A large proportion of the Sonic fanbase were disappointed by Sonic the Hedgehog 4. In many aspects the game had mammoth boots to fill, in continuing the lineage responsible for creating the massive following Sonic commanded during the nineties. While it’s not the intention to review either game here, many parallels can be drawn in the expectations of the music as to what was expected from the games themselves.
Taking up the reigns once more as composer for the majority of the soundtrack, Jun Senoue had a daunting task in creating an eclectic mix of tracks that could stand up against the might of Masato Nakamura’s timeless tunes and the cult classics of Sonic 3 and Knuckles. The soundtrack sets out to revisit the 16-bit era through compositions using synthesisers to emulate the sounds of yore, while lending from previous instalments by utilising the classic snare and kick drum which permeate the vast majority of musical offerings. The physical release of the soundtrack comes stuffed with the music to both titles, kicked off by the incidental piece New Frontier which segues beautifully into the first act of Slyvania Castle. If you’ve played through both episodes, the ordering of the episodes on this album will come as no surprise, with episode 2 feeling significantly more developed than its prequel, and with catchy incidentals bringing a full feeling to the soundtrack as a whole. Like many of its predecessors, the accompanying songs to the first zones succeed in bringing a definitive and altogether memorable contribution, adding something unique to musical landscape of the franchise with a distinctive, piercing lead synth. Sky Fortress Act 1 and White Park Act 2 continue to bolster the soundtrack with reminiscent fast-paces and heavy bass, with Senoue sneaking in the trademark sounds synonymous with later works.
However, as is the case with Sonic 4 (particularly with regards to the first episode) the soundtrack suffers by lending far too heavily from the original series, and herein lies the main point of contention most fans have with this game. A particular hang-up regards the over-use of snare and kick drums in that while their use works well for many stages, the repetition of the drum patterns grows weary as the player progresses through zones, and feels much more bland compared to the first two Megadrive / Genesis titles. It is a little disappointing that a new drum sound was not developed as with the evolution from Sonic 2 to 3, rather than taking a step backwards and borrowing from the first games. The Eggman and E.G.G. Station arrangements do not live up to the grandeur of their past boss counterparts, partly due to the length of some of the tunes; neither make it to 15 seconds before repeating, and become fairly dull for any adversary that takes longer than a minute to defeat. Fortunately this is remedied with Episode II through a marvellous array of themes accompanying the Metal Sonic encounters (including Reboot, which adds touches from Sonic CD composers Spencer Nilsen and Masafumi Ogata) and Introduction to Death Egg Mk II which screams inspirations from thrash licks.
With a meagre price tag of ¥1890 (£14 / $23 from play-asia.com), the physical release of the Sonic 4 soundtrack weighs in as one of the most affordable OSTs available, and currently working out cheaper (before postage costs) than the digital download for UK fans (£7.99 / $9.99 per episode) – this makes the soundtrack all the more appetising to those looking to expand or even start their soundtrack collection. The physical release of the album concludes with an exclusive Splash Hill medley featuring a guitar part and real percussion, from which you can see what Senoue had aspired to when creating this soundtrack. In some senses it becomes increasingly apparent that the classic sound for Sonic 4 feels forced in parts for the sake of nostalgia; perhaps a 16-bit sound simply cannot work with a modern generation Sonic title. It is reassuring that lessons were learned from Episode 1 yielding some stunning compositions for Generations – however this highlights a major point; while Sonic Generations was a revisiting of the classic games, Sonic 4 was meant as a continuation and a progression to something new.
While Episode 2 very much redeems itself to its prequel, Sonic 4 does not quite manage the musical performance its predecessors accomplished two decades ago in just many attributes. Still, this compilation stands much stronger with both episodes combined, and is a sure-fire choice for the soundtrack collector; even if you’re not, the episode 2 soundtrack presents an enticing digital download worthy of taking its place in any Sonic collection. [3/5]
The game is supposed to fit in with the original genesis saga, so the music is self explanatory when trying to re-create that retro chip tune feel, however in my opinion it doesn’t fit the game in it’s updated state, the majority of tracks are forgettable or so lacklustre they aren’t worth remembering, there are a few decent tracks in the game, Splash Hill & Mad Gear from Ep.1 and the entirety of Sky Fortress Zone from Ep.2, SEGA’s direct approach to cheaper soundtracks is a good move for those who don’t have access to large sums of cash to shell out for imports, it’s well priced for what it has to offer, presentation of the Case and inlays is also rather nice and fits in nicely with the other sonic soundtracks on your shelf, it’s just a shame that the content isn’t worth shelling out for.
[2/5] – Super Soniko
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was released in split episodes with each one featuring music created by ancient lord of animal-murdering (and sound composing) Jun Senoue, it was SUPPOSED to sound similar to the old Genesis songs but at the same time having a “remastered” touch. At the end the result is debatable, but I digress. The songs do fit with their correspondent zones to a slight degree and standing out are the entirety of White Park and Mad Gear with the sexy Death Egg MK.2 Act 1 among others. Personally Episode 1 does have rather catchy songs while Episode 2 is a sliiiiiiiiight improvement over the first’s soundtrack, but nonetheless they are a fine addition to the world of Sonic’s music and they will be remembered as the soundtrack that made Sonic’s fanbase rage like there was no tomorrow. Good job SEGA and mister Jun Senoue, you’ve done it again!
[4/5] – Blue Wisp
The thought of Senoue-san making “retro” music in the vein of Sonic 1 – S3&K was something to get excited about, but unfortunately I was a little disappointed. The melodies aren’t terribly memorable and loop too quickly. That said, there are some melodies that stand up such as Splash Hill. Given the choice, Episode I’s music trumps Episode II, but that could be due to knowing the songs longer. The CD is fairly priced for what you get (£20) and you get a lot of music, but sadly it’s not something I can recommend to anyone bar soundtrack completists.
[2/5] – bcdcdude
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack can be purchased from play-asia.com for $22.49 (~£14).
Have your own opinions of the soundtrack? Let us know in the comments!