Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 33 ~Pallet Town~ (Pokemon Red and Blue)


Origin: Pokemon Red and Blue
Plays In: Pallet Town
Status: Original Composition
Composed by: Junichi Masuda

Where it all began.

Pokemon was an overnight success in America, and I was certainly no exception to its clutches. I followed its Nintendo Power previews with some mild interest, watched as it absorbed the lives of my cousins, and eventually received my own copy of Pokemon Red not too long after it initially came out.

As someone with a strong memory, it's spotty in certain places for this game. I was naturally inclined towards Charmander, but Brock''s Rock-types were a harsh counter, so I found myself drifting towards Squirtle. Other than those two, I can't tell you who else I used in my party. I had one of my cousins play through the game for me after getting stuck at Lt. Surge's puzzle, but I vaguely recall playing through it myself more than once; in fact, I remember one time being shocked I skipped a route after completing the game, full of trainers waiting to fight me. I captured a Golduck in Seafoam Islands. I abused the hell out of the Rare Candy trick, among other glitches (fishing in statues!). I taught my Blastoise Earthquake, which always felled Gary's Venasaur. I always named the main character after my best friend in 1st Grade. There are many other scattered memories...but hardly any connect to a single thread.

Childhood memories are chock-full of gaping holes like that, but I've found that's part of the appeal. They're puzzles that'll never be solved, but each has their own involved story. The Golduck one, for instance; my Mom and I were just driving into an OT session, and I pumped my fist at the thrill of obtaining a Golduck for the first time. The big mystery, of course, is why I hadn't bothered raising a Psyduck into evolving one beforehand, but that aforementioned thrill is the only memory I have of capturing a rare Pokemon. You don't need logic to understand that.

Now that I think about it, I realize the Pokemon phenomenon was bigger to me than the game. I still loved playing it, of course, but my life was practically captivated by everything Pokemon. I watched the cartoon religiously every morning and after school. I rocked out to the full version of the opening theme on CD. I had a behemoth collection of Pokemon cards, courtesy of my mother buying them for me as a reward for being good at school. I obtained practically every Pokemon book and magazine out there--the first issues of Pojo and Beckett, various manga published by Viz, the excellent Versus Book guides, and both editions of the Official Pokemon Handbook. I ate the cereal. I counted down the days to the movie, which was originally scheduled to come out on my birthday. I fell for that fake secret in Expert Gamer about capturing a Yoshi. I had the plushies, the Burger King toys, the pinball game, the Pokedex replicas, everything.

I'm not particularly into any of that anymore (barring my shrine of ancient Pokemon cards), but I remember what was most important of all: there was a time when Pokemon ruled the world. And at the beating heart of that nostalgia is where it all began for every Pokemon fan: the theme of Pallet Town. It's that rare beginning theme that etches every moment of context into a young gamer's heart: the protagonist's SNES console, the Stand by Me reference on his TV, the fat guy marveling at technology in front of Prof. Oak's laboratory., being stopped by the professor himself and receiving your very first Pokemon. The first of many fated battles with your rival, who you've known since you were babies.

It's a mirror of tear-inducing nostalgia in and out of itself, and many cannot listen to it without crying. I still haven't yet, but listening to the orchestrated version at Symphonic Evolutions made me come close. Actually, writing this now is almost pushing me off the edge.

But nostalgia is nostalgia, and memories are memories. What's most important of all is that twenty years later, Pokemon is still around. New fans are still cropping up everywhere, and have their own Pallet Towns in Littleroot and Vaniville. And now, thanks to Red, Blue, and Yellow finally releasing on the 3DS Virtual Console, they can finally experience what defined our lives eighteen, perhaps twenty years ago. That the monochrome corners of Pallet Town will give birth to new childhoods excites me more than anything else

Here's to twenty, forty, and an eternity of more Pokemon. It truly deserves it.

Final Thoughts: Man, does anyone else hate those official "echo" versions of the R/B/Y soundtrack? Totally ruins the feel for me.

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