by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
It’s been a pretty negative couple of weeks, guys. MXM is shutting down, Marvel Heroes is shutting down (because of something exceptionally horrific, if word is to be believed) Star Wars: Battlefront II may be received worse than E.T. on the Atari 2600. I have a lot of thoughts on that, but I’m kind of keeping them on the backburner, because I don’t want to rehash the same ol’ nonsense that everyone is spewing. It’s dreadful, they aren’t “looking out for their consumers”, they merely got caught doing something shady and had to walk it back. So, yeah. There’s a lot of negativity going around. I thought I’d mix that up with something beautiful because that’s what I need right now. And I thought I’d share with you, my readers, something worth listening to. That’s what I have on offer today. A series of Piano pieces from Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green by Trevor Alan Gomes. Materia Collective released this album recently, and I’ve been sitting on it, listening to it because I’ve just simply been swamped. This has been an incredibly busy month for news, and I know at least myself and Jaime are exhausted. So having this to listen to when overwhelmed has been kind of nice.
“There are piano albums like this for many games, but the vision that drove this one was unique: it’s comprehensive and narrative-driven, spanning the entire soundtrack of the game in chronological order to tell the entire story that millions have loved since 1996,” notes Trevor Alan Gomes. “Together with an amazing team, I’ve had the joy of taking the simple, charming 8-bit music of Pokémon Red and Blue and turning it into lush, expansive piano arrangements.” That’s just what these are. It’s very well said on his part. Before I go rushing into a few of my favorite songs on this collection, you can find Trevor at these places: Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud and Twitch where he does piano streams based on improvisation, song writing and sight reading. This is a fellow who has played for The Walt Disney Company as well as films such as Finding Dory, Skyfall and Passengers.
Celadon City (Track 23): Celadon’s probably my favorite town in Pokemon Red/Blue/Green. It’s the largest city by population in the Kanto Region, has the most places to spend your hard-earned money, and the theme of this particular song starts off noble and regal, but swiftly turns into a jazzy rendition of the Celadon City theme. A good, swift pace, one you could get a brisk walk out of. The song reminds me of being in the big city for the first time and being amazed at all of the incredible things you find there. It meanders a bit, but that’s the point, I think. It is a fantastic lead up to Game Corner/Team Rocket Hideout. The various musical themes in the song fit seeing all sorts of new things in a bigger city. I love it.
Battle! Pokemon Champion (Track 34): Battle! Pokemon Champion has all the gravitas that a battle with the most skilled Trainer in the entire region deserves. It’s epic, booming, and powerful, and that’s just on a piano with no accompaniment. If you slapped this somewhere into Final Fantasy X, or even the climax of an action film, it would not feel out of place in the least. This makes me want to see a Pokemon Battle that’s also a chase scene though. With explosions and darting around crumbling buildings and crap. The main theme of “A Rival Appears!” is still there, which makes sense. It’s not a spoiler: Blue/Gary is the Champion of the Kanto Region. The only reason I won’t add “A Rival Appears!” is because I chose “Battle! Pokemon Champion” instead. They are both amazing though, and the fairly subtle hints to the Rival song in this one made me very happy indeed.
Professor Oak Suite (Track 4): This has such an upbeat, hopeful sound, the “Professor Oak Suite”. Is it just me, or does it sound like it belongs on a comedy on TV from the 80s-90s? It really feels like I would hear it on TGIF or something as a kid. It slows down after that main melody, and the more familiar tones of the Professor’s lab are clear, crystal clear. It brings back memories of picking my very first starter when I was… well, clearly not a kid, but a teenager. When Pokemon really started to show up, I didn’t have a Gameboy, so I missed out on it. But that did not change how magical that first one was. That’s what this song encapsulated for me.
Pokemon Tower (Track 21): Pokemon Tower is tied with “A Rival Appears!” for my favorite song from Gen 1. Probably in the first few generations of Pokemon, if I’m being honest with myself. The Pokemon Tower is super depressing. It’s a tower filled with dead Pokemon, where Blue goes to mourn the loss of his Raticate (thanks, Red. You asshole). That’s also where we really learn about Marowak/Cubone, and it’s just the damn worst. This rendition of the Tower theme is just as haunting and slow, reminding me of funeral dirge in some portions of the song. It gets a higher pitch, louder towards the end, before a lilting little trail off, as if something mischievous is lurking in the shadows. Perhaps a ghost? Something mysterious waits within these walls.
Honorable Mentions: It was very hard pairing this down to a few songs that really encapsulate what the album is about, but any Pokemon fan worth their salt likely knows every song on here. But these are renditions, versions of the songs we remember, played on a lovely sounding Piano. Is it just me though, or does “Game Corner” have a sound very similar to “Bubble Bobble” about halfway through? That’s what I hear. That’s okay, but it really stuck out to me. Other honorable mentions definitely go to “Anime Theme” which is surprisingly lovely when played on the Piano. Not to mention the last song on the album, “Jigglypuff’s Song”, which admittedly made even me drowzy. Everything on this album stands out, and is true to the original source material, while still sounding fresh and new. You owe it to yourself to go get this album post-haste. Both albums are the same, so it’s all dependant on which version of the game you prefer: Red, Blue, Green, or … I guess Yellow. For me? Green all the way.