The Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Crush 40 – The Works


Jun Senoue – The Works
by T-Bird

Released last November, “The Works” is as much a collection of Senoue’s best pieces , as it is a real celebration of some of the masterful work Jun has produced not only during his long reign working for SEGA, but with his many unique side-projects as well. What really puts this compilation on a pedestal over the similar releases last year (True Colours, Best of C40) was the quantity of material that wa previously unheard of on western shores. I think the first thing that becomes apparent with this album is the incredible range of talent Senoue has worked with over the years. I’m sure many would kill to have worked with the likes of Eric Martin (of Mr. Big) and Ted Poley (Danger Danger), as well as to have produced some memorable power anthems of this calibre in the process.

The album blasts off with three such fine examples including “American Dream”, “Sons of Angels” and “Batter Up!” which ooze that definitive Senoue guitar, thunderously supported in vocals by Martin. Again the frustrating matter for me regarding these these tracks is that  (particularly with the tracks taken from the Japanese Baseball  title Pro Team Yakyu wo Tsukuro! 2) there are more of these tracks out there that have not yet made it to print on any CD. As well as these examples of collaborative work, the album plays host to a selection of acoustic and instrumental pieces. What is most notable here particularly during the absence of guitar-heavy tunes is the sheer diversity of what Senoue can produce – from the gorgeously plinky-plonk piano piece in “Afternoon Tea”, to the ambience of “Dusk of the stadium”.

Although I don’t particularly judge this to be a negative, the album does not contain a large number of Sonic related tracks. Personally, this is refreshing considering the hardened music collector would find this simply a repetition of material they have heard time and again. Even in this case however, those tracks we have come to know and love have been totally revamped and reworked. “After the Adventure”, as the name insinuates is a reworking of material from Sonic Adventure, the emphasis here being the Station Square theme composed a-la 70’s lounge stylee. Not only this, “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” mashes up Space Channel 5’s theme with the likes of “Open Your Heart” and (again as the name suggests) “Skydeck A-Go-Go” from Sonic Adventure to create an incandescent harmony of favourites.  If you were lucky enough to pick up the JXJ album a few years back, you’ll recognise “Where I want to be” , with Junko’s vocals replaced by Sweetnam. I must admit this is the only track I remain polarised on, as I think the English lyrics sound more forced than their Japanese counterparts.

There seems to be no loss of steam as you plough through the track listing, with the up-tempo Daytona USA and SEGA Rally tracks keeping the pace all the way through to the end, before ending on “My Own Destiny”, a beautiful mid-paced , ambling-lead finisher.

In my opinion this collection blows the winter 2009 competition out of the water, speaking purely from the standpoint of someone who has heard a lot of Senoue’s previous work. If you desire something more Sonic-filled, I’d suggest you might be better off going for a Sonic soundtrack, but if you’re half the Senoue fan I am, you’ll find it very hard to fault this near-perfect array of tunes. One can only hope there is more of this to come… [9]

EXTATICUS
From the AC/DC-influenced guitar licks of the stylish rock version of “The Star Spangled Banner” to the serene and sublime solos of “My Own Destiny”, The Works is yet another classy compilation from SEGA’s favourite – hell, everyone’s favourite – axe-wielding guitar god, Jun Senoue. Featuring a massive spectrum of styles and sounds, this awesome album will have even the most ardent and experienced rock fanatic slavering and salivating over its powerful melodies and captivating riffs; it truly is a wonderful display of what real rock should sound like, and is also a prime example of why the guitar (however non-mainstream it may be) remains a force to be reckoned with.

The Works is another work of genius from this guitar prodigy, and should be regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) SEGA-related compilations ever to have been produced. It’s a magnificent mix of styles and emotions and creates a first-rate blend of both calm and adrenaline-fuelled rock, whilst managing to retain all of its freshness and originality throughout the entirety of its highly enjoyable duration. Make no mistake: this is Japanese guitar-based music at its absolute finest; bereft of nigh-on nothing and filled to the absolute brim with truly timeless classics, The Works is an exceptionally excellent compilation that just “works” – it’s work that Jun should be well and truly proud of. Aside from the marginal (and, indeed, ignorable) low-point, The Works is – to be as blunt as possible – perfect. What else is there left to say? [10]

