Which Kanto Did It Best? -Wild Encounter Theme-
Over the last seven (now eight) generations and twenty-three years of Pokémon games, there have been five separate iterations of the Kanto region; that’s a lot of Kantos! The Kanto region was the original Pokémon region, first featured in Pokémon Red and Green in 1996 and home to the original 151 Pokémon. Many aspects of the Kanto region remain nearly identical across all five of its iterations; however, there are also key differences, like the music, which is remixed after every iteration. Not all of these songs are created equal, so in this Scribbling article, I am going to rank each Kanto iteration’s wild Pokémon encounter theme. I recommend that you listen to each song before you read my thoughts so that you can better understand what I’m talking about and can formulate your own opinions on these songs. Which theme will win? Let’s find out!
Generation 1: Pokémon Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow (1996, 1998, 1999)
Loop Length: ~45-50 seconds
When I first heard this song, only a few weeks ago, I was honestly shocked that I liked it as much as I did. I thought I would dislike it because it was from the GameBoy and would sound very 8-bit as a result, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I really like the song’s background track, especially toward the beginning. The trill-like beeping adds a layer of complexity and intensity to the song that I enjoy. The muted beeping toward the very beginning and end of the song is also pleasing to listen to. The melody is memorable, and I sometimes find myself playing it over and over in my head. The volume of the melody is on point; it’s clear, but it doesn’t overshadow the great background track. Additionally, the tone of the melody is not too overbearing, a quality that makes the song less overwhelming on the ears. Overall, the original Kanto wild encounter theme is a great song, and I would definitely recommend listening to it yourself.
Rating: Okay, not my favorite though
Generation 2: Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal (2000, 2001)
Loop Length: 1:05 minutes
This version of the wild encounter theme has many more beep sounds than the original. For this reason, I did not like this song at first, but it’s grown on me over time.
I then started to notice all the great elements to this song that are hidden under the beeping sound that initially captured my attention. The intro is all right, but the song really picks up at ~0:14. The background beat becomes fuller and more staccato, giving the song an exciting upbeat pace. Additionally, there are two overlays, for lack of a better word, at 0:16-0:19 and 0:24-0:26; I love their tone and the way they move up and down. Their loud volume lets them stand out from the background track and play a prominent role in the song.
Starting at ~0:31 is a buildup portion of the song with wonderful articulation, tone and melody. The background track and the melody overlays work well together to make the buildup quite catchy. The buildup hypes for 0:48-1:05 when the song transitions into a unique flute-like portion. The flute sounds are fascinating coming from a GameBoy color, and the fluctuations of the background track really complement the flute sounds. Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal really nailed the first remix of the original Kanto theme and set a high standard for remixes to come.
Rating: I would definitely recommend it; it’s a great song.
Generation 3: Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (2004)
Loop Length: 45 seconds
Being a remake of the original Pokémon Red and Green, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen tried hard to get their wild encounter theme to adhere to the original’s melody while breathing new life into the song. Alas, they failed miserably.
One of the factors that made the original wild encounter theme so great was its background track, but the remake has a weak background track. It’s very quiet and doesn’t improve the song in any way. The background is more prominent at 0:17-0:18 and 0:24-0:29, but it is not enough. Being muted with an off-key tone, the melody is also awful. The high notes, such as at 0:18, sound particularly incongruous. Weird banging sounds at 0:03-0:13 make me uncomfortable as well. With both a muted melody and a quiet background track, the song sounds weak and incomplete.The melody and the background track simply do not work well together, and the song suffers as a result.
Rating: Skip this one.
Generation 4: Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (2010)
Loop Length: 1:05 minutes
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of Pokémon Gold and Silver, so it follows that it is Kanto wild encounter theme and is a pretty faithful remix of the Pokémon Gold and Silver Kanto encounter theme.
This song’s best qualities are its beat and its intensity. The song’s fast pace and prominent beat, anchored by the background drums, make it really catchy. The music and melody are immersive as they are both intense and epic. This track would actually make such a great pump-up song. The xylophone in the track is so wonderful: it’s unique, unexpected and very complementary to the melody. Additionally, I enjoy the strings in the background track from 0:14-0:25. And, while I already mentioned the background drums, all the drums (and cymbals, too) in the song make it even more energetic. The song makes the best use of the cymbals and drums from 0:31-0:42, where they add to the song’s suspense and intensity as it builds up to the end of the song. The synth sounds during this part of the song complement the drums and cymbals well. That buildup takes us to the song’s end at 0:48, which correlates to the end of the wild encounter theme of Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal (even the timestamps correlate!). The melody is most prominent at this part of the song, with the accompaniment of only a few drums/cymbals and a buzzing background track. My only complaint about this song is that I don’t like the buzzing background track, but my complaint is minor in nature and barely affects my enjoyment of the song. Also, you can only really hear the buzzing if you’re listening to the song through headphones, earbuds, etc. As you can certainly tell from all the above, I really love this track, and Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver did a great job with it (and everything else it did; Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are incredibly well-done Pokémon games).
Rating: I totally recommend it; listen to it all day and night!
Generation 7: Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee (2018)
Loop Length: ~55 seconds
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee are interesting Pokémon games; they’re remakes of Pokémon Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow along with elements from Pokémon Go.
I find this song to be the black sheep among all the songs I’ve reviewed. In my opinion, the melody isn’t recognizable as the Kanto wild encounter melody. This song is much more orchestral than the others because of the technological leap from the Gameboy to Gameboy Color and the Nintendo DS to Nintendo Switch. The part of this song that most reminds me of the other Kanto wild encounter themes is 0:31-0:41, in which there is a subtle background track that moves up and down like that of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen.
This song is good in many ways. The drums do a great job of anchoring the beat and moving the song along. There are these great pinging/xylophone sounds throughout the song but are most prominent from 0:00-0:06. They have a fascinating sound, which make them one of my favorite parts of the whole song. There is a beautiful string accompaniment from 0:07-0:17. String instruments may seem out of place for a battle theme, but the drums balance them out well. 0:17-0:30 has brass instruments, which add excellent fanfare to the song. The entire song continuously builds up in layers and intensity until it reaches its climax at 0:54-0:56. The climax is outstanding yet short-lived, but the great build-up makes up for the climax’s brevity. This song isn’t catchy or memorable in any way, but it’s still a solid Pokémon track.
Rating: It’s a good song; I approve.
Conclusion and Rankings
After much listening, reviewing and thinking, here are my standings for the best Kanto wild Pokémon encounter themes:
Pokémon HeatGold and SoulSilver
Pokémon Gold and Silver
Pokémon Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee
Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen
I hope you enjoyed my first Pokémon music review! I hope I can do another iteration of Which Kanto is Best? in the future. If you would rank these songs differently, please share your opinions in the comments; they would be so interesting to see! Goodbye for now, fellow Pokémon fans, and see you soon!