"Long as the voice inside me says go, I will always keep on running"

Years active: Genres: Related artists:
1991 - Present Video game music, Sonical n/a

Wait, an entire page dedicated to Sonic the Hedgehog, in style of an artist page? Excuse me?

Here's the thing: as much as any of my favourite musical artists, the Blue Blur is just as important a character on my personal journey of what makes me, me. If the fact that this page literally exists didn't already tip you off, then let me reveal that once upon a time I was a dedicated, full-time Sonic the Hedgehog fan. I was the kind of person who signed up to several forums dedicated to the series, became a regular contributor and a semi-known name across most of them, who would listen to the various soundtracks on repeat on a near-daily basis and who would play these games regularly over and over again. My formative years of being on the internet revolved around this franchise, and I felt a genuine community spirit with it: I'd idly spend late night hours just browsing pages of topics of like-minded people discussing various minutae, shared the excitement and joy whenever something new was announced or discovered, and some of the people I met through that eventually became friends who I still hang out with regularly in the real world. All of that was a long lifetime ago, but it's left a permanent imprint on me and as an obvious result, the series will always have a place in my heart. I'm not as active in the fandom as I used to be, but I still play the games, listen to the soundtracks and as of the 2020s, have rediscovered a certain kind of pure joy in this franchise that's made me get involved a little deeper with it again as I buy comics, check out side media, etc.

For a musically minded individual the soundtracks of Sonic games have become particularly meaningful, and I couldn't have stumbled on a better series in that respect. Sonic the Hedgehog, as a franchise, is known for its music: the series is synonymous with its consistently high quality of music, to the extent that even many of the games that are considered lesser entries to the canon still have by and far excellent soundtracks. It's a trademark element of the games and for many fans, any game announcement is twice the exciting because it heralds the arrival of a brand new soundtrack to cherish. While the series' music has a certain kind of vague ~vibe~ that's shared across its history, over the years Sonic Team have gone through many musical directors and with them, distinct leading styles to their soundtracks - and that almost makes you want to think of this series as a band discography who naturally shift styles over the years as the line-ups change (and I have made those forced metaphors repeatedly on the mini-essays below). From the early 90s and the humble start with Masato Nakamura to the brief wilderness period of the mid-90s where contextual circumstances left the series without a solid musical direction but which lead to the series relentlessly taking risks and experimenting, to the early 2000s under guitar wizard Jun Senoue whose energetic rock would become the most associated individual style for the series and the contemporary guidance under Tomoya Ohtani and his frantic electronic grooves - the soundtracks have kept on evolving throughout the years and sometimes in unexpected directions, but nearly always finding something that's not only exciting but Sonical in their own ways. Quite often the games themselves aren't content sticking to just one style either but instead offer a plethora of tones and genres that they mix together in wild abandon. It's a treasure trove of incredible music, and when I did spend time on those forums and engaging with the community, I'd frequently either have an online 24/7 livestream Sonic music radio or my own Sonic music collection in shuffle while browsing along. My appreciation for the series' music is to such extent that I would genuinely categorise Sonic the Hedgehog as one of my favourite artists if that wasn't at all a ridiculous thing to say for many, many reasons; but the sentimental impact is there, as is my respect for the art.

But this page isn't devoted to all of Sonic music. Instead, on this page we'll be dissecting my physical collection. You see, the great thing about Sonic the Hedgehog being of Japanese origin is that the Japanese markets really value physical releases for everything, and that includes soundtracks. Physical video game soundtracks in the West were a lost cause for the longest time, and even these days you'll likely only ever get a limited edition vinyl release aimed strictly at collectors rather than those who just want to listen to the music; meanwhile in Japan, if something has a score then it gets an album. Sonic Team have been especially good about this because - once again - the series is famed for its music, and so the company have (after the 1990s) made a point about making luxurious and comprehensive soundtrack releases for nearly every Sonic game. These days, as an Adult with a Job, I'm in a comfortable position where I can buy these things at release despite the extra costs involved with Japanese imports - but over the years I've also managed to accrue some of the back catalogue into my physical collection (and I wish had the money to get the rest!). This website, at the end of the day, is all about my music collection and journey through music and so whilst Sonic very proudly belongs in these pages, I've limited the scope of my rambles here to the soundtracks I own on CD rather than wading through the various soundtracks of varying degrees of officiality that I have on my hard drive. The only exception I make is for the releases that have officially only ever been released digitally, but otherwise the below are simply what I own - which is why there are some noticeable gaps in the chronology.

Therefore: below, you'll find a lot of extended rambles about the ins and outs of particular albums and specific songs, all wrapped up in personal memories and associations from times and places all over my life. Stories of songs that have hit particularly impactfully, moments of disappointment and revived joy, and deep dives into the context behind the music that explains how it became what it did and why it tied itself into my life. So, the very same stuff you'll have found on other pages on this website - except this time, it's all centered around a super-speed hedgehog and his fellow cartoon animal friends. Some might scoff but to me, well, if this page was on the main artist index page (and I did genuinely ponder whether I should place it there), it'd be in the category A.

Main chronology:

Other releases:

Crush 40:


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2011 9 "Green Hill Zone", "Sky Chase Zone", "Sweet Sweet Sweet" (an abridged live version, anyway)

CD1: Sonic the Hedgehog: 1) Green Hill Zone; 2) Marble Zone; 3) Spring Yard Zone; 4) Labyrinth Zone; 5) Star Light Zone; 6) Scrap Brain Zone; 7) Final Zone; 8) Special Stage; 9) Power Up; 10) 1-Up; 11) Title; 12) All Clear; 13) Stage Clear; 14) Boss; 15) Game Over; 16) Continue; 17) Staff Roll; Sonic the Hedgehog 2: 18) Emerald Hill Zone; 19) Chemical Plant Zone; 20) Aquatic Ruin Zone; 21) Casino Night Zone; 22) Hill Top Zone; 23) Mystic Cave Zone; 24) Oil Ocean Zone; 25) Metropolis Zone; 26) Mystic Cave Zone (2P); 27) Casino Night Zone (2P); 28) Death Egg Zone (Part 1); 29) Death Egg Zone (Part 2); 30) Emerald Hill Zone (2P); 31) Sky Chase Zone; 32) Wing Fortress Zone; 33) Special Stage; 34) Power Up; 35) Title; 36) All Clear; 37) Boss; 38) Super Sonic; 39) Option; 40) Staff Roll; 41) Game Results; 42) Unused Song
CD2 (Masa's Demo Versions): Sonic the Hedgehog: 1) Green Hill Zone; 2) Marble Zone; 3) Spring Yard Zone; 4) Labyrinth Zone; 5) Star Light Zone; 6) Scrap Brain Zone; 7) Final Zone; 8) Special Stage; 9) 1-Up; 10) Title; 11) All Clear; 12) Stage Clear; 13) Boss; 14) Game Over; 15) Continue; Sonic the Hedgehog 2: 16) Emerald Hill Zone; 17) Chemical Plant Zone; 18) Aquatic Ruin Zone; 19) Casino Night Zone; 20) Hill Top Zone; 21) Mystic Cave Zone; 22) Oil Ocean Zone; 23) Metropolis Zone; 24) Mystic Cave Zone (2P); 25) Casino Night Zone (2P); 26) Death Egg Zone (Part 1); 27) Death Egg Zone (Part 2); 28) Emerald Hill Zone (2P); 29) Sky Chase Zone; 30) Wing Fortress Zone; 31) Special Stage; 32) All Clear; 33) Boss; 34) Super Sonic; 35) Option; 36) Game Results; 37) Unused Song; 38) Theme of Sonic the Hedgehog
CD3 (Dreams Come True): 1) Sweet Sweet Sweet; 2) Sweet Dream; 3) Sweet Sweet Sweet ('06 Akon Mix); 4) Sweet Dream ('06 Akon Mix)

Where it all began - in a pop songwriter's hands, securing the emphasis on the music right from the start.

One of the key elements of the Sonic the Hedgehog series throughout its long history has been the strength of its soundtracks: while the musical directors, styles and general directions have changed over the years, Sonic Team has always considered the music of the games to be a major part of their appeal. That's been true since day one: rather than use in-house talent for the series' establishing entry (and SEGA's flagship title) Sonic Team recruited Masato Nakamura, the songwriter behind the incredibly popular (in Japan) pop band Dreams Come True to handle the duties. Nakamura approached the job with two guidelines in his mind: one was that the music had to evoke big film soundtrack themes rather than treat it as just music for a video game, the other was that the music had to be able to invite people to hum along to it. Nakamura himself mentions in the liner notes to this collection that thanks to his background and the free hands he was given by Sonic Team, he could approach composing the music specifically from his experienced perspective as a songwriter. And the rest is history, really. Sonic the Hedgehog came through with an instant classic of a soundtrack full of melodic grooves, more akin to pop songs than standard video game music with practically defined "verses" and "choruses" that you could easily see being arranged for a band and lay out some vocals on top without altering the arrangement much at all. Sonic the Hedgehog 2's soundtrack is even better: more expansive in both scope and style, inviting a variety of genre influences into the core sound established in the first game, which results in an even stronger score. Both games took the advantage of Mega Drive's synthesizer sound chip and effectively showed everyone what you could do with video game music.

These games are also where I jumped in with Sonic. The capital-O Obsession that would make me the kind of person who buys these sorts of soundtrack releases would still be a decade away, but I can at least have the cred to say that I Was There when the blue blur first took off - courtesy of my dad grabbing a Mega Drive and both of the first two Sonic games from a clearance sale and wrapping them in a Christmas present wrapper for his kids. I was the one who took the primary ownership of it though and spent quite a lot of time with both games and Sonic 2 in particular, which is still my favourite 2D entry of the series. They were formative games for me in many ways and purely considering the soundtracks, I'd say they were the first games where I genuinely recognised the strength of the music. Nakamura did indeed manage to make me hum these songs outside the games, and more - one of the first songs I decided to learn when I picked up playing bass was Sky Chase Zone from Sonic 2, not because it has a particularly distinctive bassline but because it resonated so much deep in the back of my mind that I wanted to play along to it. So, it's particularly (way past) cool that these games finally received an actual soundtrack release, and not just that but a lovely deluxe issue at that.

The Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2 Soundtrack set was released as part of the series' 20th anniversary celebrations, which saw Sonic Team put out a number of celebratory archival releases to honour the big milestone. While there were some straightforward reissues and compilations included in the release schedule, the back catalogue entries like this, which saw their first ever official physical release at the time, were given a more comprehensive anniversary deluxe edition treatment. The first disc includes the entire score for both games, including the first official audio release of the fan favourite theme for Sonic the Hedgehog 2's Hidden Palace Zone, a level which was cut from the actual game but the song sneakily remained in the sound test feature: here that ethereally beautiful marvel is just called "Unused Song" and at the time its inclusion felt wild, given how tight-lipped Sonic Team used to be about anything not to do with the final game releases. The sound quality is fantastic and the songs have never sounded better, and you can really appreciate the crisp detail in every bass groove, synth line and counter-melody that the songs are filled with. The second CD features Nakamura's original demos for each song (apart from the credits medleys - another iconic Sonic feature I wish they did more of), composed with his keyboard. They're obviously something that's only for the really curious fans (and beyond some tempo changes here and there, you don't get any radically different early drafts) but they've admittedly got their own charm to them, thanks to the overbearingly blunt MIDI production that honestly reminds me so much of the fan-made MIDI renditions back in the early internet days (back when making MIDI remixes was an actual commonplace thing!).

The third disc is really just an addendum or an epilogue, but it's one that's nice to have to tie up the loose ends. Nakamura had used his band's music as a vague inspiration when writing the soundtracks (a couple of the songs have their origins in Dreams Come True deep cuts), but his way of thanking Sonic Team for the opportunity was to do that in reverse: following Sonic 2's release he took the the game's wonderfully sentimental ending theme and turned it into a Dreams Come True song. "Sweet Sweet Sweet" / "Sweet Dream" (the former is the Japanese version, the latter the English) is a full-on stadium torchlight ballad built around the ending theme's arrangement and melody, and it acts as a charmingly sweet chapter closure for Nakamura's involvement with the series (beyond a few cameos in the future, usually around anniversaries); it also serves as an example how his approach to writing music for Sonic games wasn't really any different to writing catchy pop songs, and it's just a generally great song in its own right. A little sweet and syrupy, yes, but charming and resonant nonetheless. Those two songs are followed by two remixes by Akon (yes, that Akon) that were commissioned for the 2006 self-titled game, and they're some of the most strikingly baffling entries to the Sonic music canon. As remixes, they're fine - if you like your ca. mid-00s trend-bearing beats you're in luck - but Akon's involvement with a Sonic the Hedgehog song is just inherently confounding in itself, and the adlibbed vocals he sprinkles all over the song(s) sound so out of place they actually become quite entertaining in itself, especially in his remix for the Japanese version. It's such a off-kilter way of mashing together a video game series (and a real obscure side release instead of a big theme from the games, at that) and Western mainstream pop culture aesthetics way before that became relevant with the live action films, and I can't say I dislike them but they are most definitely a product of their time and amusingly far more dated than the early 1990s video game songs.

And those said video game songs, they are timeless. The soundtracks for Sonic 1 and 2 are among the most iconic soundtracks of its console generation, even if they never had a cross-culture hit single like Mario's 1-1 theme: but they're early examples of game music that wasn't afraid to think beyond its meager confinements, to treat the songs with the same respect as any other "actual" music. They might be short instrumental loops but Nakamura managed to pack a lot into the format, with the songs changing tones or developing within their brief bursts of existence, facets that still make them stand out when compared so many scores for platformer games even in years that followed. Even the credits medleys are such a simple but an incredibly inspired idea, where the staff name roll is accompanied by an interconnected stream of key melodic snippets from all the stages that the player had beaten in order to get to that point: they're the cherry on top of the soundtracks, like a victory lap where the game is congratulating itself because it knows it packs some genuinely evergreen anthems, and I actually wish that they had become a series tradition (even if these days that would be rather unwieldy given the scope of the soundtracks). I'm going to readily admit that I don't play the original Sonic games as much as I used to anymore - if I am in the mood for a quick Sonic fix or a replay, I'm almost certainly going to delve back into my favourite 3D titles. But the songs the early games contain, they live far outside the boundaries of their cartridges and they always have a home in my music libraries and my Sonic mixes. In conventional music terms, the Sonic 1 and 2 soundtracks together form the classic debut album which sets in place the core of everything going forward, and this anniversary set is practically mandatory for any Sonic music collection.

Physically: Cased in an extra thick digipak-style box. Comes with a booklet including a number of the concept art that Nakamura was given as an inspiration for writing the music, as well as a brief backstory of the development of the games, an interview with Nakamura about the process and a little bio blurb on Dreams Come True for good measure. As a pleasant surprise everything is both in English and Japanese, so us non-Japanese speakers can actually dig into it without having to use an awkward translator tool.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1999 9 "Run Through the Speed Highway", "At Dawn", "Theme of E-102 Gamma", "Open Your Heart"

CD1: 1) Introduction... featuring Open Your Heart; 2) Welcome to Station Square; 3) Event: Strain; 4) Boss: Chaos ver. 0, 2, 4; 5) Azure Blue World ...for Emerald Coast; 6) Windy and Ripply ...for Emerald Coast; 7) Big Fishes at Emerald Coast...; 8) And... Fish Hits!; 9) Hey You! It's Time to Speed Up!!; 10) Twinkle Cart... for Twinkle Park; 11) Pleasure Castle ...for Twinkle Park; 12) Twinkle Circuit; 13) Fakery Way ...for Twinkle Park; 14) Run Through the Speed Highway ...for Speed Highway; 15) Goin' Down!? ...for Speed Highway; 16) At Dawn ...for Speed Highway; 17) Choose Your Buddy! (Slap Bass Ver.); 18) Theme of Chao; 19) Letz Get This Party Started ...for Chao Race; 20) Join Us 4 Happy Time ...for Chao Race; 21) The Dreamy Stage ...for Casinopolis; 22) Blue Star ...for Casinopolis; 23) Dilapidated Way ...for Casinopolis; 24) Challenge for Another Aim; 25) Theme of Dr Eggman; 26) Egg Mobile ...Boss: Egg Hornet; 27) Mystic Ruin; 28) Windy Hill ...for Windy Valley; 29) Tornado ...for Windy Valley; 30) The Air ...for Windy Valley; 31) Fight for My Own Way ...Boss: Event; 32) Limestone Cave ...for Ice Cap; 33) Snowy Mountain ...for Ice Cap; 34) Be Cool, Be Wild and Be Groovy ...for Ice Cap; 35) Invincible... No Fear!; 36) Choose Your Buddy! (Finger Bass Ver.)
CD2: 1) Mt. Red: A Symbol of Thrill ...for Red Mountain; 2) Red Hot Skull ...for Red Mountain; 3) Heartless Colleague ...Boss: E-Series Targets; 4) Sand Hill; 5) Event: Sadness; 6) Theme of Tikal; 7) Tricky Maze ...for Lost World; 8) Danger! Chased by Rock ...for Lost World; 9) Leading Lights ...for Lost World: 10) Event: The Past; 11) Event: Fanfare for Dr Eggman; 12) Tornado Scramble ...for Sky Chase; 13) Funky Groove Makes U Hot!? ...for Options; 14) Egg Carrier - A Song That Keeps Us on the Move; 15) Zero the Chase-Master ...Boss: Eggman Robot -Zero-; 16) Skydeck a Go! Go! ...for Sky Deck; 17) General Offensive ...for Sky Deck; 18) Theme of E-102 Gamma; 19) Crazy Robo ...Boss: E-101R; 20) Bad Taste Aquarium ...for Hot Shelter; 21) Red Barrage Area ...for Hot Shelter; 22) Danger Is Imminent; 23) Sweet Punch ...for Hedgehog Hammer; 24) Militant Missionary ...Boss: Egg Walker & Egg Viper; 25) Mechanical Resonance ...for Final Egg; 26) Crank the Heat Up!! ...for Final Egg; 27) Boss: Chaos Ver. 6; 28) Calm After the Storm ...Egg Carrier (The Ocean); 29) Event: Unbound; 30) Perfect Chaos Revival! ...Boss: Perfect Chaos; 31) Event: Good-Bye!; 32) Will You Continue?; 33) Open Your Heart (Main theme of Sonic Adventure)

A new chapter in the series and an iconic introduction of what its music will stand for from now on.

Sonic Adventure represents a major milestone in the history of Sonic the Hedgehog. From a gameplay perspective it was the series' first serious step into the world of 3D, effectively restarting the series from scratch in what it would come to represent forevermore,. With the new visuals and the (literal) new depth that could be added into the game, the game also took the chance to focus on the characters and the plot, introducing many of the now-integral character personality traits and narrative ideas. So much of what the series represents now can trace its origins into Adventure, and that also includes the iconic soundtracks. Up until this point due to technological limitations all the music in the series had been put together digitally but now, thanks to the advanced capabilities of the Dreamcast, the brand new composer team made out of soon-to-be music director Jun Senoue, Fumie Kumatani and Kenichi Tokoi were able to unleash the full extent of their vision by being able to use live instruments on top of all the digital elements, whether recorded in studio or utilised as realistic samples. The incredibly awkward subtitle given to the official soundtrack release - Digi-Log Conversation - is a nod to this new approach, a harmonious combination of digital and analog sounds to form a whole new sonic (heh) aesthetic for the series.