Thumbs Up!: The nigh-on orgasmic guitar solos in Dreams of an Absolution; as Admiral Ackbar would have said it: “Your ears can’t repel guitar-power of THAT magnitude!”
Thumbs Down: Hearing Where I Want to Be, and truly wanting to be somewhere else. God only knows what was going on in Senoue-San’s head when he ousted Junko Noda and replaced her with a sickly-sweet-sounding Miley Cyrus clone…
Killer Track: Open Your Heart

BLITZCHRIS
Jun Senoue. No matter how you pronounce his name, you have to respect all that he has done for Sonic. His latest solo album features some of that Sonic you love, but would be more accurately described as a pallet of his work over the years. From sports games (J League Pro Soccer) to driving simulators (Daytona USA), you’re likely to find a song on the disc from a genre close to your heart. Being a Sonic remix lover, “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” and “After The Adventure” do stand out as two of my favourite tracks. The first is a remix of Space Channel 5 with the “Live & Learn” riff, which strangely grows on you, while “After The Adventure” is a relaxing, more acoustic sounding rendition of “It Doesn’t Matter”. The JS vs LB remix of “Dreams of an Absolution” is there too if you haven’t heard it on any of the other Sonic albums it was released on. Not being very familiar with the rest of the games, I found “Soul on Desert” to be the most exciting track on the album; it really does have a desert racing feel to it that is hard too describe.

I’ll agree it is not the dream album for every sonic fan, and probably not what most fans were expecting. It is however a solid album full of juicy guitar goodness, and any fans of Jun will enjoy it. The tracks do grow on you, so before you criticise, give the album a shot. Lastly – Jun, if you’re listening, we NEED an instrumental of Cheerleaders! [8]

Thumbs Up!: The first time listening to “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” and wondering if I was going mental. Then squealing like a little girl when I realised the riff was intentional!
Thumbs Down:
I would have loved more representation from the Sonic franchise, you can never have enough remixes.
Killer Track: Soul on Desert

JEZMM:
Similar to Crush 40’s recent compilation, I found myself phasing in and out of this because a good deal of the songs are very similar in style. However at the same time, despite this there were still certain songs that really jumped out at me and I loved from start to finish. “Lift You Up!”“Road to Win” really reminded me of some of the stuff he came up with for SA2; really energetic and uplifting (as the name suggests!). also grabbed me with its almost magical and nostalgic quality to it, another fantastic cheerful track with some lovely piano work too. As another bonus to Sonic fans, there are neat lounge remixes of Station Square and It Doesn’t Matter within “After The Adventure”, and the surreal “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” features a few sneaks of memorable Sonic tunes. I also found myself loving the short acoustic guitar instrumentals of “Afternoon Tea” and “British Rain”, and “My Own Destiny” was a brilliant ending.

Overall this is a fantastic album – there are just a few tracks I found so similar in vibe, a couple could have been cut for a more concise listening experience. Having said that, if you’re not familiar with where the songs came from, reaching track 11 and suddenly realising “hang on… the last 6 tracks were ALL about baseball” is certainly a unique experience to get from an album. [7]

Thumbs Up:
The fantastic selection that really shows off Jun’s versatility – from his classic rock stylings to relaxing acoustic and catchy techno mixes.
Thumbs Down: Track order can be a little uninspiring as an overall album experience, with many similar songs grouped together too.
Favourite Track: Lift You Up!/Road To Win (I can’t choose!)


A fantastic collection of pieces, including some wonderful reworkings of old classics and huge selection of new and unheard material. Don’t be put off by the lack of Sonic tunes if you are a Senoue fan!

The Works is still available for purchase from play-asia, and CD-Japan.

Got your own opinions on the album? Think we’ve got it all wrong? Let us know in the comments!

The Top 10 Sonic Games Of The 2000’s

2009’s almost out. That means we’ve enjoyed a whole decade of Sonic the Hedgehog goodness in the last ten years, from 2000’s Sonic Shuffle (for Americans, we didn’t get it until the year after, damn SEGA) to 2009’s Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. So, rather than just round up the games of the year, The Sonic Stadium crew have taken to list their Top 10 Sonic games of the decade!

