Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions Impressions

This is the fifth time we have attended a video game music orchestra and we have become exceedingly efficient at it. Of the five I've been to (Play! A Video Game Symphony twice, Final Fantasy Distant Worlds, Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses), Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions was probably... my least favorite. But don't let that discourage you! It was still absolutely fantastic and I loved it.

If you haven't been to one of these before, they work like this: an orchestra plays arranged game music while gameplay mixed with live video of the orchestra is displayed on big screens. Before the concert started, original, unarranged versions of Pokemon music was played to keep you hyped and familiarize people with the soundtracks if they weren't already. You could play along with "Who's That Pokemon!?" on the screen. 
You can also expect lots of cosplayers and super nerds at any video game music concert... but you can't expect them to stay respectfully quiet during the concert like you would at any other orchestra. That's just a trouble you'll have to prepare for (and to be safe, make it double).
I ran into Steven Stone of the Hoenn Elite Four, who was in character the entire evening.
As for official merchandise, there were T-shirts ($30), posters ($20 or 2 for $30), and Pikachu plushies ($40). Also, a free holographic Bagon trading card.
Ok, so, here's the set list and my impressions:

1. Main Theme - Awesome! The title screens of each main entry in the Pokemon series scrolled by on screen as the music played.
2. Pallet Town - Nostalgic and nice. The gameplay on screen was of your first events in Pallet town up until your first Pokemon encounter outside.
3. Prepare For Trouble - Pretty darn awesome. The gameplay video showed the character going through Team Rocket's hideout at the Game Corner and eventually confronting Giovanni.
4. Born To Be A Champion - Really, really epic! The gameplay video showed the character progressing through the gym leaders and eventually the Pokemon League Champion. In this and all the other videos, whenever a battle was shown on-screen, additional effects corresponding to the attacks used would flash out around the border of the gameplay video.
5. Ecruteak City - Mellow and nostalgic again, but somewhat forgettable. The video was just of the character walking around Ecruteak City, hearing some back story on the Burned Tower, and visiting the kimono girls and gym.
6. Songs Of The Towers - I guess this was supposed to sound East Asian maybe, but it also sounded kinda like traditional Jewish or Greek music, which was pretty unique and cool. The video showed more of the story of the two towers of Ecruteak City and the legendary Pokemon there, including Suicune.
7. "..." - Super epic again! Another bunch of battle themes and music accompanied by a video montage of the character working his way up to fighting Red on Mt. Silver. 
8. Ancients Of Hoenn - Meh... I wasn't too much of a fan of this one. There was Kyogre and Regi battles and stuff, but I think there could've been a better song choice instead.
9. Falling Ashes - This was the theme of Hoenn's Route 113, which was pretty nice. I liked it.
10. End Of The Road - The Victory Road music from Hoenn, which was quite good.
11. Dreams And Adventures - The beginning music from Diamond and Pearl. I liked it, but there's not much to the music to base a whole song around.
12. Routes Of Sinnoh - I liked this medley a good bit.
13. The Lake Guardians - Bits of this were good, but overall it was down there with Ancients of Hoenn as one of my least favorites.
- Intermission -
14. Pokecenter - You should know what to expect with this. You can't have Pokemon music without the Pokemon Center music.
15. The Day I Became King - Quite cool and I didn't even recognize the music much from this point on.
16. N-Counter - Also quite cool and epic. As you can guess, it was the music from the confrontation and battle with N.
17. Farewell - N's farewell, that is. Quite a pretty song, I'd say.
18. An Eternal Prison - This one introduced the story of Pokemon X/Y. It was fine, but kind of forgettable, in my opinion.
19. Welcome To Kalos - I hate to say it, but I haven't actually played Pokemon X/Y. Even still, I liked this music a fair bit.
20. Professor Sycamore - After liking the previous one a fair bit, I ended up liking this one a fair bit more still, even though I hadn't heard it before. It was upbeat and fun.
21. Friends, Fights, and Finales - This one was just okay, I'd say, but luckily it wasn't really the finale (the finale never really is at these concerts).
- Orchestra and Crew Introductions -
Encore: Gotta Catch 'Em All - A vocalist came out for this and the last song. This one came with encouragement for the audience to sing along and it was super epic. The singer was impressively skilled at hitting both highs and lows and the nostalgia factor put this song as one of my favorites of the night. (Video)
Encore: Kiseki - Maybe if I'd played X or Y, this song would mean more to me, but hearing it for the first time, it was hella cheesy. It was clearly the sort of song you end up with when you translate Japanese lyrics and try to cram the translation into the same tune. It was well performed, I just couldn't overlook the cheesiness.

Thanks to the Youtuber, Stealthless, you can listen to the entire concert on Youtube (embedded here for your convenience):
Oh yeah, don't forget to bring your 3DS if you go to a gaming concert like this. I ended up with 108 unique street passes and got to play a few laggy games of the Smash 4 demo as well.
Overall, it was really good and I liked it a lot. There were just a few songs that I thought would have been better off replaced with something else. I also would have liked to hear some representation from Pokemon Colosseum or Gale of Darkness, which arguably have some of the best music in the series, but I didn't really expect anything from them anyway. Also, I would say that there may have been a bit too much gameplay footage and not enough video of the musicians, but that was just catering to the audience, I guess.

Finally, here's some video I took at the event:
And now, for Pokemon according to my dad, who also attended the concert with me...
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