The Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – 8-Bit vs. 16-Bit

The Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – 8-Bit vs. 16-Bit

Classic Clash: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-Bit) vs. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-Bit)

The soundtracks to the 16-bit and 8-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are quite tough to review this long after their release, what with all the nostalgia involved. These are not just soundtracks to games, but to childhoods after all! The biggest thing that both versions brought was a sense of urgency that the first Sonic the Hedgehog titles lacked. Both 16-bit Emerald Hill and Chemical Plant Zone tracks say “this is cooler than Sonic 1” from the get-go, with their faster tempo, snappier percussion and simpler melodies. The bold choice to start with an intense lava level – and an equally action-packed tune – gave 8-bit Sonic 2 a similar feeling. Green Hills Zone features a fast-paced masterpiece that Sonic fans would soon hear reprised in “You Can Do Anything” for Sonic CD. While the original Green Hill theme will always bring a tear to every nostalgic eye, this one just screams “I’m Sonic; I run around very fast and it’s awesome”. The Scrambled Egg Zone features a touch of surreal by layering lots of interesting sounds throughout and a downright epic solo of bleepy-bloops serving as the main melody.

Then we come to the chilled out songs. 16-bit has the likes of Aquatic Ruin, Hill Top and Oil Ocean Zone themes. Now this is just my opinion, but I found the slower tracks to be the weak spot of 16-bit. They all felt either repetitive or just a bit dull, not quite fitting in with the rest of the soundtrack. 8-bit however, had some much funkier tunes for the slower levels, such as Sky High and Aqua Lake Zone. While Aqua Lake’s melody meanders around a bit more than Sky High, they’re both very catchy, toe-tapping tunes. The Gimmick Mountain Zone theme is incomparable with anything in 16-bit counterpart can offer, and perfectly captures a far more surreal tone than most Eggman strongholds, with many fades, and a mysterious and sinister melody. 16-bit has Casino Night, Mystic Cave and Metropolis, all three of which escape the problem I had with the other slower tracks, thanks to their fantastically written melodies.

Coming to the finale tracks, 8-bit’s Crystal Egg Zone is one of the more surreal endings in the franchise. A totally wacky and chirpy tune portrays this strange zone fantastically. I find 16-bit’s finale to be a mixed bag though. Sky Chase is a beautiful song, but I can’t help but think its all “sky” and no “chase”, making it a little unfitting. In a similar manner, Wing Fortress perfectly represents Eggman’s triumphant creation, but not the fact that Sonic is running about messing the thing up. Death Egg is also a bit of a funny track. The bit you hear is great but the unused portion of the song is just weird and loses the sinister feeling of the start. I’m glad that Death Egg was not a full stage with this looping in the background.

To close, we come to the boss and ending themes. 8-bit’s boss theme is used for every boss, including the final one. The Game Gear uses a very fast-paced tune, whereas the Master System is a more scrambled sounding manic theme. Both are very fitting, but certainly not something you’ll be humming the next day whereas the boss themes of 16-bit version have become legendary melodies. The 16-bit ending uses the classic medley formula, whereas the Master System goes for a very sombre piece with a gorgeous melody (getting the good ending on Game Gear grants a different tune which, while not quite as memorable, is also a very pleasant listen).

8-bit has fewer tunes of a consistent quality, which likely means you either love or hate the whole thing, whereas 16-bit is larger and more varied, making it more likely for one to love or hate individual tracks. I do however feel that both soundtracks are still fantastic, and paved the way for an all new tone of cool for Sonic in his first sequel.

Favourite 16-bit track: Chemical Plant Zone
Favourite 8-bit track: “Bad Ending”
Personal Favourite: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit version).

“It’s really quite a difficult task to compare the soundtracks from both of the 1992 versions of Sonic The Hedgehog 2, especially when there is an existing bias already in position for one of them. All things aside, each soundtrack brings something different to the table. Nakamura’s work on the MegaDrive version is brilliant. Each piece really captures the atmosphere and mood of each stage, whether it be the simulated brass and slap-bass in Casino Night, the scratching and popping of the mechanical Metropolis or the eerie wails of the dark Mystic Cave. One of my greatest joys about the soundtrack are the 2-Player tracks, which use essentially the same instruments as their “1-Player stage” counterparts, but tune to something more suitable for competition.