This is how we’ve done it. A bunch of TSS Staffers wrote over their unique Top 10 (which will be listed at the end of this article). Along with it, a short paragraph as to why they ranked each game the way they did. When bunching all of these lists together, we formed an average by giving points to each game’s placement on each staffer’s countdown (so a #1 position would get 10 points, and a game in 10th place would get 1 point). Add all the points up, and we have our own, not-so-scientific average. What game will get TSS’ #1 Sonic Game of the Decade? Read on, dear reader… Continue reading The Top 10 Sonic Games Of The 2000’s

SEGA’s guide to destroying rare Sonic merchandise: Part one

While on my own merch expedition through the darkest depths of the interwebs, I stumbled across these rare jewels of advertisement from the Sonic Adventure era. I cry at the thought that these plushes were thrown out of planes and down waterfalls, even if the dialogue is hillarious.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch93SSm2r9Y[/youtube]

It’s true what they say you know…every time you feed a rare plush to a crocodile, a Sonic merch collector drops dead…

9/9/09: What Sonic Adventure Still Means To Us

01

Ten years ago, Sega made their last stand in the gaming hardware market and launched the Dreamcast to a furore of positive media and rabid impulse sales. Released day and date with the console was the big comeback of the company’s blue, cool mascot – a game that was the last true product of the Sonic Team Old Guard. Sonic Adventure’s release on 9/9/99 was important, not only to sustain any sort of success for the Dreamcast, but because of the positive revitalisation of the franchise that it introduced too. Even today, it remains the best example of a Sonic the Hedgehog game in a true 3D space.

In terms of storyline, it was the perfect balance between the somewhat non-committal plotlines of the original Mega Drive classics and cutscene-heavy stories that slowly plagued the Sonic game series after SA1’s release. There were plenty of scenes to sit through, yeah, but they were largely inoffensive affairs. An event happens, Sonic goes to investigate, turns out Eggman/Robotnik’s behind it all, get the Chaos Emeralds before he does. That’s about the depth of Sonic Adventure, and that’s how deep it really should be. Keep the fight to a continuous struggle between a wannabe dictator bent on polluting the world and a small group of larger-than-life woodland creatures.

pre_004Of course, there’s the history of the Echidna race and the origins of Chaos that start to drag on after a while, but the game’s design and approach was charming enough to let you sit through it. Many Sonic titles since have taken the story-based play too heavily, throwing a cutscene after every stage, boss or event that follows almost the exact same traits of SA1. Right down to the ‘ultimate doomsday monster’ in the Final chapter that threatens the world beyond Robotnik. Even Sonic Unleashed, which had a relatively light-hearted approach, chose to bog the player down in tedious scenes and pointless dialogue.

So Sonic Adventure stands the test of time in terms of storyline, but what about design? The truth is, the blue hog’s first outing on the 128-bit console stands to be the most creative in the last ten years. Iconic level themes were reborn into 3D, with colours and graphical effects that really made you feel you were inside a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Emerald Coast gave us luscious sandy beaches, bright blue seas and fantastic loops to play around in. Windy Valley’s final segment was a fabulous rush of speed, wherein gliding around twisty corners and bends felt so natural on the Dreamcast’s analogue stick. Final Egg is still one of the best examples of a final zone yet, 3D or otherwise, and nothing needs to be said about how awesome Twinkle Park and Speed Highway are.

It was the eclectic mix of fabulous imaginative architecture, bounding robotic animals (alas, Sonic Adventure was the last Sonic title to have true ‘badniks’ that were both unique and relevant to their respective environment) and excellent level design that truly made Sonic Adventure a step ahead of the platforming game when it was released in 1999. And today, the feel of these levels more than rival anything played on a Sonic game since.

The design of the Action Stages were in fact rather clever – rather than giving players a true sense of freedom with branching pathways and different routes, SA1 was more linear than gamers realised. What Sonic Team did instead was become more aware of the space being given to users; many stages looped around themselves or had you double-backing (despite you technically always heading forwards to your goal), several optional platforms around the same area would make themselves available if you were going fast enough or achieving a certain condition (such as running up the building walls in Speed Highway), and a lot of platform negotiation was required besides your speed.

pre_007In fact, this last point is perhaps one of the key elements to Sonic Adventure’s success. Sonic the Hedgehog, as a character and in his nature, is exceptionally fast. Too fast, naturally, for the player to handle. Sonic Unleashed was proof of this. But as a game concept from a developer’s point of view, Sonic the Hedgehog has always been a physics based platformer. Speed is but a symptom of the ‘rolling ball’ physics, not an overriding factor. Sonic Team understood this, all the way until Sonic Adventure where it was perhaps the last game in the franchise to focus just as much as platforming and inertia as it was about going hella fast.

