Monday, 21 January 2013

Lost in the Music: Pokemon Retrospective Part 1

I remember back in 1996 when this strange new craze began sweeping the world. This new game breathed new life into Nintendo's hand-held system, allowing it to dominate the portable gaming market for years to come. It also started the trend of raising and sharing creatures. This game was an important brick in my childhood gaming. I am of course talking about the Pokemon series. I will be talking about the core series this week, not the Pokemon Ranger series or the remakes.


I remember the first Pokemon commercial. It involved a sadistic bus driver taking his bus and compressing all the 'Mon's in a car crusher while he gleefully cackles. When I first saw that commercial I was equal parts amused and horrified. After I got the game for my 11th birthday my love for the series was born as did my appreciation of that small grey brick.

Going through the original game was a musical treat. Before on the system we had some minor successes with tracks from the Mana series and Super Mario Land 2 and 3, but for the most part, none of the songs on the Gameboy really stood out. There were no real good examples of tracks that stuck with me as a small player. Even the Tetris theme, one of the iconic pieces of music of the hand-held generation, was overshadowed by it's home console brother. So when Pokemon came around I wasn't expecting much in terms of the music. Oh how I was wrong.

To begin, the game's intro gave a small sample of what was to come. It was dynamic and drew me into the game. It made me feel like I could conquer the world. I was going to be a great hero. Of course every hero needs a home town, something small and out of the way from the main story, and Pallet Town is such a town. It's melody is simple and conveys a feeling of childhood innocence. This feeling carries over to your first outing, leaving your hometown behind and heading to the big city. The music still enforces that feeling of childhood, but adds the sense of adventure.

Each time you would go onto a new route heading towards your next destination, the music would change, gaining more of the adventure feel and losing the childlike feeling to the song. It culminates with entering the Pokemon league and travelling Victory Road. You are ready to take on the Elite Four and become the champion. It is time to say goodbye to your childhood as you make your way through Victory Road, battling other Trainers who wish to become champions themselves.

What set this game apart from the other RPG's on the system was the variety of the music. Save for a few places, each area had it's own song. Lavender Town and the Pokemon Tower, where Pokemon were laid to rest obviously had a sad and mournful theme, while the Viridian Forest theme is full of mystery and wonder.

For a hand-held system, the original G1 Pokemon games had a fantastic soundtrack. The music is highly memorable and someone could easily listen to the soundtrack for a long time. It has a a whole range of songs from the happy, adventurous tune when you first start off on your adventure, to sad and depressing as you enter the Pokemon Cemetery, to the climactic battle between you and your Pokemon vs your childhood friend turned rival and his legion of Pokemon. It has that special quality to it that sticks with you for years to come.

There is nothing more satisfying then duelling your rival, be it your digitized nemesis or your kid brother, while that awesome 8-bit music comes out of those tiny speakers while driving home from a family vacation. Tune in on Wednesday where I take a look at the Generation 2 games.

This is Daimo Mac and I am lost in the music.


Also: The fine people over at BronyCan, Canada's premier Brony Conventia has an Indiegogo Campaign going on right now. Click here for more information.

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