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Sonic as a Blue Blur: Sonic Generations (Review)

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SEGA has had a very unsuccessful run with Sonic in recent years. I can indulge you in its past, pointing to failed franchises, the bad vocal music/voice acting featured, or just bad gameplay. However, that’s all in the past. From what I hear, SEGA has finally decided to listen to their audience — the result of listening has created Sonic Generations. So here is me making a big claim: I believe that Sonic Generations is the best Sonic game to have been published by SEGA in the last decade. The music plays a big role in the restoration of its franchise, representing a nostalgic feel with almost the entire soundtrack filled with arrangements of Sonic tunes from the past.

And the quality of these arrangements — it’s incredible! It’s a quality that shines above many official arrangement albums released by SEGA’s predecessors, (think Super Smash Bros.), a quality that says “I am SEGA, and this is how I remix Sonic.” It’s exactly this reason why the Sonic Generations Original Soundtrack: Blue Blur should also be praised as one of the best videogame soundtracks of 2011.

Want to know why? Read more after the jump!

The first disc of the collection features songs from the PS3/360 version of Sonic Generations while the second discfeatures music from levels exclusively on the 3DS version along with DLC. Disc three is filled with music from all the boss battles, cut scenes, and jingles. The game itself has two acts; Act 1 is played by classic Sonic, while Act 2 is played by modern Sonic. The very first song on the album clearly hints at what to expect from the soundtrack — a classic with a modern twist – with “The Title” consisting of a better synth and live drums accompaniment to the original Sonic the Hedgehog title theme, sure to excite any Sonic fan.

“Green Hill- Act 1″, remixed by Naofumi Hataya, sounds exactly like the original Green Hill Zone. This is done for nostalgic reasons and is something you’ll be running into with classic Sonic. “Green Hill- Act 2″ is a well done arrangements by Jun Senoue who features a punk band with a brass section backing them up. It’s incredibly nostalgic as well, as if someone mixed my Sonic classic with Sonic Adventure.

Playing “Speed Highway Act 1,” a modern Sonic level as classic Sonic, I experienced a slight case of goosebumps, often saying to myself “This is for classic Sonic?” The remix of Speed Highway is by Cash Cash who gives the song this funky electro feel. But who are Cash Cash, and why are they in my Sonic? To give a quick overview, Cash Cash is a boy band from New Jersey that makes synthpop and you can gather more information about them here. They also made music for Sonic Colors. While I’m not sure who at the top decided to hire these guys, I’m pumped that they did as I had an awesome ride playing Speed Highway.

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by Richard Jacques’s contributions to the album. Jacques worked on multiple boss battle songs such as “Boss Battle- Egg Dragoon” and “Boss Battle- Time Eater”; both sound like generic battle music. “Seaside Hill Act 1″ is possibly the only song I enjoyed by Jacques, feeling as though it was composed with classic Sonic in mind. It has a fun bassline running along with a guitar rockin’ the main melody, and it sounds like fun. I feel déjà vu, as if I have heard this song in an old Sonic game, but of course that’s not possible since Seaside Hill is a modern Sonic level. It’s why I like this song.

The biggest surprises on the album are from Crisis City and Rooftop Run. Tomoya Ohtani composed those pieces for both classic and modern Sonic, respectively, and the songs are just too much fun to listen to. What makes them impressive is the use of a string quartet. Sonic with violins just makes Sonic seem more heroic and humble. Honestly, when I heard Ohtani’s music, I couldn’t believe it was composed for a videogame, let alone Sonic. “Rooftop Run Act 1″ and “Rooftop Run Act 2″ are my favorite tracks from the entire album because they explore their soundscapes with strings. While “Rooptop Run Act 1″ gives off a disco vibe with violins and a piano, “Roooftop Run Act 2″ sticks to a traditional punk band with the string quartet tripled to 12 strings, bringing them up in volume over the guitar; a great move on Ohtani’s part.

Some tracks from the second disc also caught my attention. “Casino Night Act 2″ is an excellent song featured in the DLC. It’s played out like some ‘50s jazz tune, improvised to no end; a perfect mix of jazz and Sonic. I didn’t play the 3DS version of Sonic Generations, however, the 3DS section of the album does feature excellent music as well, like “Water Palace” with its sampled lyrics that say, “Back to back,” and “Tropical Resort Act 2″ which sounds like electronic surf music. The second disc also brings in music from challenge missions and a few boss battles on the 3DS.

Generally, the boss battle themes don’t particularly stand out which is possibly the only complaint I have about this entire album. However, I really enjoy “Rival Battle- Metal Sonic ‘Stardust Speedway’” from the third disc. This is a fun song to hear in-game while battling Metal Sonic, featuring piano and a dance-like groove that worked so well for the boss level. There’s also some cut scene music here for those looking for it.

To sum up my experience, I had to admit that I love this soundtrack so much that I constantly played through the Rooftop Run and Crisis City levels just to hear the music from those two particular stages. I didn’t want to listen to it on YouTube or on my MP3 player, but rather have the song played in-game. I know, I’m weird, but I don’t care because this led to a much more rewarding experience than listening to the songs casually. Also, I don’t know who it is that coordinated the live recording session for the string quartet but you have to give them some props as the strings are beautiful and not overused. There were multiple instances in Rooftop Run and Crisis City where I thought to myself. “… Is this what you guys were feeling?” It was remarkable hearing something so emotional in a Sonic game. The string quartet elevated Sonic beyond what I could have imagined, reaching greater heights, almost lifting you off your feet andencouraging you to keep at it; the music served as a subconscious effort to keep you moving.

These songs are not grossly epic or grand. Nor are they flat, laying dormant through the game as many Sonic vocal songs often would. These songs aren’t even trying to play ‘cool’ at this point in Sonic’s career, but rather engaging the player on the festivities and fun they themselves represent, and that’s what Sonic is about; not looking cool, or acting bad ass, but having fun. It’s why I consider Sonic Generation to be one of the best videogame soundtracks of 2011. I think that even if Sonic fans are content with never playing another Sonic game, they should still check this album out. It’s filled with too many memorable tunes, and they’d just be doing themselves a disservice by missing out on it.

The booklet lists information on the musicians that preformed each piece as well as notes from the Sonic Sound Team. I thought it was a scumbag move to have everything printed English until you read the Sound Team’s notes, printed all in Japanese. Curses! I believe this album wouldbenefit from an iTunes release, however, $50 USD isn’t a bad price for a 3-disc set of lossless Sonic tunes. Copies of the album are available from CD Japan and Play-Asia.

Play the game and let us know what you thought of the music of Sonic Generations. Do you think this is the best Sonic soundtrack of the past decade? Or are you guys still terrified of the Sonic franchise?

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