As you likely know, Pikachu only has one evolution in the Pokemon series. Oh sure, it has a pre-evolution in the form of Pichu and an Alolan variant for its evolution, but the evolutionary line stops at Raichu, regardless of what some clueless scientist on Cinnabar Island might say in the original games.
However, did you know it didn’t used to be that way?
Yeah, you heard us right. At one point in Pokémon’s development, Pikachu was actually the first stage of a three-part evolutionary line, with Raichu having an evolution of its own.
This is confirmed by a recent interview in Yomiuri where Pokemon series artist Atsuko Nishida mentions a scrapped second evolution for the iconic electric mouse. This second evolution would have it become an unknown Pokemon called Gorochu, described as a fiercer looking creature with fangs and a pair of horns. Here’s the quote about it straight from the original article:
In the game Pikachu only evolves to Raichu, but I hear that at first there was three stages. Why did it end up being only two stages? (Or one evolution)
Nishida: Yes. It was “Pika(chu),” “Rai(chu),” and “Goro(chu).” The Pokémon known as Gorochu bared fangs and even had a pair of horns.
It’s certainly an interesting thing to think about, isn’t it?
After all, the horns and fangs suggest a more menacing final form than Raichu turned out to be, with elements of a demonic motif potentially being present there.
Above: Though maybe it could have looked more like this hoax from back in 2013…
And that’s not all. Oh no, remember that as a rule, elemental stone evolutions tend not to evolve again afterwards in the main Pokemon series. There may be the odd exception in future, but in general, the elemental stone tends to activate a Pokémon’s last evolutionary form.
However, Raichu was only the second form in this shortened line. This raises the question of whether it was originally going to evolve some other way, or whether the rule of elemental stone evolutions not evolving afterwards wasn’t decided then.
Which in turn leads to questions about the anime or Pokemon Yellow could have worked as well. Okay, they weren’t really things anyone was thinking about at this point, but… picture it for a second. If Pikachu didn’t require a Thunder Stone, that would completely change the mechanics for both of these adaptations, and likely mean they’d go in totally different directions from what we actually got.
So, in that sense, cutting Gorochu may have been instrumental to the direction of almost every part of the Pokemon franchise. For want of a nail indeed!
However, as interesting as that thought experiment aspect may be, it’s not the only intriguing thing brought to light in the interview.
Oh no, quite a few other details about Pikachu’s design and character development were mentioned there too. For instance, Pikachu wasn’t actually a mouse in the game’s early development either.
Nope, back then it was actually meant to be a squirrel. In fact, the red cheeks Pikachu is partially known for are a holdover from this, with the idea of it having cheek pouches for electricity coming from how squirrels store food in their cheeks:
Nishida: Since it was an electric-type, I thought it would be nice to have it store electricity in its cheek pouches. At the time I was really into squirrels, and since squirrels store food in their cheeks I thought about giving it cheek pouches. Also, squirrel tails are cute so I gave it a tail as well. However, I did want to give it some kind of “lightning” part to it, so I gave it the lightning-shaped tail.
And that’s still not all. Nope, before it was even meant to be a squirrel, Pikachu was actually envisioned as a daifuku. As in, it was originally based on a certain type of Japanese cake with ears, with the name ‘Pikachu’ being part of why it was eventually turned into a mouse.
Add to this how its original concept was created as a way to add ‘cute’ Pokemon to a series that didn’t yet feature them or how its rarity in game was driven in part by its creators wanting to keep it to themselves, and it becomes clear that every element of the electric mouse’s creation stemmed from pure serendipity. Kind of like many other Nintendo characters and their origins when you think about it…
So yeah, go and read the full translation from Silicon Era if you want to know more. There’s quite a lot of interesting stuff there, and you’ll get quite the glimpse of Pokémon’s development process while you’re at it.
As for now? Well, give us your thoughts on the scrapped Pikachu evolution or its design in the comments below! Would you have wanted to see Raichu evolve into a more powerful Pokemon, or Pikachu with a squirrel inspired design?