VGM Spotlight: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

After some time off, we are back with the latest installment of the Video Game Music Spotlight.  The first couple of times out we took a look at some of the music in Mega Man 2 and in Halo.  This time, I would like to remind you of the past greatness of a franchise that has since resorted to unthinkable lows: Sonic the Hedgehog.

During the 1990’s, Sega continued to pump out fantastic Sonic games for Genesis, with each one adding something new and exciting.  To this day, it’s hard to find someone who easily gets tired of revisiting the speedy blue hedgehog’s original adventures.  One of the things that has made these games so enjoyable for so long is the excellent music.  From the catchy title screen theme to the songs in the various stages throughout the games, Sonic’s music is memorable and makes the gameplay more enjoyable.

Now I pretty much could have picked any of the Sonic games for Genesis and come up with at least 5 great tracks, but I decided to go with Sonic 2 simply because I just happen to like the music in that game better than the music in the others.  Perhaps the thing I love most is that it seems to have been written with the primary goal that it be fun to listen to.  And that’s fitting, because the Sonic games are just simply fun.  They don’t require you to solve puzzles and there’s no real storyline; they’re just about running fast and fighting bad guys, and that’s just one of the reasons they’re so great.

The music fits right in to this mindset and helps to set the tone for the game.  Like the gameplay, the music is pretty simple and straightforward, but achieves its goal masterfully.  Many, if not most, of the songs throughout the game are driven by the bass line and drums, and then there’s often only one or two instruments on top of that.  They also fit the theme of each level very well, which makes the different concepts behind each stage more fun to experience.  Overall, the music is a prime example that sometimes simplicity can be a great asset.

And now, if you’ve had enough of my ramblings and are ready to listen to some excellent tunes, here are a few of the best tracks from Sonic the Hedgehog 2:

Emerald Hill Zone:

A great way to open the game, this songs just screams “run fast and have fun.”  Other than the drums, it’s basically just a bass line with one other instrument on top of it.  And by the way, the bass part is awesome. I’m pretty sure if this song were played with real instruments, it would be the most difficult bass guitar part of all time.  It’s a great introductory song to go along with a great introductory level and sets the tone for the game.

Chemical Plant Zone:

This is another fun song, but it’s a little bit more unique and and not quite as bare-bones simple as the preceding Emerald Hill Zone (which means there are three prominent layers instead of just two).  However, it’s still fun to listen to, and I especially enjoy the part starting at 0:41. I also can’t help but linking to this version of the song.  It’s amazing and I can’t stop listening to it.

Casino Night Zone:

This has been my favorite Sonic 2 song pretty much since the game first came out.  Partly because the Casino Night Zone stages were my favorite Sonic levels, but also because it might be the most fun of the songs.  From the cool little bass pick-ups to the “trumpets,” it is reminds you of Sinatra and makes you feel like you’re in Las Vegas.  In fact, the entire level draws parallels to Vegas.  With the music, the background, the size of the level, the little slot machine things, and then the fact that you can easily get caught messing around and doing a bunch of ancillary things so that you lose track of time and fail to finish the level before the clock runs out, it’s almost like you can visit Sin City without getting off the couch.

Hill Top Zone:

Starts off with a nice intro on the bass which drives the rest of the song through.  On top of that you get a cool call and response with the two higher pitched instruments.  I bet even if you haven’t played Sonic 2 in the last ten years, this song can bring back memories of the Hill Top Zone stages.  One of the great things about it is that it creates a sense of relief and freedom now that you’re playing levels that are out in the open after several that are set indoors or have a lot of the nerve-wracking underwater parts.

Metropolis Zone:

This song has everything: a good intro with the drum beat and record scratch sound, then a nice pick-up and driving bass line, followed by a fun repeating riff.  And on top of all of that is a cool part that kind of sounds like it’s being improvised.  This part also seems as though it were made to be played on an electric guitar and I bet that would sound so sweet.  If there’s a rock band out there who has covered this song, I need to hear it.

So there you have it, a few examples of the great music from a classic game.  Again, these songs are just fun to listen to. They are pretty simple, with usually no more than 4 or 5 layers, but the tracks are put together so well and with the perfect mindset for a Sonic game.  It’s all about having fun, and that is one of the reasons these songs are so enjoyable to listen to on their own.

If you have any suggestions for the game we should cover in the next VGM Spotlight, email us at thedagoblog@gmail.com

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