The Music of Red, Blue and Yellow
Dive back into 1996.
It’s no secret that Pokémon games are often praised for many reasons from gameplay to nostalgic moments, but one of the core factors that makes any Pokémon game truly great is the music they each have. From their classic themes that play when each new player is greeted with the message, “Welcome to the World of Pokémon!” to the music that plays during the final epic clash against the region’s own Pokémon league champion, the music in the games help enhance each player’s experience. Let’s dive in to explore the music that plays about in the first gen Pokémon games, Pokémon Blue, Red and Yellow!
The original Pokémon Blue, Red, and Yellow were only released in Game Boy and Game Boy Color systems during the 90s, so of course they were only in an 8-bit format. Personally, from their battle themes, to their route music, and even their own city and landscape tunes, I believe that they brought a certain charm that set the bar for the future Pokémon games! If a player were to experience this game for the first time, the first thing that they’ll encounter is the opening music of the games. It set the tone: they were about to embark on an epic adventure filled with challenges, and memorable material.
And yet, the opening music just scratched the surface on the game’s overall atmosphere.
The Route themes in the game set the tone on how each player would travel in each Route. Starting with Route 1’s and 2’s theme, this theme is quite unique because it’s more a tune for the beginner trainers setting out on their journey! It’s upbeat and cheery, and it represents how we’re all just learning about simple Pokémon like Pidgey and Rattata, and how to interact with them. It’s also a learning ground on how we should care for our own Pokémon too; how do we keep them healthy and ready for battle?
As we learn more about the basics of Pokémon, we grow stronger Pokémon and get better as trainers as we set foot upon another route theme:
This theme plays on Routes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 22. A neat thing about this theme is that the song start is repeated throughout if you listen closely. Why is this important? We’ve learned more on how to battle our Pokemon effectively, and most importantly, we’ve learned about collecting eight Gym Badges to enter the Pokémon league! How do we accomplish this task? This is what this theme is about – we’re still learning in our journey, but our determination to overcome any obstacle to be the Pokémon league champion remains strong.
We battle trainer after trainer, as well as meet stronger and stranger pokemon! The obstacles and challenges get even tougher though, as we soon hear another tune:
Now, this theme plays on the Nugget Bridge, and on Routes 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. On the Nugget Bridge, we try to battle five trainers in a row, a task of endurance to be sure, and we also battle on the Bike Path nearby Fuchsia City. Swarms of trainers come at us left and right, but this theme encourages us to keep trying no matter what the difficulty. Just believe in yourself, and in your Pokémon party!
Another route theme to mention is the Route 24 and 25 theme. It’s not that different from Route 3 and 4, kind of like a ‘next level’ of those tunes, making it fitting of a challenge like Nugget Bridge. These are the routes that lead to Bill’s house.
What’s interesting is that this theme also plays when Professor Oak greets each new player with his traditional ‘Welcome to the world of Pokémon!” message. So what this theme could represent is knowledge, or rather, there are mysteries of Pokémon that we trainers haven’t even seen yet. Of course when we’re first starting out, we were virtually in the dark about Pokémon to begin with, but then we learn about Bill, who knows way more about Pokémon than we do! So in short, it’s perhaps a theme that represents the forever expanding mysteries of Pokémon.
The beginning of this theme is rather outstanding. It starts out in a repeated sequence before the battle starts, working well to the “Trainer wants to battle!” sequence. Coming into battle was an exciting sensation; we meet trainers from all throughout Kanto, and they each have their own strong Pokémon, and a set of strategies for battle. From what this theme suggests, while the trainers varied in personality, like battling a Lass who favors cute Pokémon, or battling a Rocket grunt who only uses their Pokémon for money and power, each of the battles had a serious tone.
As the battle continues, you might notice how the theme starts to pick up, and the notes become longer. Rather fitting for a battle that won’t end right away! Indeed, the battle pressure was on – how will we overpower their Pokémon and each trainer’s strategies? However, from each battle, our Pokémon, and even ourselves grew stronger. Of course, as intense as normal trainer battles were in Pokémon Blue, Red, and Yellow, the pressure was nothing compared to what we experienced when the Gym Battle theme played:
The tempo in this theme is much faster than the Trainer Battle theme. Rather fitting, because battling a Gym Leader set far higher stakes than battling a trainer. The Gym Leaders were really tough, and the music represented no less than what it was supposed to: a heated battle against few of the best trainers in the region. It even plays when we battle against the Elite Four, and they are in leagues of their own! Still, even when the theme represented an intense battle, it also had a few high notes that shows that we can pull off a win, if we succeed!
However, even when we defeated the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four, we still had one more very important battle, the final battle.
The intro to this theme is much more intense compared to the normal trainer battle theme we’ve listened to as we battled him throughout the region. This was appropriate, because this was a battle between Champion vs. Challenger. This theme represented how it was fitting that the rival was your final obstacle to become the champion, because the both of you picked your starter Pokémon from day one together, and you both gotten significantly stronger throughout your journey. You and your rival became strong enough to become each other’s equals in battle, and thus, this theme is played for this single and unique battle. The beginning of the theme is especially outstanding, as before the battle, the rival proclaims that he is now the strongest trainer in the world. The rest of the theme sets the tone on how you will surpass him.