Strip away any nostalgia factor for the game and the Sonic Adventure soundtrack still remains a high point for the series' music, like a band who came right out of the gate with a classic debut album forged through blood, sweat and tears (and in this analogy the pre-Dreamcast games are the Bandcamp demo releases and don't even try to think about this analogy in depth, it can't take it). For as much as it creates a signature sound for the series through the fast-pace rock songs driven by Senoue's guitar chops, it's impressively diverse in its overall styles found throughout the 69 songs - the composer trio knew they had a whole new world of different options available and they take every advantage of it. It brings out a lot of new influences - cinematically orchestral cutscene music, vague world music flair influences - but in its heart lies the spirit and influence of the old Sonic soundtracks. Much of the soundtrack acts like the digitalised funked-out synth pop of the Mega Drive games has simply been converted into new sets of sounds, and where the once-homely bleeps and bloops stood you now have everything from whimsically arranged pop/rock to harder-hitting electro. The core of the soundtrack follows the footprints of what the series had established musically but it's rapidly reimagining how it can sound and branches out; Senoue even brings back one of his old songs from the already-forgotten Sonic 3D Blast, as "Twinkle Circuit" is a bubbly remix of the Mega Drive version of 3D Blast's Panic Puppet theme.

Each 3D Sonic game structures its levels - and its music - slightly differently, so here's how Adventure does it. Each of the game's main hub areas (Station Square with its perkily gliding rock theme which is one of the first things the player hears and thus is the intro to the new age, Mystic Ruins with a vaguely "exotic" and primarily acoustic atmospheric stroll as its soundtrack, and Eggman's Egg Carrier with its shiny and muscular thrust) is a gateway to to a number of different levels. Each of the levels is then split into 2-3 sub-areas, some characters getting to visit all of them while others only pop by in one, and those levels within levels come with their own distinctive themes. The music for the sub-areas rarely link in any meaningful way: the hectic funk-rock freakout "Run Through the Speed Highway" bears no resemblance to the airy and soaring "At Dawn", and likewise you would never think the glacially ambient "Limestone Cave" and surf-rocking "Be Cool, Be Wild and Be Groovy" have anything to do with another if the titles didn't tell so. The songs are typically structured like a "normal" song, with identifiable "verses" and "choruses", and Senoue's guitar is usually all over them either riffing along or leading with melodic immediacy; there's also a tight rhythmic backbone and as much as the guitar is put on the pedestal as the key instrument of Sonic soundtracks during this imperial period, the immensely groovy and technically wild basslines are absolutely essential for the majority of the soundtrack. Still, there are some general overall themes based on the game's main hubs and chapters: any Station Square based songs have a more upbeat and melodic approach, Mystic Ruins' adjacent zones bear a more orchestral or tribal sound to fit in with the ancient Meso-American vibes of the region and the final levels taking place deep in Eggman's various bases all bear highly groovy and loud rock-outs as their central songs. The common link between all these various stylistic threads and multitudes of sounds is that it's all incredibly high quality. The key aspect that strikes through so much of Sonic Adventure's music is that Senoue and co. knew this was a special occasion for the series that had always been so known for its music, and they needed to bring everything they can to match the scale of the event. That passion and drive is evident throughout, and some of the series still-best ever stage music is found here (limited extra special shout-outs go to "Run Through the Speed Highway", "At Dawn", "Windy Hill" and "Mechanical Resonance").

Aside from the level songs, you've got the instrumental character themes, menu music (including the incredibly OTT-titled "Funky Groove Makes U Hot!?" for a mere options menu track), cutscene filler ("Event") and boss themes, as well as a few jingles of which the invincibility theme "Invincible... No Fear!" is my favourite rendition of the jingle in the series, apart from the Sonic Adventure 2 remix. None of the vocal themes for five of the main characters are contained on this album, but instead you get the side character theme songs which are rarely are heard in their full length in the game, and so this soundtrack release allows them to shine to their full extent and Tikal's theme in particular grows beautifully in its slightly wistful hopefulness. The only main character who has his theme featured here is the converted killerbot E-102 Gamma, whose beautiful, smooth and downright cool instrumental piece breathes a faint melancholy through its mechanical funk beat. The menu and cutscene songs act as short interludes between the longer songs, the former leaning heavily on guitar and bass while the latter establish the series' less fortunate tradition of the orchestral cutscene music being largely passable but rarely more than that. The cutscene music is generally the weakest part of the soundtrack though there are a few more interesting little interludes, with the second place going for most of the various boss themes which are often full of adrenaline-pumping energy but struggle in memorable melodies. The worst offender overall is the song for the game's final boss Perfect Chaos which is a bafflingly non-descript piece of vaguely foreboding jumble, complete at odds with its climactic position in the game. What makes it all the more worse is that the first half of the final boss battle features the game's main theme "Open Your Heart", the debut of the still-unnamed Crush 40 aka the power duo of Jun Senoue and vocalist Johnny Gioeli, which is a cheesily bombastic colossus of hard rock riffs and hair metal crescendos, but which is undeniably excellent in its melodies and its sheer presence. It's a great piece of Sonic music history and the perfect song to fight a big scary apocalyptic water monster to - until it abruptly fades out in-game and is replaced with a piece of elevator music cast in a role it doesn't belong to.

Despite the dips here and there - it's 69 songs, you're going to have some valleys between the peaks - this is a seriously impressive collection of music throughout, not just in the context of video game soundtracks but as overall compositions and arrangements they're wonderfully written and crafted, to the extent that any band would kill to have some of these songs as the basis of their arena hits. Add back in that personal context we removed at the start of the second paragraph and this gains a whole new level of appreciation. Sonic Adventure wasn't my first Sonic game and it wasn't even my first 3D Sonic game, but it was the first Sonic game new to me after I had been bitten by the fandom bug back in the early 00s and had integrated the series deeply into my then-life. At the time it was still relatively recent and was revered as an essential part of the series, and by that alone playing it felt special. It was and is a great game even if time has been just as unkind to it in many ways like it has been for so many other seminal 3D titles on consoles, and part of why that experience was so meaningful was because the music drew you in so heavily through its sheer strength. These are deeply evocative songs, immediately bringing forth images of the scenes they score and memories they've been a part of. These days I listen to the soundtrack far more than I play the game and even as over the years my closeness with the series has flowed back and forth, this has never lost its sheen. This is a classic soundtrack and an essential piece of Sonic's musical journey: the pseudo-debut that would influence everything for decades to come and yet still stands as its own unique collection.

Physically: So this is the tragic part. For years I thought I had the real deal in my hands, passed second-hand to me through a contact who had once been an obsessive collector. It was only when I started using Discogs to catalogue my collection in the late 2010s that I realised what I have is a bootleg print by some random company called Ever Anime (the fact that this wasn't a Wave Master release should have been an obvious sign but in all honesty I thought that imprint hadn't been established at the time of the original game). As far as bootlegs go though, it's a really impressive issue and I don't actually feel that cheated: the thick super jewel case hosts not just the CDs but also both sets of liner note fold-out posters that came with the original (one features the song credits, the other the sound team's comments). The only way you can tell it's a bootleg is that the print quality is ever-so-slightly fuzzy if you look at it really closely, but it fooled me for ages. So it's not a terrible bootleg copy - just means that I can't gloat about owning the now incredibly rare original version!


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2001 10 "Escape from the City", "Supporting Me", "Live & Learn"

CD1 (Hero Side): 1) SA2... Main Riff for Sonic Adventure 2; 2) Event: Let's Make It!; 3) Escape from the City ...for City Escape; 4) The Mad Convoy Race ...for City Escape; 5) That's the Way I Like It ...for Metal Harbor; 6) Can't Stop, So What!? ...for Metal Harbor; 7) Won't Stop, Just Go! ...for Green Forest; 8) Keys the Ruin ...for Pyramid Cave; 9) Unstable World ...for Crazy Gadget; 10) Highway in the Sky ...for Final Rush; 11) Boss: -GUN- Mobile; 12) Advertise: SA2... in the Groove; 13) Event: Strategy: 14) This Way Out ...for Prison Lane; 15) Rumbling HWY ...for Mission Street; 16) Chasing Drive ...for Kart; 17) Down in the Base ...for Hidden Base; 18) On the Edge ...for Eternal Engine; 19) Advertise: SA2 Ver. B; 20) Kick the Rock! ...for Wild Canyon; 21) A Ghost's Pumpkin Soup ...for Pumpkin Hill; 22) Dive into the Mellow ...for Aquatic Mine; 23) Deeper ...for Death Chamber; 24) Space Trip Steps ...for Meteor Herd; 25) Boss: Masters of the Desert; 26) Event: Reunion; 27) Advertise: Prof. Omochao; 28) Chao Race Extended Mix (Chao's Doki-Doki Banana Chips Run Mix); 29) Chao Garden Extended Mix (Chao's Wack-Wack Up & Down the Ground Mix)
CD2 (Dark Side): 1) Vengeance Is Mine ...for Radical Highway; 2) Rhythm and Balance ...for White Jungle; 3) Mr. Unsmiley ...for Sky Rail; 4) The Supernatural ...for Final Chase; 5) For True Story ...for Sonic Vs. Shadow; 6) Event: Conquest; 7) Hey You! It's Time to Speed Up Again!!!; 8) Still Invincible... No Fear!; 9) Advertise: Rhythmic Passage; 10) Boss: Suitable Opponent; 11) Remember Me? - M.F.M. ...for Iron Gate; 12) Way to the Base ...for Sand Ocean; 13) Trespasser ...for Lost Colony; 14) Crush 'Em All ...for Weapons Bed; 15) Soarin' Over the Space ...for Cosmic Wall; 16) Event: 3 Black Noises (Revival... Chaos Control... Reflection); 17) Advertise: SA2 Ver. C; 18) Event: Sonic Vs. Shadow; 19) Bright Sound ...for Dry Lagoon; 20) Lovely Gate 3 ...for Egg Quarters; 21) I'm a Spy ...for Security Hall; 22) 34N, 12E ...for Mad Space; 23) Event: The Base; 24) Boss: Shut Up Faker!; 25) Scramble for the Core ...for Cannon's Core Ver. 1; 26) Cooperation ...for Cannon's Core Ver. 2; 27) Deep Inside Of... ...for Cannon's Core Ver. 3; 28) Supporting Me ...for Biolizard; 29) Event: Madness; 30) Event: The Last Scene; 31) Live & Learn (Main Theme of Sonic Adventure 2)

The magnum opus of Sonic music: tone-establishing, era-defining, genre-vivid, and as Sonical as it gets.

