Detective Pikachu Coffee
Image: Nintendo

What’s going on with the English version of Detective Pikachu Returns?

A real mystery, except not quite.

When playing through the newly released Detective Pikachu Returns in English, you might notice a few things that seem just a little bit off. For instance, a lot of the voice-acted dialogue comes off as stilted and awkward, not helped by the relatively rudimentary visuals and cutscene direction. But for some, the most distracting aspect of the English version may very well be the lip-synching, which doesn’t appear to match what the characters say at all. So how did it turn out this way?

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What’s wrong with the lip-synching?

You may have already known or assumed this, but the lip-synching looks the way it does because the developers intended for the mouth movements to match the Japanese audio. Naturally, being a Japanese-developed game, Detective Pikachu Returns likely had the Japanese dub recorded and implemented before the English one. When experiencing the game in Japanese, the mouth movements and the audio fit together perfectly, as demonstrated by Twitter (or X) user @tribdinosaur. But as it turns out, the developers did not change the mouth movements for the English version, making dialogue scenes look considerably less natural.

As much as this mismatched lip-synching may bother some people, this is actually quite common in Japanese games. Animating mouth movements to fit just one language already takes a ton of time and effort, let alone two. And that doesn’t even take into consideration other languages the game might support. So it’s no wonder that many games opt to keep the same mouth movements no matter what language you set the audio to in the options menu.

Having said that, more Japanese games in recent times have gone through the effort of reanimating mouth movements to fit different dubs, including the recent Like a Dragon installments. Because of this, many may feel that the English dub in Detective Pikachu Returns still should have received the same treatment, if only to make dialogue scenes appear a bit more polished.

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Daniel Pinheiro
Daniel is a Contributing Writer who has been with PC Invasion since June 2021. A recipient of a master's degree in Community Journalism from the University of Alabama, he holds a deep passion for the gaming medium and the impact it can have on our lives. He is open to all kinds of genres, but has a particular affinity for platformers and beat 'em ups (or brawlers, or hack and slash, or character action, or whatever else you prefer to call them). In his spare time, he loves playing franchises like Mario, Kirby, Zelda, Tekken, and Devil May Cry. He also loves to travel and listen to multiple hours-long video essays back-to-back.