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Sonic the Hedgehog, a journey through music

Sonic the Hedgehog, is a series well known since 91′, as one of gaming’s leading mascots. But it is also one of the best series in gaming that celebrates a variety of genres in music. From high tempo melodies, to catchy tunes, rocking numbers, and beats from another world. Wait let’s go back.. well it did begin with the early sound format that made the Genesis, also known as the Mega Drive popular at the time. However, Sonic was different. There was so much range, no two songs sounded alike.

From the cartridge days, it branched into CD based audio with the Saturn, after that it went all in with the Dreamcast. Sadly the Dreamcast had a short shelf life, but Sonic bounced back, being available everywhere on all platforms which was weird at first, but somehow it all worked out in the end. With last year celebrating 30 years of the blue hedgehog and friends.

However this year, the series celebrated with a collection of the classics that started it all. Plus a new game on the horizon: Frontiers. A new entry, that is open world, with unique environments, plus exploration, puzzles, and levels that will test your skills. But the main constant is music, which had evolved, just as much as the games have. So here’s to you old buddy.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Where the series began, on the console known as the Genesis, also knowns as the Mega Drive in Europe, and Asia. It explored various landscapes, mazes, and mechanical nightmares. But its music is unforgettable. Here are a few choices tunes from this entry. Sonic 1 and 2 were composed by Masato Nakamura

Green Hill Zone, the first level, to many a classic. It is by far, the tutorial level, where you get your bearings before taking on this vast new unknown world. But beyond GHZ, every level has its own consistent theme, and vibe. From start to finish, Sonic’s world is alive, vibrant, then gets darker, as the journey goes on. Including the music, it also changes with the tone of the game. Until the finale, where the music picks up, and credits. You’ve completed something special, even back in the 2D days, it meant something, it meant everything to the player.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
This game is where the series started to branch out from melodies. Like the first game, it opened up to vast levels, plus covered different atmospheres mostly kept for arcade games.

Chemical Plant Zone, it may be the second stage, but it set you up on a mind bending ride. From a to b, you explored this messed up area, with tubes running from every wall, and a strange liquid. (Will be explained later)
Plus the music goes on another level, getting more intense, vibrant, and bizarre. Even with limitations of the Genesis, video game music was incredible.

Sonic CD. The next gen of gaming began its journey here. The Sega CD pushed hardware to its limits within a gorgeous opening animation made by Toei. Plus a fantastic soundtrack (which was oddly separated into two variants, a US, and a Japan version. Both had unique sound styles, while tapping into that blue hedgehog energy. Plus the Sega CD could use a higher quality audio format, no longer dependent on the sound limits of cartridges.

Also within this game soundtrack, the composers used different time based renditions of each stage. Good Future, Bad Future, and the Past. Each had its rewards, but also would change the environment and atmosphere if certain goals were met.

Credits: Sound Director: Yukifumi Makino, Composers: Naofumi Hataya, Masafumi Ogata (Japan version) / Spencer Nilsen, and David Young (US)

Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic and Knuckles
This entry is a bit different, as the game was literally split into two separate cartridges. However the games link up, and the music offers even more variety. Plus each level contained two different versions. Also this game has two distinct soundtracks, which crossed over into the r and b, and funk realm, with some of Michael Jackson’s producers, creating a unique experience throughout. Sadly in the re-released remaster Sonic Origins, some songs were removed, and the beta tracks were put in their place. Nothing will ever top what this game was capable of back then.

Composers: Sega Sound Team
Toruhiko Uwabo, Sachio Ogawa, Yoshiaki Kashima, Masaru Setsumaru, Tatsuyuki Maeda, Tomonori Sawada, Masayuki Nagao, and Jun Senoue

Composers: Additional songs by:
Brad Buxer, Darryl Ross, Doug Grigsby III, Cirocco Jones

Sonic 3D Blast / Flickies Island
Moving from 2D Sidescrolling, to the next level with 3D. What is fascinating, is that the Genesis, and Saturn vary greatly in sound quality. They feel like two polar opposites, where the past gen uses the cartridge synth, but the Saturn was capable of tapping into Redbook Audio (a higher quality format). 3D Blast / Flickies Island is a magical adventure, with a soundtrack that shows the evolution of the series.