I've long cultivated an analogy of Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks as a band discography for my own fun, and continuing on that theme, Sonic Adventure 2 is the sprawling, multi-disc epic created by a band that's high and lofty with ambition, unafraid to tackle any obstacle and wanting to expand their sound in every single direction. In the world of Sonic music this is the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Sandinista!, the White Album.

The first Sonic Adventure brought Sonic to the 3D world, and in the process introduced and in some places codified many of the trademark elements now associated with the series. One of those was the music. The infectiously melodic sound of the original 2D games was obviously restricted by the hardware of its time, which towards the late 90s and the adoption of CDs as the primary format for games was no longer an issue, and so a reinvention was not only possible but in many ways necessary. As discussed in its own review just above, the soundtrack for Sonic Adventure - spearheaded by Jun Senoue who had become the series' musical director - had a good amount of variety to it as the music team took every advantage of the new sound possibilities, but above all it was tied together by Senoue's energetic and dynamic guitar-lead rock approach. The melodies were still present and in the forefront, but through Sonic Adventure, the entire series became synonymous with the revved-up riffs and solos that Senoue cast over the high-speed action, backed by his incredibly virtuosic band.

The release of Sonic Adventure 2 was a key part of Sonic's 10th anniversary celebrations, and the aim for the game was to make into the kind of an Event that an anniversary milestone should be. Thus, the plot increased the stakes and injected a fair bit of before unseen dramatic flair to the series, the level set pieces became more bombastic in an endless internal contest to one-up the previous level, and Senoue's soundtrack team were driven to be more ambitious to match the increasingly epic nature of the game. The main goal was to keep increasing the variety. While Sonic Adventure already featured multiple playable characters each with their own levels, the songs that played during the stages remained the same depending on the area. For Sonic Adventure 2, the decision was made for each character to bear their unique musical flair that would tie together their levels while making the journey of each hero (or anti-hero) stand apart from the others. The other big addition was the increased presence of actual vocals accompanying the music. The first game had already featured vocal themes for all the characters and so Sonic Adventure 2 kept up that tradition, but in addition the soundtrack team began to utilise vocals throughout the actual stage songs, leading to several stages having their own unique sung lyrics incorporated into the tracks soundtracking the actual gameplay. As a soundtrack it was bigger, bolder and more expansive than the already ambitious Sonic Adventure score - in every way possible they could think of.

The core of the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack is still close to the sound that Sonic Adventure introduced, so the familiar guitar-lead anthems are present throughout across the two discs, but there's now the added twist of each character having a signature sound that breaks the soundtrack into neat little stylistic sections. For half the characters, the songs are rooted in the core sound but with different emphasis points and variations for each one. Sonic's stage songs are appropriately closest to the signature sound and they're among most unabashedly energetic of the set, with a peppy rock attitude speeding through Senoue's guitar wails. They're the closest representation of the series' newly adopted main style and in doing so end up being the most instantly hit-like (if you can describe video game songs as such), and in particular the first stage song, "Escape from the City" has deservedly become an iconic piece of the series' history: it's a snappy pop-punk anthem with free-spirited vocals and some of the most infectious melodies of the whole series, combined with an outrageously feel-good chorus. Tails' and Eggman's stages skirt around the same direction as Sonic's, but Tails' sections slightly nudge the guitars to the side from way of bright keyboard melodies, while Eggman's part of the soundtrack makes the riffs crunchier and rhythms more appropriately mechanical. The quality keeps consistently high throughout, and in fact while Sonic's songs might be punchier, Eggman and particularly Tails' score are full of delightful arrangement details and hidden mini melodies underneath the big ones. They never stop sounding fresh, which is definitely a boon when you're repeating the same levels over and over again in search of the elusive A-rank completions.

The broader divergences come with the other three characters. Shadow the Hedgehog is a creature on a roaring rampage of revenge for most of his story, and so his stages take a darker atmosphere while the genre shifts into a mixture of drum 'n' bass, jungle and techno, aggressive hyper-active beats keeping the adrenaline flowing, with the heavily filtered vocals that are barely legible giving the songs an intense, brooding feel. Rouge's jazz pop grooves are the complete opposite, with bright acoustic guitars, horns and rhythmic wordless vocals dum-dum-duming across breezy, light-as-air melodies. And then there's Knuckles. In Sonic Adventure, Knuckles' character theme beared a big rap influence and for the sequel the sound team drilled down on this, with all of his stage songs showing off a hip hop vibe and coming with full rap verses, with barely any instrumental time in-between. They are also incredible. Knuckles' stage songs are among the most fun in the entire game - utterly and completely cheesy of course, because when you have lines like "echi-don-a, that's what I'm representin'" or "the great emerald's power allows me to feel" it's unavoidable, but they are delivered with perfection. Hunnid-P has a great, charismatic flow, the production is top-notch with a suave jazz-rap groove vibe, and there's hooks for days. "Kick the Rock!" is just as iconic as "Escape from the City", "A Ghost's Pumpkin Soup" should be a regular part of everyone's Halloween playlist, "Dive into the Mellow" invented chill-hop, and "Space Trip Steps" soars and floats appropriately. The downtempo "Deeper" isn't quite as flashy as the rest, but the sudden monologue where Hunnid-P out of nowhere enacts a dialogue between Sonic and Knuckles all in same breathless voice tone (and which never appears in the game, it's a soundtrack-only inclusion) is a moment of baffling creative madness that becomes the de facto highlight of the song.

In-between these, there's a scattered number of various cutscene scores (Event), menu music (Advertise), boss themes (Boss), minigame medleys and other miscellanea, all of which display a similar genre-fluid freedom. The only things slightly less than exciting items in the otherwise the stunningly consistent rest of the collection is the orchestral suite "3 Black Noises" which by its very nature stands out and halts the flow, and the two Chao Garden (think of a tamagotchi side game that could very well be a game unto its own) medleys which are charming but, in lack of a better word, a little 'kiddy' at times; the Chao Garden mix has some nice background moodscapes, but the Chao Race medley can be a little too saccharine and like out of a pre-schooler show. Still, from a completionist point of view it's good they're here and at least they're at the end of the disc, where they won't break the flow inadvertently. The boss themes are great throughout, and the melancholy but defiant and determined "Supporting Me" is de facto one of the definitive songs of the soundtrack (and one of the best boss themes in the entire franchise, once again utilising vocals to a brilliant outcome), and even the cutscene tracks get their chance to shine with the heroic introduction scene of "Let's Make It!" which interpolates Sonic's character theme (not present on this soundtrack set - it has its own disc), and especially the bittersweetly beautiful ending theme "The Last Scene" being particularly great. And of course, there's "Live and Learn", the main theme of the game. "Live and Learn" is quite certainly the apex point for Crush 40, the Sonic Team house band who frequently perform the main themes for the games, as well as the series' overall greatest theme song, to the point that you could at this stage call it the main theme of the entire franchise - it's an iconic song and an absolutely top-notch anthem, full of great riffs, great passionate hard rock vocals (not normally my cup of tea but Johnny Gioeli gets my points), a fantastic middle-eight and a final chorus that kicks up the gear all the way to eleven as the final send off.

You take all that and combine that together, and you can make a very real and very strong case that the soundtrack for Sonic Adventure 2 is quite possibly the greatest of all Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks. Given the overall rock solid quality control across the decades that the series has held onto in its music, even whenever the games may not have been all that, that's a pretty high and mighty claim. It boils down to how this acts like the perfect sweet spot for the franchise's music. The style that the Blue Blur is most associated with - the wildhearted rock anthems - is polished to perfection here to the degree that it's these songs that define the sound, and it's thanks to this soundtrack that these aesthetics have become such a defining aspect of Sonic the Hedgehog. On top of that, the sound team took that boost of ambition and inspiration and rode it towards places they maybe couldn't the last time, adapting that polish and aesthetic towards entirely new ideas, casting the series' musical net wider almost overnight. Combine that with some incredibly strong songs, many of which feel like they could have even had a life outside video games if they were nudged towards that direction, and you get a soundtrack that is as aweworthy as it is expansive. It is exactly like those colossal multi-disc rock albums listed before - a triumph of ambition and inspiration from musicians who wanted to reach the next level.

But if we want to really crack open why this is getting the rare full score out of me, we need to dig a little deeper.

