There are many reasons Pokemon Diamond & Pearl are looked back upon so fondly by fans. The Sinnoh region is full of memorable areas and varied terrain to make players’ adventure a memorable one. The story is full of some of the most colourful and memorable characters in franchise history. The Pokemon themselves are a cavalcade of great designs, so much so that a remake is on the horizon for late 2021.
However, one feature of the Sinnoh games that has proved to be much more memorable than any other is the music. Some consider the sounds of Generation IV to be the absolute best in the franchise, and it has even reached the point of being used outside of the Pokemon community as background music for many a YouTube video. Naturally, the games are full of iconic tracks ranging from quiet to ear-bursting.
8. Route 210
It’s very rare that a Route theme could rank among the best a game has to offer. These themes aid players along their journey to the next goal; they’re not supposed to be a feature in-and-of themselves. However, Generation IV threw that aside and made the Routes feel like a big deal with music like this. There is a huge variety across Sinnoh. Some are quiet and reflective, some are threatening, and some – like Route 210 – are triumphant.
At the point in the game where players first reach this route, they don’t have many burdens on them. It’s still early enough in the adventure that the world-threatening stakes haven’t reared their heads yet, so players are still on a fun journey. Route 210 connects Solaceon and Celestic Town, two minor towns that don’t even have a Gym. There are no responsibilities at this point. The game just wants you to have fun exploring the world.
7. VS Lake Guardians
Visually, the Lake Guardians are perhaps the least threatening Legendary Pokemon in the franchise. They’re small and colourful in their design; they look more playful than anything else. That’s sort of the role they take in the game’s story too. After getting captured and freed by the player, they show up to help the player in slightly mischievous ways, especially in Platinum’s Distortion World. However, the game wanted players to know that they were not in for an easy fight when going to capture these Guardians, which is where the music comes in.
The opening synth has a somewhat celestial feel to it before being interrupted by an extremely chaotic mix of bass and synth melodies in conflict with each other. Then, the melody kicks in properly, and players will finally understand the fight they’re in for. The bassline is menacing, and it never lets up. Meanwhile, the main melody consists of a mix of synth, piano and bells. It draws in elements of Dialga and Palkia’s battle theme but does something new with them. It makes sure the relationship is established but still keeps them defined.
6. Sunyshore City
Sunyshore City is the final major location in Sinnoh before the Pokemon League. The final Gym battle takes place here, and it’s a rather joyous town to experience. This open, seaside town is full of holidaymakers and people who’ve lived by the beach their whole life and embrace the lifestyle. Additionally, the entire city runs off a system of solar-powered walkways, making it clean and green for everyone there. This is a town of happiness and hope for the future, which is thematically appropriate for this point in the player’s journey.
When arriving in Sunyshore, there is just one more Gym badge to get, and then it’s on to the Pokemon League. It’s a celebration of all the player has accomplished on their journey. This theme starts with some light pianos, emphasised by drums beats, filling the air with positive energy. Then, it throws in an unapologetically fun melody, with synth that imitates a saxophone being backed up by fast-paced piano and bells. This is a place where happy people are happy all the time (except the depressed Gym Leader), and the music wants players to feel the same.
5. VS Team Galactic Commander
All of Team Galactic have badass battle themes. The regular grunt battle track is fantastic, but the Commander battle track turns it up to eleven. The admins in Team Galactic are all a bit…out there. They believe in Cyrus’ goal of conquering the stars and finding a new world to live on, and they’re not going to back down without a fight. They have strange hairstyles, even by JRPG standards, and have named themselves after planets, so you can’t expect a “down-to-Earth” mindset.
The music starts full of chaos, with a quick but loud synth flutter, like someone has run their fingers all over a keyboard. There’s a lighting-fast bassline under the whole track that keeps the low sense of threat at all times. When the main melody kicks in, it’s fast and frantic, moving between segments in the blink of an eye. Each one plays in a higher octave than the last, keeping that sense of emotion behind the battle rising steadily. It reminds players that these Commanders may be nutjobs, but they’re still fearsome opponents.
4. Jubilife City
Jubilife is the first major city players will encounter on their adventure and one that they’ll come back to a couple of times on their journey. It feels like Sinnoh’s main hub for activity. Its theme is an interesting one because it captures the sense of a big city, with hustle and bustle, but still feels rather peaceful. Rather than the crowded cities of Unova, Sinnoh goes for a more open feel. There are many people in Jubilife, but they’re not in a rush to go anywhere. They’re just happy to take life as it comes.
The simple melody makes it one of the most memorable. The jazzy piano is all it needs to become a great track. The notes echo slightly around the track, giving the impression of those large empty streets Jubilife holds. However, there’s still a lot going on in the background of the track, especially in the second phase of the melody. The backing piano gets a couple more layers, and the feel of a populated city comes to mind. It made for such an iconic track that it was remixed in Pokemon X & Y as an easter egg.
3. Game Corner
The Sinnoh games were sadly the last to feature a Game Corner. The PEGI Ratings board decided that such a depiction of gambling would cause the games to be rated as a 12, which Nintendo didn’t want for their kid-friendly franchise. Thus all future games had it removed. Thankfully, these games give the Game Corner the send-off it deserved. There were cool Pokemon available with the coins, and HeartGold & SoulSilver gave players the fantastic Voltorb Flip minigame.
It also feels fitting that this is far and away the best Game Corner theme in the franchise too. The place has never felt so alive as when this theme is playing. It’s fast, but not too fast. It feels exciting without crossing the border into chaotic. The intro ramps up quickly and gets players pumped before hitting a synth melody that feels almost epic in its scope. The way it hits players had before reeling back slightly is a fantastic technique. It’s the kind of theme that will make players want to stick around for as long as possible.
2. VS Cynthia
Arguably the first track that comes to mind when someone says “Sinnoh music”, Cynthia’s theme is one of the greatest JRPG boss battle themes of all time. Having just experienced the epic piano track that comes before the battle, this theme throws players in at the deep end. Some credit Cynthia as being the toughest Champion in the franchise. Her team is stuffed to the gills with strong Pokemon that are incredibly well balanced in terms of types and offensive styles.
Her theme pushes the narrative of this being a difficult battle. It takes a few moments to ramp up, but as soon as it gets going, it doesn’t let up for anything. Generation IV’s patented basslines are in there, keeping the pace up throughout the melody. The first phase of the melody is the most memorable as it builds and builds in tone until finally spilling into the second phase. This phase throws the player around a bit, shifting between layers before hitting the accelerator again into the third phase. The end of the third phase is where the track lets up for just a second. It feels like Cynthia is just taking a breath and gathering her thoughts in this close battle before unleashing her full power once again.
1. VS Cyrus
While Cynthia’s battle may be the most iconic track from the game, Cyrus’ battle theme does something that almost no other theme in Pokemon does. This track is perhaps the strongest sense of character representation in music in the entire franchise. This track distils everything about Cyrus’ personality and journey into musical form and expresses it during his battle. It is the kind of masterful composing that very few games achieve.
Cyrus is a man devoid of emotion. He deliberately suppressed any emotionality he held to become an unfeeling man who wants to drain that feeling from the world. He wants to create a world of nothingness and has no qualms about lying to his legion of followers to achieve this. That side of Cyrus is firmly represented in the constant, average-paced bassline of this track, which is more prominent than in most other battle themes. Cyrus is menacing and dangerous, but the main melody of the track deliberately conflicts with this.
In Pokemon canon, a battle is as much a test of trainers’ will as it is the strength of the creatures. Truly great trainers connect emotionally with their Pokemon to achieve greatness. That raw emotional power fills the main melody of this, and it almost fights with the unchanging bassline. This battle against the player is bringing out those emotions Cyrus suppressed. That builds and builds into a beautiful breakdown until returning to the original melody with a key change. Cyrus has broken and is feeling emotions again, except what he’s feeling is anger, which he intends to take out on the player.