Welcome one and all! This week is a special one, let me tell ya. Pokemon Red and Blue! With the recent release of Pokemon: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon how could I not talk about how, and where it all started. I absolutely adore the original soundtrack for Pokemon Red and Blue. For real though, these songs are dangerously addicting. I could listen to them all day. The pure culprit of the nostalgia factor, sure, but these tracks are fantastic.
Written and composed by the great Junichi Masuda. In order to create the simple yet complex sounds, Masuda used a Commodore Amiga computer featuring PCM sample playback. Masuda then converted these sounds to a GameBoy program he created himself! Not too shabby, if I say so myself. I know, you’re itching to the bit to get into some of the music, so without further ado let’s do this!
Ahh, the infamous intro to the grand adventure of Pokemon. It’s weird because you wanna know what sticks out the most to me in this song? The snare. I think in order to fulfill the epic song that it is, the snare fills that void. With Red and Blue (or Green) being the first installation to the series, I do feel in order to capture the attention of a new audience, a soundtrack like this was key in preparing us for what was to come.
As a kid, Pokemon was the very first Nintendo game I had ever played. I strictly remember telling my parents all I wanted for Christmas was a GameBoy and Pokemon Red. I was a Sega kid for a long time until that day I finally got my hands on that GameBoy. I fondly remember those days of playing Pokemon well into the night, knowing I would be exhausted for school the next day. And for all of you that either used a flashlight or bought the light attachment for the side of the GameBoy, I salute you. Good times I tell ya.
Route 1’s music totally makes me want to bob my head back and forth. Though, try not to bob your head too much as people might think you are having a seizure (yes I’ve had this happen). All thanks to the bass line and percussive hits on the offbeats, I’d say. With a hint of swing added to the lead notes, it really gets you in a jolly mood. Almost reminds me of carnival music actually.
Here is a fun activity that you could do with this song as well. Take any scary movie (especially those with clowns), and play this song just before the suspenseful parts. Not so scary anymore, ha! Pertaining to Pokemon, I do think Route 1’s music fits the game very well. It tells me, as the player, to enjoy the adventure. To explore what’s out there. Incentivizing me to catch ‘em all!
The rival theme is ideal in a way that tells you, “This Gary fellow is kind of a douche”. This theme particularly feels proud, stuck-up, even frivolous. Anytime I heard this song and saw his stupid face, I just had to sigh, and wonder “Why me”? He was always getting in my way, antagonizing me, and acting pretentious as ever. Of course, there is nothing a little earthquake can’t fix, though. The battle would be over before I knew it, and I would just be on my way again.
The wild Pokemon battle music was spot on! Sounds a lot like a bee buzzing around your head if you pay close attention to the bass line. Annoying, and in your face. Which definitely fits the description of a wild Pokemon battle. For any new Pokemon that I had encountered, it made the moment feel immersive. It also, in some fashion, made me more attached to my Pokemon. I entrusted my Pokemon to protect me and be there when I needed it most.
The first time I heard the music as a kid I thought to myself, “Oh snap, things are about to get real up in here”! The screen transitions and out appears a Pidgey! Little me mind blown. I gotta catch it, but noooo. I have to wait until I deliver this parcel to the fricken Professor! Talk about buzz kill. It’s not like I knew Pidgey was ever coming back. What if it was gone forever? Finally realizing, going into another battle, that Pidgey was indeed a common Pokemon on Route 1. Stress level lowered.
The introduction to trainer battles was spectacular. It’s like, “Bring it on, bro!”, “You wanna go?!” Big hits in the lead line create the sense of rivalry between you and the other trainer. Notes alternating in the bass line feel like a conversation. As it ascends and descends it directs our attention to the battle at hand. You command your Pokemon to attack, and your opponent does the same. Conversing back and forth until a victor is left standing.
If you hadn’t noticed, the soundtrack had some of the battle sounds, too. Specifically Pokemon cries, and their moves. Who’s that Pokemon?! I was able to detect a couple of familiar sounds. Masuda did a great job with the individual sounds for each of the Pokemon, though, I did feel a couple of them were identical to other Pokemon. I know he was limited due to the technology constraints at the time so, for what Masuda had available, he did well all things considered.
Grab your bike, let’s go for a ride! The cycle song is probably one of the most memorable tracks Masuda has ever created. At least for me, it is anyway. Each of the notes dancing and prancing about. Excitement is in the air, you can feel the breeze against your face. When I finally obtained the bike, it was a complete and utter game changer for me. I could travel distances in half the time it took to walk somewhere (of course thanks to the running shoes in present games this is no longer the case).
Hands down, best cycling music to date. Need I say more? It’s just so giddy! Shoot, half the time I played Pokemon Go, I was riding my bike with this song faintly playing in the background. Simply perfect, even in the real world. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should.
Lavender Town was one of my favorites. The music fits the town so well. Depression in this town is like a dog with his manhood taken away (If you don’t get that…you might as well leave the internet for good). I think Masuda did a great job with the way the song hit in multiple areas. We feel sad, somewhat scared, and even a bit of remorse. My condolences go out to the people of Lavender town.
Fun fact! Lavender was actually used in Ancient Egypt during the process of mummification. Kind of interesting since Lavender Town was all about death and the spirits that would remain. It’s also very peculiar that we associate purple with a supernatural tone. I don’t know about you, but listening to Lavender Towns theme makes me feel a bit…blue.
The champions theme always gets me. That fear that overwhelmed me as I looked the champion square in the face. There is no other feeling. To be honest, most of that feeling is due to how audacious the soundtrack is. I want to be brave, but I’m being held back by this superior force that is the champion. With all my revives at hand, can I defeat this noble foe?
I don’t know about you, but anytime I got to the Champion after defeating the elite four my heart would race so fast. I think mostly because I hate having to redo things, ergo I didn’t want to fail and have to repeat the process up to this point. Sure I could save, but where’s the challenge of defeating the elite four if you save before each of them? I say that, but I always save before tackling another elitist…(Laughs uncontrollably)
All in all, Masuda did a fantastic job with Pokemon Red and Blue. I really can’t stop giving him credit for all the great tunes, and the variety they hold. Unfortunately, there is a lot I didn’t cover. Other tunes like Professor Oaks Theme, Gym Battle Theme, Evolution Theme, Surfing Theme, etc. were all beyond compare.
To this day I am a huge fan of Pokemon. From the very beginning, receiving Charmander as my very first Pokemon, and embarking on this grand quest has never felt the same. It has taught me so much in the past and continues to impress me with each passing generation. I can’t say I like where the music is going, but the games are still relatively solid. The Switch version can’t come any sooner, for patience is a virtue on this one.