Game Music, Reviews

Amazing Planetary Pieces From Outer Space: In-Game Impressions From Sonic Unleashed (Review)

January 19, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Amazing Planetary Pieces From Outer Space: In-Game Impressions From Sonic Unleashed (Review)on Twitter

Are you looking forward to the Planetary Pieces: Sonic World Adventure Original Soundtrack that is due out later this month? You certainly should be, as those who’ve already played the game likely are. Wait, don’t know what Sonic World Adventure is? It’s Sonic Unleashed here in the US, and while there have been conflicting opinions published about the game itself (I’ll even share a few of my thoughts), everyone agrees that the music is fantastic.

Matt Casamassina over at IGN had a funny comment about the game’s music, saying he doesn’t miss the “awful 80s’ guitar rock poisoning the Adventure games,” but it’s actually a whole lot more than that. I mean, you’re going to hear a variety of musical styles here, but the key is that the majority of the tracks are just amazingly catchy and well produced. To give you an idea of what to expect, we’re publishing our impressions based on the in-game music ahead of the Japanese soundtrack release later this month.

Hit the jump for our thoughts on Sonic’s latest outing.

I’ll admit that the first few pieces you hear in the game aren’t the most impressive. You’re going to find that most of the menus (including the title screen music) feature an upbeat orchestral style that sounds like it’s trying to emulate Super Mario Galaxy (as many elements of Unleashed seemingly do), but they didn’t really capture the essence of speed and fun. Fortunately, the official soundtrack album opts for a different set of opening tracks. Where things get really interesting, however, is with the slew of daytime and night time town and stage tracks that make up the majority of the score.

Daytime and night time you ask? If you weren’t aware, one of the core gameplay mechanics in Unleashed is Sonic’s transformation into a werehog when the moon is out. This actually gives rise to one of the most frustrating elements of the game: the daytime stages are amazingly fast and fun to play, while the night stages are slower beat-em’-up experiences that break up the flow of the game. However, you’ll find that the night time musical variations that are provided for every single stage and town are way more enjoyable than the daytime versions, so perhaps it’s a fair trade off for those of us who love game music!

The game’s towns feature some amazingly mellow and memorable pieces of music, while the stage themes offer energetic melodies and fast-paced percussion to drive home a sensation of speed. Each of the game’s areas has its own distinct flavor, from the jazzy beach town of Apotos to China-themed Chun-nan. I’ll say again that the night time pieces are much more enjoyable, as they all take a more funky, swingin’ smooth jazz approach that I absolutely loved. For example, the octave-jumping bass, string stabs, and jazzy synthesizer notes in the Holoska stage at night time are amazingly sleek and impressive. I also dug the filtered synths and distant ethnic flutes of the Adabat stage at day time, which provided a nice contrast to the bumping percussion.

The town themes are my favorite thing about the music in Sonic Unleashed. They tend to be more upbeat, catchy, and even soothing at times. The first town you visit, Apotos, features smooth jazz music that is fitting of its tropical resort appearance. Beautiful acoustic guitars and flutes provide a relaxing atmosphere that I thoroughly enjoyed. My personal favorite, however, is the town of Spagonia, with the day time version taking on an Italian street café vibe with accordions melodies that have been stuck in my head for weeks. The night yields a jazzier version with the accordion weaving delicately between acoustic guitars, and the sound of the slap stick percussion gives the track a distinct groove. Chun-nan at night starts with a Chinese zither and adds ethnic woodwinds alongside piano chords and head-bopping percussion. The Gaia Temple, which allows you to access the game’s various stages, has a spacious sound with lots of reverb as beautiful piano melodies reinforced with strings ring throughout its many rooms and corridors.

So, you thought you escaped the upbeat vocal tracks that have become a Sonic staple in recent years? Think again. “Endless Possibilities” (which is actually the first track you’ll hear on the official soundtrack) is an alternative rock tune that reminds me of Blink 182. It’s disgustingly happy, just like you’d expect from a Sonic game, and I actually kind of like it. “Dear My Friend,” on the other hand, is a pop track with soft male vocals that comes at the tale end of the soundtrack. As cheesy as ever, but catchy as well.

I do want to take a few moments to mention the battle themes. The normal stage battle themes are all jazz variations of the same piece, which is a pretty neat approach, although the composition itself isn’t the most memorable. The standout battle track, however, is one of the final boss pieces that sounds like it quotes phrases from “Endless Possibilities,” but voices the melody with electric guitars, strings, and brass. It’s really a very powerful and cool battle track that really gets the blood pumping. It’s a shame the other battle tracks weren’t as epic.

So that’s it.  The Planetary Pieces: Sonic World Adventure Original Soundtrack will be released on January 28, 2009, and in the event that we don’t get to write a formal review of the album, I hope we’ve encouraged you to check it out. The three discs seem to include all the major pieces from the game based on the track listing, so let us know what you think if you pick this one up!

Did you play Sonic Unleashed and have any thoughts about the game’s music? Did the werehog gameplay mechanic do anything for you?

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