By Josh Pettis, Staff Writer
Composed by Go Ichinose, Junichi Masuda, Hitomi Sato
Video game bedroom-poppy, hip-hoppy, melodically boppy, cheesy, bordering-on-baroque, cathedral-esque, softish, and over-the-toppish easy-listening: admittedly, the labels are lacking. If presented to Go Ichinose, Junichi Masuda, and Hitomi Sato as the synaptic dictionary to reference for the aural brainchild of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Platinum, they’d have to admit the same lack of cohesion and excess of hyphens you’re probably starting to notice yourself. Ichinose, a veteran in his own right, and his Nintendo/Game Freak pals rendered the ideal Poke-amalgamation, a soundtrack that’s replayability is the jewel of its devotion to tiny inconsistencies and variety. Artificiality becomes the fluid boundary of DPPt’s seminal atmosphere, where aesthetics of 12-bit instruments become synonymous with the faux-absolutism of the divergent sounds in the game’s reality.
Read more: Mindful MIDItation: Pikmin OST
“Lake Theme”, an early riser in the chronology of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum’s repertoire, is a glass ballet something along the lines of a YouTube piano midi conversion sourced from the soothing chime of a department store’s walk-in bell. Weightless R&B drums pulse beneath the mystique of a percussive high end, and the scenery is something like the satisfaction of a spring water advertisement forgotten in the worn pages of a library mystery novel. The end result is vaguely commercial in its precision and otherworldly in its fantasy-like density.
Keeping with the almost performative pageantry of its in-game predecessor, “Eterna Forest” is like listening to a Ghibli movie collide with a juke remix of your favorite lullaby. The vibe is a bring-your-own-bottle secluded spring recital for any naive trainer to witness one at a time. Ethereal flutes and ringtone-keyboards decay and play, glitter and titter, in the gentle palm of a self-aware old age. Distant from muffled cries of disenchantment, “Eterna Forest” is the farthest possible snapshot from the factory farmed nostalgia of an endless series. It’s a sincerity that remains utterly gorgeous, defining a mysticism that’s so integral to the environment of DPPt that the player is left with little choice but to succumb to the developers’ intentions.
Just slightly south of the first Midwestern city that comes to your mind reading this, though, a porch radio twangs out Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum’s take on country classics next to a sweating pitcher of lemonade. “Eterna City” almost serves its purpose in name alone, but its musical accompaniment pushes it to the boundaries of idyllic eternalism mixed with corporate shop-pop or a kind of buyer’s anthem in the flavor of its spazzy drums. Eterna City itself is a town of euphemisms and expressions to play in. It’s small, unmistakably rural and goes well with phrases like “I’m just passin’ through” or “Woah there.” This feels deliberate in a community where slow guitar plucks and harmonica leads that are actually hilarious punctuate the sense that absolutely nothing could happen here.
Pokemon as a franchise is rife with blind spots ripe for critique. In a series that feels almost as if it was designed to stimulate a childish longing by its template, Ichinose and the team created an OST ranging from the stunning progressions of hyper-harmonic ambition to a series of lab tests in hyperbolic genre abuse. There’s no doubting the authenticity of the product, but what makes DPPt’s soundtrack so mind-boggling is the emotive detail of its artistic choices. Whether thematic content decanted in the maturing swell of a sweeping chromatic vintage or a reassuring self-awareness tenderly impressed on the player, its dynamism develops into something infinitely complex and deeply re-listenable.
Listen to the full soundtrack here: