A large proportion of the fan base to this day cite the Sonic Adventure series as being the pinnacle of the Sonic the Hedgehog gaming experience; on the most part, the games were their first jaunt into the Sonic Universe, and have defined what they come to expect from titles to this day. Being one of the more senior fans, Sonic Adventure was an exciting revival of my favourite video game franchise, after several years of stagnation and the glory days of the Megadrive now a distant echo.
From the moment Open Your Heart kicked in I fell in love with the music. I loved it so much, I’d sit with my Dreamcast on, purely to use the sound test to listen to in-game tracks on repeat. I spent hours trawling the internet on my (not so super-fast) 36 kbps connection, desperately searching for any and all material I could find on the composers.
A decade-and-a-half later I find myself in Tokyo, stood outside Shibuya’s Future Seven music venue with hundreds of fellow fans, to whom this music still stands out as not only some of the finest to grace video games, but incredible pieces of composition in themselves. We are waiting for the Sonic Adventure Music Experience, a celebration of the music that comprised the soundtrack of Sonic Adventure 1 and 2. In the foyer, a huge 25th Anniversary logo sits illuminated, flanked by Uekawa-san’s unmistakable artwork of Sonic, guitar in hand, cheeky grin on his face.
The Sonic Adventure Music Experience day was split into two parts; a talk in the early afternoon about the games themselves and their development, and a concert in the evening comprising a performance of some of the most memorable songs of the titles.
The talk was given in Japanese and therefore a lot of the minutia of the conversation was lost to me and the other non-native speakers there, however what was understood, and what was shown in the PowerPoint presentation, was worth the price of admission alone. The talk was lead by Jun Senoue, the now synonymous composer and sound director of Sonic Team, and the many-time veteran of the Summer of Sonic. Joining him throughout the talk were Mizuki Hosoyamada (Puyo Puyo producer and designer on games such as Sonic Adventure DX), Tetsu Katano (Sonic Adventure programmer), Hiroshi Nishiyama (Sonic Adventure artist), Eitaro Toyoda (Sonic Adventure level designer) and Tomoya Ohtani (Sonic Adventure 2 composer, and SEGA sound director since 2008). As well as talking through some fond memories of creating the Sonic Adventure games, they displayed a number of concept artwork images on the PowerPoint presentation, that have not been seen by the general public before (frustratingly, photography was prohibited).
Two ESP employees joined Senoue-san at the end of the show to talk through the production and development of the black Sonic the Hedgehog guitar, as well as to tell fans that the new design Sonic and Shadow guitars (front row in the image) will soon be produced for purchase. Two versions will be produced to cater for budget and high-end markets, and will be made to order.
All visitors to the talk were also given a complimentary sticker and guitar plectrum!
In the evening, fans returned to watch a near two-hour performance of Sonic Adventure songs. The bulk of the performance involved Senoue-san on guitar, Sonic soundtrack and Crush 40 veteran bassist Takeshi Taneda, and Act (CHAIN Band). The band took off with Windy and Ripply from Sonic Adventure, and the crowd erupted. It was very hard not to get distracted by the extremely well synchronised video of the level play through, which was perfectly timed to end with each song; the performance was so mesmerising, one could almost forget they were at a gig, but instead playing the game at home with the volume setting on 11.
With hardly any time to rest after the first three songs, the band resumed with the slap bass version of Choose Your Buddy! from Sonic Adventure, and the familiar tones of Station Square. The set list (shown below) remained a fantastic mix of obvious and not-so-obvious choices, and comprised a real tour de force of Senoue’s compositions. The bombastic theme of Doctor Eggman was given an extra treatment of a bass and drum solo, while Azure Blue World and Metal Harbour’s “That’s The Way I Like It” were supported by a violinist, perfectly complementing the melodies.
At the conclusion of the concert, fans were delighted to receive an encore of vocal tracks from the games, with special Japanese guest singers. It was fantastic to see throughout that the entire performance had been very well rehearsed; no nuances were missed with vocals which was particularly impressive considering they were not the original singers, nor sang in their native tongue. The band, regardless of many switch-overs in personnel and instruments, remained extremely tight throughout.
Leaving the concert with an exclusive Sonic Adventure Music Experience EP in my hand (5 re-recorded tracks made especially for the event and which will be reviewed soon!) I was once again reminded why I love the music to these games so much; the songs are timeless, and are a real testament to the passion of their creators for the games and their universe. I think this was particularly proven by the large cross-section in the age of people in attendance.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off the 25th Anniversary, and I’m sure I join the rest of the fan base in being able to celebrate 25 years of Sonic the Hedgehog music, as well as to wait in anticipation of what is to come!
- Windy and Ripply (SONIC ADVENTURE – Emerald Coast)
- This Way Out (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Prison Lane)
- Rumbling HWY (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Mission Street)
- Choose Your Buddy! -Slap Bass ver.- (SONIC ADVENTURE – Character Select)
- Welcome to Station Square (SONIC ADVENTURE – Station Square)
- Seaside Hill: Act.2 (SONIC GENERATIONS / SONIC HEROES – Seaside Hill / Ocean Palace)
- Hey You It’s Time to Speed Up !!! (SONIC ADVENTURE – Speed Up)
- Mr.Unsmiley (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Sky Rail)
- Vengeance Is Mine (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Radical Highway)
- Will not Stop, Just Go! (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Green Forest)
- Theme of “Dr. Eggman” (SONIC ADVENTURE)
- Skydeck A Go Go! (SONIC ADVENTURE – Sky Deck)
- Run Through The Speed Highway (SONIC ADVENTURE – Speed Highway)
- Be Cool, Be Wild and Be Groovy (SONIC ADVENTURE – Ice Cap)
- Keys The Ruin (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Pyramid Cave)
- Bad Taste Aquarium (SONIC ADVENTURE – Hot Shelter)
- Boss: CHAOS ver.6 (SONIC ADVENTURE)
- Azure Blue World (SONIC ADVENTURE – Coast Emerald)
- That’s The Way I Like It (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Metal Harbor)
- Believe In Myself (SONIC ADVENTURE – Theme of Miles “Tails” Prower)
- It Doesn’t Matter (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – Theme of Sonic)
- Escape From The City (SONIC ADVENTURE 2 – City Escape)