Great RPG Music: Pokemon Generation 1
Pokémon Red and Blue arrived on western shores in the fall of 1998, bringing with them not just 151 monsters to capture, catalog, and trade, but also a collection of exceptional musical tracks for fans to enjoy. These tracks have been rerecorded, remixed, and re-imagined by countless aspiring musicians, all inspired by the original work of Junichi Masuda. Today, we’re running down some of the best tracks this first generation of Pokémon has to offer, giving you just a taste of the musical foundations of .
Generation 1 boasts a number of rock-solid dungeon themes, and the first you encounter, Viridian Forest, is no exception. This track manages to communicate both the players determined steps forward, with its punchy core melody, while also creating a sense of mystery and foreboding with its bridge segments. With a dungeon designed to give you some random-encounter-free paths for the first half while also introducing the winding, dead-end structure of some environments, players get a chance to listen full experience and really set the mood.
Quick, energetic, and with a sense of danger, the standard trainer battle track in Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow really sets the stage for the entire series on what to expect from a battle theme, both in mood and melodic structure. From the first notes, these battles sound more frenetic and dangerous than their wild encounter counterparts, setting the stage for an epic clash between rivals.
The Road to Lavender Town From Vermillion
Generation 1 is full of excellent overworld tracks, each with a similar feel and a clear message – you’re on a grand adventure and ready for discovery. More hopeful and upbeat than many of the battle and dungeon tracks, these tracks work well within the tapestry and set the tone for your entire adventure. This track, which plays on Route 11 between Lavender Town and Vermillion City, stands as one of the best overworld tracks in the game.
Battle! Gym Leader
That intro! This first gym leader track pumps up the excitement over even the standard trainer battle track, immediately hitting a frantic pace with fast-paced notes and an epic backdrop. You’ll hear this track only a handful of times compared to other battle tracks, and every time, players know their in store for the fight of the their lives.
Where most town themes in Generation I are peaceful little ditties that communicate a sense of safety and comfort, Lavender Town’s track goes in an entirely different direction. This spine-chilling track ramps up the creepiness factor to 11, communicating in just a few simple notes that this town is clearly different from the rest. With the ominous Pokémon Tower looming over you, a skyscraper turned into Pokémon graveyard, this track is the perfect accompaniment to one of the darkest chapters in early Pokémon history.
For a sense of mystery without the horror of undead Pokémon haunting your dreams, look no further than Cinnabar Island’s Pokémon Mansion. The abandoned birthplace of Mewtwo beeps and blips its way through a bizarre melody that clearly communicates something is not quite right about this mansion. This track is probably the best example of how the game blends some good, old-fashioned, sci-fi weirdness into an otherwise fantastical adventure.
Last Battle (Vs. Rival)
The Last Battle against the rival pulls out all the musical techniques employed in other battle tracks and cranks them up to eleven. More frantic than the gym leader battle, and yet bringing a pounding intensity that tells you this will be a struggle of epic proportions. The music perfectly matches the challenge before the player, as from a gameplay perspective, the last several battles against the rival are usually downright easy. In this case, the player faces off against a massively over-leveled rival party compared to previous encounters, and the music broadcasts this final challenge perfectly.
This is just a sampling of what I feel are some of the best tracks from Pokémon Generation 1. Everyone has their favorites, and of course the series as a whole has brought us some other amazing listening material. Let us know what some of your favorites are in the comments below!