Composers: Tatsuyuki Maeda, Jun Senoue, Masaru Setsumaru, Seiroh Okamoto
Europe: Richard Jacques

Sonic R
Sonic and friends race against one another, allies vs baddies. In a race to claim the Chaos Emeralds.
The unique aspect of the soundtrack, is that retains that Sonic style vibe, but also connects to a racing simulator vibe. Taking on a 3D space, bop, jump, and run across various stages. With super catchy tunes.

Composers: Richard Jacques
Vocals by: TJ Davis

Sonic Adventure 1
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
From one journey to the next, this new adventure let you play as Sonic and his friends. A vast quest, seeing each characters point of view. Plus it featured a vast soundtrack that took the series to another level. Did I forget to mention every song is amazing? It is super difficult to just pick a few songs. Also this is where the series was also evolving sound design wise, taking on more themes that connected with the story.

Track Spotlight: “Open Your Heart” (Opening version / Main theme)
This track raised the bar on what the Sonic series was all about. Beyond the 2D adventures, this was where new ground was made. An epic buildup, an anthem, a rollercoaster ride. It was everything that summarized what Sonic Adventure was going to be, something new, paving the way for the next generation in gaming, and sound design.

Composers , and Arrangers:
Fumie Kumatani, Jun Senoue, Masaru Setsumaru, Kenichi Tokoi

Johnny Gioeli, Naoto Shibata, Hiro Honma, Takeshi Taneda, Yutaka Minobe, Kenichi Tokoi
(Crush 40: Johnny Gioeli, Takeshi Taneda, Katsuji, and Jun Senoue)

Sonic Adventure REMIX
When Adventure was released, this side album was also. Filled with the vocal tracks, but with a new spin, some enhanced with different genres: nu metal, r and b, and trance, plus more. Think of this as a B sides release.

Remixers: Kevin Moore, Steve Tushar, Chris Vrenna, Mark Blasques, Transmutator, Razed in Black, Mark Pistel (from Meat Beat Manifesto), Chris Randall, Van Christie (Sister Machine Gun), Matt Greene (Spahn Ranch), Cevin Key

Vocals by: Corey Glover, Al Pitrelli

Sonic Adventure 2
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Hero vs Dark. Goodie vs baddie. Sonic vs Shadow? Hey who is this guy? One of the most epic adventures ever. Also has an amazing soundtrack, that compliments the first game but takes it to another level. Boasting tons of new songs, plus even more vocal tunes, character themes, and so much more.

Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Tomoya Ohtani, Fumie Kumatani, Heigo Tani
Vocals by:
Tony Harnell, Ted Poley, Tabitha Fair, Marlon Saunders, Everette Bradly, Paul Shortino, Todd Cooper, Kaz Silver, and Johnny Gioeli

Sonic Heroes
20th Anniversary Edition
Friends, and enemies band together racing against the clock to save the world they call home. Plus every team has their own theme song, and each stage is amazing. What set this apart from past games, is the use of a team mechanic: Speed, Power, and Flight. Four teams, all on a mission.

Composers and Arrangers:
Jun Senoue, Naofumi Hataya, Hideaki Kobayashi, Keichi Sugiyama, Teruhiko Nakagawa, Yutaka Minobe, Mariko Nanba, Fumie Kumatani, Tomoya Ohtani, Amir Derakh

Theme songs by:
Crush 40, Ted Poley, Mathilde O’Rourke, Ryan Shuck, Gunnar Nelson

Sonic Rush
Going back to its roots on the DS, with a spin of Jet Set Radio meets Sonic. The Blue Hedgehog, and Blaze the Cat (a princess that uses the ability of fire, from another realm) team up to save their worlds. With a mix of funk, groove, and high energy tracks, it is a fun bop throughout this adventure.

Composers and Arrangers:
Hideki Naganuma, Teruhiko Nakagawa, Yukifumi Makino

Shadow the Hedgehog
What if the entire game went from its roots into a nu metal phase? Shadow, the antagonist of Sonic Adventure 2 would obtain his own game, a search for identity, but also digging deep into who he is, hero or villain. The music goes hard, and delivers an awesome experience like no other.

Composers and Arrangers:
Jun Senoue, Yutaka Minobe, Keichi Sugiyama, Mariko Nanba, Tomoya Ohtani, Kenichi Tokoi
Plus remixes by: Lee Brotherton (Remix Factory / Bentley Jones)

Vocals by: Johnny Gioeli, Ryan Shuck, Mike Szuter
Songs by: Crush 40, Powerman 5000, Julien-K, Remix Factory, and Magna-Fi (nope I am not kidding, they actually made songs for this!!)

