Games currently playing: Brave Frontier, Pokémon Black, Kingdom Hearts: Unchained, Phantom of the Kill
Today, in the next Across the Generations installment, we are going to be looking at Pokémon’s beloved SURF THEMES! Let’s… Dive right in, shall we? 😉
Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow
As always, every track from the first gen is a classic. I quite like the RBY surf theme. It’s very cute and laid-back, in a nice 3/4 time signature that propels the melody and keeps the momentum going. It’s not particularly exciting, but surfing is not a particularly epic or dramatic part of the game. I think this track serves its purpose very well :3
Pokémon Gold / Silver / Crystal
Ah… As we know from my previous article about Pokémon Gym Themes, Gen II holds a very special place in my heart, as it was the first Pokémon game I played back in 2nd grade :3 I am absolutely, 100% madly in love with the GSC Surf Theme. It has such character, with its fairly complex chord progression (especially for a chiptune track), intricate rhythms and counter-melodies, and such clear and distinct sections that weave together seamlessly.
The minor iv and minor v chords in this track are what really make it for me. The addition of triplet runs as well (0:03 – 0:04, 0:22 – 0:24, 0:26 – 0:28, 0:30 – 0:32, 0:34 – 0:35), and downward glissandi (0:37, 0:41, 0:45, 0:49) add much rhythmic variety and create a sort of dramatic build-up that seems almost unreal for a chiptune track.
Finally, the melody getting kicked up an octave at 0:45 is just the icing on the cake for me. I incorporate this technique in quite a few of my own compositions—maybe this surf theme subconsciously influenced that!
ANYWAY, I LOVE THIS THEME AND COULD GO ON FOR DAYS ABOUT HOW MUCH LOVE I HOLD FOR IT.
MOVING ON TO GEN III.
Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald
This one is just… So sweet. A little more calm and relaxed in comparison to the more dramatic one from Gen II, this one also has a few more cadences that slightly stop the momentum by landing very definitively on the tonic chord (0:26, 1:10). Obviously it’s fine for the track to END with a cadence like that, but in music that loops, I prefer to have a cadence that ends on the V chord rather than I/tonic, just so that it loops around to the tonic with a bit more of a push.
Wow, I guess from a compositional stand-point, I’m not such a big fan of this one! :O It’s not a BAD track per se, but just in comparison to the other ones (namely GEN II WAAHHH), it’s not as exciting… Rhythmically, this one pales in comparison to Gen II’s, but the significant upgrade in midi sounds more than makes up for it.
It’s definitely very fitting for a lazy day, just floating in an inner tube in a calm ocean near the shore, or in a lake. It doesn’t fit as well for exploring the open, vast sea.
Pokémon Diamond / Pearl / Platinum
When I looked up the track on YouTube, I realized I had completely forgotten how this gen’s surf theme sounded. Now that I’ve listened to it a few times, I have still forgotten how it sounds. Gen IV, I promise I will find a category that you meet and/or excel my expectations in! But, alas, the Surf Theme is not it!
With lots of very delicate, treble sounds in this Surf Theme, it sounds a bit more fitting for a more icy landscape, instead of surfing music. I would expect to hear this theme accompanying the main character if she were to have ice skates and be dancing along the frozen road. As the surfing music, this theme is just so incredibly underwhelming. Again, like in Gen III’s theme, it’s not a bad track on its own (*cough* unliketheGenIVGymTheme *cough* *hack* *choke*). But it just does not have all that much variety in intensity, and the midi sounds are honestly quite low in quality, especially what seems like it’s trying to be a vibrato effect. Instead of the beautiful vibrato however, it merely sounds like the playback is glitching out a bit…
Oh dear, Gen IV. How you disappoint me… I’m gonna pick the next AtG review based on which one I like from Gen IV!! X’D This is ridiculous!
Pokémon Black & White
Aha! Now we have some real excitement! From the get-go, this Surf Theme is very exciting, incorporating some nice, driving percussion, and bringing back those downward glissandi that we love so much from Gen II (0:02, 0:04, 0:05, 0:11). The very mobile bass line and inclusion of a persistent beat make this the most different theme so far—the tempo is much faster, and we are now in a driving 4/4, rather than lazy and laid-back 3/4.
This theme definitely makes me want to go explore the vast ocean, and would actually seem quite silly to be playing while I cross the little patch of water to retrieve an item in one of the starter cities… 😛 Well I guess there’s excitement wherever we make it, right? Anyway, I’m really diggin’ this one. Gen V, good job. Well done. Excellent. It borders on cheesy (any time brass play quick, harmonious notes I can’t help but giggle a tiny bit), but it feels very self-aware so I’ll give it a pass 😉
Pokémon X & Y
Wait, do I hear castanets? What are castanets doing in a Surf Theme…!? Whew. This track certainly shows off how far we’ve come, orchestral sound-wise, but damn. It sounds like we’re in an uppity theater of sorts, surrounded by overly dressed, wine-sipping patrons of the arts…
Oh, excuuuuuuse me, did I speak too loudly? My goodness, is that a fair maiden’s handkerchief I spot on the rug over there? What ever shall we do?
I suppose this theme fits well in the context of the overall sort of up-scale, French atmosphere that Gen VI was going for for some reason. But in comparison to the other Gen’s surf themes, it just lacks any sort of excitement.
I don’t get any sense or implication of water or urgent exploration when I listen to this. I’m just expecting to hear someone start singing opera-style that will eventually put me to sleep… Which I guess means I’ll drown, since we’re apparently surfing…
Oh, and I so dislike that slight ritardando at the end. Talk about losing momentum. Sheesh.
WELL. Let’s not leave on THAT note! I found a quite lovely piano cover of Gen II’s Surf Theme, so why don’t we end this review with that ^.^
Which Surf Theme is your favorite? 🙂 Did I give Gens IV and VI too much hate again? Let me know what you think in the comments below!