Contrast this with the Master System collection of tracks. The tracks are hearty for an 8-bit based soundtrack, but I’m not convinced that if the tracks were recreated 16-bit style, they would have the same flair. Using what he had, Tomozou Endo created the very jerky and sporadic Scrambled Egg which lives up to its name, while Sky High is just too simple a track to enjoy and really doesn’t spark enthusiasm. However, Green Hills Zone will always have a special place in my heart as the music that eventually grew into the theme song for Sonic CD, “You Can Do Anything”. Having said this, Tomozou Endo hasn’t really done a bad job with the technology he had. Nakamura just set the bar way too high. ”

Favourite 16-Bit tune: Casino Night Zone 2P.
Favourite 8-Bit tune: Green Hills Zone
Best Soundtrack: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-Bit Version)

“I think some would see the comparison of these two soundtracks as a bit one-sided in favour of the Megadrive/Genesis score. Granted, the 16-Bit iteration is close to superb, but guys, go back and listen to the 8-Bit version. The Yamaha sound chip on the MS may not be up to its big brother’s standard, but Endo’s pushed that to the limit. Crystal Egg and Gimmick mountain have nearly four “voices” in each track (percussion, bass, rhythm and lead melody), and that is extremely cool consider most other titles on the console rarely utilize more than two. Plus, I dig anything vaguely rock, and I’m pretty sure that both Scrambled Egg, Underground Zone and the boss themes were all written with a thrash metal vibe in mind, so Endo-san rocks!

What starts to really rake me back though is listening to Chemical Plant and Mystic Cave, with an incredibly convincing slap-bass synthesised by Nakamura-san. Each track shines in its own respect with a real clean sweep across a huge range of emulated genres and all maintaining an allegro I think no other Sonic game has managed. Who can say the mechanical resonance of Metropolis (what with that wonderful scratch and guitar-riffic chorus!) doesn’t send a shiver down their spine? So how do I choose between these two soundtracks? I think actually can’t…but because I have a feeling it won’t get as much love (and I have to make a decision!), my vote goes to the underdog!”

Favourite 16-Bit tune: Mystic Cave Zone
Favourite 8-Bit tune: Scrambled Egg Zone
Best Soundtrack: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-Bit Version)

“Undoubtedly, the main problem with the soundtrack to the 8-Bit iteration of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 soundtrack is the boredom factor; there just seems to be a distinct lack of any kind of excitement or variation throughout the whole thing, and it almost sounds like a lethargic and dull version of Sonic Chaos’ superb music. It even uses similar note sequences to its successor, although they were far more polished and improved in the latter game than they were in Sonic 2. Save for some points of Underground Zone (the intro was rather repetitive and dull) and the Boss theme (Master System version only), the entire OST was generally monotonous, uncreative and uninspiring; a huge disappointment for all who were expecting a stunning follow-up to the first game’s awesome soundtrack.

The MegaDrive version‘s musical score, on the other hand, is a marvellous concoction consisting of nothing but purely excellent electro and synth-pop, played out on the astonishingly outstanding YM2612 synthesizer chip. Masato Nakamura really outdid himself with the likes of Chemical Plant Zone and Emerald Hill Zone; making excellent use of the vip-vip-vow synth sounds of the MegaDrive and conveying shockingly good melodies and basslines, they both shine out from all the other tunes as the absolute finest pieces of music on the game, and completely blow the 8-Bit version’s soundtrack out of the water and into orbit. Additionally, catchy classics such as Aquatic Ruins Zone and Metropolis Zone will be lodged into your brain for years; you’ll doubtlessly find yourself involuntarily humming them in public toilets for all the world to hear!”

Favourite 16-Bit tune: Chemical Plant Zone
Favourite 8-Bit tune: Boss Theme (Master System Version)
Best Soundtrack: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-Bit Version)

Well, it looks like we can’t reach a unaninous decision folks, so I guess this means you guys are going to have to settle the debate for us once and for all! Do you have a favourite out of the two soundtracks? What is your favourite track and why? Let us know in the comments!

