Please leave your opinions on Sonic games at the door - we get it, modern Sonic games are a mixed bag on a scale from awful to good. This blog is a look at the idea of 'Sonicness', most particularly in the series' music which a lot of people just don't think is right anymore.
I'll answer instantly, are they right? Is music still as Sonicy as it once was? Well the answer is equal parts yes and no; is it BAD? Hell no, at least not now.
I think I'll start out by getting the Adventure games out of the way.. especially Adventure 2 and Shadow The Hedgehog. So ok for those games we've ditched the melodic variety of memorable tunes for music befitting to each character. Cheesy rock for Sonic, ridiculous rap for Knuckles, kinda obnoxious but more melodic rock for Tails, girly spy stuff for Rouge, some frankly pretty cool drum'n'bass for Shadow, and more rock for Eggman. Shadow's own game ditches the drum'n'bass in favour of more heavy rock stuff.. it gets a bit ridiculous how seriously the game takes itself and the music doesn't help in that aspect.
..some of the stage music is actually not bad despite the game's overall theme.
It helps to imagine the music in 16-bit.
..Either way I'm not really defending Senoue, it's obvious by Black Knight and Sonic 4 that he's not what he used to be - which brings me onto the most important thing, what IS Sonicy music?
People complain left and right about the cheesy music in Sonic games, and I'm gonna ask where the hell were you in the 90s? Cheesy music is nothing new to Sonic games, they've loved putting his name alongside ridiculously cheesy stuff since the beginning of time.
Sonic CD - http://youtu.be/JPC8W672mXc
and - http://youtu.be/o3PgxYA-5QE
Both of these are adored by many fans! Why? They contain cheesy generic lyrics and lots of electric guitar, not much has changed - methinks nostalgia plays a part! And that's not a bad thing, not at all! But you have to understand that nostalgia plays a bit part in those who personally love the cheesy rock saddled along with the Adventure games, you gonna judge the kids who really dig that stuff when they don't really get what's so special about "You Can Do Anything"? Let's move on a little-
Sonic 3D: http://youtu.be/UKYXOobaceQ
I personally don't like this, it's too cheesy, but this is from like 1995, it's from the same Sonic 3D soundtracks that a lot of people really liked, and THEN there's Sonic R, the whole game is full of it.
Ok so so what does this have to do with Sonicness?
Sonicness is pushing the musical capabilities of hardware, and doing what conventional games didn't. That was its original angle. They don't have the same passion they used to, but SEGA originally hired professional composer from Japanese band Dreams Come True, Masato Nakamura, to compose the music for Sonic 1 and 2.
Nakamura wasn't fond of 'game music' and so tried his best to push the hardware, trying to make the music sound more like it was orchestrated, played, with multiple layers rather than "game music".
This was repeated in Sonic 3 & Knuckles which Michael Jackson famously composed the music for, along with of course Senoue back in his glory days.
Soo when SEGA were working with medium other than cartridges (discs for instance..) what did they do with Sonic music? They pushed it, of course, they filled Sonic CD with an array of vocals and weird sounds to show off what they could do, they put in full vocal tracks alongside the anime sequence, in the Saturn/PC games Sonic 3D and Sonic R they put vocal music in it, cheesy.
Ok so what's my point? The point is that this has always been Sonic's angle, a lot of the cheese is admittedly acquired taste, I don't like a lot of it, but I like a lot of it, nostalgia plays a part, but I can't help but like some of the new stuff too while I personally hate that song from Sonic 3D.
Sonic's game music itself.. after getting more of a variety to it again (Sonic 2006, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours) is brilliant! It uses a nice variety of music styles with a lot of great melodic tracks, in Unleashed the music really suits your environment, just like in Sonics 2 and 3. Sonic '06, despite being a fucking awful game, has some really great music.
That's a mix of all 3 versions of the Crisis City music, each version of the track has a recognisable mix of violin and a quick beat, a pretty orchestral feel overall. Isn't this what Sonic music has always been about? It's never been about simplicity, or about making fun little bouncy tunes.
And as if to perfectly illustrate this point, here's the 16-bit version of Sweet Sweet Sweet alongside the full original version-
Last but not least!! Why does Sonic 4's music kinda suck? Well I've already answered that. Sonic 4 is a modern game running on modern hardware, and yet the sound direction is "try to sound old!". That's not Sonicy at all! The music lacks feeling, it goes for simplicity and a faux 16-bit era feel and totally falls on its face for it, there's very little layering of different instruments.
SO what's the best track in the Sonic 4 saga? I wonder.
Not only is the loop longer than most, you can hear the layers in the music and the track sounds pretty cool even even in the shitty soundfont they use - why? Because it's from Sonic CD, and Sonic CD pushed 1993 console game music.
Ok so I've made THE point, now what's MY point?
My point is that, to all you gamers out there who think Sonic's soundtracks aren't what they used to be, they're not, they've evolved - and they're by and large still pretty great. I like Sonic Boom, you like Sonic Boom, great, it fits Sonic, but so does this
the fast pace and carefree optimistic lyrics are even more befitting of Sonic than that thing from Sonic 3D.
If the h8rs gave modern Sonic music more of a chance and appreciated it for what it is (modern Sonic music, not 90s Sonic music), you may discover some stuff you REALLY like! I know I'm enjoying it.
Maybe these tracks will help you out a bit-
I hope I've given you stuff to think about!
Aaand if you've liked Sonic music all this time, then I hope you enjoyed the blog and (most of) the music I posted in it!
Comment on SuperLink's blog entry
Can't say I liked any of the pieces you posted there.
Have fun listening. I hope more people will read your post here and maybe share your enjoyment of the blue game hero!
You seem very passionate about it, so hope you may continue to enjoy this hobby for many years.
You are not alone. I am here with you. Though we're far apart...you're always in my heart. Love u!
I looooove Sonic music, always have, totally agree with all of your points. ^_^ I was a huge fan of Sonic R when it was released for Saturn, I know Sonic is supposed to be all about the cheese~ You make a really good point that they always tried to push the boundaries of the technology with their music. I guess at a push they might be floundering a bit now that the technology can't be pushed any further?