Pokémon DS -Black 2 & White 2- Super Music Collection
Pokémon DS -Black 2 & White 2- Super Music Collection
The Pokémon Company
July 25, 2012 (Physical Edition); May 13, 2014 (Digital Edition)
Buy at CDJapan
I have spent more than half my life playing Pokémon and enjoying the way the series has evolved over the years. The music is as iconic as the video game, anime or trading card game. The Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 Super Music Collection is packed with nearly every detail from both versions of the game. Released in Japan as a four disc set, the soundtrack is also available worldwide through iTunes. This is a 173 track music powerhouse with plenty of hours of Pokémon for any fan to get their fill. Series’ long-timer Junichi Masuda returns for yet another Pokémon soundtrack adventure, working closely with Game Freak’s in-house composers and arrangers Go Ichinose, Hitomi Sato, Shota Kageyama, Minako Adachi, as well as guest contributor Teruo Taniguchi. All musicians who worked on the music collection helped contribute to create the familiar and unique Pokémon sound.
The soundtrack guides the listener through a familiar Pokémon journey, from the title screen to the heart of the White Forest and to the top of the Black Skyscraper. The title music is grand and bombastic like in the original Red and Blue games and the battle music is still just as exciting as ever. But are remixed and embellished versions of existing music enough to keep fans interested? Does the Pokémon series need to update its sound in order to compete with the popularity and demand of modern games?
Composer Matsuda and the Game Freak team members do not sound like they are slowing down after nearly 20 years of quality music. “Floccesy Town” has a wonderfully played accordion solo that truly sounds like the real thing. Even the flute sounding instrument sounds very life like, but it is hard to tell if it is a live recording run through effects or a synthetic software instrument. Either way, the sound is bright and cheerful. Courtesy of Go Ichinose, “Infiltrating the Plasma Frigate!” is thick sounding and layered with percussion for a balanced mix of instruments. The music is full of energy and wonder and is a great build up to the impactful “Battle! (Colress)”. There are hard bass lines, progressive drum beats, and electronic sounds that are panned back and forth and catchy melodies that fit perfectly into the library of Pokémon battle themes.
I noticed right off the bat that all of the music sounds like 8-bit recordings. The retro sound is reminiscent of when the series was in its early days. However, this music is much more embellished than the music heard in earlier versions like Pokémon Red and Blue or Pokémon Gold and Silver. Hitomi Sato’s “Unity Tower”, for example, is an orchestral mix of 8-bit sounding instruments. I can differentiate woodwind instruments from brass and string instruments. The use of percussion adds energy to the music regardless of the retro style. There are many electronic sounds blended in with the music, especially for the progressive style electro-orchestral tracks like “Trainer Battle” or “Battle! (Gym Leader)”. Although the music is filtered to sound like 8-bit music, the notes and rhythms are still clear and mixed well.
Some tracks incorporate vocals into the 8-bit style, breaking up the instrumental feel that previous Pokémon titles had. “Battle! (Colress)” is an example, as the rock elements are combined with memorable vocal melodies. “Virbank City Gym” and “Battle! (Ghetsis)” also do this. Some fans may welcome the added effect that vocals give the music and tracks like these certain make more of an impact in the game. However, I honestly found the mix of styles strange and clashing. Compositionally and technologically, these tracks leave something to be desired compared to soundtracks such as The World Ends With You.
Most of the battle music is included on the soundtrack that is heard in the game. I like how each offending trainer’s theme music has the same, edgy and rock and roll inspired tone as the earlier versions tended to use. This keeps the continuity of the series as well as keeps the music flowing from the adventure to the many wonders of the Pokémon world. The antagonist ‘Team’ music is usually upbeat, intense and menacing. For example, “Battle! (Team Plasma)” sounds very much like the other evil teams (Team Rocket, Team Magma, etc.) the player encounters while exploring the other regions of the Pokémon world. The techno inspired beats carry the listener through the grueling battles.
