Trainer’s School: Pikachu Character Guide

The Mouse Pokémon is a versatile, beginner-friendly character

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This is part of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. These character guides are meant as surface-level breakdowns of each of the playable Pokémon in the cast. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord! Access to the character-specific Discords will help you find any information that isn’t listed in this guide, and you can also ask the players there for specific advice.

As the title and above image states, the second Trainer’s School character guide will focus on Pikachu, the iconic mascot of the Pokémon franchise. Any Pokémon title would be remiss without featuring the adorable Mouse Pokémon. Any players or fans vaguely familiar with Super Smash Bros. are aware that Pikachu made his fighting game debut prior to Pokkén- however, this particular Pikachu does not take after his platform fighting counterpart much. The Pikachu in Pokkén, rather than being trained by Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town, seems to have been raised and cared for by Heihachi Mishima of Tekken fame. Shockingly enough, the Mishima family’s Electric Wind God Fist is a vital part of Pikachu’s combo game! Pikachu has a wide variety of moves and playstyles that allow him to thrive in many situations.

Pikachu: Overview

Playstyle: A jack-of-all-trades character. Small and fast.

Values: 570 Hit Points, 600 Shield Health, 100cc Synergy Gauge

Poké Moves: Thunderbolt (Duel 5A, Field n.A.) Nuzzle (Duel 6A, Field f.A.) Electro Ball (Duel 4A, Field b.A), Thunder (Duel j.5A, Field j.n.A.) Volt Tackle (Duel only, 8A.) Iron Tail (Duel only, 2A.)

High stance: Charges Synergy Gauge.

Low Stance: Invincible against Highs on frame 1. Recharges Shield Health.

Unique Features: Thunderbolt can be charged with a held input. Both Electro Ball and Thunder can be cancelled in midair with R before the attack comes out. Pikachu will leap in whatever direction is being held before Thunder comes out. The trajectory of the descending airdash after Thunder Cancel can be changed with a held direction (Duel 4 and 6, Field f and b.) Volt Tackle in Synergy Burst gains a followup divekick that can be executed with any attack button. Just frame on 5YX/5YYX/5YYYX and 6Y. (5Y:X, 6:Y) 8X can be cancelled with 4R, 5R, and 6R to prevent Pikachu from landing immediately.

Remember as always to consult the frame data sheet for specific moves and their properties.

Pikachu can exist at basically any range, and at any position on the screen, with a plethora of useful tools for each situation. His projectiles, such as Thunder, Thunderbolt, and Electro Ball, can force the opponents to approach, punish them for any mistakes they make in their movement, and even be cancelled for feints and aerial movement. His close-range Duel Phase Poké Moves can be used to begin combos (Nuzzle, Iron Tail) or as a reversal (Volt Tackle,) meaning he can even play in the close-to-mid range. However, Pikachu’s most powerful combos rely on you learning how to use his aerial cancels and just frames effectively, meaning that at a higher level he requires more skill. Be reassured that since Pikachu is a beginner-friendly character, you will develop these skills over time and will not be locked out of low- and mid-level play if you don’t understand these aspects of the character.

Field Phase

Throwing out Thunderbolts at far range is a good way to bait your opponent into coming close. Remember that EX Thunderbolt will do more damage, but is slower and has less PSP.

Pikachu is not explicitly a zoner, but he has a lot of tools that allow him to win Field Phase quickly or that can at least make it frustrating for his opponents. While most of his tools are unsafe, remember again that the point of Field Phase is to be spacing your projectiles well and go for whiff punishes while navigating around your opponent’s hazards. Also remember that many of these tools, like the n.Y mash combo, come out extremely fast. Many of Pikachu’s effective Field tools are best at mid-to-long range, such as j.Y, j.[Y], and Thunderbolt and EX Thunderbolt. Electro Ball can stuff air approaches from afar, and Thunder can be used to mixup your air approach by changing your trajectory or cancelling the move. Many of Pikachu’s electric moves will put the opponent in a stun state that will allow him to close the gap- if you land Thunder at mid-range, you can immediately trigger a Shift with Homing Attack on the ground.

