Happy 20th Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog 3!

Sonic3_titleIt still feels like only yesterday! Sonic the Hedgehog 3 turns the grand old age of 20 today, marking two decades since the title hit the shelves way back in 1994 for the SEGA Megadrive / Genesis; this date also marks the anniversary of the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna to the franchise. While not one of the best selling Sonic the Hedgehog titles to date, Sonic 3 is heralded by many as one of the definitive titles released, along with it’s sister title Sonic & Knuckles, which will also be celebrating it’s birthday later this year.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 still causes debate to this day with regards to the level of involvement Michael Jackson may have had in the creation of the soundtrack.

How will you be celebrating today? Maybe you’re having a speed-run party, rocking out to some remixes of your favorite levels, or perhaps you’re digging a hole in the back garden to hide your emeralds in? Share your thoughts, ideas and reflections in the comments!

TSS REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (iOS)

I’m sure I am not alone when I say I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in various incarnations, be it through a port to a 7th gen console or a compilation release over the last decade. Yet, SEGA keep coming back to these classic titles in order to capitalise on those still reminiscing of a golden age, and indeed I keep coming back to these epitomes of gaming on the Megadrive. I might have been apprehensive in purchasing this game once more, had it not been for the involvement of the now legendary Taxman and Stealth in this port, and going off their incredible rebuilds of Sonic 1 and Sonic CD for iOS and Android I couldn’t resist. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (iOS)

Kickstarter for Megadrive / Genesis Retrospective Art Book Launches

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The popularity of crowdsourcing to fund projects has gained much momentum recently, and only a few months ago, we featured a news article for the Not Enough Rings parody comic book, which was successfully funded.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the release of the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis, depending on where you live), a new kickstarter project has been launched by Read-Only Memory (creators of the Sensible Software book) which will be of interest to many of you: SEGA Megadrive / Genesis: Collected Works. This project looks to be nothing short of amazing, describing itself as a compendium of production artwork, interviews and development sketches.

The book will of course showcase a host of Sonic the Hedgehog material, but will also contain much from other loved franchises such as Streets of Rage, Phantasy Star and Golden Axe to name a few; it also aims to feature images and illustrations that have seldom been seen by the public across its 300 pages.

In addition to this, the creators of the book have already secured interviews with an incredibly impressive line-up of SEGA staff, past and present, including Naoto Oshima, Kazuyuki Hoshino, Yuji Naka, Yuzo Koshiro and Yu Suzuki.

For a pledge of £30 (about $45), you can secure yourself a copy of what is set to be the ultimate coffee table history book. If you’ve got the cash to splash, £250 will not only get you a copy of the book, but an exclusive limited edition print (1 of 100), created by Naoto Oshima, especially for the campaign.

At time of writing, the campaign has already doubled its initial funding goal, so you can pledge in confidence. This is surely one book you don’t want to miss out on!

[P.S. If you love your kick-starters, you might want to check out Far From Faith, a comic set to be animated by the very talented Lynne Triplet, known to many of you at TRiPPY of NiGHTS fame!]

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)
byJezMM.

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).

BLITZCHRIS:
“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)

T-BIRD:
“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)

EXTATICUS:
“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!

Be Sociable and Win a Megadrive/Genesis Ultimate Collection LP!

If you’re one of these hip, cool people who loiters on the Global Networking / Distraction from work site facebook, you can have yourself an opportunity to snag yourself a nice bit of SEGA Megadrive history. Many of you will know that SEGA have produced a limited run SEGA Megadrive Ultimate Collection LP, featuring 6 tracks from SEGA titles such as  Ristar and Golden Axe (for those of you who are too young, an LP is one of those big black disc things that your Mums and Dads have at home in the dusty cabinet – usually featuring Barbera Streisand’s hits and ABBA Gold).

Anyway, if you fancy having a crack at winning one of these, for purely aesthetic purposes or not, head over to the SEGA facebook page, and vote in the current poll that is going: “What is your favourite SEGA Megadrive/Genesis series?” To increase your chances, let the peeps at SEGA know WHY the series is your favourite in the comment box.

If you’re reading this, you are now by law required to vote Sonic…not that he’ll need any help mind you…

SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for 360/PS3 Announced

Because you simply cannot own enough copies of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive, SEGA have announced today they are developing the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the XBox 360 and PS3 consoles. Looks like our original rumour story wasn’t that far off the mark.

As well as being the first opportunity for players to have a go on Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 3D Blast on current generation consoles, this compilation will also include other kick-arse titles from SEGA’s extensive 16-bit catalogue, including Streets of Rage 1, 2 & 3, Alien Storm, Golden Axe 1, 2 & 3, Ristar and Ecco the Dolphin. Not only that, there will be a whole host of unlockable 8-bit Master System titles as bonus material too!

Some fans will be a bit miffed that they have already shelled-out a few hundred Microsoft points for these games already, but I think that will probably be drowned out by the fact there are well over 40 titles to play; that’s a lot of gaming for your pennies! Plus, there will also be a set of achievements for XBox owners to collect – always another incentive to play through those classics once more!

The collection is due out early 2009, check out the Official Website for more info.

Me? I’m thrilled they’re putting Dynamite Headdy on there! YEEEEAAS!!!