Nintendo DS Pokémon Black•White Super Music Collection


Review by · December 31, 2010

Since I have not played Pokémon Black or White I will have to judge the Super Music Collection based on its intrinsic value and perhaps how I could imagine the music working in the game. That shouldn’t be difficult: what Pokémon game in the main series is really much different from old Red and Blue? That being said, the music here is very Pokémon-esque. The tinny sounds, the synth beats, the over-arching light-heartedness, and the familiar melodies cause images of pokéballs and Bulbasaurs to swim in the mind’s eye, along with all those new things that don’t resonate with those who grew up with the original 150. A second consideration is the sheer volume of music in this collection: almost four hours and over 170 separate tracks, although many are brief and little more than sound effects. The composers must be commended for that alone as well as the soundscape’s incredible diversity that doesn’t betray the Pokémon tradition.

The music of Pokémon hasn’t changed much over the years. The quality has improved, while still being limited by the shackles of the cartridge. Much of the music sounds quite retro, the quality only marginally better than the old midi tracks of yore, which happens to fit with the franchise just fine. Black and White partially consists of remixes of old classics such as the “Gym” theme or the “Trainer Battle” theme, which will no doubt excite anyone who grew up playing the older entries in the franchise. Not much has been done to the music, however, except a few more layers of instruments, creating a fuller, yet occasionally more bombastic and obnoxious sound that takes some getting used to.

Some of the tracks suffer from an over-reliance on brass and other strident instruments, rendering many tracks unpleasant to the ear, particularly at first. Hearing them repeatedly in the context of a game could be trying. Even the “Wild Pokémon Battle” theme has undergone a brassy and ostentatious transformation. This boisterousness becomes a sort of theme throughout the soundtrack, but even then, the ridiculous number of songs makes that bearable. Even if one hates half the music, there’s still two hours of good stuff, and this seems to be the Black and White Super Music Collection’s greatest strength. After delving deeper into the soundtrack, however, the general sound starts to become more tolerable and even inviting. I find myself looking forward to the release of these two games in the U.S.

Apart from some fun remixes, there are many other tunes worth hearing. Most would probably work best accompanied by actual images of those adorable mutated animals and such, but even without having played the game, there is joy to be found here. Tracks such as “Kanoko Town” provide gentle atmosphere while “Route 1” and others of its ilk provide the kind of flighty cheerful tunes so well suited to the Pokémon universe. The wonderful “Hiun City” almost sounds like something from the Mother series, and “Ryuurasen Tower” provides a tranquil, yet slightly eerie change of pace with a great undercurrent melody. “ENDING To Each Future” is about as epic as Pokémon gets, and some of the battle themes are solid, like “Kyurem Battle!” There are plenty more to discover as well.

I find myself variously turning the volume up and down while listening to the collection. Some of the tracks, such as “Powerful Wild Pokémon Battle,” are just too overbearing at times. Many of the tracks are so odd that pieces of them are shrill and terrible, while the overall theme is still enjoyable. The aforementioned “Wild Pokémon Battle” is one of these. The original Red and Blue theme is still there, but accompanied by annoying sounds. The original is better, as is the case with many of the remixes, which are simply more complicated versions of the old tunes. With Pokémon, simplicity works.

Listening to the Pokémon Black and White Super Music Collection is an enigmatic experience akin to unearthing the skeleton of some fantastic beast one bone at a time. You unveil a thigh, jump over to the skull, and then to a tail. Eventually the skeleton is fully revealed as all the little beginnings converge. Even still, trying to determine what skin or scales used to decorate those bones is difficult. An overall impression is impossible to ascertain, and so it is with this collection.

The soundtrack is certainly worth owning to the more intense Pokémon fans as well as fans of these particular iterations. Some of the music is entertaining, cute, and fun, but some is too heavily layered with brass and orchestral stabs to be enjoyable. Like the Pokémon franchise, the music never really improves, but gets slightly more complicated and better produced with each new edition. Some of the synth sounds are too shrill and obnoxious, but the ambitiousness of this massive collection and its vast mélange of styles and sounds makes it something of a wonder.

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Kyle E. Miller

Kyle E. Miller

Over his eight years with the site, Kyle would review more games than we could count. As a site with a definite JRPG slant, his take on WRPGs was invaluable. During his last years here, he rose as high as Managing Editor, before leaving to pursue his dreams.