As you close in on your opponent, you are going to continue to rely on being nimble and evasive to win the Phase. Your better projectiles are less useful and more easily punished at close-to-mid range, but using the n.Y and s.Y mash combo will make you hard to hit due to Pikachu’s nimble trajectory. The j.X divekick and Nuzzle can also be used for big punishes, like whiffed anti-airs or an overreliance on CADCs. J.X in particular has counter armor on it that makes it very useful once your air approach has made it into a certain range. Remember, of course, to rely on your basic strategy of CADC, walk-and-block, and Homing Attack Cancels if all else fails.

Duel Phase

Whether you win or lose Field, you can potentially be at any range or distance from your opponent. At fullscreen, your gameplan is mostly the same as it was in Field Phase. Thunder, Thunderbolt, EX Thunderbolt, and Electro Ball are your main zoning tools. These will either successfully wall your opponent out or force them to approach you. Players unfamiliar with the matchup will especially struggle with the CADC timing for Thunder and Thunderbolt. If you’re on the ground, you can again stuff air approaches with Electro Ball or fake-out your opponent with the cancel. 5X is your longest poke on the ground, is relatively fast at i19, and is only -8 on block, so you can even stop approaches in the mid-range right before they’re up in your face. Of course, with a 13-frame forward dash, you can make your approach very quick, especially with proper CADCs, so there’s no need for you to stay at the mid-to-long range at all.

Being quick and hard to hit is one of Pikachu’s main advantages- very few characters are in his size category in Pokken, apart from Pikachu Libre and Weavile.

Whether you’ve been working to get in on your opponent, or they’ve been working to get in on you, your main advantage at the close range is having access to really good frame data. Your basic 5Y Poké Combo tool is i15 and -4 on block- if you integrate 5YX at any point, even without the just frame, you’re actually +4. 2Y is your fastest combo starter, albeit with very low combo damage compared to other routes, but it can be used in this way to quickly grab crush and punish. (We will discuss more combo routes in a later section, but remember that learning the just frame execution is key to maximizing your damage potential in Duel Phase.) If you’re feeling the block pressure, Volt Tackle is useful as an i11 reversal with armor from frames 1 thru 10- but like all dragon punches, be aware that misuse of it will be easily punished.

Remember also that you can use your Stances to build resources in downtime. If you’ve stolen a small moment away somehow, maybe with a knockdown or a stun at mid-to-far range, you can use High Stance to build a little bit of Synergy. You only build 1.25cc per tick, so it’s not valuable to just hold up forever until your opponent comes to rush you, but if you optimize your meter gain you can use Burst more frequently. You can heal your shield health in the same way after escaping a high pressure situation by holding Low Stance, which will also allow you to avoid high-hitting moves.

Synergy Burst

Pikachu will build Synergy very fast, having the smallest Gauge in the game alongside Pikachu Libre, Shadow Mewtwo, and Weavile. This means that he can rely on Burst Mode very often, especially if he’s optimizing his meter gain, so it’s always good to use it when you’ve got it. Burst Mode Pikachu gains the following properties:

  • The range on 2Y’s hitbox increases.
  • 5YX and 6Y will always hit the just frame versions.
  • Volt Tackle has a followup divekick that can be performed with any button.
  • Thunder has an automatic followup attack.
If you’ve got it, spend it! Pikachu’s Burst Mode doesn’t provide him with any major gimmicks, but having access to it frequently means it’s often worth the activation.

Newer players having trouble with the just frame versions of certain combos can rely on Burst Mode to improve their combo routes and damage. The Burst version of Volt Tackle also means that your reversal is harder to punish immediately, and will get you more damage on hit- however, the divekick is still -28, so don’t develop an overreliance on it. Pikachu’s Burst Move, Volt Shock Fist, is i15, invincible on frame 6, and +4 on block with counter piercing properties, making it a very powerful move of its type. Its invincibility, ability to propel you forward and relative safeness means you can use it to escape pressure or punish mistakes at midrange. Overall, Burst Pikachu gets no incredibly devastating gimmicks, but instead becomes an even more solid threat.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Pikachu being good at pretty much any position on the screen means that his matchup spread is full of mostly even or favorable matchups. His biggest strengths are by far the fact that he has tools for pretty much any situation and can thusly adapt to any playstyle. However, when faced with a specialized toolset, Pikachu’s utility begins to peter out. He doesn’t have a pure rushdown like Blaziken does, and he may have a difficult time approaching characters like Chandelure who also have powerful zoning and unique movement. His damage is also not particularly powerful in normal situations, so he has to rely on specific, optimized combos or Burst Mode to do damage. Pikachu will likely struggle against the rare set of characters who can outspeed him and deal a ton of damage to his smaller health bar, like Blaziken, Pikachu Libre, and Weavile. On the other hand, he will excel against slower characters where he can easily set the pace of the match, such as Blastoise, Empoleon, and Machamp.