Like already discussed in the opening blurb to this page, the Sonic series used to be a massive part of my daily life as well as my formative internet years. While I had first fallen in love with the blue blur through the Mega Drive games, after the early 90s I lost sight of Sonic as I PC gaming drew me in and away from consoles entirely - and Sonic of course had minimal presence on the beige boxes at the time. My "spiritual reawakening" took place in the early 2000s, through the release of the GameCube which became my first home console since the Mega Drive to find its way into my bedroom. Sonic Adventure 2 was given an expanded re-release on the Gamecube under the name Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and eventually I ended up picking up that game from the shelf solely on the basis that I had this certain special liking to the hedgehog buried into my ancient memory. SA2: Battle practically woke up something within me - I fell in love with it so strongly that I started wanting more, and eventually discovered the entire Sonic fandom online - and I fell through the rabbit (hedgehog?) hole. Sonic Adventure 2 is one of my favourite games of all time and plays a genuinely large role in the directions my life has taken in whole loads of indirect ways, and out of all the great music in the entire franchise it's the soundtrack to Sonic Adventure 2 that to me most represents that period of my life and the sort-of special part the series has held for me during parts of it. The physical version of this soundtrack was the first Sonic soundtrack I ever purchased and thus became even more special as I could play these songs out loud through my CD player (and I am glad I did spend my pocket money on it - this goes for well over £200 in Discogs now).

We music fans, by default, have special records that we cling to because they're attached to parts of our life that made us who we were: albums where we get emotional just by hearing certain melodies because they take us back to years ago when we heard them brand new, where we know each lyric by heart like they reflect the secrets of the universe for our ears only, and through which we relive all those emotions over and over again while we dive into the sounds that are so familiar that they're where we feel most comfortable. This collection of songs here is from a cheesy video game starring a bunch of Saturday morning cartoons, but it has that exact same effect for me as any of those other, more "serious" albums I hold on particularly personally resonant pedestals; even when the melodies come with mental images of bouncing around blocky graphics or the lyrics I know by heart are along the lines of "Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow" or "Don't call me Knuckles, gimme your props". Just like Sonic Adventure 2 is my favourite Sonic game and among my top video games of all time, this soundtrack is by far my number one game soundtrack of all time, and both of those factoids represent much more to me than those phrases can convey.

Final word: I took part in a small Sonic convention in the UK once that had somehow managed to nab Johnny Gioeli and Jun Senoue as guests of honour. As part of their appearance, they performed a live concert as the official final event of the convention. If "Live and Learn" hadn't already become a classic part of Sonic history, it certainly became such through the experience of hearing a big room full of fans belting out its chorus in unison with the duo. It's one of those moments in time I'll never forget, and nearly every song out of the sixty here has vivid memories just as strong as that, even if tied to smaller moments across the few years of my life where these songs were genuinely relevant for me. Those may have just been particularly geeky early teenage years, but I have nothing but wonderful memories of that period in time, and this album is time machine that takes me back to them.

Physically: Thick jewel case with a lovely all-white spine, with a big poster-style fold-out booklet which contains all the lyrics to the songs with vocals, credits to each track and a bundle of screenshots.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2001 10 "Believe in Myself", "Unknown from M.E.", "Fly in the Freedom"

1) It Doesn't Matter (Theme of Sonic); 2) Escape from the City... for City Escape; 3) Believe in Myself (Theme of Tails); 4) Unknown from M.E. (Theme of Knuckles); 5) Fly in the Freedom (Theme of Rouge); 6) Throw It All Away (Theme of Shadow); 7) E.G.G.M.A.N. (Theme of Dr. Eggman); 8) Live & Learn (Main Theme of Sonic Adventure 2); 9) It Doesn't Matter (Instrumental); 2) Escape from the City... for City Escape (Instrumental); 3) Believe in Myself (Instrumental); 4) Unknown from M.E. (Instrumental); 5) Fly in the Freedom (Instrumental); 6) Throw It All Away (Instrumental); 7) E.G.G.M.A.N. (Instrumental); 8) Live & Learn (Instrumental)

The best set of character themes this franchise has seen. That's it, that's the summary.

Sonic Adventure 2 and its main soundtrack built upon the stylistic reinvention brought by the first Sonic Adventure in both game and sound design, perfecting the route already chosen as well as taking great strides to expand upon it stylistically, all with the goal in mind to take the series to the next level (or the next zone, more appropriately). This showed most concretely in how each of the six playable characters had their clearly defined sound for their respective stages, separating the different points of view through not only by gameplay and narrative but also by the genre that accompanied each level. Those distinct sounds are further codified by game's vocal theme songs. Sonic Adventure had introduced the concept of all the characters having their own theme songs to further define their personality, but they were all mostly built on the shared building blocks of big riffs and 80s rock euphoria; the sudden stretch to hip hop with Knuckles' theme stood as the most distinct exception, but even then the song was a lot heavier on the guitar licks than what you'd typically hear in the genre. The additional effort taken to further distinguish the game's chosen playable characters through their favoured music carries down to their individual themes, which effectively act as the musical mission statements for each of them. If you want a quick summary of what each character is all about, then it's not only the lyrics that convey it but now also, to a much greater degree, the genre and overall sound that accompany them.

The three Hero Side - Sonic, Tails, Knuckles - songs demonstrate this the best because with them you've got a direct comparison point, as the themes for the OG power trio are all remakes of their respective songs from the first Sonic Adventure. Sonic's theme "It Doesn't Matter" now has a pop punk pace to it, replacing the original wind-in-hair highway rock, and its gleefully energetic and carefree attitude suits Sonic's freewheeling character far better. "Escape from the City", Sonic's first stage song of the actual game, has also been included here rather randomly (though in no doubt anticipating the iconic role it would go on to play in the franchise) and pairs perfectly with "It Doesn't Matter" in style, attitude and overall strength of its hooks, with one of the most evergreen choruses of the entire franchise. Tails' "Believe in Myself" sparkles and glistens in its bright keyboards, organs and vocal harmonies over the perky power pop backbeat: the arrangement is lush and full of sharp finesse, building to a genuine A-class pop/rock anthem that flings itself into the skies with full abandon and joy to represent Tails' young optimism. "Unknown from M.E.", Knuckles' theme, is the boldest reinvention of them all because even though it runs on the same hip-hop basis as the original Sonic Adventure version, it now fully embraces the genre. It's an extravagant, maximalist affair: alternating between slicker rap sections and smooth RnB-flavoured choruses with plenty of vocal interplay between its different vocalists (including Hunnid-P who of course was all over Knuckles' rap-heavy stage songs too), evolving in its production throughout its length and culminating in a bombastic setpiece of choirs, funky chicken scratch guitars and slick horn sections. If Knuckles' theme in SA1 was an admirable attempt of a rock musician composing a rap song, this version of "Unknown from M.E.". radiates with real dedication to go the extra mile and pull off what the sound team really wanted to aim for.

The songs for Shadow, Rouge and Dr. Eggman i.e. the Dark Side of the roster are all brand new compositions and serve to highlight the expanded stylistic palette of SA2. "Fly in the Freedom" is a suave and sultry jazz-flirting pop tune that practically glides across the gentle acoustic guitar strumming and softly shuffling drums that make up the core of its lushly arranged arrangement: out of all the songs here it's the one that's the least like what you might stereotypically imagine as video game music and it's seriously impressive in its own way. That it's a simply wonderfully composed song helps, and the contrasting backing vocals are among my favourite details across this entire setlist. Shadow's theme "Throw It All Away" is a hard-hitting trance exercise with ominously filtered vocals repeating a few verses and choruses in sparse intervals, as most of the time is spent building and tearing apart the aggressive synth walls and insistent backbeat: it sounds like something that was unleashed into the world and is now running corner-to-corner wreaking havoc, much like Shadow himself which I'm positive was the intent. The last song of the set, "E.G.G.M.A.N.", is the theme song for a big-time cartoon villain so of course it's going to be hammy as hell and chewing every last bit of scenery with its booming boasts of going to get that hedgehog and self-referencing chorus hook. The robotic sound effects and tightly programmed elements chugging beneath the classic Senoue guitar riffage are an all-too-obvious nod to the character but absolutely everything about the song is in love with its own obviousness and all the more charming for it - and like a good villain song should, its hooks have the kind of weight that will lodge it in your head forever and which make you want to root for the bad guy at the same time.

Eggman's theme song also distances itself from everything else on this disc because it's the one song that doesn't try to take itself seriously. There's an inherent cheesiness to the whole affair of writing Sonic character songs that you can't avoid, and that is likely going to completely repel anyone who's not invested into the series. But as someone who is invested in that way, it's clear that the intent behind the songs here is to not simply leave the cheese be and be done with it: just because the ask is a silly one, it doesn't mean you can't approach it with genuine dedication and to treat the characters seriously within their own world. That's what sets the vocal themes of SA2 apart from its immediate predecessor - because they've got this ambition and focus behind them that aims to establish them as great songs first, befitting character themes themes second. Replace the lyrics to any of these songs with something less geeky and you could easily pass these off as "just" normal songs, most of which would be be the highlight hit of their respective albums. The thing with writing reviews for video game soundtracks is that the chances of you attracting anyone who hasn't played the games to check out the music is slim to none and you are effectively either preaching to the choir or voicing your opinions to those who are more invested in the writer themselves and their takes instead of the actual subject of those opinions. The same applies for this review as well, but in the back of my mind there's a quiet voice that almost believes that if one were to simply treat this particular set of songs as songs... well, there could be hope, maybe.

But on that note, you shouldn't discount the part about these being theme songs written for a specific context either. The songs across this collection have latched onto the hearts of so many people not only because they featured in a game that those fans loved, but because through that more focused songcraft the tracks do end up representing these characters so well that for some people who have spent so much time with this series, it strikes a special kind of chord. The theme songs for the next few entries in the series would lean once again bit more towards the loud-and-proud camp approach and after that the vocal themes would not only become much more sparsely used (usually limited to simply the game's main theme and the occasional credits songs) but also more universal in their approach, often only tangentially being identifiable as something representing their source material in their presentation. The SA2 vocal themes represent the perfect balance between the two, the golden middle.

