Alright, people, Let’s GO! This Pokémon remake is the most extensive and far-reaching of any to date, taking the original titles from the first generation, spinning it to its Pokémon Yellow variant in Let’s Go, Pikachu!, and adding a new pairing with Let’s Go, Eevee! For more information about the nature of the games themselves, be sure to check out Alana Hagues’ review, published around the time of the game’s launch in late 2018. Today, we touch on the game’s equally extensive soundtrack overhaul in the form of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!・Let’s Go, Eevee! Super Music Complete!
This three-disc set, also available digitally via iTunes and other outlets, technically contains the soundtrack for the Let’s Go games and, as a fun surprise, the OST for Pokémon Yellow (previously unpublished!). Having Yellow as the third disc allows the listener a convenient way to compare the orchestra-styled musical remake with the original chiptune source material from the Game Boy. And for those wondering, does Yellow actually have a different soundtrack from Red & Green? Good question. There are a handful of minor changes to some songs, sometimes in the form of added reverb effects or even integrated sound effects. More importantly, the Yellow soundtrack featured a handful of compositions for aspects of that game that didn’t exist in Red & Green, meaning these few tracks were truly previously unpublished works. These include “Pikachu’s Beach,” “Connection,” and “Theme of Jessie and James.” Among these, I’m a big fan of “Pikachu’s Beach.”
With that lovely Yellow bonus noted, let us return to our feature presentation. Or, to use a more colloquial expression, “Let’s Go!”
Prior to hearing any music from this particular title, I had become increasingly aware of the Pokémon franchise’s high-quality, high-fidelity soundscape. Streaming, recorded audio (as opposed to sequenced audio common with GBA and DS) became the staple with the 3DS. Hence, there were some killer tracks in Pokémon X & Y, and even more impressive life-like audio, including solo and choir vocal performance, in Pokémon Sun & Moon. The trend towards ever more exuberant and life-like music continues in the Let’s Go! games. Though recorded instrument credits are only given to guitar, violin, and piano, the sampled audio for wind and string instruments throughout this soundtrack sounds perfectly on point. And, given creator and lead composer Jun’ichi Masuda having set the stage with a great variety of musical traditions—from the classical style of “Pallet Town” to the creepy mixed tonality of “Lavender Town”—this musical glow-up only further demonstrates the vision and mastery of Masuda’s compositions two decades prior.
Another aspect of this soundtrack that impresses me is how arranger Shota Kageyama handled the battle themes. Personally, I always found the Game Boy chiptune original versions of the standard “Battle!” themes, the Gym Leader Battle themes, and other variants too frenetic for my taste. The GBA upgrade of FireRed & LeafGreen helped, but the compressed sequenced audio still left something to be desired. Now, the Let’s Go! battle themes sound like something more musically coherent to me, without losing any of the intensity.
In fact, while listening to this soundtrack as a stand-alone experience is enjoyable, my high regard for the listening experience is more significantly informed by its matching aesthetic of the game’s bright, colorful visuals. It is the perfect analogous experience: the move from four-color pixel art to a vibrant, 3D-animated world matches a transition from chiptunes to the full range of traditional musical instruments. The core concepts (whether the gameplay or the music’s basic melody and harmony) remain unchanged; the expression is brought into clearer focus.
Sadly, much as I love the music of Pokémon games, this soundtrack is the only Nintendo Switch soundtrack to be released in the series. For me, that’s disconcerting. Nintendo has a spotty track record for soundtrack publication, but Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have been remarkably consistent about releasing soundtracks for their main franchise titles, including remakes. Now, at the end of 2022 and moving into 2023, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!・Let’s Go, Eevee! Super Music Complete is their last published soundtrack to date, having come out in late 2018. No published soundtrack exists for Sword & Shield, nor Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. There hasn’t been any announcement of the ninth generation, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, getting a soundtrack release either! And, while it’s not a main-series title, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is yet another Switch title with a great musical score but no published soundtrack. I’m unsure if the “Overlap” record label under The Pokémon Company has folded or proven unprofitable, but it’s bad news for fans, collectors, and archivists. Let’s hope Let’s Go! doesn’t translate to “Let’s Stop!” for Pokémon soundtrack publication.