Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions: Where Game Music Becomes Art


Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions was in Los Angeles, well-timed during this year’s E3 2016 (wrapped up as of yesterday). The event was exciting, given the excitement I’ve heard over it. I went into the event with no expectations, and given that my brain was kind of dead from E3’s rigors, it was a great way to cap off an evening. The end result was a symphony that managed to transcend the music medium and cross over into the field of art.

Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions is masterminded by two key individuals, Producer/Creative Director Jeron Moore and Music Director Chad Seiter. Credit must be awarded to these two key individuals for being able to develop a showcase that enraptures the attention of their younger audience, given the event is approximately two hours long. The showcase itself, which features orchestrated music from throughout the Pokémon franchise, was made that much more memorable with clips of actual game play throughout the generations (credit to the video editing given to Brian Costa).

As I mentioned above, I had no expectations going into it, seeing it as a great night off from E3. What I ended up seeing was a masterful production that catered to the fans of all ages. Susie Seiter conducted the orchestra at the Microsoft theater, and added creative energy and some great humor to the event. The instruments on display were amazing to behold: cellos, a piano, the harp, drums, violins; basically the instruments that would get a musician like me lighting up like a Christmas tree. As a pianist with experience spanning sixteen years, this was a dream come true.

Nope, no Bulbasaur love today.

Starting out with Pokémon Red and Blue’s nostalgic Pallet Town theme, audience members were in for a treat that led through the climactic events surrounding Team Rocket, to becoming a Pokémon champion. The show then led through the Johto and Hoenn regions, the diverse Sinnoh regions, and ended with the Unova and Kalos regions. All of this was played over gameplay footage and scenery that matched the tunes. The music elicited many different emotions, from nostalgic and feverish, to the more mellow themes of Ecruteak City from Pokémon Gold and Silver. The theme when the player faces off against Red from Mt. Silver was incredible and a huge point of notice.

For a symphony, I saw a lot of trend breaking at such an event. Having been to an actual classical symphony, the atmosphere comparisons between that and Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions is night and day. While one is entirely serious and composed, Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions had energy and fervor; I’d much definitely prefer the latter. How often does one experience a crowd belting out the Pokémon theme “Gotta Catch ‘Em All?” in unison to the orchestration? It’s unheard of. Who could forget the wolf whistling crowd for Professor Sycamore?

Photography credit to Electronicpart on Twitter
Photography credit to Electronicpart on Twitter
PC: Electronicpart on Twitter.

However, all of this could not hold a candle to the highlight of the event, where MC Jeron Moore introduced the show’s guest of honor, Junichi Masuda himself. This shocked me. Even though I knew he would be making his way out to E3 for the live coverage of Pokémon Sun and Moon for Nintendo Treehouse Live at E3, I didn’t expect him to make his way on stage. He received a well-deserved standing ovation for his contributions to the franchise, and announced that music development had begun on Sun and Moon, with Masuda himself involved with the trainer and wild battle themes, as well as the legendary battle theme between Solgaleo and Lunala.

With Junichi Masuda on-stage, for the several minutes he was up there, I’ve never experienced such rapidly changing emotions. From crazed excitement at seeing him up there, to raucous laughter as he untucked a Pikachu tail from behind his suit pants, to some tears of emotion for his conducting the piece “Kiseki” from Pokémon X and Y, Masuda brought the whole show together and to a stunning finale. It was a fantastic way to end about 100 minutes of a nostalgic power trip that brought back fond memories of my childhood, growing up and making silly Pokémon mistakes.

Naturally, I’m a critic for this kind of stuff. I look for high production values and entertainment value above all else in these events, and Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions had all of it and then some. The effort involved with producing and editing in the video clips for this is entirely evident. Even the humorous clips where the trainer’s Pokémon used a non-effective attack, it felt organic and similar to mistakes we made in our own play throughs. When the music stopped, the footage stopped right on cue, not a second late or early. Much credit has to be provided to Jeron Moore, Chad Seiter, and Brian Costa for making something like this entirely possible from the music that they brought out of a handheld title/franchise. I can’t even imagine the possibilities and the magic with their sister production, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.

For an incredibly action-packed E3 week, Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions was easily one of the biggest, if not the biggest, highlights to top it all out. From meeting some new lifelong friends in the audiences and in Jeron Moore himself, this is a once in a lifetime event that has to be seen by everyone. Video game music has become an art form, and its biggest voice is here.