Sonic 2006
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Soundtrack Vol 3
A reboot, a fresh start for the series. That was the plan, but not how it turned out after release. Thoughts on the game aside, the soundtrack is fantastic. Boasting over tons of songs, some melodic, and several key vocal tracks. There is so much variety, it pushed beyond 3 CDs.

Composers, and Arrangers:
Tomoya Ohtani, Mariko Nanba, Hideaki Kobayashi, Takahito Eguchi, Tai-Hey, Seirou Okamoto, Yasutaka Kume
Vocals by: Matty Lewis, Ali Tabatabaee, Lee Brotherton (Remix Factory / Bentley Jones), Donna De Lory

Sonic Rush Adventure
The sequel to Rush, now with another journey ahead. And music leading on the way. A fun and wild romp beyond the seven seas. Uh wait Sonic cannot swim! Aaaahhh!!!

Sonic Riders
Sonic and friends, versus the Babylon Rogues. Set in a futuristic world, with block rockin beats! The gang rides air boards, in a competition versus their new rivals. Whomever wins, will change their world forever

Tomonori Sawada, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani
Vocals by: Runblebee

Sonic Generations
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2

What if the Classic and Modern versions of the Blue Hedgehog universe collided into one wild adventure? That is exactly what Generations is, from start to finish, a journey with two different generations of a classic character. Plus the music takes on a unique spin, inspired by the past.

Masato Nakamura, Jun Senoue, Naofumi Hataya, Tomoya Ohtani, Kenichi Tokoi, Hideki Naganuma, Richard Jacques, Spencer Nilsen, Hideaki Kobayashi, Mariko Nanba, Yutaka Minobe, Yasufumi Fukuda
Remixes by: Cash Cash, Atushi “Sushi” Kosugi, Circuit Freq, Alex Makhlouf

Vocals by: Ted Poley, Tony Harnell, and Johnny Gioeli

Sonic and the Secret Rings
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Part of the Storybook series, Sonic is transported into the world of “Arabian Nights”. Having to do battle with an evil Djinn, plus gain an ally, a bond with a good Djinn. Magic, suspense, chills, and thrills, all of this and more!

Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, Hideaki Kobayashi, Seirou Okamoto, Le Club Bachraf
Vocals by: Steve Conte, Runblebee

Sonic and the Black Night
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Magic, Princess, Rivals, Medieval times?! The second entry in the storybook saga, finds Sonic, and his friends in the world of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round table.

Jun Senoue, Heigo Tani, Atsushi “Sushi” Kosugi, Richard Jacques, Yutaka Minobe, Howard Drossin, Tommy Tallarico, Hikaru Tanimoto, Yusaku Tsuchiya

Vocals by: Crush 40

Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity
The sequel, and remix of the wild and fun air board racing game. With even more tunes to lose your mind to!
Plus the sound team from the original game returns. With a new catchy song to along with this awesome entry.

Tomonori Sawada, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, Hideaki Kobayashi
Vocals by: Runblebee, Cashell

Sonic Unleashed
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Soundtrack Vol 3
From saving the world, to the Emeralds losing power, Robotnik channels energy to awaken a dark monster on the world. But it does not stop Sonic the Werehog? Now imbued with the ability to transform into a beast (at night), the fallen hero picks himself up, with a new friend Chip. Along the way meeting others around the world, setting things right. Repairing the planet, and battling bots, and creatures from the dark Gaia.

Composers: Tomoya Ohtani, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, Hideaki Kobayashi, Takahito Eguchi, Mariko Nanba and many more including the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra
Vocals by: Jaret Reddick, Brent Cash

Sonic Colors
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Soundtrack Vol 3
Planet Wisp, once a peaceful place, now inhabited by Robotnik and his amusement park. Sonic and Tails, plus some new friends band together to end Baldy McNosehair’s evil scheme!

Composers: Tomoya Ohtani, Fumie Kumatani, Kenichi Tokoi, Naofumi Hataya, Hideaki Kobayashi, Mariko Nanba, Yukifumi Makino, plus many more. Including the Amsterdam Session Orchestra
Vocals by: Jean Paul Makhlouf, Alex Makhlouf

Sonic Mania
Go back to a time before the 3D adventures. When 2D was king, and Sega was in the lead with the Genesis/Mega Drive, and later the Saturn did its best against the Playstation and N64. Set within the classic series, taking place during Sonic CD, Sonic 3, and Knuckles. A lost entry, with time travel, and so much more. Including an awesome soundtrack, incredible animation, and an unforgettable experience.

