Game Music, Reviews

Rainbows and Needlemice: Sonic Colors Original Soundtrack (Review)

May 16, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Rainbows and Needlemice: Sonic Colors Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

The Sonic Colors soundtrack is one of those albums that makes it difficult to do our annual OSVOSTOTY awards. It was released on December 22, 2010, barely sliding into 2010 while making it difficult to allow all the staff to give it a listen before nominations and voting occurred. A few of us did listen to the soundtrack before voting, but it would have been ideal for everyone to have had the chance to listen.

Needless to say, I was excited about the Sonic Colors soundtrack after being amazed by the Sonic World Adventure soundtrack in 2009. That soundtrack in particular brought in live performers of many colors, including live rock bands, session players, and even an orchestra. Sonic Colors takes a similar approach, but does it live up to Sonic’s musical legacy?

Find out in our review after the jump.

In my review of Planetary Pieces, you may recall me complaining about the poppy inspirational rock tunes that have become the mainstay of Sonic soundtracks in recent years. I praised Sonic World Adventure for abandoning these cheesy vocal themes in favor of equally catchy melodies and a more mature sound with live players. Sonic Colors does the same thing, bringing in some incredibly memorable and “gamey” music that doesn’t rely too much on the whole cheese rock that I dislike so much.

Now, having said that, the opening and closing themes are actually in this style. “Reach for the Stars -Opening Theme-“ features vocals by Jean Paul Makhlouf of Cash Cash, accompanied by a poppy rock backing that is similar in style to something like Blink 182 with some spacey synth elements thrown in. The melody is catchy enough, and I can forgive the fact that the vocals only appear in this opening theme while the catchy melody is used elsewhere throughout the score in its instrumental form. I can’t say the closing theme, “Speak With Your Heart –Ending Theme-“ is as good, sporting a heavy layer of vocaloid effects on Makhlouf’s voice.

From here, we get a taste of the live orchestra with “Theme of Sonic Colors.” It adopts the melody from “Reach for the Stars,” but turns it into an epic and uplifting masterpiece. The choir adds a sense of grandeur, and the arrangement so is full and mature I would believe it if somebody told me it was the work of a famous Hollywood film composer. The orchestra is featured in many of the game’s cutscenes as well, which is always a treat, although the short and cinematic nature of cutscenes in general breaks up the flow of the stage themes and would have been better lumped together onto a single section of a disc.

It’s then on to the aforementioned stage themes. This is where the Sonic Colors soundtrack really shines. Tomoya Ohtani, the lead composer for Sonic World Adventure, takes the honor of composing the first stage theme with the “Tropical Resort” zone. Each zone features three acts, each of which is a variation on the same theme, which is a nice touch and adds cohesion to a given zone. “Tropical Resort” sports driving percussion and some snazzy electric guitar work, but the highlight is the synth work that takes the place of what would be cheesy vocals from Sonic soundtracks of the past. The melody is fantastic, and the chorus section will be stuck in your head for weeks.

The “Sweet Mountain” zone instead opts for a rock meets big band sound, combining electric guitar and brass into a big mountain-esque behemoth. “Starlight Carnival” sports a super happy and fast-paced pairing of rock and synth elements, creating a sound that is exactly what you’d expect from the zone’s name. The chorus section really does it for me. “Planet Wisp” treats us to some house music with a rich chord progression on piano which is backed by funky rhythm guitar and of course pumping percussion, creating an amazing and airy atmosphere that is one of my favorite moments on the album. “Aquarium Park” also stands out for its distinct Asian influence, almost sounding like something out of Legend of the Mystical Ninja with its pitch bendy synth lines and other stereotypical Asian elements. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it, however. “Asteroid Coaster” will melt your face off with its F-Zero style rock themes, while “Terminal Velocity” will get your heart pumping with its breakneck tempo and epic brass stabs.

And what could be better than a half dozen amazing stage themes? How about 8-bit remixes? A series of tracks for the Sonic Colors’s “Game Land” are 8-bit remixes of all the aforementioned stage themes, all of which are amazing.

Each zone also has an overarching “Area” theme which is often composed by a different composer than the one who handled the actual stage themes, which provides a nice variety. “Tropical Island,” for example, gets am uplifting techno theme from none other than Naofumi Hataya, while “Planet Wisp” gets a dreamy Celtic-inspired piece by Mariko Nanba. My favorite, however, is the laid back “Aquarium Park” which continues with its Asian influences.

The boss themes are also important, with a fun disco track in “vs. Rotatatron & Refreshinator” and the heavy metal “vs. Orcan & Skullian.” The most impressive boss theme, however, is the final boss theme which actually gets the full ‘orchestra meets rock band’ treatment, working in elements of the main theme and coming off as completely masterful and awesome.

Simply put, the Sonic Colors soundtrack is an excellent addition to Sonic’s musical legacy.  There is a lot here to love, and I personally think Sonic Colors is a classic game music fan’s dream come true, replacing some of the cheesy vocals from past Sonic titles with live instruments and tasteful synthesized elements.  The packaging is quite nice as well, featuring a neat diagonally-cut obi along with a fancy cardboard slipcase. The booklet features commentary on all of the tracks as well as on the album, and is quite… well, colorful. A nice job all around.

But you may ask, “Is it better than Sonic World Adventure?” I think the answer to that is a matter of preference. It’s certainly easier to find the tracks you’ll like on this set, but I don’t think it’s possible to top “Spagonia – Night” from Sonic World Adventure.

Fortunately, Sonic Colors is still available at CD Japan for 4,000 Yen, which is steep, but well worth it for a nice collection of memorable music.

What do you think of Sonic Colors? Did it meet your expectations, and am I being perhaps too harsh on the Sonic Adventure soundtrack and others like it that relied on cheery, uplifting rock themes?

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