Striking that happy medium right means that you end up with a batch of songs that can lead onto special things. It leads to songs that had a notable impact to my younger self who was beginning to discover himself both through music in general as well as this particular game series at the same time, and having both of those interests combined in such a strong way served to attach me to both more tightly; so much so that a sudden appearance of "Believe in Myself" in a mp3 player shuffle years after I had found myself distancing from the fandom slightly ended up flooding my mind with every single memory I had of playing the series and listening to the music, and the feelings that came with it (I don't care if it's the theme song for a cartoon fox, the SA2 version of "Believe in Myself" now stands as one of my all-time important songs). It leads to songs that tie together countless strangers in a way that brings them all together when they play: the game's pure rock stadium anthem main theme "Live & Learn" is basically the series' defining song at this point and you can feel its power in how it unifies crowds to sing along every time it gets played live (as mentioned in my review for SA2 above) or how it gets everyone in a frenzy the moment that the teaser for the third live-action Sonic film featured a fleeting second of its key melody. It leads to someone like me hunting this down and paying what some would think is too much money (even in its discounted state) for a set of eight songs (and their instrumental versions, included as hidden tracks at the end of the disc runtime) because this damn disc was like a white whale that always felt out of sight, until one day when it suddenly came to view and was realistic to obtain. And feeling really pleased to hold it physically because it represents something special.

The tl;dr here is that these are corny theme songs for video game characters and that's going to be more than enough for most people to know - the best set of said songs in a franchise who has made vocal theme songs part of its identity, but still something that is only going to mean anything to people who have spent time with the game. But in this case, they also represent a lot more than just that 2001 video game: these are receptibles for memories and feelings accrued over decades both directly and indirectly related to their source material. So, much like the writing team treated these songs with a more serious touch, I treat them just as seriously as I would any other music that finds that special resonating wavelength right to my innards.

Physically: Jewel case with a booklet featuring all the lyrics. There's a separate fold-out sheet with the lyrics translated in Japanese on one side, and on the other side there's brief comments from the creative team that mainly goes into Jun Senoue's inspirations and where they sourced each singer and why. There's also a sticker with Sonic and Shadow on it, and despite my copy being used it came with the obi strip which is always a plus.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2004 9 "Grand Metropolis", "Casino Park", "Mystic Mansion"

CD1: 1) Sonic Heroes (Opening Version); 2) Stage 01: Seaside Hill; 3) Stage 02: Ocean Palace; 4) Boss: Egg Hawk; 5) System Screen: Select; 6) Stage 03: Grand Metropolis; 7) Stage 04: Power Plant; 8) Special Stage: Bonus Challenge; 9) Event: Strange Guys; 10) Boss: VS Team Battle; 11) Stage 05: Casino Park; 12) Stage 06: BINGO Highway; 13) Battle: Casino Area; 14) Event: Monkey Business; 15) Event: My World; 16) Boss: Robot Carnival/Robot Storm; 17) Stage 07: Rail Canyon; 18) Stage 08: Bullet Station; 19) Jingle: Speed Up; 20) Jingle: Invincible; 21) Boss: Egg Albatross; 22) Event: Disquieting Shadow; 23) System Screen: Menu; 24) Battle: City Area; 25) System Screen: 2P Vs. Menu; 26) Battle: Quick Race; 27) Battle: Ring Race
CD2: 1) Sonic Heroes (Title Version); 2) Stage 00: Sea Gate; 3) Stage 09: Frog Forest; 4) Stage 10: Lost Jungle; 5) Event: Excuse Me?; 6) Event: Unexpected Encounter; 7) Special Stage: Emerald Challenge; 8) Event: No Past to Remember; 9) Stage 11: Hang Castle; 10) Stage 12: Mystic Mansion; 11) Event: My Ambition; 12) Stage 13: Egg Fleet; 13) Stage 14: Final Fortress; 14) Boss: Egg Emperor; 15) Event: Metal Sonic... The Ultimate Overlord; 16) Event: All Heroes Gather; 17) Last Boss Ver. 1: Metal Madness; 18) What I'm Made Of... / Last Boss Ver. 2: Metal Overlord; 19) Event: Finale... Adventure Must Go On; 20) Special Stage: Emerald Challenge (Extended Version); 21) Casino Park (Original Version); 22) BINGO Highway (Remix)

Bringing back the old vibe with a modern mindset - perky, quirky and rather evocative too.

Sonic Heroes was designed as a throwback to the Sonic games of yore, even if that seems like a peculiar statement given the new gameplay elements it introduced. The two Sonic Adventure titles that had come to define Sonic in the world of 3D gaming were ambitious in scope offering significant gameplay mechanic experiments, expanding the character roster extensively while letting everyone share the spotlight with Sonic, featuring epic set pieces and placing heavier emphasis on plot and character development. Heroes retained some of it - namely the amount of characters and new gameplay ideas in form of the team mechanic - but it intentionally aimed to simplify. The plot was there but it didn't define the game (even if in some parts it could have done with more focus but more of the aftermath of that in the next game...), and the hub levels were abandoned in favour of a classic two-zone level structure, relatively disconnected stage transitions and a more direct level design with a clear path between the start and end. The game has a bit of jank and some of its ideas weren't quite fully thought out - e.g. you have to play all four teams to get the ending but only one team plays genuinely differently - but it's a lot fun and achieves its goal of feeling both modern and classic at the same time.

The goal of merging the modern day Sonic elements with the principles of the old games applies for the soundtrack as well, once again lead by Jun Senoue with a helping hand from some of the other Adventure-era regulars. After the diverse, genre-blending soundtracks of the Adventure games, the Heroes soundtrack is a return to the straightforward bounciness and bubbliness of the early games: the instrumentation and production are richer of course, but so many of the songs here (in particular the level music) could easily be converted into the 16-bit world and feel right at home in terms of structure and songwriting alone. It also takes itself less seriously and borders on whimsical at times: a lot of it is increasingly bright and energetic, and from the flashes of hyperactive ADHD-electronica to the occasionally downright bizarre event themes there's a sense of playfulness to the score. It fits the game to a T - a colourful and relentlessly upbeat soundtrack to match the similarly designed game. The music contained in this album is a big reason why I love the game: a good soundtrack can really affect the whole experience, and certain parts of the Heroes soundtrack are up there with the best of the Sonic canon.

The zone music is where Sonic Heroes really shines. When the crazy slap bass of "Grand Metropolis" mixes together with the gliding guitar licks and soaring, atmospheric synths, the images of running along the bustling futuristic city and its wild downhills return fresh to the mind - and it's not only evocative but also genuinely gorgeous, and finds itself in my shortlist of favourite Sonic deep cuts. The shimmering flimmer of "Casino Park" perfectly brings out the colourful neon radiance of the bright night of its respective zone, while its level counterpart "BINGO Highway" breaks it into a frenetically insane audio blast-out that's almost like a musical seizure, chaotically assaulting the speakers back and forth with its electronic effects and breaking down unexpectedly before bursting into adrenaline-filled speed again. "Frog Forest" leads with a swirling guitar jangle and breezy percussion that befit the lush, green jungle it backdrops and make it stand out among the songs, while the "Rail Canyon"/"Bullet Station" and "Egg Fleet"/"Final Fortress" duologies gloriously bring back Sonic Adventure 2's spiky riffs and muscular rhythms, getting the player pumped up during these high-intensity levels. "Hang Castle" and "Mystic Mansion" grow and build up; the two are the longest levels in the game and their themes are built around it, taking their time to nurture their haunted mansion disco vibe and moving the songs from one section to another in a way that relieves the length of the levels in-game and makes them interesting to listen to outside of it. The repeating element in many of these songs, and ones not mentioned, is a particular atmospheric touch, which you can really notice when listening to these outside the game: there's a depth to the production and the musical elements used that's very evocative in its own right, and which emphasises the mood and tone of each song to a point they're like instant transports to the scenes they aim to set. A lot of Sonic music can transport you to the right time and place when you listen to the songs, but the production is rarely this deeply atmospheric throughout the whole ride - which gives the Heroes songs their own vibe in the greater whole.

In addition to the stage songs, I've also always taken a special fancy towards the menu music of this game. It's weird how the music that plays when you browse through settings, game modes and such can bring out some of the warmest memories, possibly because it's what greets you whenever you turn on the game. Much of the menu music in Heroes in fact sounds like it's practically cheering and pumping up the player for the actual main game, and it's not too surprising that many of the menu themes of this game have received cameos in later games in the series' sporadically nostalgic manner. Finally, and I know this is as arguable as anything, but the "Bonus Challenge" version of the special stage music might just be the best special stage tune in the entire series - it's a melodic sugar rush that both captures the feeling of technicolour tubes it soundtracks as well as gets the heart racing for the challenge ahead in the most upbeat manner, and it remains the same explosion of joy outside the game.

Once again though, it's the more incidental music that's slightly not up to scratch: the orchestral cutscene scores, the fairly throwaway multiplayer level songs and some of the boss themes are the soundtrack's weak points with the least replay value (though "Egg Albatross" with its SA2-throwback feel does get the foot tapping and "What I'm Made Of" is a different beast altogether, but more of that on the vocal soundtrack review). The actual meat of the dish, i.e. the stage songs and main themes, are high quality throughout though and offer an unique spin to the series' soundtrack tropes as it honours both the old and the new while giving its own interpretation of them. It takes a decided distance away from the general riff-ready, guitar-driven sound the franchise had made its signature style in the 3D age so far; and not only was it a break back then, but even as the years have passed and the series has further played around with its sound direction, Heroes' quirky and perky tone still sounds highly distinguishable. On account of both bearing the difficult task of having to follow the Adventure duology while also bearing marks of a troubled development as Sonic Team's first multi-platform title, Sonic Heroes itself has found itself with a slightly contested reputation in the fandom over the years (though I've always been a truther, it's a great game and a recent replay shortly before this review has renewed and reproven that impression) and thanks to the internet arguments around it you do find that the strengths of its score sometimes gets lost in the dust: regardless of your take on the game, the soundtrack is intrinsically Sonic and a real high mark.

