Thursday, 14 November 2013

Beyond Audio-Dome: Pokemon Gym Leader Music Gen's 1-6

Normally in Beyond Audio Dome, I compare only two pieces of music, be it from competing games, or bands, but today I am trying something else. Today on Lost in the Music, it will be a Beyond Audio Dome Battle Royale, 6 songs go in, only one comes out victorious. The subject, the Pokemon Gym Leader theme's from all 6 generations of the series. However the stipulation is that the music has to be from the system it made its debut on so the remakes do not count.

Gen 1: Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow

There is something about this song that makes me smile. Perhaps it is the primitive sound-chip pushing itself to the limits to perform this song or perhaps it is a futile attempt to reclaim my childhood, whatever it is, I love this track. As a child, it perfectly sums up that feeling of adversity. You wish to do your very best and gain the respect of your peers.

I do admit that there are other RPG's with better battle themes and certainly more memorable such as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Earthbound, but they evoke a different feeling. In Pokemon, you were not saving the world, you were just a kid trying to become the best Pokemon trainer out there. Defeating your foes did not mean killing them and stopping some world threat, save for Team Rocket.

If you think about it, Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow are a coming of age story. Over the course of the game, as the protagonists continue on their journey, they grow up along side their pokemon.

Gen 2: Pokemon Silver/Gold/Crystal

With the second generation, the series tried to make the gym leaders feel more important and sadly, it failed. The music does not have the same emotion or feeling to the music making it feel somewhat of a frantic mess which is shame as some of the other music in the game is quite solid.

My main problem is that I feel the music team tried to do too much with the system and when they couldn't get what they wanted, they had to dumb it down resulting in a mess. When HeartGold and SoulSilver came out, they got a chance to redeem themselves and while it is an improvement, it still is not good.

I feel that they were trying to recapture the magic of Gen 1 when they made this game which was their first mistake. Looking back, they should have had Johto be its own separate area with no connection to Kanto. I am not sure why they wanted to two to be neighbouring regions, but looking back, it was not a great idea.

Gen 3: Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald

With the Gen 3, the song feels more subdued, yet more frantic making it an oddity. As I ignored Gen 3 for the longest time, I really don't have fond memories of the game. I do enjoy some of the music from this iteration as it is really fun to listen to and what the composer's did with the GBA sound-chip was great, especially when you compare it to Final Fantasy VI whose music had a tinny backing to it. However, the Gen 3 Gym music was completely underwhelming which is a shame because the Gym Battles are what I enjoy in Pokemon games and if the music doesn't capture me, then I get bored.

The Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Gym track is too much of a mess to really enjoy and I usually ignore it. Which is sad as the other songs from the game has a lot of potential. When The Pokemon Company remakes Gen 3 for the 3DS, I hope that they remake the Gym battle to be something special.

Gen 4: Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

For Gen 4, the series seemed to go back to its roots more or less. The tracks are fast paced and intense which is what a Gym Leader battle should be like. While they aren't life or death struggles, unless you are doing a Nuzlocke challenge, they are tests of both the player's skill and endurance . It's one thing to battle against some random bug catcher, it's another to battle against a proper trainer who uses proper tactics and a seemingly endless supply of potions.

I really do enjoy the Gen 4 Gym Battle music, especially compared to Gen 3. It is a solid track and does its job in getting the player invested in the battle instead of being bored.

Gen 5: Pokemon Black/White/Black 2/White 2

Like Gen 3, I skipped out on Gen 5. This time instead of no interest, I simply didn't have the resources and was too busy at the time to play it. However that doesn't mean I never listened to the music, which itself was great.

The Gen 5 Gym Battles track seems to have taken Gym 4's speed an intensity and cleaned it up. While I do enjoy the Gen 4 music, there is some bits that needed work and Gen 5 seemed to remedy that. Once again, this is a proper Gym Track. Like its predecessor, the music is fast paced and has an air of intensity about it, making the battles much more interesting.

Gen 6: Pokemon X/Y

On of the main themes in Pokemon X/Y is evolution and it seems to have spread not only to the visuals, but the game-play as well as the music. While the soundtrack is not orchestrated, the composer still did a damn good job.

So how is the Gym music? It is nothing short of phenomenal. It is a bit slow in picking up the intensity from the previous 2 generations, but once it gets going, there is nothing stop it. The song is a bit more slower then what you would expect as this time you need to be more methodical in your tactics. You cannot brute force your way through the battles like the past, but have to rely on not only your attacks, but your buffs as well.

When I first heard the song, I admit I was confused. Knowing that this game had you focus on tactics and not brute force, I questioned why they would have a techno style music. As I continued to playing, I realized that this music was supposed to invoke more of an Anime feeling to the game. Seeing as the battles are more fleshed out design wise, it would make sense that they would want to

So in the end, which Gym song wins. As much as I love the original game's gym battle as well as the DS gym theme's, I have to say that Pokemon X/Y has the superior Gym Battle theme. It showcases an evolution of the series from its humble 8 Bit Origins to a 3D world and the music showcases that spectacularly. I do love most of the previous tracks and the Gen 1 theme is still one of my favourites, but in my opinion, Pokemon X/Y's Gym Battle music is by far the best of the series.

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

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