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?

A few other tunes

I won’t cover every single track, including some newer tunes such as Railway Station, or staples of the Pokémon franchise (think the Pokémon Centre or the Follow Me themes). Nonetheless, there are a few more tracks I want to mention before diving into sound design musings.

Sonia’s theme is relaxed and nicely composed. My favourite aspect of this short track is the transitions between each part, with the added couple bars with the wind effect leading to the synth lead section a particularly nice touch. The instrumentation is also good. The tune is simple – following the intro, the first half is repeated almost note for note, but with an added backing instrumentation the second time around. Afterward the synth part also repeats, and then transitions straight back to the beginning. But simple can work, and it does here.

Storming Rose Tower is a ridiculously upbeat tune, for what is a frankly somewhat silly part of the game. Thank goodness this tune is here though, as the segment of the game can be boring. This tune overrode all other tracks, including battle themes, until you reached the top of Rose Tower. The instrumentation is clean and changeovers between the lead instruments are done well. I think my favourite aspect of this though is the increase in intensity of the drums towards the end of the track’s loop. It complements the urgency arising in this section of the game, while the positive tone showcases your partnership and teamwork with Hop and others in getting to the top. It fits well, and kudos must go to the composer here for matching the story well.

The Tournament Lobby theme is quite a treat, if an unexpected one. The heavy techno vibe is done well here, with three sets of ascending synth notes fitted into the one loop. It serves to keep driving the song, as if the intensity is always on the rise time and time again. I liked the switch to heavier and clearer synth sounds in the second half which aided the song progression. While the tune itself is fairly simple and repetitive, that is a trait of techno songs, and it doesn’t get boring several listens in.

An extra serving of upbeat and sweetness is in store in the Cooking Curry theme. I can’t say I particularly like it – it seems a bit over the top in the tone for my liking, and the instrumentation isn’t particularly soothing or exciting to listen to on loop. And if you cook a lot of Curry, you’re going to hear this song a lot. The song structure does at least suit each part of the cooking stage, changing when you move from fanning flames to stirring, and then the final piece of timing before the meal is ready to be enjoyed. Structurally sound; just not a catchy tune, and perhaps overly ‘fun’ in execution. I have similar sentiments for the Poké Jobs theme.

Lastly is the Energy Plant theme, which is not a tune to blast on repeat. It bears mention though because of the excellent atmosphere it carries. There is a clear rising and descending scale throughout the tune, with mechanical or machine-like sounds surrounding it, drifting in and out in intensity. It reminds me of the Drought theme in the Hoenn games. It works quite well in its aim to unsettle the player. It’s a shame then that you’d be lucky to hear a full loop of this song! You have barely anywhere to explore before doing a battle or moving onto the story’s climax. For that reason alone it deserves the quick shout-out.

Sound Design

Perhaps the oddest decision has to do with the sound options available in the game. There is nothing really wrong with the options themselves – it’s more how they are made available. To access them, you must talk to an entirely optional NPC in Motostoke City, after a good couple hours into the game (longer if you spend a lot of time in the Wild Area). To be fair, this is not the first time a sound option has been restricted; in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, you could only access the GB Sounds, an item that allowed you to hear the original second generation versions of the tracks, after beating all the Gym Leaders.

However, here the GB Sounds was entirely intended to be a reward earnt by the player, with a bonus payment in nostalgia for older players. Sound options however should always be available from the beginning! It makes zero sense to lock this behind progression – sound options are not a jukebox feature that you might want to hide from players lest they spoil themselves by seeing song titles or hearing leitmotif.

Speaking of – where is a jukebox or sound test option? The closest we’ve gotten has been seen in the Battle Tower (or variations of it) where you can select different battle music, and likewise for online battles. But you cannot access any other song from the sometimes narrow selection, nor jam out without going to the area playing the tune. (And bad luck if the song you want to listen to is cutscene specific!)

There are a few other issues too. One is noticeable when you choose to spin your character around. The sound effect for it loops with pauses between – it’s a minor issue, certainly, but one you’d think should have been picked up during testing. Another case is in the Wild Area, which I was otherwise quite positive on its music themes. When you transition between the two parts, the music will end, and be silent until you move across enough into the next area. This transition is not well done, and can be very abrupt if you happen to interact with one of the dens there where Max Raid Bosses can be (or at least some free Watts if there aren’t any Bosses). I wager most players try to interact with the den, and experience the music suddenly cutting out.


We have the Pokémon cries also seemingly dated after all these years. Some of course have been updated more recently, such as Pikachu and Meowth, but others do not appear to have aged quite as well. Why not some more realistic animalistic sounds for Pokémon based on living things, like we see with Meowth? These however are further highlighted in the Dynamaxed cries, where the cries are distorted. The result can range from some weird, somewhat funny bellow, to something that frankly hurts the ears. Some better thought and sound balancing here would have been better.

Other sound effects are not convincing either, such as the weird sound when Wooloo breaks the gate to the Slumbering Weald early on, to Hop’s reactions to various things. The ringtone for your Rotom Phone is also bland beeping that does not sound like something I would use. Sound balancing could be improved too – again, the Postwick Town theme could have had better balancing between the lead instrument with the rest, for example.

When you consider all those, and compare with other Nintendo Switch titles, I cannot help but feel that Pokémon has a fair bit more work to do in this area to properly match the competition. The soundtrack truthfully is fine overall, but the sound design and related choices leave something to be desired.

So where does that leave us? Overall I am fairly confident that this soundtrack improves upon the Alolan games, and that’s even considering the fact Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon had remixes of Admin leader themes in it! It also has a solid direction, and while I can certainly see room for people to feel that the leitmotifs are somewhat overused to a fault in this soundtrack, there is clear evidence of clever planning and story integration into the music.


It’s not the best work, however. There are some songs that are too crowded with instrumentation, with synth used to a fault in cases. Some feel almost unfinished or at least having potential not near to being realised, like Route 10’s theme. And, yes, the sound design can certainly be improved in many areas. We also have older Pokémon titles which have larger track listings, less misses, and even going overboard in variety and effort. For instance, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver having both old and new tracks – including retro style tunes for new areas! Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum featured many Day and Night themes of tunes throughout. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 remixing every major battle theme! I cannot say that Pokémon Sword and Shield quite compares with those examples.

If forced to place a number rating solely on the music and sound quality, it would be a 7.5 out of 10. It’s quite good, but a touch short of great.

What were your takes on the soundtrack? Let us know which were your favourite tunes, or of any other musical analysis you’d like to share!

We thank Nintendo Australia for kindly providing us a review copy of Pokémon Shield for the purposes of this, and other forthcoming, review articles.

Edited by Aldo, Mercury, Sheep, and Soaring Sid.