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Published by

Adam Tuff

With a decade under his belt, Adam is one of The Sonic Stadium's most seasoned writers, with interests in the music and merchandise of the Sonic the Hedgehog universe. Adam is the co-organiser for the Summer of Sonic convention.


  1. My favourite track was the final boss of the Genesis Sonic 2 simply cuz that is a very epic song almost as epic as the two final boss songs used in S3&k.

  2. Sonic 2 (16-Bit) gets my vote, simply because of childhood reasons. 🙂

    Emerald Hill Zone is my favourite level (and possibly stage music) of all time. It’s catchy, it’s memorable, it’s everything that sets the game up to prove it’s a significant upgrade from the original.

  3. My favourite of the two would (hands down) be the Megadrive version. The music quality just sounded better, moving away from the bleeps and bloops of the 8-bit era and giving us music that sounded like real music. Sure it still had that retro computer feel to it but it felt composed.

    Favourite music from it would have to be the Ending Theme, used after the final boss where Tails prepares to depart in the Tornado.

  4. Chemical Plant all the way. The boss music is also amazing, and Mystic Cave and Metropolis are also great. I’d say the worst song from the Genesis version is Hill Top, but I don’t think it’s bad – just a little boring. I recently experienced the 8-bit version via the Gems Collection, and some of the music was pretty awesome (particularly Gimmick Mt. and Green Hills), but the Genesis game’s soundtrack has bored itself into my memory for the long haul. Yes, I’m biased by nostalgia, and that’s okay.

  5. Tied? Ouch, I’m gonna have to say the Genesis version is leaps and bounds better than the Master System release. IMO, 8-bit Sonic 2 should have been titled something else.

  6. The Sonic 2 MS/GG OST holds a lot of memories for me. T-Bird, you hit the nail on the head; Scrambled Egg Zone is genius, but the ending theme is the one that does it for me as it is awfully pretty – the music works well with the sunrise to sunset feel that happens during the credits. And Green Hills Zone is just wonderful (but then again I am a big fan of Toot Toot Sonic Warrior) The MD OST is good too, but compared to Nakamura’s music for Sonic 1 – I don’t think it holds up as well. I’m going to be controversial and say MS/GG for me.

    For the record – Sonic 1? Hard to say too as they are both brilliant. GG music post Sonic-2 is very unmemorable afterwards though IMO.

  7. @Eggman123: In addition to that, the Master System version of Sonic 2 actually came out before the MegaDrive iteration, technically making 8-Bit Sonic 2 the “original” variant (in a manner of speaking).

  8. Though I saw that Green Hills Zone is reprised with “You can do Anything” (kudos) you failed to point out that the battle theme of E-101 Beta is reprised from Chemical Plant Zone!

  9. I can see the resemblence Milo but I don’t think it’s an intentional remix (admittidly I don’t agree with people saying Tails’ theme is an intentional remix of Bridge either though).

    Not surprised by the overwhelming love for 16-bit at all. It’s so hard to judge these soundtracks with nostalgia clouding your view. I really had to hold back on just how ragingly in love with the 8-bit soundtrack I am, simply because the 8-bit version was MY Sonic 2 back in the day.

    I am sure the majority played 16-bit though, so yeah.

  10. @JezMM: You’re lucky; I didn’t grow up with either version of Sonic 2! I first played it (well, the 16-Bit version, at least) on one of those Radica 6-In-1 Plug ‘N’ Play machines, complete with crappy sound emulation and sprite tearing…

    Although it was in the middle of a crowded Toymaster store, I still managed to make out the theme tune (which, at the time, I thought belonged to AoStH) and play through until Aquatic Ruins Zone!

  11. wait um.

    The 8-bit Sonic 2 was released first, but it is not a prequel. Sonic and Tails first meet in the days leading up to the Genesis title. You could argue that it takes place after, but people are very insistent on making sure Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 have nothing inbetween in terms of story. Then you can get into a discussion of how the Game Gear titles might be a separate universe altogether…but that’s a whole other discussion.

    As for soundtracks…yes, 8-bit Sonic has some nice songs,, and did inspire the theme for one of the greatest Sonic games of all time, but I just can not place it above its 16-bit brother.

  12. I also grew up with the 8-bit version, and I thing the music in that game is more memorable. Green Hills Zone FTW!

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