496: OHMAGAWD POKEMANS MUSIC YOU GUYS
   

So, in case you guys haven't noticed yet, Pokémon X&Y are pretty amazing.  I've played every generation since the very beginning, and I have not had this much fun since my very first days with Red & Blue.  I've also never been so in love with the soundtrack since Red & Blue, either.  Don't get me wrong; the music of Pokémon is always good.  There's not a single game that has a bad soundtrack, but the later generations definitely lack one thing that the music from Red & Blue had in spades: memorability.  Gens 3, 4, and 5 all have some memorable tracks, but the key word here is "SOME."  Compare them to Gen 1, where the majority of the soundtrack is instantly recognizable, and it's no contest.  But not only are the tracks from X&Y memorable, they also have unprecedented audio/instrument quality thanks to the improved sound of the 3DS.  On many songs, you could swear they had recorded everything with live instruments.  And to top it off, the battle themes finally use electric guitars for their melodies, which is fitting, since they've always been chiptune metal to begin with.

Now, obviously as a Gen 1 elitist, some of my enjoyment is biased.  Many of the songs in X&Y are remixes/homages to Gen 1 songs, but now with upgraded instrument sounds, so of course I'm going to think THOSE are amazing.  But if you take away all of those songs, and just look at the new ones from this game, everything is still leagues above Gens 3, 4, and 5 (and for me, the majority of 2, as well), and it's because of the changes they made to their formula.  If you'll indulge me, I'll explain why with a little bit of Pokémon soundtrack history.  The original soundtrack to Red & Blue was composed by Junichi Masuda.  He wrote all the songs, created all the sound effects, and was also one of the programmers and game designers, and needless to say, he knocked it out of the park.  By the next generation (Gold & Silver), Masuda had moved up to the position of Assistant Director, and then head Director after that, so he was no longer handling the majority of the music.  He continued writing all of the battle themes for each game, but other people were composing the rest of the music.  And they all used his original score for Red & Blue as their blueprints.  What does a town theme sound like - refer to Red & Blue.  What does an ocean theme sound like - refer to Red & Blue.  What does a battle theme sound like - refer to Red & Blue (that's right, even Masuda himself was ripping off his old music).  And since they kept rehashing the same songs over and over again, they naturally became less memorable over time.  Each subsequent generation had fewer and fewer memorable songs, and the soundtracks were in desperate need of a formula change. And that's exactly what happened in X&Y.  Not only are the sound capabilities of the 3DS leagues above any of the previous handheld systems, the compsers finally started to shake things up with their formulas a bit, using new styles and genres, new instruments, and new motifs for their in-game events.  And the place that really illustrates this change is the battle themes.  Once again, they were composed by Junichi Masuda, but this time the arrangements were done by Shota Kageyama, the real superstar of the X&Y soundtrack.  Kageyama took Junichi's awesome, but rote, compositions, and spruced them up into something entirely new for the games.  They now had guitars, they had electronic backbeats, they had a new intensity that had been lost amongst 15 years of similar melodies.  And as if these changes weren't enough, the tracks themselves are all super catchy, super memorable, and even beautifully emotional at times.  Pokémon games aren't supposed to make you cry - I fucking cried during while the credits were rolling, the songs in this game are just that fucking good.

To me, Pokémon X&Y has the best soundtrack so far.  Red & Blue might still be my favorite, but there's no denying to myself that X&Y is far superior to it.  But of course, this is just my own opinion.  I know there are a lot of people out there who started with other games, and who love the other soundtracks way more than these two.  And that's ok.  Every Pokémon soundtrack is awesome, it's just that, according to me, these are the awesomest.  If you guys want a better understanding of what I've talked about in this post, here are some songs from each of the games that you can listen to side-by-side.  They're the Gym Leader Battle Themes from each generation, all composed by Junichi Masuda.  Gen 1 (simple chiptune songs required composers to make the melodies very noticeable), Gen 2 (has a more tense feel to it, and a more complex melody which never repeats the same measure twice.  Unfortunately, complexity usually takes away from memorability), Gen 3 (better MIDI sounds, but follows the same formula as the first two. The subdued, quiter sections in the middle have no real melody to them, making those sections rather boring), Gen 4 (better MIDI sound again, and once again the same formula, meaning it doesn't sound very original. Song repeats each section a few times before moving on, meaning it's not complex either), Gen 5 (first one to have a slightly different structure. Melodies don't repeat over measures, and it's longer, making it more complex. A unique composition, but still a very similar melody to all the rest), and finally Gen 6 (what the fuck happened, where did this shit come from???  Electronica?!  Guitars?!  Entirely different song structure?!  How can this be???  Constant heartbeat from the bass drum adds intensity, guitar melody is super simple and victorious-sounding).  That's all from me, folks!  Smell ya later!

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