“Friends” – Hyper Potions
Mania Soundtrack composed by Tee Lopes
With additional tracks by: Naofumi Hataya, and Jun Senoue

By the way, about that strange liquid in Chemical Plant Zone, turns out its made from Puyo Puyo! Those cute creatures in their own puzzle game (also created by Sega). Turns out Eggman found a nefarious use, but utilizing their core energy as a source for power. One of the wildest easter eggs ever.

Sonic Lost World
Soundtrack Vol 1
Soundtrack Vol 2
Soundtrack Vol 3
A journey to a bizarre new world, where everything is set like a puzzle, set to shapes. But the journey is on another level, with lush colors, crazy challenges, and formidable foes.

Composers: Tomoya Ohtani, Takahito Eguchi, Naofumi Hataya, Jun Senoue
Plus the Sonic Lost World Session Orchestra

Sonic Forces
The Ruby Emerald has made it into the Modern dimension. Sonic is out of commission, with Eggman taking over the world, while Knuckles and the crew hold the baddies forces back from World domination. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, help the good guys, and save the day.
In this entry, the sound team lead by Tomoya Ohtani (sound team coordinator/ producer) and friends experimented with more vocal tracks throughout the game. Forces soundtrack takes a deep dive into: progressive house, trance, psytrance, club, and more genres.

Composers: Tomoya Ohtani, Takahito Eguchi, Kenichi Tokoi, Naofumi Hataya, Yutaka Minobe, The London Symphony Orchestra, and Koji Igarashi
Vocals by: Douglas Robb (Hoobastank), Jon Underdown, Madeline Wood, Claudia Vasquez, Nana Hatori, Amy Hannam, Tyler Smith, and Andy Bane (Dangerkids)

Sonic Mania Plus
An expansion to the hit classic remix game! With new tunes, and classics remastered for a new generation, or longtime fans too.

Composers: Tee Lopes, Falk Au Yeong, Hunter Bridges, and Hyper Potions
With additional music by: Naofumi Hataya, Jun Senoue, Masayuki Nagao, Yoshiaki Kashima, Yukifumi Makino, Tomonori Sawada

Team Sonic Racing
Friends, rivals, baddies, and some that are adorable enter the race of their lives. Taking on tracks throughout the Sonic series past and present.
Composers: Sonic Adventure Music Experience: Jun Senoue, Takeshi Taneda, and Act
More music by: Richard Jacques, Jun Senoue, Hidekuni Horita, Hyper Potions, Wall5, Tyler Smyth, Toriena, Tee Lopes, Tomoya Ohtani
Vocals by: Johnny Gioeli

Sonic Colors Ultimate
Colors received a remaster, with updated visuals plus new tunes. Definitely a noteworthy experience to the awesome classic.
Composers: Credits, same as the original release. But with new remixes by Tomoya Ohtani

Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony
Last summer, Sega, and Sonic took part in a special concert celebrating 30 amazing years of the Blue Hedgehog, and friends. With classic tunes, to new ones, and some fun surprises. Definitely an event to treasure always. Also they are planning a world tour, including music from the newest game in the series: Sonic Frontiers

Sonic Frontiers –
Recently, Tomoya Ohtani, lead sound producer for Frontiers teased the theme song, plus a song for one of the new islands. Now its also been announced the complete soundtrack will feature 150 songs altogether.

“I’m Here”
“Theme of Starfall Islands”

A special mix by Ohtani-san, celebrating the various stages that are showcased throughout the Cyber Space levels. Featuring tunes that blend sounds of the past, with the present. Listen, and let it take you away
Cyber Space DJ Mix
Cyber Space DJ Mix, Sega Japan Music Video

How to summarize, I am at a loss for words. Being a longtime fan, this series has a special place in my heart. It is an honor to write this article sharing what I love about the series: the music. Growing up with the classic series, and as an adult seeing it evolve is fantastic. I cannot wait to see what Frontiers has in store for us, and the next generation. To the entire Sega, and Sonic team fam, thank you for taking us on this journey with you.

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