Ah, good ol’ Pokémon. Almost a decade ago, it was a huge phenomenon in the states; now, we moved on, and don’t care much for it any more. The anime started off well, but now, there is way too much filler that goes nowhere and countless repetition (I mean, how many times can you blast away Team Rocket?). The only redeeming factor left comes from the handheld RPGs that I still enjoy today, and I look forward to Diamond/Pearl coming soon.
My first Pokémon game was Red for the original Game Boy, and that got me interested in the franchise for a while. Years later, remakes of the classics were released for the Game Boy Advance. They go by the names of Fire Red and Leaf Green (thus fixing the change from green to blue with the original launch). It uses the same graphical style as seen in Ruby/Sapphire. Along with a nice graphical update, the music also got a makeover, using the “bloated” style, also heard in Ruby/Sapphire. At times, I feel worrisome when a composer re-arranges a tune, sometimes resulting in songs that have lost their original charm. Fortunately, I didn’t find that to be the case for Fire Red/Leaf Green. Go Ichinose managed to bring new life to these classic songs.
The first disc contains all the tunes that were featured in the game. Surprisingly, I didn’t remember there were 73 songs, but then I realized a good chunk of the roster featured the tunes that lasted five to thirty seconds, occurring in certain events such as getting an item, recovering Pokémon or bad things happening, it’s all there. For the songs that are actually full songs, there are several good ones that are nice to hear again.
As mentioned earlier, several of the songs sound a bit bloated in my ear, with a bit of orchestra MIDI style. The new “~Opening~” is a good example of the style. As I said before, hearing the songs takes me back. It felt heartwarming hearing the “Masara Town (Pallet Town) Theme” again when I started the game, and it feels refreshing when I got out to the fields hearing “Road to Tokiwa to Masara.” All the town and dungeon themes still sound as interesting as it was in 1998.
What I always liked about the games music were the battle themes, and most of them came back better than ever. “Battle (VS Trainer)” is a very nice, modern version of a classic song, and “Battle (VS Gym Leader)” was nicely done too. “Battle (VS Wild Pokémon)” is decent, but I found it a bit too shaky.
As for disappointments, there isn’t much to speak of. I did not like how the new version of “Last Battle (VS Rival).” Originally, it was a simple tune, but was certainly intense. The new one is pretty good, but it sounded a bit too chaotic, and I felt the main melody got lost in the midst of all the other sounds playing at the same time. “The Last Road,” which is the new Elite Four theme, is pretty good, but I found the original one to be a lot catchier.
I enjoyed hearing the songs because it felt nostalgic to me, but even I think these new versions are slightly underwhelming. They are very simple, lighthearted songs, having pretty catchy battle themes that work for the game. It’s nothing mesmerizing or soul stirring or anything that will make any sort of impact on you. They’re simply fun listens, and not much else.
This disc is an interesting one. It contains all the bonus goodies such as the original MIDI songs, and some very unique arranged songs. There are also the vocal songs “Memory P” and “Teach Me! Elder Brother” (part drama too). “Memory P” is alright, though it’s nothing special, but “Teach Me! Elder Brother” is just plain weak.
I find the arranged songs to be the biggest surprise in the soundtracks. They remixed some of the songs, or drastically altered them to make them seem completely new, and gave a strong gritty or techno style to them. I really liked how Masuda gave a great remix to “Gym Leader’s Power,” making it a lot more edgy and powerful. “Pokémon Tower 1997” is a song that is very hard to explain. It’s a gritty song which does not even seem Pokémon-like at all, but it’s interesting. “Battle (VS Dekokishisu)” is a very cool song mixing old and new styles, and “Team Rocket’s Hideout” is another strange song with a neat techno style. Each of the arrangements is very unique, and I liked all of them for different reasons.
The final leg of the track is the original MIDI songs from Red/Green (Red/Blue in the US). Those songs really brought back some good memories. To be quite honest, they are not as interesting as I remember them being from years ago, but I still had fun listening to them again. They are very simple songs, but darn, are they ever catchy! It’s great hearing the original “Last Battle (VS Rival)” theme since I felt the remake messed up this classic. Unfortunately, a bulk of the original music is missing. Sure you can hear the mostly superior remakes, but it would’ve been nice to hear the original Gym Leader battle theme and Elite Four area themes once again. While I might’ve liked this portion a lot, the appeal is pretty limited. It’s mainly meant to serve nostalgia.
This soundtrack was truly a classic reborn. I had a good time hearing a lot of these songs again, and it was a treat that some of the original songs are included too; plus, the arrangements were great. It’s not such a superb soundtrack, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but check it out. It became another tough find so eBay would be your best shot. It’s not worth an arm and a leg, but get it if there is a good deal on it.