It’s been nearly 20 years since Satoshi Tajiri created Pokémon and the turn-based monster-catching game arrived on Gameboys everywhere. As a Pokémon player and fan since it arrived in the states I never thought the reach the game would be so wide and encompass a large range of age groups.

That is until I went to see the Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions show at the Mann Center in Philadelphia. A coworker and I took the road trip from New York to see what all the hullabaloo was about the show.  

A symphony where they play music from the Pokémon games? How could you possibly execute that with an audience -- presumably -- filled with small children with even smaller attention spans? Would there be a show with people in Pokémon costumes running around while the music played? It was very hard to wrap the concept of the show in my head. So we went having no expectations about what we would see at the Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions show.

When we arrived, nothing could have prepared us for what we experienced. A packed arena with pokefans of all ages. We had the expected toddlers with their parents being dragged to a concert about Pokémon music and we had middle aged adults donning Pikachu hats and official Pokémon League caps. It’s the largest gathering of Pokefans outside of the World Championships or a local convention that I’ve seen.

We found our seats and the lights began to dim and it wasn’t long until the orchestra began filing in. The only lights were the glow of the many Nintendo 3DS’ that the concert goers brought to pass the time. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was amazed to see so many different instruments were on display; violins, trumpets, drums a piano and a harp. Being a student of music for six years -- from middle school throughout high school -- seeing those instruments had me on the edge of my seat. I knew this would be an experience I wouldn’t forget, and I was right.

As Susie Seiter walked on stage and took her place at the center of the orchestra she would be conducting, the Pokémon journey would begin.

From the first song in Pallet Town to the final trip through the Unova region, every song hits the audience in the nostalgia organs -- that’s real, right? -- and takes them on an adventure through the years. But unlike what my coworker and I thought was going to happen, there was a screen that showed gameplay footage while the music played. This made an enjoyable experience into something very memorable as the footage was choreographed in such a way that the crowd would be completely into the gameplay that is over 10 years old.

Cheers and groans were aplenty as you will see a Thunder attack from Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow hit its mark and OHKO its opponent, and then take a massive hit and hold on to a few hit points.

Credit needs to be given to Brian Costa, the video editor for the show, who told a story and used the orchestra to set the mood for certain parts.

When the trainer was facing off against the Gym Leaders and then the Elite Four and finally the Champion Red in Pokémon Gold and Silver, the video was fast-paced and matched the intensity of the drums and horns. It filled the arena with a sense of nervousness and anticipation that mirrored what every Pokémon player felt when they themselves were going up against this great trainers.  

And the converse is true as you roam the underground lair of Team Rocket. The music giving an ominous aura as you faced off against Rocket grunt after grunt.

For approximately 100 minutes, you go through stages of highs and lows as you reminisce about the 18 years of Pokémon. And you get to listen to top notch orchestra players capture all of those emotions and invoke them in the audience. The producers behind the show are aware of what their audience wants -- they had a cutaway scene where your trainer faces off against the Youngster who loves shorts for crying out loud -- and it was great to see and hear everyone react.

And just when you thought the concert was over, the folks behind Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions had an encore performance that was on an epic scale. Don’t want to give away what happened but let’s just say the entire audience got involved in one of the most well-known songs in Pokémon.

The Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions concert is an experience that will change any Pokémon fan’s perspective on the franchise. I can only speak for myself, but as a player who normally has the volume off this show really showed how much work and effort was put into making music for a handheld game like Pokémon. And I’ll definitely be playing with the music on for now on.

If the Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions adds more shows in the future, I implore any fan young or old to go experience this once in a lifetime event.