U.S. magazine Nintendo Power has grabbed some time for a chat about Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 with renowned music artist Jun Senoue. Jun, as some of you will know, is providing the music for this new 2D entry in the series like he did with the last games in the classic series with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. In the interview, we see that maximum effort has been made to give Sonic 4’s soundtrack a classic and fun feel, even to the point that a Genesis/Mega Drive development kit would have been used if the right tech were available. Now THAT is dedication!
Thanks to Chaosmaster8753 at the SSMB, who grabbed a copy of the magazine, we have the interview in text form below –
Nintendo Power: What was your reaction when you first heard that Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was finally going to happen after more than 15 years?
Jun Senoue: Takashi Iizuka and I worked together for a long time-from Sonic Adventure through NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. Before that, the first Sonic game either of us ever worked on was Sonic the Hedgehog 3. So we first met…I think it was 17 years ago now. Anyway, he came to me one day out of the blue and told me that we were going to do a classic Sonic game again! At that moment, we didn’t know yet if it was going to be called Sonic the Hedgehog 4. But from the beginning, he wanted me to compose the music in the same style as the classic Genesis games. Both he and I were really excited about the project and had a lot of fun working on it.
NP: How did you change or adapt your musical style for this return to the classic-style Sonic?
JS: Due to hardware limitations of the Genesis, we could only work with a certain number of notes and a certain number of sounds. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a game for current consoles, but I tried to compose the tracks the old-fashioned way. I went back to the basics. I didn’t actually go back and use the old FM sound tapes, but I tried to compose with as few notes as I could. I went about it largely the same way I did with the music for the Genesis. Actually, I did try to dig up a development kit for the Genesis. But it requires an old Japanese PC from NEC-not a very common PC-and I couldn’t find one of those. So all I could do was sample some sounds from the original Sonic.
NP: What was your approach to creating the sound for the various zones in the game?
JS: Splash Hill Zone is the first level in the game and it’s very similar to the opening levels in the original Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and Sonic 2. So I wanted the music to be similar; the key word was “fun”. Likewise, the second level is a casino-themed world, so I tried to draw from Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone. And I think the special stage music in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 will remind you of the original game’s special stage. I tried to compose the songs with a similar beat or similar tempo to the first two games in the series. I want players to get the same kind of impression.
NP: Do you have a favorite track that you’ve composed for the game?
JS: I’d say the opening level of Splash Hill Zone. When I saw the game for the very first time, that track just came to me immediately. [Sonic Team director Toshiyuki] Nagahara really dislikes that song, though. He wanted me to compose a new one, but it was important to me, so I didn’t change it. [Laughs] I also really like the music for the first level of Mad Gear Zone.
NP: Since Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was the first game in the franchise that you worked on, does it feel like things have sort of come first circle now with Sonic 4?
JS: Absolutely. There are people I work with now who played Sonic 3 when they were very young children! That’s pretty amazing to me.
Thanks again to chaosmaster8753 at the SSMB for the heads up!