I realised the other day that Pokémon GO was not actually the first time that Nintendo or the Pokémon company had tried to peel kids off the sofa and get them to go and walk about outside.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the fickle little asshole that is ‘Pokémon Pikachu’.
Tamagotchi toys were all the rage about 1997. They were banned at my school which naturally meant there was a lot of interest in them, and distinctly I remember teachers losing their temper over alarms going off, alerting kids that they needed to clean up a digital dog shit.
For anyone who was born after the Tamagotchi craze, Tamagotchi toys were created in Japan and were basically little pets on an LCD screen that required you to feed, clean and play with them on a regular basis. Failure to meet all of those requirements would often result in the little pixelated either dying or leaving you. They were hugely popular and I remember them being a conversation starter if you had to speak to another kid that you weren’t overly familiar with.
Anyway, a year or so after the Tamagotchi craze had died down somewhat, the Pokémon craze was at its height. I remember just after Christmas ’98 going around the January sales shopping with my Auntie and picking up a bunch of Pokémon toys, this Pokémon Pikachu being one of them.
Unlike most Tamagotchi toys, Pikachu isn’t really that needy. He doesn’t die if you forget to take to take him with you anywhere, and he doesn’t excrete, eat or need much at all. In fact after re-acquiring this toy, I was disappointed as to how little he really does, considering I spent about £35 when I bought this as a kid.
What he does need is ‘watts’. Unlike most electronic pets, Pikachu has a built in pedometer which roughly converts every eighteen steps you take into one watt, which you can give to Pikachu as a gift. If you walk a lot and can gift Pikachu a whole load of watts, he will like you. If you can’t, then he will just be ‘O.K’ with you and then he will start to dislike you. You can’t help but feel that you are only buying his friendship.
As an adult I have noticed a few problems with this toy. If I put Pikachu in my pocket, and walk about, there isn’t a guarantee that my steps will shake the Tamagotchi enough for the pedometer to pick up my footstep, so I find myself having to walk around with a stupidly exaggerated movement, or if I’m standing still it looks like I am consistently tapping my foot to a tune or melody that no-one else can hear.
Also, it’s far easier to just hold Pokémon Pikachu in your hand and just shake it for a few minutes, which does make it look like you are tossing off the invisible man, but it is a far quicker way of getting watts.
The other way of getting watts quickly is by playing the slots game on the toy.
If you manage to line up three 7’s, then you instantly win 500 watts which is great, but it isn’t an easy feat. If you line up three of the other pictures, then you win a lesser amount, but I fail so often I usually just try and get the three 7’s.
In all, it is a very simplistic little toy, but the thing that makes it fun are the Pikachu’s adorable animations. So often you will pick up the toy and find Pikachu doing something you have never seen him do before. Here he is eating:
Here is he doing something weird with his ears that he only started doing after he began to like me:
Watching TV before bed:
One annoyance I find with this toy though is the fact that Pikachu goes to sleep at 8pm and doesn’t wake up until 8am and you can’t give him any watts when he is asleep. I guess the point of this is so that kids aren’t awake all night playing with him, but seeing as I don’t often get home from work until 9.20pm it means I can’t give him any of the watts that I have accumulated until the next day. Damn you Nintendo for not having us adult, evening shift workers in mind when you made this LCD toy.
Though there isn’t really that much to really do with this toy, it is quite fun and if you like seeing lots of different pixelated animations of Pikachu doing different things, then you will probably have fun playing with. I really enjoyed it as a kid, though really wished they had done something that wasn’t Pikachu. This would have worked just as well with a Charmander or Squirtle. It also would have been cool to perhaps see evolution happen as you took care of them.
There was another version of this which came out which I think was in colour, but I have no recollection of ever seeing it in stores anywhere, so I don’t know if it was very popular. It seems to go for a helluva lot on ebay though, so I doubt I will be looking at one on here anytime soon!