Let’s dive more towards the music that you hear when you’re in a city, or a small town in Kanto. When the game starts and you have control of the protagonist, you hear this tune – Pallet Town’s theme. The light tone of the music from the gentle piano, to the small xylophone… It truly contrasts the first time stepping into the world of Pokémon, and an introduction to the world around you. Pallet Town is the protagonist’s home after all, and as the name suggests, the town is like a Pallet of purity, where young trainers start to paint their picture of their own adventures.
This is the tune that you hear when travelling through Pewter, Saffron, and Viridian. This tune represents how these cities, as big as they are, are actually warm and friendly, with a peaceful atmosphere. The theme is also broken up into frequent sections, which adds to the friendly atmosphere.
The kicker, however, is that this tune masquerades the challenges and tough battling ahead of us. Pewter City is where we challenge Brock for your first official Gym Badge, which proves to be the first actual challenging trainer that we must overcome – it will be especially difficult while playing Pokémon Yellow, you have to face opponents who have nothing but Rock & Ground Pokémon, with a Pikachu. Even after that, we travel to Mt. Moon to encounter the bad guys, Team Rocket. Speaking of Team Rocket, when entering Saffron City for the first time, we see that it was basically occupied by Team Rocket, and thus, we must fight them once more to liberate the captive scientists and Pokémon. Finally, while Viridian City was our first city that we passed on through, it actually held the 8th gym, which the leader of was Team Rocket’s boss Giovanni, who was the strongest Gym Leader in Kanto.
Notice how the theme is kind of parallel to the Pokémon Center’s theme:
In relation, this theme represents safety, and a sort of ‘break’ from the challenges. While there is tough battling ahead, the cities are still a place to relax and reflect.
Here we have the music that plays in Cerulean City and Fuchsia City. There are a lot more instruments/sounds being used in this tune. The tune is considerably faster than Pewter, Saffron, and Viridian’s theme, which can represent how there are generally more things to experience as well as generally more memorable characters in these two cities. Cerulean City has the Nugget Bridge with Bill’s home near it, as well as the mysterious Cerulean Cave. Fuchsia on the other hand has the Safari Zone with that wacky Warden who lost his gold teeth.
This tune is from Vermilion City. It’s pretty fascinating how this theme has quite a fast tempo. Because Vermilion City is a city by the port, and from my experience, port themes are generally more slow and calming. This theme literally blows that out of the water; it’s a tune where people are always good and active.
Celadon City is the most populated city in Kanto, and this theme also showcases this. The fast tempo, the usage of the instruments and various sounds combined… it signifies that this city is always bustling with life, and there are various things to do like go shopping in the Celadon Department Store, play in the Celadon Game Corner, and maybe reside in the Celadon Hotel. In short, we can truly say this theme represents the ‘City of the Rainbow’s Colors’.
Cinnabar Island is of course… an island, with this theme representing that. The first few bars of this theme are slow paced, and basically repeated too, which does suit a smaller town – you won’t spend so much time outside its buildings like other towns. As it picks up, it becomes a faster melody, which arguably perhaps one could say this is like a brother theme to Vermilion City’s theme. It is a small island, but the inhabitants are pretty out there and active too. Most people here are passionate researchers; some go as far as developing a way to revive Pokémon from fossils, and some of them check out the abandoned mansion to learn the history there.
Other Notable Themes
Now, some other themes I’d like to mention are the Team Rocket Hideout, and the Silph Co. theme when it’s occupied by Team Rocket.
It’s really interesting how the Team Rocket Hideout’s usage of low-key sound, along with the quick tempo of the Team Rocket tunes within the games, are the basis of us <em>directly</em> seeing how Team Rocket operates for the first time. They mean business.
The Silph Co. theme when Team Rocket occupies the building is probably the only theme in the game that starts off in a slow tempo, and then gradually builds up. After all, you’d want to hear the perfect theme while struggling to battle all of the grunts, and get past all of the warp panels and locked doors trying to get to the president of the company.
The final theme I’d like to mention is the theme that plays when you’ve defeated your Rival and become the Champion. Professor Oak comes along, and thus, we hear a familiar tune. In fact, we hear Pewter, Saffron, and Viridian City’s theme slowed down.
Why did they choose this theme, in a slower version?
It’s rather clever; I mentioned before that while these cities have a calm and gentle tune, they do masquerade some sort of challenge ahead, but in this slowed down version of it, it tells us that… all of the challenges are complete. You finally did. You are now the Champion! In a way, perhaps this slowed down theme is the true version of it. You finally beat the game, and thus realize you worked hard to where you’re at now.
Thank you for reading! What I’d like to know from you all is: what is your favourite tune from the Red, Blue and Yellow games? What sort of atmosphere from these themes did it bring for you? Did you disagree with my selection? Let us know in the comments below!