P.S. If I continue the highly flimsy analogy of Sonic soundtracks as a band discography that I entertain myself with, then the Sonic Heroes soundtrack is the album where the artist have decided to 'go back to their roots' stylistically but doing so with the experience and skill set they've been nurturing ever since, not forgetting about the journey made so far.

Physically: So this is my second embarrassing Sonic soundtrack moment: the copy I have is a bootleg version from K-O Records and I didn't realise this for years until I started sorting out a Discogs account. The slightly blurry images should have perhaps been an obvious hint, but apart from a generic 2CD jewel case design the rest of the packaging is to my knowledge very accurate to the original: all the imagery is there with no obvious bootleg short cuts, and you've got the full set of liner notes i.e. song-by-song credits and short blurbs from various members of Sonic Team about the game, with little to say this time around. I would love to have the original of course but given the prices it goes for... I'm OK with sticking with this for now.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2004 9 "We Can", "This Machine", and from the SA side "Believe in Myself"

1) Sonic Heroes; 2) We Can (Team Sonic); 3) This Machine (Team Dark); 4) Follow Me (Tearm Rose); 5) Team Chaotix (Team Chaotix); 6) What I'm Made Of... (Metal Overlord)Bonus tracks - Vocal Themes from Sonic Adventure: 7) My Sweet Passion (Theme of Amy); 8) Lazy Days (Livin' in Paradise) (Theme of Big); 9) Unknown from M.E. (Theme of Knuckles); 10) Believe in Myself (Theme of Tails); 11) It Doesn't Matter (Theme of Sonic); 12) Open Your Heart (Main Theme of Sonic Adventure)

More character themes, this time heavy on the character - and in the best possible way.

This review is going to be actually two reviews at once. Sonic Heroes kept up with the series' new tradition of abundance of vocal theme songs that had started with Sonic Adventure, with each of the four playable squads receiving their own anthem on top of the main theme of the game itself and the climactic final boss battle soundtrack - and as was also tradition, those vocal songs would be released on a separate CD compilation outside the game's main soundtrack. However, Sonic Heroes wasn't the only addition to the series back catalogue in 2003. Half a year earlier Sonic Team had released Sonic Adventure DX, a touched-up re-issue of the formerly Dreamcast-exclusive original Sonic Adventure now available on all contemporary gaming platforms following SEGA's decision to stop releasing their own consoles and becoming a multiplatform publisher/developer. This introduced Sonic Adventure to a much wider audience (most of whom had joined the fold with the Gamecube re-release of Sonic Adventure 2), but if any new fan wanted to own any of the music contained within they'd have to pay a pretty penny: the Sonic Adventure soundtracks had already become collector's items at that point. I reckon that's why when the Sonic Heroes vocal OST was announced, the tracklist featured the entire set of vocal themes from Sonic Adventure (DX) as bonus tracks. So with that in mind this review is going to split into two (and if you wondered why I hadn't reviewed the SA vocal OST above... well, this is why).

Like mentioned before, cheesiness goes hand-in-hand with the vocal theme songs from Sonic games - and that's partly why they're so great. There's something marvellous in how they earnestly throw themselves into this world, unafraid of how corny or silly it could be, all the while serving a veritable selection of genuine class act hit songs, of course. Regardless, the vocal themes for Sonic Heroes go even further in that respect than what you'd have come to expect by this point. The theme songs in the previous games largely described general themes or feelings that the respective characters symbolise within the game, but save a couple of exceptions the lyrics never mentioned the characters and you could easily present the words to someone who'd have no idea they were specifically from a video game. Not so much here. Three of the four team themes directly introduce each member of the trio in turn ("This Machine" goes the extra mile and dedicates a whole verse for each character) and even the sole exception, "Follow Me", is such a bubblegum rush that it absolutely doesn't avoid the cheese factor. In fact, these songs practically savour the opportunity to pretend that they're sung from the point of view of these characters and they're so brash and bold about it that you can't help but admire it. Even the game's main theme is directly titled after the game itself this time around and gleefully repeats that phrase throughout its soaring chorus like the greatest Saturday morning cartoon theme song. If you can't separate Sonic themes from levels of cheesiness, then Sonic Heroes embraces it like a band who's done with sneaking their love of pop music into their songs and releases a full-on disco album.

I love it, honestly. "We Can" is a peppy, perky pop-punk banger that's like an open love letter to the bright and colourful freedom and joy that Sonic as a character and as a series represents, and it's got some the giddiest backing vocal action in the entire series going on: the rising vocals in "Tails keeps us flying high to ~staaaaaay above trouuuuble~!" genuinely cracks me into a big goofy grin every time it comes up. "This Machine" is all gothic industrial disco, wearing sunglasses in the dark club in the middle of the rave while pretending it doesn't want to tap its foot to the steady four-to-the-floor beat - it makes the edginess of the so-called Team Dark (composed of an amnesiac furball driven by revenge and angst, a hard-to-decipher thief and a literal killing machine) sound like the coolest thing ever in a flurry of genuinely excellent production and hooks. "Team Chaotix" kicks ass and takes names, irrevently revving-up towards its shout-along choruses in a thrillingly fun riff-rock mode. Even "Follow Me" which feels like the least of the lot at first (much like Team Rose itself are in the game) packs a genuine glee with its feather-light and sugar sweet melodies, slowly but certainly winning the listener over. The collection is rounded up by the main theme which finds the Sonic Team house band Crush 40 on an atypically power pop adjacent mood to match the tone of the character themes, but delivering another instant classic with its undeniable energy and vigour, and it adds another excellent middle eight in the band's collection that's the cherry on top of the song's high-speed excitement. The final boss theme "What I'm Made Of" is in Crush 40's more familiar hard rock style, with Johnny Gioeli's vocal acrobatics traipsing around Jun Senoue's building-sized guitar riffs and show-off solos. It's a rock solid offering (with a particularly excellent set of verses which are the song's unexpected highlight), and you can hear the fun the band are having as they sing from the perspective of the big bad and flex their muscles.

With my other Sonic vocal theme reviews I've claimed (in what is perhaps some degree of hubris and blindness to how people beyond the series' fans would even approach these) that the songs are great, regardless of their source or lyrics: give them a different name and get a "real" band to play them and I don't think many would object. That is absolutely not the case for Sonic Heroes because of how deep these songs dig into the entire premise of Sonic character songs. The songwriting is still brilliant - hooks for days, exciting arrangements - but you can't escape their source material this time around because of how linked the lyrics, the vocal performances and the general aesthetic of the music are to the game, in itself one of the series' most unabashedly colourful and un-serious rollercoaster rides. That is absolutely not a negative point, either. Let's face it, if you're reading this review you're either morbidly curious why an otherwise serious music nerd is waxing several paragraphs about mascot platformer music or because you're already knee-deep into Green Hills in your mind and likely have added the soundtrack to your listening queue for today by this point. And if you belong in the latter category, you'll understand where I'm coming from. These are as close to an out-and-loud celebration of the source material as these vocal songs typically go, and that's wonderful. It's a really great set of six songs that I can't stop playing on repeat every time I dig out this soundtrack, and which never get a skip when they pop up on the library shuffle: I just have way too much fun singing along to "We Can" et al.

And after those six songs, we find ourselves in a point in time half a decade earlier when Sonic Team decided to fully leap into the idea of character themes after a few careful stabs at it before - and so we find ourselves on the Sonic Adventure side.

Senoue and the rest of the writing team hadn't yet gone the whole way different genres for different people when they were writing the character themes for Sonic Adventure (five of which are here together with the main theme, while the largely instrumental theme for E-102 Gamma is on the main soundtrack), and so the songs are mostly carved from the same, hard rock centric wood. There's a connecting thread of soaring solos, chunky riffs and impressive rhythmic punches from the talented group of musicians that Senoue had pulled together, and the main distinction this time around is mainly on the vibe and tone of the songs. For example, Sonic's theme "It Doesn't Matter" is a fiercely propulsive but motivatingly upbeat fist-pumper anthem which befits the undefeatable hero of our story; meanwhile Tails' theme "Believe in Myself" coats that same muscular backbeat with bright melodies and optimistic vocal harmonies to highlight the young Mr Prower's innocence and determination to step up for himself, and the theme for Big who largely just minds his own business while coincidentally getting involved with the story has an appropriately freewheeling surf rock attitude (and a charming duet vocal that's legendary in its own right - "hey big guy"/"hey little guy" is endlessly quoted in my circles all the time). The differences aren't as drastic this time around then and you have to have a soft spot for Senoue's love for 80s hard rock to jump on board here, or simply be enough of a franchise fan that you enjoy these regardless (like me - hi!). But throughout, the writing already establishes itself as something really solid, where the main importance has obviously been in writing an excellent tune rather than simply pairing a cartoon character with some music. "Believe in Myself" especially is just a wonderful pop/rock song in itself, and though I prefer the re-recorded version for Sonic Adventure 2, the original here soars through the skies (pun intended) a little more heartwarmingly and I'm a sucker for those backing vocals.

