The Pikachu Family Tree Runs Deep in Smash Bros.
Everything you will assuredly not need to know about Pikachu and Pichu’s bloodline
Smash Bros. has the power to bring together families, but what do you know about the families that are actually in the game? A popular fan-theory indicates that we have seen a beautiful family blossom right under our noses and now, with the announcement of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it’s growing even bigger.
The backbone of the theory is that Pikachu and Pichu from Ultimate are not the same Pikachu and Pichu from earlier in the series. Here’s how it goes:
In the original Nintendo 64 game, there were only 12 playable characters. One of which was a Pikachu. We’ll call him “Pika-Prime.” One of Pika-Prime’s defining traits that isn’t shared by other Pikachu is his party hat. In the original Smash Bros., Pikachu only had three alternate costumes and all of them were differently colored party hats he could wear. The one that became the most iconic is his blue alternate costume, which resembled a wizard hat.
Thanks to the increased power of the Nintendo Gamecube, alternate costumes became a lot more diverse and sophisticated in Melee. Pika-Prime returns to the fray, bringing back his trusty wizard hat, but also a relatively plain baseball cap and a fedora. You might look at these hats and think that the owner is trying to appear less young and childish. Keep that in mind.
Meanwhile, a Pichu also joined the fight in Melee with his own set of costumes. We’ll call him “Pika-Melee”. The wearable to focus on here are his swimming goggles. Also the blue option, the goggles will become the signature costume for Pika-Melee like the wizard hat is for Pika-Prime.
Here’s where it gets interesting. For the series’ Wii entry, Brawl, Pikachu returns but Pichu is cut… or is he? Let’s look at Pikachu’s costumes.
Pikachu’s iconic wizard hat has been replaced with… swimming goggles. It is for this reason, combined with Pichu’s absence, that fans began speculating that this is not Pika-Prime. This was an evolved Pika-Melee, now acting as the standard “Pikachu” in Smash. As for why, perhaps Pika-Prime is Pika-Melee’s father and he simply retired, yielding the spot for his son. Being in a fight club like Smash ages you quickly. After watching his son evolve, he realized that he could walk away from the role and leave it in good hands.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was not as eventful for the Pika family. Just like Brawl, we only see one Pikachu appear in this game. It appears that his father passed down the wizard hat so that Pika-Melee could wear it while he was retired. It is a bit sad that while we used to have something of a family dynamic among Pikachu, Wii U has consolidated its family history into one character. Thankfully, Ultimate completely changes this.
Pichu is back. The out-of-game reason Pichu is back is that every character who’s ever been in Smash Bros. is back. The in-universe reason, however, might be a bit more subtle.
Up until now, I’ve referred to both Pika-Prime and Pike-Melee using he/him pronouns. There is a reason for this. During the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct, it was revealed that Pikachu will have alternates costumes that are both male and female (as indicated by the shape of their tails). This seems to indicate that Pika-Prime and Pika-Melee are both male because of their flat-ended tails. It also indicates that there are at least two different Pikachu in Ultimate among the eight available costumes.
So, now we have Pika-Melee, the evolved form of the Pichu first introduced in Melee, and a new female Pikachu in the same game. Because of one of her costumes, we’ll call the female Pikachu “Pikachu Libre.” In the same game that brings a male and female Pikachu together, Pichu, the baby form of Pikachu, also comes back. Coincidence? Very Possibly! But that’s not nearly as fun.
Following this (admittedly stretched) logic, the Pichu in Ultimate, who we’ll call “Pika the Third,” is the grandchild of Pika-Prime and the child of Pika-Melee and Pikachu Libre. We have a whole family here! There’s just one last question: Where is Pika-Prime?
When people begin their retirement, especially from a difficult job like fighting in Smash Bros., they often decide to go on vacation. I believe that Pika-Prime did exactly that and there is no more relaxing place in the Pokémon world to visit than Alola. Pikachu evolve into Raichu and, if they do so in Alola, they evolve into a special Alolan form of Raichu. Players of the E3 demo have reported seeing Alolan Raichu show up as a Pokéball Pokémon. Is this Pika-Prime, checking in on his son’s new family and donating his talents part-time to the organization in which he used to participate?
This is the beauty of video games. I’m sure almost none of this was intentional and, honestly, I never want to find out. When players live inside a world constructed of only systems, they will eventually flesh out their surroundings with things they find poignant and meaningful. Fifty percent of world-building happens in the mind of the player, and some players elected to turn Super Smash Bros. Ultimate into a big Pikachu family reunion. I hope all four family members have a good time catching up when the game comes out this December.