The series’ gym battle music has been remixed and reimagined in every which way throughout the many colored versions of the series, as well as the newly-introduced X and Y versions. The re-mixed music for this installment of the Pokémon series is layered, fatter-sounding, and completely orchestrated while staying true to the 8-bit timbre of earlier versions. Upon close listening to “Castelia City Gym” and “Driftveil City Gym”, veterans of the series might recognize the ‘gym melody’ that can be heard in nearly every gym theme on the score. The melody and harmony during “Mistralton City Gym” is really reminiscent of the approach for Pokémon Red and Blue, but with more embellishment in the melody and middle range instruments. Another bonus that comes with this extensive music collection is the “Gym Leader” and “Champion” music from the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh regions. Any musician interested in remixing game music can take a hint from the “Battle” and “Champion” remixes as they are familiar but each version offers new exciting interpretations.
The soundtrack offers some of the sidequests, such as the Pokéstar Studios, that some gamers may have missed out on during gameplay. For gamers who chose to skip these movies, you are in for a surprise upon listening to the soundtrack. Most of the music from the Pokéstar Studios sounds great out of context and offers an eclectic mix of music for the Pokémon music connoisseur or casual video game music listener. Although the Pokéstar music doesn’t have much to do with catching new Pokémon and evolving your current party, it is an interesting side quest to return to and features a great collection that can be saved as a sidequest to enjoy out of the context of the entire soundtrack. Likewise, there are several musical-style tracks featured at the end of the third disc.
Spanning 173 tracks, there are inevitably plenty of tracks that might come across as redundant or filler in the soundtrack release. For example, there are variations of tracks to reflect the seasons changing through the Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer cycle. “Route 22 (Spring/Summer)” sounds so much like “Route 22 (Autumn/Winter)” that I was not sure why they were listed twice, but upon closer listening I realized that the Autumn/Winter version had sleigh bells, whereas the Spring/Summer version of “Route 22” had a harp solo and brighter sounding strings. I really appreciate the attention to detail but would have liked the defining features to come out in the mix a little more.
But with 173 tracks, listeners can also be assured that there is a tonne of highlights across the four disc. Cave music, spooky houses, rival battles, and the final four champion battles are still driving forces behind the music that got me hooked when I was a kid. A particular highlight is Hitomi Sato’s “Battle! (Champion Iris)”, which pushes the envelope of the electro-rock genre. This track has a friendly quality to it, with a competitive edge. The progressive style and syncopated rhythms make it seem like you are moving at light speed. It truly signals to me that I have reached one of the harder battles in the game.
When you have traveled the trainer’s path to obtain all eight badges and gain glory in the Pokémon League, you are free to explore the areas that were once unreachable. Off of the beaten path, you might discover some Pokémon to be revered and hopefully captured. The legendary Pokémon battle music is fun and engaging. The battle music that is played when trying to capture or fend off Kyurem is more epic and fuller sounding than the other legendary battle music; the tune reflects Kyurem’s large size and explosive power, with the gong hits capturing his dangerous attacks that will nearly wipe your party out. The battle music for the Regirock , Registeel and Regice legendary trio is very electronic but personifies acoustic instruments. The music reflects the legendary ‘Regi’ trio’s computer like appearance and elemental qualities. The brass sounds like it has been run through some crazy effects while a completely electronic instrument hammers out a melody. The sound is big and futuristic, much like the ‘Regi’ monsters. I love how the music reflects the characteristics of the Pokémon and world as it makes for an engaging, complete experience.
Ultimately, there is a Pokémon track for pretty much any mood you’re in. Want to salsa dance in a Pikachu costume? Put “Lentimas Town” on and have at it. Need some nostalgia? Listen to “Rayquaza Appears!” and soak in the organ melody. Want to hear what Pokémon consider music? “Tympole Choir” is the short selection to spark your imagination and tickle your childhood fantasies. There are some easter eggs from Pokémon Emerald and Platinum towards the end of the experience which is cool to own if you are a fan or collector.
Aside from the absence of the sounds of Pokémon being healed, the soundtrack is a definitive collection of what you will hear and experience on your travels through the Unova region. The music collection offers action packed and technically challenging material that provides a fun and substantial listening experience. The music of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is dynamic and panned with an expert touch and certainly does not sound dated by any means. The ‘processed’ or computerized 8-bit sound may turn some listeners away, but will be a charming homage to the series’ roots for many others. Regardless, whether experienced on a stand-alone level or heard as you battle your toughest Pokémon against the many opponents that stand in your way of becoming Champion, there’s plenty of fun to be had with this soundtrack.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on October 29, 2014 by Marc Chait. Last modified on January 19, 2016.