It occurred to me recently I had not talked about any Pokemon music in any of my #TuneTuesdays, so I wish to change that with this weeks wintery tune, one that comes from a game pretty close to my heart. It is Snowpoint City from Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, composed by Junichi Masuda, Gō Ichinose & Morikazu Aoki.
I'm sure everybody who both follows me and reads these weekly musical threads what and how Pokemon operates. For a quick crash course, you are a Pokemon trainer who has 3 objectives. Catch all the Pokemon, become the Pokemon Champion by beating the 8 Gym Leaders & Elite Four at the Pokemon League, and stop the evil schemes of whichever group of baddies are wanting to take over the world.
In the fourth generation of Pokemon, the story revolves around you stopping Team Galatic, who plan to use the Legendary Pokémon Dialga and/or Palkia (it depends on which game you play) to create a new universe just for themselves, while destroying the current one.
Pokemon had been a while with many cool locations that exist on small islands, treehouses and even at the base of a fucking volcano. Never had there been a city/town that was covered in snow. That is, until Generation 4's Snowpoint City, which sits at the base of Mt. Coronet. You visit the city late into the main campaign, where things with Team Galatic are beginning to get intense and have a fight with some of their Admins in the tunnels of Mt. Coronet and appear in a snow-covered path, the first in a Pokemon game.
As pretty as it is seeing other Pokemon trainers dashing about on skis and snowboards in the snow and around the trees, the two routes you have to traverse to get to Snowpoint City, Route 216 & Route 217 (both having pretty music themselves) have a notable danger with them. It is snowing, which in gameplay terms is translated to it Hailing in battle, which means non-Ice type Pokemon will take a bit of damage after every turn, which can destroy ill-prepared trainers. I can remember it doing just that to me during my first playthrough on Pokemon Pearl 12 years ago.
The intensity of the snow pickups as you move from Route 216 to 217, turning it into a full-on blizzard. This doesn't affect your team during battles, but it does make things a bit more difficult to see as you are trying to navigate through the linear route. Eventually, you arrive at Snowpoint City and hear this almost creepy delayed synth line, unsure whether you have arrived at the city. Cautious players will walk and not run, just in case more trainers/wild Pokemon appear. A dock will appear on the bottom of the screen, some houses and Pokemon Market & Centre in the corners of the map, the Pokemon Gym at the city's centre, and a big-ass temple at the top of the map.
It is fair to assume at this point you have reached Snowpoint City, ignoring the missable pop-up that appears on the top left corner.
As you explore some almost-jazzy strings enter introducing new harmonies not found in the implied key of E major, making the percussive synth parts sound more friendly as the piece progresses, making the player feel not only safe in this city but creates a sense of 'let's play in the snow', something I wanted to do as a kid all the time. Pity you can't make snow angels in any of the Pokemon games...
What I described about route traversal and the exploration of the city were my own experiences with the game, which is incredibly personal to my own development. Pokemon Pearl and my Limited Edition silver DS Lite (both I still own) were birthday gifts of mine 14th December 2007. I was so excited to have that cool DS in my hand, playing a new Pokemon on not one, but TWO screens, one of which is a touchscreen. No one liked Pokemon at my primary school, so I had to play the GBA games by myself. Even if they did own those games, they wouldn't have played with me anyway. To spare you revisiting old scares and scars of my past, let's just say that I was not terribly popular. I had Pokemon Pearl finished by 1st January 2008 and when I went back to start the new year and term at school, no doubt did many of my peers had new DS Lites, mostly in black or white, for those were the only colours available (outside of the grey original DS). Most people also owned Pokemon Diamond, so I was suddenly the go-to guy for all the Pokemon Pearl exclusive Pokemon to trade with Diamond Pokemon I desired.
All of a sudden, I was a popular kid and would soon develop friendships through these new Pokemon games, and I think there is not a better cue, to sum up, this transitory period in my life. The uncertain loneliness and desolation (the teasing chromaticism of the synths), followed by the growing confidence of speaking to people (the introduction of the second synth part) with the New Year granting me some friends (the aforementioned string parts) before ending with having a small pocket of good friends that were my crutch for the next 5 years at secondary school (the positive synth parts at the very end).