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A First Listen of Pokémon Go

Review by Alyx Jones

Edited by Sam Hughes

Developer: Niantic, Inc.

Composer: Junichi Masuda

Reviewed on: Android

If you’ve been living under a rock, there is a new mobile game available for Pokémon fans to play, slowly being released to raring fans around the globe. It’s an augmented reality adventure, requiring players to use their GPS location to find and catch Pokémon, collect Pokéballs and battle rival Gym Leaders. So yes, you have to leave your house once you’ve captured your starter Pokémon!

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 21.02.30When you first login, you are greeted by Professor Willow in traditional Pokémon style and are able to customise your character, then go on to choose your starter. Hearing the classic Pokémon music when starting the game is awesome, and helps to boost the excitement about the impending journey. Professor Willows theme uses the main motif from the second part of the main menu music from Pokémon Red and Blue versions, that has been re used many times since their release, including in the TV Series. The original motif is recognisable but the piece is very different, with a key change, a different structure and of course much more modern instrumentation such as flutes, trumpets, strings and synths. All the music you hear in the new Pokémon Go game is composed by Junichi Masuda, who worked on many of the original titles.

Once you start exploring your neighbourhood, the walking theme plays. This features the main section of the original Pokémon Battle music but at a far slower tempo, with a key change, to make it less urgent as well as very different instrumentation. A “Four to the Floor” rhythm is used to get the player pumped when first hearing the music, and then melodies are built over this original beat. However the music features no real interactivity, it’s just a two and a half minute loop that you will probably hear a lot of since the main game mechanic is walking around, looking for Pokémon. Sometimes the music stops randomly, and resumes later on, possibly when you haven’t moved for a while.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 20.59.11When you do find a wild Pokémon, battle music ensues, similar to the original theme, it has the same build up before entering the main section (used for the walking theme). It is far more upbeat, as expected, and is more electronic, with drum beats and synths, over some of the orchestral instruments. A similar story is true of the Evolution music. Both pieces are less than a minute, but most battles are relatively short if you’re good at aiming. If you are successful in capturing a Pokémon, the capture music is very recognisable as the music from the original games, just played mostly by flutes this time around.

The game isn’t too heavy on sound design, since it is an augmented reality game, 50% of the sound design is technically you, in the world around you. There’s no need to have footsteps, since they happen outside of your phone. All the Pokémon have their “cries” and the UI sounds are very satisfying, when clicking through your gadgets, to level up Pokémon and check your Pokédex.

Overall the game has really stuck with the signature Pokémon sounds and music, but given them a very modern spin with the prevalence of orchestral instruments and synths (typical of the newer Pokémon games available on the market). While it is incredibly satisfying to relieve the sonic worlds of Pokémon over and over again, it would be nice to have a little something new and, dare I say it, more options for when we spend hours walking around to the same loop. I would have loved to have a “Pokémon Radio” option, something similar to what we used to have attached to our PokéGear in older games.

Pokémon Go is out in the UK now, and free to download from the iOS and Play Store!

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Alyx Jones
A Composer for Video Games and Head Writer for The Sound Architect, I particularly love indie games and the emotional experiences games can bring, that stay with you for a lifetime. For me the soundtrack is the biggest part of this, and that's why I do what I do!
http://www.alyxjones.co.uk

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