Home > Music, Uncategorized > Anatomy of VGM #6 – Sonic CD (Sega CD)

Anatomy of VGM #6 – Sonic CD (Sega CD)

latest.jpgToday’s “Anatomy of VGM” feature is brought to you by the original Japanese version of Sonic CD’s soundtrack. I might do a separate feature on the completely different American soundtrack someday if I feel up to it.

I’m not much for Sonic CD’s bonus stages, but the soundtrack is one of the best in the entire series. Imagine the best aspects of the Sega Genesis entries’ music (good pop songwriting, genre variety, a strong ear for consonant melody) given an entire CD’s worth of streaming redbook audio to stretch out and experiment with, and you should have a good idea of why this game’s music turned out as well as it did. Both of this game’s composers (Masafumi Ogata and Naofumi Hataya) had cut their teeth on more limited sound chips for arcade and console hardware, and that experience served them well when it came time to pen this game’s tracks.

The most obvious gimmick here is that each of the main stages has four separate versions of its music; one to accompany each time period you can explore in-game. These generally hew close to each other in terms of overall arrangement, although the “Bad Future” versions tend to convert the frequently upbeat and peppy arrangements into darker and/or more aggressive styles. The music for the first stage (“Palmtree Panic”) is a good example of this, rewarding the player for not correctly altering the past by turning its sunny, Latin jazz theme into a menacing techno track that even manages to recontextualize its own content in such a way that the quoted phrases come off completely different than they would otherwise. In short, it’s a good example of the composers creatively turning limitations into new and creative techniques even when the technical limitations have been lifted.

Besides the attractions provided by extra space, there’s plenty of other fun and well-executed ideas strewn throughout this soundtrack to keep your attention. Comprehensively describing them all would make this entry far longer than it should be, although I’m certain that someone out there has published an extremely detailed analysis of the OST that you could peruse if such is to your liking. With that in mind, two points stand out – first, the heavy use of sampling, especially vocals, in what is generally an instrumental soundtrack. That was nothing new in 1992, but it still adds depth and texture to the listening experience. There’s also a clear influence from contemporary, bleeding edge EDM, and while yet again this was already a well explored vein of inspiration for many video game composers at the time, it does stand out for a series whose primary muse these days appears to be hard rock (read: Crush 40).

While some people have criticized Sonic CD‘s OST for being relentlessly hyperactive and maniacal, anything so much as a nod in that direction is a plus in my book. The cartridges that surround this game offer very stiff competition (and arguably most of the Sega Genesis Sonic games have better gameplay), but this pulls ahead and still holds up well today, at least for people of my general musical tastes.

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