The two songs that do set themselves up for something different are also the more divisive of the lot. Amy's "My Sweet Passion" and its bright pink cotton candy disco flair is already a lot to take in but the lyrics here go from corny to absolutely bizarre, moving from barely-covered innuendo ("the sphinx looked so cute, I had to shave it") to eye-brow raising flirtation ("Won't mind painting myself blue for you") and surreal non sequiturs ("he reminds me of parsley when he's standing there alone") without giving a breather. It perhaps goes on for a bit too long (effectively a three and a half minute song stretched to five), but it has its charms and it slowly pa-pa-paya-pa-pas itself into one's good graces. Meanwhile, the sound team decided that for whatever reason Knuckles should be represented by a rap song and that's precisely what "Unknown from M.E." is. Except, it's a rap song as written and arranged by a rock musician - thus, the spotlight is just as much on the rap vocals (which are admittedly well done, though with more lyrical strangeness going about) as its on the beefy guitar licks that play under and around the voices. The highlight here though is the chorus which breaks into a soulful pop mode with a sudden injection of smooth grooves, and which grounds it closer to the rest of the soundtrack. Again, I prefer the Sonic Adventure 2 version of this song but the original, despite some clumsiness here and there, is already a delight, even if in hindsight it's more of an early sketch or a blueprint to where they'd take Knuckles' music in the sequel.

Then there's "Open Your Heart", the main theme of the game and the equivalent of one of the Big Signature Songs that this series' music has. Part of the reputation of "Open Your Heart" lies solely in the context: it soundtracked the trailers, promo videos and the game's opening cinematic in the most epic manner and it's given centre stage in the climactic final boss fight (for a moment, anyway): it immediately established itself as something larger than life through how it was used and struck as something mindblowing in the fandom's collective minds. But it wouldn't have had as much of an impact if it didn't simply kick ass as much as it does. "Open Your Heart" was the debut song for Crush 40, which means that Senoue gets to unleash all of his biggest guitar parts on its galloping RAWK rhythm while Gioeli makes his Sonic vocalist debut and immediately leaves such an impression that he'd become part of the series' tapestry for decades. It's an adrenaline-pumping call-to-arms anthem that sounds every bit as ambitious and bombastic as the game aimed to be. It's a genuinely iconic part of the series - and an all-around excellent song that's just a touch away from perfection, by building itself up on the run-up to the solo and the middle eight but then letting the final chorus drop back down when it desperately needed a key change to keep up, breaking up the momentum (and something that Senoue undoubtedly realised himself given he addressed this exact detail on Sonic Adventure 2's main theme).

Looking at these "objectively", the Sonic Adventure vocal songs have the faint aura of an uncertain first attempt. Sonic Team weren't quite sure yet what exactly they wanted to achieve with giving each character their own song and so you end up with a bit of a grab bag where some songs lean more directly to the characters than others and some are careful genre experiments while others feel like Senoue trying to fit the task into his musical comfort zone. Across the next several games the team would perfect their direction while building the abundance of themes into part of the series' core musical identity for the next decade. But they've still nailed the one thing that matters, i.e. the quality of the songs themselves which range from pretty good to genuinely great - all immediately memorable, and endlessly affable for the fans to get attached to. Like a great debut album it sets Sonic Team on a good direction to evolve and take it from there. And I'm very glad that I don't have to hunt down the extortionately priced original copy to have these at hand.

(In case you're wondering, the Heroes side gets a clear 9. The Adventure side would be an 8).

Physically: Straightforward jewel case, with lyrics to every song in the booklet. Each of the Sonic Heroes songs gets a full page with relevant backdrop images, while the Sonic Adventure lyrics are squeezed into one page fold.

Other Releases


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2001 8 It's a best of compilation!

1) Sonic the Hedgehog: Title Music; 2) Sonic the Hedgehog: Green Hill Zone; 3) Sonic the Hedgehog: Star Light Zone; 4) Sonic the Hedgehog: Special Stage; 5) Sonic the Hedgehog: Final Zone; 6) Sonic the Hedgehog: All Clear; 7) Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Emerald Hill Zone; 8) Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Casino Night Zone; 9) Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Stage: 10) Sonic the Hedgehog 2: All Clear; 11) Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Title Music; 12) Sonic & Knuckles: Title Music; 13) Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Angel Island Zone; 14) Sonic & Knuckles: Sky Sanctuary; 15) Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Special Stage; 16) Sonic CD: Sonic - You Can Do Anything; 17) Sonic CD: Cosmic Eternity - Believe in Yourself; 18) Sonic R: Super Sonic Racing; 19) Sonic R: Can You Feel the Sunshine?; 20) Sonic R: Number One; 21) Sonic Adventure: Open Your Heart (Main Theme); 22) Sonic Adventure: My Sweet Passion (Theme of Amy); 23) Sonic Adventure 2: SA2 Vox Trax

A celebratory selection in honour of the tenth anniversary.

Sonic the Hedgehog's 10th anniversary was turned into a huge birthday bash by Sonic Team (and set the stage for each decennial anniversary being a grand event going forward) and a number of celebratory releases marked the event - most importantly the release of Sonic Adventure 2 which would have a huge impact for the whole series (and the minds of countless fans). SA2's release in itself came in a variety of forms, one of which this was 10th Anniversary Box which was available as a limited release for a short period of time in Japan. Besides a copy of the Dreamcast game (which I still have in the film wrap), the box also came with a number of other treats to celebrate the occasion: one of them being a "greatest hits" collection of the series' music in its first decade, printed on a completely (front and back) golden disc.

Copies of this weren't actually that rare despite the limited release and even I managed to grab a copy some years later with relative ease and affordable price. At the time the compilation disc in itself felt like a genuinely special occasion: the two Sonic Adventure games had had official soundtrack CD releases, but otherwise the first decade of the series' music had only ever seen a physical light of day in obscure promos. This was also released during a time when video game soundtrack releases weren't as common and practically expected as they are today, with only Japan really bothering releasing CDs for collectors and hardcore fans. Given all this, for a young Sonic and music fan in the early-mid 2000s the mere fact that I could put an actual disc in my CD player at home and hear early Sonic songs was genuinely thrilling in its own, admittedly geeky way. I don't listen to this compilation much any more given most of the games featured here have now received their own full anniversary soundtrack reissues but playing it still strikes a special little chord in my heart for wholly nostalgic reasons.

The 60-minute tracklist is meant to represent the first decade of Sonic's history through a selection of iconic songs from the games and for most part, it does exactly that: after a series of classic cuts from the original 2D games (the vast majority of which can be easily agreed to deserve a place here, though "Chemical Plant Zone" probably could have been included from Sth2), the attention starts to shift into the various vocal themes that have cropped up in the series from the mid-90s onward but the transition feels natural, and you have to keep in mind that many of these themes had not been released formally before so it makes sense to flex the series' early adoption of vocal themes by piling them here. The bulk of the spin-offs and miscellaneous items like the Game Gear and Master System releases have been ignored and the focus is on the main games, and that's for the better. Granted, there are some unusual choices, some of which are understandable like how the Japanese opening/ending themes for Sonic CD are featured instead of the arguably more iconic "Sonic Boom" from the US version (this was a release aimed at the Japanese market). Others used to make less sense, like the glaring absence of "Ice Cap Zone" from Sonic 3 as it's easily one of the most beloved songs of the Mega Drive era, but given everything that's been learned over the following decades about the troubled history of the Sonic 3/Sonic & Knuckles soundtracks and the messy state their writing credits are in, which has to date prevented them from ever being reissued fully, it makes sense in hindsight. Others are a little more baffling: there are no songs from the arguable mainline entry Sonic 3D Blast (not a great loss given how lacklustre both of its scores are, admittedly) but the racing spin-off Sonic R gets three songs. Which I'm all for because Sonic R's high-energy and extremely 90s dance-pop soundtrack is a work of art and both "Super Sonic Racing" and "Can You Feel the Sunshine?" deserve a place in every Sonic compilation, with the closing theme "My Number One" being a slightly more left-field addition. The most puzzling decision here is how the first Sonic Adventure is represented by the game's main theme "Open Your Heart" as it should be, and... "My Sweet Passion", the camp bubblegum disco stroll that serves as Amy's theme and which nine out of ten fans would consider the least essential of the game's vocal themes - including myself, and I at least like the song. The disc finishes with a medley of Sonic Adventure 2's key vocal songs, as a little taster of the game packaged with the box.

But for all its little headscratchers and missed opportunities, it's hard to deny the non-stop quality represented. Sonic Team wouldn't really start to consider the series' music as one of its most essential facets and something they'd downright emphasise in the development process until after Sonic Adventure 2, but even from day one that aspect of the games was treated with some thought and ambition. The first two Sonic game soundtracks were composed by Dreams Come True's Masato Nakamura who was a mainstream hitmaker (more on that on the separate review for the Sonic 1/2 soundtracks), Sonic 3 famously had Michael Jackson attached to it until everything exploded messily, which in its wake left the series' music without any real direction until Sonic Adventure - and even during those wilderness years with several composers contributing to the games (often the same games, independently from one another), you can tell there was an ambition to push forward by the adoption of vocal songs first to accompany cinematics and then in-game levels. Sonic soundtracks have been unique and carefully considered since Sonic 1 and while it's not perfect, this compilation disc does a great job representing those important milestones and summarising the story so far right as the next game was about to take the series into a whole new dimension.

Physically: We do need to talk about the physical box too. Inside the main box pictured above you can find both the Dreamcast case for Sonic Adventure 2, and a separate blue box for everything else. Besides the lavishly golden CD, that everything else also contains a a commemorative coin, a fold-out poster promoting Sonic Adventure 2 with one side featuring a lengthy advert and description for the game and the other bearing the classic Sonic/Shadow pose picture, and a tiny booklet. The booklet includes (both in English and Japanese) a very brief summary of the series' background and history, some trivia, design sketches and a list of all the games... as well as a genuinely baffling story about an American storywriter, her army pilot husband with "a hair like a hedgehog" and their little girl, which posits itself as an alternative background to Sonic and the series. The pre-amble mention it's one of three alternative stories for Sonic and it has never been mentioned since, nor have they ever elaborated on what it was written for, why it was included here or what the other two stories are - it's a real headscratcher. It's a very lovely case though and whilst relatively sparse in today's deluxe boxset standards, it feels rather personal and cosy - I really like it.

Back to beginning