Wrapping up the package for eager Sonic fans on the 9th September was the awesome score, headed by Jun Senoue and featuring jazz rock, slap bass and a hearty amount of keyboard synth pop. Hearing all of the instruments come together to produce a sound as endearing as “Windy and Ripply” brings a sense of contentment when playing the game, and that’s not to mention the sheer heart-filling sensation you get when you listen to these tracks on their own with headphones on. Soaking in the audio masterpieces made in this game is a truly great thing to experience.

So many other things helped make Sonic Adventure the fantastic game that it still is today, like online challenges, Chao raising (which, despite it being a bit more rudimentary, felt a lot more approachable and less pressured than in Sonic Adventure 2) and optional challenges. About the only black spot you could probably put against the game was the required completion of all characters to truly unlock the final story, and the fact that the story progression allowed itself to be replicated in future Sonic games ad nauseum (but that’s more down to Sonic Team’s lack of ideas since 2002 rather than a bad mark against SA1 itself).

With the Dreamcast’s North American 10th Anniversary taking place today, consider this article as a love letter to the little white box that could, but ultimately didn’t. With a truckload of games that easily gave the Dreamcast its own unique identity (Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Virtua Fighter), for Sonic fans it will always be Sonic Adventure that defined the console, from the starting blocks to the finish line. And with news today that Sega are going back to the 2D drawing board, it’s worth noting of Sonic Team’s troubles in creating a truly successful and engrossing Sonic title in a 3D space. All we have to say is, guys, you had it closest the very first time.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Sega Dreamcast. Celebrate with us and break out that old copy of Sonic Adventure, and experience a fantastic run through Windy Valley with us all over again.

Movies, Music and… erm, Navigation Bars

Right, I did a few things today, let’s try to remember what the heck I added… New movies have been added to the Movies Zone – they are the Sonic & Tails and Sonic Ride movies from Sonic Jam and the entire Director’s Commentary from Sonic Adventure DX director Takashi Iizuka. Split into 4 parts, mind. The Music Zone has had a brush up, with previously submitted MIDIs and a slightly new format now added to Sonic 1, Sonic 2 on both Mega Drive and Master SystemSonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.

Also, the first step into listening to people’s suggestions as to improving this site navigation wise, I’m changing the navigation bar to it’s old format. This is the format where everything we had to offer on The Sonic Stadium would appear as a seperate link in a simple menu. Many people felt this was the best navigation bar and made the TSS design previous to this one the best ever made. So who am I to argue with that eh? Won’t be on every page for a while though, so just be patient. Also added three links just for the hell of it – the Donation page returns, as does the Banner Service, as mentioned in the last update. Finally, since it’s been ages since there’s been any word of it, and people are starting to ask the questions again, The Sonic Smash Cards information page returns.

Sonic Scansday Deluxe: Day 1

Righty then. Wednesday. Sonic Scansday. Been missed a few times. So here we go – enjoy the huge deluge of scans we have for you this week. We have new boxart for SA2BattleSonic DX and Mega Collection, thanks to Rally the Cheetah. Then we have new Scanned Material for Sonic Heroes (8 pieces), Sonic DX (2 pieces) from Psychobob, and a music page on theSupersonic EP, a Sonic single that was released in the UK, with scans also by Psychobob.

Finally today, the Sonic Sprites section had a few sheets added to it – expect the amount of sprite sheets to balloon over the next few days too. We have a dedicated sprite ripper – Dark Sonic – to help out with the creation of sprite sheets for new Sonic games, so expect some more Sonic Advance 3 sheets soon. As for the gaps, they will be filled very quickly. More scans to come tomorrow – including a whole TON of new Sonic Comic material, including scans from a very intruiging SEGA Manga that I acquired some time ago! Make sure you don’t miss it!

Sonic Adventure DX Ported to PC

Many people have come to us on this, Mj2 and Very Crazy Penguin, but the first place for the news, as with many things TSS-wise, was reported on the Sonic Stadium Message Board.

Sonic Adventure DX, a recent port of the original Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast, looks set to branch out on the PC as well as Nintendo GameCube. Here are some screens, courtest of GameOnline, a japanese gaming website:

All the features from the GameCube version will be present, such as the Game Gear titles, and it being a PC title will probably be much cheaper than the GC outing, with early screens already showing graphics about 10 times better than the Nintendo ‘Cube effort. Looks like Sonic Team are trying this time. *shot*

As always, we will keep a close eye on it, and a new game section will open up soon.

