Arjun has attended both the Symphony of the Goddesses and Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions tours, and shares his thoughts on the experiences.
To most people, video games are a way to relax, unwind, be entertained, get competitive, or all of the above. To others, video games are that and then some - a tool to escape into worlds beyond imagination, allowing players to immerse themselves within each game's cast of characters and overall lore. The music/soundtrack a video game offers also often plays a huge part in this experience, and to me, it's one of the most influential factors that can make an already-great game superb.
I love the Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon franchises. In fact, dare I say they're my favourite video game franchises of all time (I know, a unique selection, right?), with Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat just creeping behind. Aside from each franchise's array of memorable characters and revolutionary gameplay, it was the music that really made the three stay with me, and it's a great contributor as to why they remain my favourites. So when I heard about The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses (SotG) and Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions (SE) orchestral performances, you can just imagine how excited I was. Having now seen both performances, I will offer my take on each experience (mostly spoiler-free) which may help those of you who are on the fence about attending one or both of them.
Let's start off with Zelda's SotG. I've been twice now, both in 2015 and 2016, and I'll start off by saying that although both experiences were pretty much identical in terms of content, I enjoyed it just as much - if not more - the second time round; I'd go again if I could.
SotG is an amazing experience – you're taken through medleys of the legendary music contained within the Zelda universe, accompanied with respective gameplay footage that really adds emotion and compliments each piece. The footage selected has been excellently chopped up together, capturing all of the highs and lows of Link's adventures that's spanned over the last 30 years of the glorious franchise. The way the music is structured is non-linear, as instead of solely relying on the typical chronological game-by-game format, there are compositions that encompass elements from most, if not all games of the series, such as a piece dedicated to the franchise's boss battles. Moreover, there's also a choir who perform the dramatic vocals needed in some of the pieces, which is a great touch.
It truly is a masterpiece that successfully captures and delivers the essence and emotion that the music of The Legend of Zelda is well-renowned for, and without spoiling anything, there are some nice "Easter eggs" and surprises sprinkled throughout the event too. A cool added touch is that the conductor of the orchestra holds a Wind Waker instead of a usual baton (which I actually got as a gift over Christmas - and it's pretty awesome). I've even attended SotG with people who aren't fans of the Zelda series or video games in general, and yet they even felt their spirits uplifted upon exiting the event and came with me the second time round. Overall, Zelda's SotG is a solid 9-9.5/10 from me, with the event just shy of that perfect 10 due to the absence of my favourite song - *spoiler alert* - "Song of Storms". Nevertheless, I highly recommend it!
And now we come to Pokémon's SE. I only went to this in the December just gone by, and I had some high expectations. Granted, I may have doomed myself from the start as I watched one incredible orchestral performance of Pokémon Gold. If you look at that video (below), you'll notice how much spirit has been poured into the composition. The musicians play out every intricate detail respective to the gameplay footage being run, from interrupting their medley when a wild Pokémon appears to even the sounds of Pokémon attacks during battle sequences. There is also great character in the player who played the game, for instance they go out of their way to "accidentally" ask the Pokémon Centre's nurse to heal their Pokémon for a second time (all us button mashers have done it at some point!).
So, as mentioned, I may have shot myself in the foot by watching that, but what about the tour I attended? Well, as you may have expected, the symphony traversed through six generations of Pokémon games (Red, Blue & Yellow through to X & Y). Of course we've recently gotten our hands on Gen VII's Sun & Moon, but there's no way they could've prepared the songs of these games so soon after their release. The songs were performed well, the chronological ordering was a logical choice, the accompanied gameplay footage was decent and, quite honestly, that's about as all I can say. Don't get me wrong, my ears loved how the music was performed, and although the selection of songs chosen from each generation is debatable (a lot of my favourites were missing), each piece did take me back to the eras of the many generations of Pokémon, prompting plenty of nostalgic thoughts and emotions.
Unfortunately, having thought over the December performance, I feel that Pokémon's SE lacks a certain flare that Zelda's SotG brings to the table. It's not always a good idea to compare, but comparing this composition to SotG and the aforementioned YouTube video is really striking. The event does what it has to do, and aside from a single surprise, it doesn't do much else to push the barrier to really capture the inner Poké-nerd, at least in me anyway. It's not a good sign when you leave an event thinking you should've been Creative Director, and in all honesty that's how I felt upon leaving.
The take-home point for me was: "There were so many missed opportunities". Each piece of music played isn't entirely in-sync with the events onscreen, at least not with great detail. For example, I believe I can recall Pallet Town continuing to play despite the player stepping into the grass. Additionally, the transition between each piece is pretty much a stop-start approach, whereas - without spoiling anything - SotG nails that aspect perfectly. Maybe I was expecting to see what I saw in that Pokémon Gold composition and prefer a play-through performance, though SotG doesn't do that and it still rocks. Having said all of this, I still don't regret going - despite it being slightly disappointing, it was still an enjoyable experience on the whole. Plus, there's a neat "Who's that Pokémon" on-screen guessing game to help the time pass by as you wait for the show to start and resume from the interval, whereas in Zelda's SotG you only had Zelda video game and SotG merchandise adverts to keep you occupied. Overall, a 6/10 from me for Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, but that's just me!
All in all, I did enjoy both my experiences at The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses and Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, but the former certainly outshone the latter. If you're someone who's planning to go to see Pokémon's SE, don't let my opinions put you off - you'll probably still love it. It's just my two cents; having seen Zelda's SotG beforehand coupled with that awesome YouTube video, I probably set my standards pretty darn high.
And that just about does it! Have you been to any or both of these musical experiences or have an interest in going? If so, let us know your thoughts below!