The Pikachu Nintendo 64 console (model no. NUS-101) was released in November 2000, towards the end of N64’s life – right when Pokemon was at the height of its popularity.
The Gamecube had already been unveiled in Japan and was less than a year away from its US release, but Nintendo was still pushing the N64. Earlier in the year six special edition colored N64 consoles had been released in an effort to sell more consoles.
Pokemon was hugely popular at the time. The Pokemon movie had been released the previous year. The N64 already three Pokemon titles available: Pokemon Puzzle League, Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap. And the Game Boy Color, which was still selling strong in 2000 (over 8.5m units sold in the US that year), had a huge library of Pokemon games.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game tour was also underway in the US and Nintendo Power was pushing Pokemon on a monthly basis with its multi-page ‘Pokecenter’ features. It’s fair to say that Pokemon was everywhere.
It’s not surprising that Nintendo chose to capitalize on this popularity and release the Pokemon Pikachu N64 console. The first snippet of information about the American release of the Pikachu N64 came in the August 2000 issue of Nintendo Power.
An ad for the Pikachu N64 finally appeared in November. The console would available at Walmart from November 6th for $149.96. The same day that Hey You, Pikachu! was released, but this wouldn’t be a pack-in for the Pikachu themed N64 console. If gamers wanted to play Pikachu on their Pikachu N64, they’d have to pay an additional $76.96.
The UK’s Nintendo Official Magazine (I admit, not as catchy as ‘Nintendo Power’) ran a competition in January 2001 to win the coveted console:
The design of the console makes it special and somewhat of an anomaly. There have been other themed Nintendo consoles released, such as the Pokemon Game Boy Color and the Zelda Wii U, but the Pokemon N64 seems to be the only time the physical appearance of a Nintendo console has been changed so drastically.
The right side of the console has been stretched to accommodate a large 3D Pikachu. Pikachu’s right foot is now the reset button and the power switch has been styled as a Pokeball. The power LED has also been removed from the front of the console and replaced with two LEDs positioned in Pikachu’s cheeks which flash when the console is powered on and then stay illuminated.
I bought my console on a recent flea market trip so it was a bit dusty, but not really dirty. A decent brush with soft natural bristles is usually enough to remove dust and reach into places like the switch bay.
Inside, the only thing under Pikachu is the controller board for the power LEDs. The cabling for the LEDs now joins the two halves of the console, so be careful not damage these cables when opening the Pikachu N64.
The rest of the right side is just empty space. The console doesn’t feel unbalanced to hold, though, so the weight of the Pikachu must even things out.
Here’s the Pikachu N64 compared to my Taiwanese N64 NUS-002 (ROC):
Apart from the heat sink screws and power LED there doesn’t seem to be any difference, though I won’t be going any further and comparing the boards today.
One thing I hadn’t been able to do up to this point was test the console with a game – All of my games are Japanese and the tabs in the console slot stop Japanese games from being inserted into a North American console.
As with the SNES, the only region protection for NTSC systems are the tabs located inside the cartridge slot. Removing the top case allows direct access to the cartridge slot so I was able to test the console with a Japanese Star Fox.
While I had both consoles open I tried swapping the console slots:
It worked. The Japanese cartridge slot fitted perfectly into the North American Pikachu N64. So you could change the region of your system by simply changing this one piece (obviously this isn’t true for PAL systems which have other differences).
Before fitting the console back together I cleaned and greased both the power and reset buttons. N64 reset buttons in particular seem to get jammed after a few years of use.
Here’s the cleaned console back together:
As with all N64s, the Pikachu console is solid and well built. It’s not a half-assed customisation like simply adding decals or a paint job. This console really stands out and if you’re a Pokemon fan this should be a must-buy, even if you don’t play N64. This would look great on a shelf displayed with your other Pokemon merch.
Update 2016/09/20: Background information surrounding the release of the Pikachu N64 added