Sonic DX Sales Help SEGA Profit

Below is from Planet Gamecube:

It seems Sega is slowly lifting itself out of the gutter. Thursday Sega announced a profit of 1.89 billion yen, or 15.8 million dollars, and 42.4 billion yen ($353 million) in sales between April and June. Although it is hard for analysts to make projections on the rest of Sega’s year, as this is Sega’s first quarterly earnings report publicly released, it is safe to say any profit is good for the company, whose reports have historically been in the red. 

Sega attributes this pleasant surprise to key titles such as Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut, an updated GameCube port of the signature Dreamcast title, and the quirky Let’s Make a J-League Soccer Club 3 for the PS2, both of which sold above Sega’s expectations. Sega reports it is still on track to meet its goal of 7.5 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in profit by the end of March 2004.

Looks like the ports are selling well, makes you think what the sales for Sonic Heroes will be…

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut

The game that has been praised by many Sonic fans as the better of two Sonic Adventures has been re-released on Nintendo GameCube. After SA2 Battle and Mega Collection (the only other two Sonic games on the console), this comes as no real surprise – Sonic Team is milking its mascot as much as they can by enticing Nintendo fans into the world of the blue blur. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut

E-102 Gamma Voice Actor, Steve Sheppard-Broadie, Passes Away

RyanDrummond.com has stated that Steve Sheppard-Broadie, the voice of E-102 Gamma in Sonic Adventure 1 and the President in Sonic Adventure 2, has passed away on Friday of August 10th, we’ll miss you. Here’s what Ryan Drummond (SA/SA2’s Sonic voice) had to say:

“Before I go for this month, I have to pay respects to a fallen talent here in San Diego. Steve Broadie was a very talented Voice-Over actor here and I always enjoyed seeing him at auditions and working with him on projects. He passed away at 2pm on Friday the 10th. He will be missed. Hope he’s doing V.O.s in heaven! :)”

Rumour: Sonic Dreamcast Bundle Coming Soon?

The Sega Dreamcast will be getting a special Sonic-themed bundle soon, according to a listing on US retailer EBGames. You can see the pack here, which comes with a special packaging and will apparently include a blue VMU memory card and copies of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Shuffle, along with a demo for Sonic Adventure 2. Continue reading Rumour: Sonic Dreamcast Bundle Coming Soon?

Sonic Adventure Still in Dreamcast US Top 5 Chart

Even after 18 months on store shelves, Sonic Adventure remains one of the biggest-selling Dreamcast games ever! Below is the latest Top 10 Chart for Dreamcast games, and as you can see the launch title is still riding high in the top  5. Full list below – keep running, Sonic!

  1. Phantasy Star Online, Sega, $51
  2. Crazy Taxi, Sega, $20
  3. NBA 2K1, Sega, $49
  4. Sonic Adventure, Sega, $20
  5. NFL 2K1, Sega, $50
  6. NBA 2K, Sega, $20
  7. NFL 2K, Sega, $20
  8. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Activision, $46
  9. NHL 2K, Sega, $20
  10. Metropolis Street Racer, Sega, $41

Sonic Adventure ‘Behind the Scenes’ Video Unearthed

Now THIS is cool! If you’ve ever wanted to see some Behind-the-Scenes footage of Dreamcast launch title Sonic Adventure, this video will sort you right out. It’s a 30-minute long promotional video called ‘Sonic Adventure at Tokyo International Forum’ and features stage playthroughs, character bios and a funny story where Sonic Team goes on location to research the game. Continue reading Sonic Adventure ‘Behind the Scenes’ Video Unearthed

Sonic Adventure Online Service Posts Its Final Update

Pour one out for Sonic Adventure, it’s time is finally up. It seems that Sonic Team are winding down the online updates for the game, which makes sense given that Sonic Adventure 2 is around the corner. Accessing the Sonic Adventure Online site (via the Dreamcast) presents a ‘FINAL UPDATE’, which states that World Rankings are closing. New times can still be uploaded, but no more contests or prizes. RIP, Sonic Adventure Online.

Source: The Sonic Foundation

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure

Well, Sonic Adventure sees Sonic and Tails once again journeying to defeat Eggman, only the plot is much more epic this time. Sonic is seen chilling out in Station Square when a commotion in the street invites him to face off against a strange enemy made of water. When the creature is defeated, Sonic runs into Tails, who discovered a Chaos Emerald on his travels. The duo go to the Mystic Ruins. On the way they meet Eggman, who introduces the two to ‘Chaos’, the water monster Sonic fought earlier. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure