Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire has a remarkable soundtrack. It was the first Pokémon game on the GameBoy Advance, which allowed it to use better quality instruments than its predecessors, but its greatness is not just technical. It is also a result of the innovative use of those instruments within the cherished Pokémon musical style. Composers Go Ichinose, Morikazu Aoki, and Junichi Masuda were able to create more genre-specific songs, such as the jazz-influenced “PokéMart” that reappears in many of the following Pokémon games. They also emphasized percussion, which added a new kick to the horns and the flutes. Still, Ruby/Sapphire includes many bleepy instruments from its 8-bit past in the rhythmic duets that characterize Pokémon music. The result of all this is a highly creative and memorable soundtrack that deserves to be revamped for Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire.
The problem is that composers Minako Adachi and Hitomi Sato, and returning composers Go Ichinose and Junichi Masuda, don’t build on the elements that made the Ruby/Sapphire soundtrack remarkable. Most of the songs that lingered between genres are now specified to the genres of jazz, new wave, or high-brow tea party string-and-woodwind pieces, and the songs are rearranged less creatively than they were in Ruby/Sapphire. 8-bit instruments are almost completely left out, erasing the creative combination of bleepy instruments and more realistic ones. The rearrangements also have less interaction between instruments and feature longer notes rather than the original staccato, both of which detract from the active rhythmic duets characteristic of Pokémon music as a whole, not just in Ruby/Sapphire.
Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire does build on one of the unique elements of the Ruby/Sapphire soundtrack, though: the percussion. In many of the songs, the drums are loud and dynamic, at the forefront of the sound. Other songs feature interesting combinations of percussion, such as the tambourine, glockenspiel, and hand pats in “Littleroot Town”. Ruby/Sapphire’s pride in its percussion shows up even in the new song, “Soaring,” which plays during the new feature of flying on Latios or Latias across the Hoenn region.
I wasn’t too impressed with most of the rearrangements in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. While I was listening to the soundtrack, I found myself thinking that many of the tracks would have sounded better with just a simple piano arrangement instead of all the strings, trumpets, and exotic percussion. Of course, a Pokémon game that takes an average twenty-one hours to complete (twice that, if you’re really dedicated) can’t just have piano arrangements for its entire soundtrack, which brings me to the conclusion that Ruby/Sapphire needs a piano collections album. Many of the songs already begin with a piano, and given all of the piano arrangements of Pokémon songs on YouTube (and all the hits on those YouTube videos), there’s obviously a demand for it. The Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire soundtrack does the job, especially if you just want to hear your favorite songs with better quality instruments, but if the composers really want to celebrate the Ruby/Sapphire soundtrack and give it the praise it deserves while fulfilling fans’ wishes, a piano collection is the best way to go.