[8-Bit Cover] Azalea Town | Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver

A town where people and Pokémon live together in simple harmony.

⬇ Downloads

8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown.mp3
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown.opus
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown.flac
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown.wav
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown_loopStart.wav
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown_loop.wav
8Bit-HGSS-AzaleaTown.0cc

You may do anything with these as long as you name the source of the original song and credit me as the creator of the cover version by linking to my website or one of my social media accounts (licence: CC BY 4.0).

📒 My Thoughts

Prologue

This song is one of my favourites from Johto (I feel like I say that in every description), it’s so calm and beautiful, yet lively, just like some Quiet Village with all sorts of life forms scuttling about in the lush grass gently moved by a warm breeze between log cabins and trees of the nearby forest. I remember how horrible I found that Team Rocket Slowpoke Tail amputation business as a child and that I was curious if it was actually possible to buy a severed tail if one had the like million Pokédollars they cost. Of course there’s also Kurt’s Apricorn workshop. I loved Apricorns, they were something different, they were colourful with a wisible picking animation and they introduced many new Pokéballs that were both useful but above all had more designs and colours. I always tried to pick balls that fit the Pokémon to inhabit it, it was unfortunate that they were mostly unobtainable in non-Johto games. Though the one thing that came to my mind first when thinking about Azalea Town for some reason is coming out of the Union Cave to the east and walking along that tiny route. Something about this place fascinates me, I have no idea why, there’s nothing there, except that it always rains which I had forgotten until I read about it on Bulbapedia. That place also makes me remember something about a Geodude in my team that, I believe, became a Golem somewhere around Victory Road. I don’t remember anything else about that team member. Another thing I’ve read during my Bulbapedia research for this fideo is that they apparently disposed of the GS Ball in the anime and never mentioned it again in hopes that the average viewer would forget it.

Kai called one arena ladder from Azalea City at Pokémon. Oh god, maybe is he that yes!
A girl? ( ͠°ヮ ͡°)ᕤ A girl! \(^o^)/ A girl…! (˵ ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°˵) A girl!? <(ò⌓ó)> A girl… ヽ(╥⌓╥)ノ
Yes, in how many feeling layers want you that then still say?
Kai out Hawaii is kawaii! ≧◡≦

The Song

I’ve been using LMMS for about a year and as usual I went insane, because the playhead goes back to the beginning when pressing space again instead of going back to where it was before playing like in all other applications like Resolve and Tenacity. While I was editing my piano recording of the main melody to make sure I do the notes in 0CC-FT exactly as I play them by hand, I once again ran into this problem a lot because I of course have to be very zoomed in to edit individual notes and it always set the view back to the very beginning whenever I had to press space to listen to a part, so I had to find the spot I was at again. This time, my cursor crossed a button I’d never payed any attention to and didn’t know what it did. I let my cursor hover over it and a tooltip appeared. “After stopping go back to begin (sic! or is that a musical term?)”. I clicked on it. Now it said “After stopping go back to position at which playing was started”. It did exactly what it said. And I was overwhelmed by waves of excitement, relief, and the feeling of what one desperately needed always being right there but one never noticed it. I also remember searching the interwebs when I first started using LMMS and only finding people saying “why would you even need that” and “it won’t ever be implemented”. Apparently not. I should take a look at buttons I never use instead of just never using them because I’ve never had the need to check them out based on their symbol. That one button also has a third option to make the playhead stay where it is after playing and it can be set to different modes for the song editor and piano roll. Edit: It doesn’t save those settings, they go back to the default every time LMMS is opened. That’s very annoying and unfortunate, but better than nothing.