Support and Cheer Pairings

It’s pretty much up to your personal preference here. You generally don’t have a hard time building Synergy as Pikachu, but if you really want to keep the momentum going that heavily, Synergy or Special Cheers can be very helpful. On the other hand, if your Supports are a major part of your gameplan, you can pick Standard or Support in order to call them out more frequently. As far as Supports themselves are concerned, it is again basically up to you. The Set you prefer could be matchup dependent, it could cover a flaw in your personal gameplan, or it could be something simple for you to rely on. Since Pikachu doesn’t earn any major buffs innately and is very fragile, you may want a Support like Eevee or Togekiss who can heal you a little bit while enhancing your stats. On the other hand, Magikarp and Pachirisu may allow you to approach more safely in certain situations where you want to be aggressive. You can even feel safe using a Set like Mega-Rayquaza/Mimikyu due to Pikachu’s unique properties: You can shrug off the Synergy cost of M-Ray, and Mimikyu will reduce your opponent’s meter gain while increasing your potential block pressure.

Target Combos

These are some easy combos that you can get started with right away- they are bread-and-butter combos, not necessarily the most difficult or the most optimal. If you want to learn more about what your character has to offer, I suggest exploring the longer combo guides found in the Pokkén character Discords, as they will often be the most up-to-date with the current version of the game. The sample combos in the tutorial mode are also very good at helping you figure out your character’s combo theory.

Take a look at how to activate the Electric Wind God Fist just frames.

As stated previously, the just frames on Pikachu’s Electric Wind God Fist moves (5Y…X, and 6Y) are essential for allowing his combos to work and doing more damage. To perform the 5Y…X just frame (5Y…:X) be sure to press X as soon as the impact of the tail on 5Y lands. 6:Y is a little harder to land and involves you pressing 6 and Y on the same frame. Be sure to practice the inputs in training mode until you feel comfortable with the execution- don’t worry about messing them up online, that’ll happen frequently on delay-based netcode. If you earned the just frame, the Electric Wind God Fist will launch blue sparks instead of yellow ones.

5YYY:X 8A
j.X 6Y 8X 2Y 2A* (The justframe version of this combo, j.X 6:Y 8X 2Y 2A, will do more damage, but has reduced PSP, meaning it will not trigger a Phase Shift or wallsplat.)

This is a comparison of the different versions of j.X 6Y 8X 2Y 2A.

Learning how to do your cancels will also improve your combo potential as Pikachu. 8X in particular can be cancelled with 4R, 5R, and 6R into an aerial hop on whiff, block, or hit after the kicks come out. This will allow for some more combo extensions, usually on a critical 8X or after a 6:Y.

6:Y 8X6R j.Y 2X 2A

This combo can be tricky, due to the fact that you have to get a successful 6:Y, master the 8X cancel, and then land a 2X before the opponent can air tech.

Conclusion:

Pikachu is a very basic Pokémon that will be easy to grasp as a newcomer, with a wide variety of tools for every situation. Players who decide to stick it out with the Mouse Pokémon will find learning how his more complicated mechanics work rewarding, as they will make him a better character at mid-to-high levels of play. On the other hand, newbie players can still use Pikachu to gain a sense of how Pokkén works and will find him to be a fun and valuable character. Set the pace at a distance in both Phases with aerial mixups and powerful projectiles, and then close in on your opponent with your agility and mid-range moves. Burst Mode Pikachu should be activated frequently in order to cover his low HP and damage output. His gameplan can be augmented however the player desires, with nearly every Support and Cheer set allowing him to play in a versatile manner.

The next character guide in this series, as we move down the list of Standard-type Pokémon, will be the Aura Pokémon, Lucario!

Written by

Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami can be found on Twitter (@LiteTheIronMan,) on Twitch (twitch.tv/litetheironman,) and at your local.

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