Product Reviews

Pokémon Sword and Shield Soundtrack Review

We give our in-depth review of the Pokémon Sword and Shield soundtrack! Is it a delight for the ears, or are there some hiccups in Galar’s playlist?

Town themes

Towns typically get their own theme in the Pokémon games. What do we find in Galar? More leitmotifs!

The first town, Postwick, includes something we heard in the Route 1 theme more or less used in its first half. I’m not a fan of the instrumentation though. A few relistens in and I found myself getting sick of the pitch here in the lead instrument. As such, the song loses the calming quality better showcased in other Pokémon games’ starting towns. It’s a shame, as the counter melodies are nice to listen to and complement the melody well in the second half of the tune. Sound balancing could be improved here.

Wedgehurst has a relaxed vibe to it, and also builds nicely to the second half which brings in more synth and brass instruments. It’s really a song of two halves. You have lighter instruments in the beginning, with the second repetition bringing in increased presences from the backing instruments. Then the synth takes over as strings are also added to carry the tune forward to the end, and a fully involved orchestra for the last stanza. It’s structurally simple, but well done. It’s also a better version of Postwick’s theme.

Motostoke has a nice chill theme, in my opinion, and a superior rendition yet again to the tune heard in Wedgehurst’s and Postwick’s theme. Drums persist nicely and you can hear some mechanical noises which contribute to the industry-flavoured theme of the town. The saxophone which carries most of the melody however shines and gives it its own distinct atmosphere. The bell chiming introduction is a pretty neat way to begin the tune as well.

It’s about time to highlight the other leitmotif as well – the one that we hear in Vs Eternatus 3! The second half of this song is identical to the latter part in that battle theme. And this also appeared in Route 1, and in the Champion Battle. It truly is a leitmotif that pervades the whole soundtrack.

Turffield stands out with a sort of surf rock style to its opening half. It’s a slower paced tune, benefitting of a smaller town with a large stadium, some weird rocks, and little else. The guitar is very soothing to listen to, and is then well replaced in the second version of the first segment following the introduction with the louder, heavier synth instrument. In this second half the guitar plays a counter melody before coming back into focus as the song restarts – and it becomes apparent that it was playing the intro section all along. It’s neat to see the interplay between instruments and different melodies here.

Does the opening part also sound familiar to you? Scroll back up and compare its opening half with Route 1’s theme, and the above town themes! That short part in Rustboro City’s theme sure is getting a lot of mileage here. I certainly prefer Turffield Town’s theme over Route 1’s theme.

That said, as cool as leitmotifs can be, it can also risk having some tunes become a bit too ‘samey’, regardless of how well the composers try to differentiate. That’s probably why I recall Motostoke and Turffield’s themes over others more – they have the same basis, but a much more distinct tune and feel to them. Stow-on-Side thankfully changes it up by presenting something different, and not just in melody! The celtic harp, acoustic guitar, and flutes combine nicely here. The town does feel a bit out of place in the Galar region (or rather, unlike anywhere in the United Kingdom), so it stands to reason this town has something different in its music theme.

Hulbury has a distinct tune as well, given its unique use of the harmonica. The guitar and brass instruments support it nicely too, alongside a more intense drum contribution to the middle section. Players of Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness may appreciate this here. Somehow I get a vague Beatles vibe to this tune as well, ala A Hard Day’s Night, or Love Me Do – maybe fitting for a town somewhat based on the likes of Liverpool.

Ballonlea may be one of the more underrated tunes of this generation, or so I feel anyway. It’s definitely got a magical quality to it, fitting for a forest town filled with colourful mushrooms. Opal being a Fairy-type Gym Leader residing here makes it all the more fitting. You have a constant piano-like instrumentation underneath that remains consistent, and that allows it to settle nicely with the strings used as the lead instrument. Progression is harder to follow on the first listen or few, partly due to the structure chosen, and that it loops only after the better part of two minutes. But it works quite well for the area.

I was less impressed with Hammerlocke’s theme. The strings feel almost too heavy here. It does give off a regal and older town feel to it, but the introduction is too abrupt in how it opens the song for my liking, and at times you have up to three different sets of strings to try to follow, which doesn’t quite mesh well enough for my liking.

Spikemuth is quite unique, and stands out. It’s a shame the music cannot complement much given how little there is of the town to explore. I do like how the song goes for a pair of repetitions before adding in a new component, such as the piano and then the electric guitar, which then changes once again. The piano could be slightly easier on the sharper notes to take some edge off of the tune, however, as it repeats so often in a single loop – but that is probably intentional for this edgy town full of Team Yell members.

Circhester is closer to Stow-on-Side in its use of the acoustic guitar, but here it takes centre stage. The bells and accordion are light and do not take away from it. It’s a quiet theme, but a very beautiful one that fits this snow-filled (and Snom-filled) town. If anything the accordion counter-melodies for the guitar in the second half make for the standout section of the song.

We’ll end on Wyndon’s theme, which is very dramatic for a City’s theme, but probably fitting. A chunk of the plot occurs here, including the final stage of your Gym Challenge. While I feel the beeps and the like added to the song to add too much to it and clutter the melody, it has some nice parts, such as the older-style feel I get from 1:16, mixed in with the synth lead instrumentation.

0:48 in the song features the leitmotif heard in a chunk of the other town and city themes, as well as the Vs Eternatus 3 theme. Is it a leitmotif for the adventure, or Galar itself? It appearing here does certainly add to the feeling that this is the culmination of your journey, the final stop on your quest to be the Champion (albeit with some interruptions while there). There has been a lot of thought put into these town and city themes given the shared leitmotifs throughout.

Overall the towns and cities are pretty well done, with only a few hiccups here and there in my view. Leitmotifs have been perhaps a touch overused, but otherwise were a neat aspect to explore and appreciate in re-listening to this soundtrack. Different instrumentation and styles have also been highlighted across the region.

Compared to the previous two sections, this may be the more consistent in quality, with less misses and more “yeah that’s alright” assessments of my own here. Circhester and Motostoke remain winners.