As I just mentioned, I recorded myself playing the melody. I’ve been trying to give my covers a unique and more natural/human feel with little variations as if it were played by hand, as opposed to a computer simply outputting a predefined perfect(ly) boring waveform at a fixed volume and length. Especially volume variations, I love volume expressiveness, because, as the one and only Hans Zimmer once said so wisely: “It’s nice, that … if you go from … it’s satisfying!” When I play songs I love, I usually form habits specific to a song, and I want to transfer them into the integration of the cover. Unfortunately, that’s not easy, both because I have to manually edit each note and effect in 0CC-FT because playing a note just places the note and nothing else, and mostly because I mostly don’t consciously know what those variations are that I play and love. I don’t play them, they play me. They just happen while I play. So I used to consciously play bit by bit of the song, physically or even just in my head, to find out what I do at specific notes. But when I focus on it and only play a bit, I can’t do it a lot of the time. And I also don’t know that well if this note is that much louder than that note or less, and other stuff. It was like blindly fumbling around in a dark room. The darkness is full of objects you are tasked to remember to then draw an exact image of the room, but you keep getting lost and you can’t memorise or even recognise everything. It was neither fun nor effective, not had a good result. It reminds me of the time I cleaned my keyboard. When I put the keycaps back on, I of course precisely knew the location of the most important keys like wasd zxcv, but for the others I could only approximate the location. I had to pretend to type to make my finger automatically move to the correct location and it worked every time, but I couldn’t consciously say in what exact orders the letters are. Fascinating.

This time, I tried a different approach. I let the song play and played along, as I usually do, but I recorded it in LMMS. After a bit of cleanup, I had a perfect and detailed representation of the way I play the song in front of me, ready to be used as a reference for 0CC-FT. Well, except for vibrati, because my keyboard doesn’t have a vibrato function (I’d love to be able to wiggle the keys left and right to create vibrati, is that a thing?) and volume changes during a note for which there is also no function on my keyboard, besides changing the speaker volume. But it’s still great. Next time I do a song completely by ear, I’ll make an arrangement in LMMS first and then use that as reference. That sounds much better than trying to figure each note by itself as I put it into FT.

Now to the song itself. I love that jazz organ (?) at 0:20 so much. It’s barely audible in the original unfortunately, but I really want me and you to hear it, so I increased the volume twice. It was so important to me that I sent “notiz -> orgeltüt lauter machen” (note: make organ toot louder) to Amarizo as I didn’t have access to my Joplin notes at that moment and I really wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to make it louder.

I also once again tried using the triangle channel for the bass and kick at the same time and once again failed. Maybe I have to figure out how to properly do triangle kicks after not using them for so long. Maybe an absolute arpeggio envelope would also help for the kick part. I guess I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll succeed one day.

The very last part sounded like it had a little too many dissonances. Apparently this was once again proof that dissonances are way worse in constant and simple artificial waveforms as opposed to real and different instruments that produce real and different sounds. Especially the french horns in this case, but also the first violin notes of that part. But I also didn’t want to omit anything, so I tried to make it a little better by making notes that seem to be problematic quieter. It made it a little better, but not enough to stop my ears from complaining each time that part played that could and should be beautiful. I revisited the song today, I think 2 weeks after I originally finished it, and once again tried to figure out where exactly the problem lies by playing different combinations of two channels by themselves, and I came to the conclusion that the second french horn note is still a big issue. I tried to change the pitch to different notes (as in semitone-step pitch changes for this note) but no note convinced me, they all made it worse. So I radically set its volume to 1. And it definitely sounds better now. There are definitely still noticeable dissonances there, but barely, I can listen to that last part without my ears revolting now, so I guess it’s good enough.

The other thing I wasn’t at all satisfied with when I stopped working on it were the guitar chords/arpeggios. I originally intended not to use any arps as I didn’t think they would fit and that I’d prefer to have only full notes and chords, but I tested how sawtooth arps would sound when the guitar plays chords/arpeggios. And I for some reason didn’t declare it as disgusting and continued inputting the chords as arps. The result was… interesting, but I didn’t really like it. Still, I didn’t remove them, because I spared no expense to make them and I didn’t want my time and effort to have been in vain and to redo them. So I left the song with these two major flaws, not really liking it anymore. But a couple of days ago, I wrote a note down to try either completely removing the arps or to just remove the loop, so it would only play the chord notes once and then stay at the highest note, similarly to how they are in the original. Today, I tried the second option first. The first two chords sounded basically as disgusting as before and I couldn’t really hear a difference even though they definitely are not looping arps anymore as evidenced when I played the channel by itself. But after that, every chord sounded good and actually really close to the way the original chords sound. In the spirit of radical changes to make progress instead of hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma, I made those two notes play only their last note each. Now I’m satisfied with the sawtooth guitar, I think. I solved both problems and rescued this cover from being bad. Now I like it again. Also because I don’t feel as depressed as I did during the last weeks, I feel much better now.

The Drawing

Starting the cover successfully distracted me from my bad feelings and made me happy and enthusiastic. But the two issues that ruined the song removed the +5 in happiness and motivation and I felt bad again. And I couldn’t think of any scene that felt remotely fun to draw. So I eventually came up with the idea of drawing Kurt and Bugsy in the Animal Crossing style as villagers because catching bugs with a net and shaking trees to get fresh fruit reminded me of AC. I still couldn’t think of how to put those ideas into a whole scene, I didn’t want to draw anything at all. As I’ve mentioned in almost every description probably, drawing these scenes has to this day been very hard and mostly not fun for me, to the point of wanting to completely change the formula when I made Twinleaf Town, but my perfectionism just doesn’t allow me to take a step back in effort. I can’t escape. I think the only thing that let me do something simpler for that fideo was that the deadline of Amarizo’s birthday was close and because my environments don’t look that good while my Pokémon can be acceptable. So a faster scene with only 1, 2 Pokémon would look simpler but also less ugly. And I didn’t want to dedicate another disgusting environment drawing to Amarizo. But now I could neither fight my perfectionism, nor find the motivation to draw. That made me feel even worse and caused like a week of very heavily questioning if doing this and also having done what I’ve done so far was the right decision or if I’ve wasted my life and chosen the wrong “career”. I question myself and my abilities all the time, but this was definitely one of the worst periods. I also sat down to make a list and send it, I mean a list of things I enjoy doing and things I don’t enjoy doing to do more of the former and less of the latter. The fideo drawings were on the no fun list. But I still wanted to draw a full scene, at least one more time. Like for Twinleaf town. To do something and to get a full reference, I built the Slowpoke Well in ACNH. I spent a full Saturday and Sunday doing that. I even thought that I might just keep that on my island afterwards and moved my grumpy villager Angi (genitive singular) house so he would be like Kurt, collecting Apricorns (Oranges) and making stuff out of them. He wanted to leave my island the next day.

So I built that place and made my character look as close to Bugsy and Kurt as I could with the clothes I had available. Now I had a full reference that I could just draw. But I didn’t like that scene at all. I still had no motivation to draw. Again desparately, I tried another approach: I listened to the song, closed my eyes and let the music create an image in my mind. A beautiful scenery appeared. Azalea Town from the east, with a soft wind blowing through the lush grass, a beautiful blue sky, basically the image I described in the first paragraph. I loved that scene and feeling. I had a scene that I could draw. I let the music build it, tell its story.

Unfortunately, my environmental drawing skills are still very limited. I sketched out the basic layout of things first, like in Route 201, which definitely helped motivate me because I had a better idea of what the actual drawing could look like. I was still very much not motivated and depressed, but I slowly and arduously drew one building/area a day. And while I definitely would have preferred doing something else, it still definitely was a tiny bit fun and doable. When I was done with everything but Bugsy and Slowpoke, I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t nearly capture the beaut, step outsi, of the original image in my head, and it’s not nearly as beautiful as drawings from artists I enjoy (in this case, I don’t entirely mean just comparing my ability to those of people with more experience, I mean that I want the result to look enjoyable to me), but it was acceptable. Slowpoke turned out well enough as well, considering that I don’t really like them. Bugsy was the final thing I’ve drawn and was of course very difficult, but I really like the result. Originally, he was supposed to stand at the leftern golden ratio line of course, but he completely covered the front of the gym, so I moved him between the gym and the charcoal house to make just enough of the gym vissible that the round shape can be seen and it doesn’t look like a box. It still looks weird and unfamiliar, I’m used to being able to see the entire environment and now there’s so much covered up. I frequently feel like this, I guess that just happens when you paint and gradually create a world.

Also, why are Apricorn shrubberies so weird in the game? They’re regular fresh fruit in the anime apparently and grow on trees, but they grow like upside down on top of a bush in the game, like a pineapple. I wonder why.

Editing

I rendered, ffmpeg converted and uploaded it thrice, including applying the changes to the thumbnail and its three different versions. First I forgot to shade the bug net’s mesh and then I added one pixel at Bugsy’s left (from the viewer’s perspective) shoulder to make it look a little more firm instead of very slouched, that one pixel made a big difference. And the changes I made to the song meant that I had to re-record the sawtooth, pattern and NSFPS recordings since I had already recorded everything before I started the drawing. While writing the section above I remembered the one volume change I made to the french horn in pulse 4, so I should have re-recorded that as well, but I didn’t feel like doing that and then re-synchronising it, and rendering and uploading it again. So, for the first time (I hope), there is a difference in the visuals compared to the music. Unsuckscribed. And I just remembered that there was another mistake. There was a DPCM note visible at the start of the NSFPS recording, from my usage of the channel as notebook/clipboard/history. I remember noticing it when I recorded it and thinking that I have to remember to check that it’s cut off in Resolve, but I forgot and only noticed that later. So there was a fourth render. But only three uploads. Edit: Thanks for 1 like: I just noticed that I forgot to hide the colour palette layer. I’m apparently so used to seeing the drawing with that layer on top that I didn’t notice until now. At least I did before it went public. A fourth render and upload it is.

While that took long and the first recording session needed some usual re-tries as well, synchronising the recordings to the song went as well as never before, I believe. Nearly every frame was perfect, with the exception of the All oscilloscope, that one has frequent delays of 2 frames but that’s usually the norm and I wanted to be done, so I didn’t re-record it. That oscilloscope is from the same recording as the pattern which was unproblematic. I wonder why FT and NSFPS have such stuttery visuals. If only FamiStudio could also display the exact same things so I could use that since it seems to be perfectly smooth with a dedicated visual export feature. But this was a surprise to be sure, but a very welcome one.

Epilogue

It’s nearly 2 in the morning now and I’m only now eating dinner, but I want to get this done today, so I’ll quickly finish this last part. I like the cover, I don’t think it deserves a spot among my favourites, but it’s definitely above average as of right now. The drawing is good enough for my current skill level, I definitely consider it one of my best. I’m satisfied for what I can do, but not for what I want it to be. Am I going to be something less monumental as my list of fun and unfun things told me? Good question.

Two things before this is over™: I have a new recommendation for what is also, known as, a content creator, sometimes: Jan “wlard” Junge (YouTube Twitch). To quote his descriptions, his main interests are tech, keyboards, 3D printing, handwiring, 3D design, programming and much more. His YT channel currently consists of really interesting keyboard videos, one of which was recommended to me. When I watched (listened to) them for the first time, I had no idea what he was talking about, but was intrigued. Now that I’ve watched his streams and done my own research, I understand most things and his interest regarding ergonomic programmable open source keyboards has rubbed off on me. And on top of that he seems really nice and his voice is very nice to listen to, definitely among my top voices and from what I can tell personalities.

There are a couple of songs I’m really itching to cover, but next up is of course the Halloween fideo. It would have been nice if I had started earlier and finished quicker, so I could have gotten another song inbetween, but here we are. I hope I’ll at least get the Halloween cover done in time. Which brings me to the third thing: My second wisdom teeth surgery for the left side will take place on the 22nd. Which will again incapacitate me for a bit, but probably and hopefully less since I know what to expect and do now and because of the confidence and happiness boost I’ve gained on Friday.

👆 Links

Website: https://phal.io
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Odysee: https://odysee.com/@phalio:6
I’m on almost every site because I don’t want to exclude anyone, find out if I’m using the site you’re using here: https://phal.io/links

💾 Programmes Used

8-bit audio production: 0CC-FamiTracker https://github.com/HertzDevil/0CC-FamiTracker/releases
Pixel art: Aseprite https://www.aseprite.org/
Fideo editing: DaVinvi Resolve https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/
Screen recording, media conversion: FFmpeg https://ffmpeg.org/
Note visualisation: NSFPlay Synthesia https://github.com/HertzDevil/nsfplay/releases
Audio editing, playing back and timestamping original song to analyse: Tenacity https://github.com/tenacityteam/tenacity
Playing back original notes and instruments to analyse: LMMS https://lmms.io/
Extracting original music from game to analyse: VGMTrans https://github.com/vgmtrans/vgmtrans/releases

🎵 Music Used

Original song: Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver – Azalea Town https://music.apple.com/us/album/azalea-town/796790051?i=796790196 https://youtu.be/CSI3sjAl4tE
Pokémon Gold/Silver – Azalea Town https://youtu.be/r8MiUBgyeyY