that aspires nothing more than to be mediocre, and succeeds heartily.

Yeup, there he is.

Hey You, Pikachu! is essentially a collection of minigames on the Nintendo 64 which are all Pokemon themed. There are about seven actual activities in all, ranging from keeping a bunch of Caterpie’s awake so they can evolve, searching for treasures, and so on. The gimmick here is that you don’t directly control Pikachu (your proxy into this mad world) but have to issue him voice commands instead. And this works exactly as well as you’d think based on year 2000 voice recognition technology.

Yeah, you suck.

I would yell, whisper, articulate, and try everything in my power to get Pikachu to understand what I was telling him, but it only worked maybe 25% of the time. The rest of the time he either completely misinterpreted or just ignored me. Which, if this were real Pokemon, would be about the time I forced him back into his Pokeball and replaced him with another one who can understand me.

The biggest problem might be the microphone itself. That warning on the box that says “For Ages 12 and under” isn’t a coincidence; the microphone is made to better detect higher-pitched voices rather than all of us who’ve passed puberty. So even if you have a high voice for an adult male (which my tenor-singing self will begrudgingly admit) odds are your words just aren’t making it through the mic, much less into Pikachu’s tiny brain. Why would you limit your technology like this? Was it too hard for actual voice recognition?

The game looks decent for an N64 game. Too bad it isn’t fun at all.

This might be ok if the minigames themselves were fun, but most are just boring endeavors that focus heavily on yelling at Pikachu to do things for you. I won’t elaborate further than that, though I will give it a bit of the benefit of the doubt by saying they’d probably be ok for kids, though kids these days are much more video-game adept than I was as a kid and can recognize a bad game on sight (usually. Angry Birds still sells for some reason.) so maybe it won’t even be good for kids either.

Why is Pikachu on my bed? Giving me a “come hither” look?

Graphically it actually looks pretty good. It’s polygonal and blurry but that’s all N64 games, so we can’t fault it for that. The music is just a bunch of poppy, boring songs made to be background noise, and you probably won’t hear them over your repeated yelling at the screen trying to get Pikachu do to one simple task, which he will then ignore you and just play around by himself. Hey, it’s like having a real pet!

I imagined the Zelda “Got Item” sound when I saw this picture.

I’m more than willing to forgive a spin-off game if it still is a decent game (see Pokemon Pinball).  I’m even willing to forgive a movie game if it is still a decent game (see Saw). But this game, either by the limit of its tech or being just plain rushed, falls flat in nearly every aspect. When it does work it’s actually pretty fun, as fun as ordering an electric rodent around in minigames is. But the fact that it only works half the time (if that) kills it, especially since the people playing it in this day and age will probably be in their twenties and have too low of voices for the microphone to even work.

So, you get one out of five stars, Hey You, Pikachu! You might have been more forgivable back in 2000, but since I remember seeing you as a kid in the height of my Pokemon obsession and still thinking you looked idiotic, I’m guessing no.

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

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1 Comment

  1. One vital element missing from you brief history of voice-control video games: the epic that is Seaman, in which a fish with a head mocks everything you say.

    In other words, an update of this Pikachu game

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