Game Music Saturdays – Sonic Adventure 2 Original Soundtrack

Sonic Adventure 2 Tokyopop

Who knew a used book store could bring so many memories? Honestly, I don’t know why I like Sonic Adventure 2 specifically. My friend Joe bought it for the Dreamcast, but by the time I got around to having the cash to purchase it, the Dreamcast died and the resources faded. Sega, though, impressed us all by releasing a Sonic game on a Nintendo console. What a delicious irony at the time; now, we see Sega crumbling and trying to remain stable by relying on its old franchises and constant re-releases. At least I finally got to play Nights Into Dreams!

So, yes, Sonic Adventure 2. I bought Sonic Adventure 2 for the Gamecube and played the heck out of it. The speed, the sounds, the cinematic camera angles, how RADICAL everything was, the hilariously cheesy “hip” 1990s rock’n’roll with a tinge of 80s flavor – that game totally made my day. The multiplayer topped the cake, being at once fun and secondly frustrating when competing against another person. It’s no Mario Kart, but it’s surely good for an hour of dumb fun.  I found myself incredibly lucky, stumbling upon the Tokyopop soundtrack release from so many years ago. It was sitting in plain sight. It was destiny! Or maybe not. But I am writing about it now, so probably. Man, fate’s a drag sometimes – here’s to higher powers!

Unlike Perfect Selection Dracula, which needs a certain mindset to appreciate, Sonic Adventure 2 entreats us to a world of pure enjoyment. Who hasn’t, at some time, hummed “Escape from the City”? Over two millions views on YouTube, in a surprise to no one:

Who knows what motivated them to have so many vocal tracks in these games, but they match perfectly with the onscreen action. Sonic’s always been great for opening levels, and “City Escape” was no exception in this regard. Even if this was the only song on the soundtrack, SA2’s staying power wouldn’t be questioned. It’s a rollicking combination of surf rock with some vaguely inspirational lyrics for good measure.

Still, in a surprise to all, more cheesy and catchy themes await. I don’t know many people who know any of the soundtrack beyond the obvious one noted above; everything else seems just as fantastic to me.  Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Tomoya Ohtani, and Fumie Kumatani hit every one of them out of the park. And also, the myriad artists like Crush 40 who recorded some of these awesome tunes. Can I think of Knuckles without thinking of that dreadful “Pumpkin Hill” song? Even if you don’t like it, I can’t imagine someone not having this plop into their head every once and a while:

Seriously, how awesome is that? Why is he rapping about pumpkins, ghosts, and cracking fools with his fists? Does Knuckles actually talk like a rapper in his head? Who knows what Sega was thinking here – I just find myself humming to this song compulsively. Maybe it was because I spent many a time stuck inside the “treasure hunting” stages of the game. Still, it’s not all rap and rock; there’s lots of variety on this particular soundtrack. There’s songs such as “Lovely Gate 3 – Egg Quarters” that take a big band jazz vibe, scat, and elevator muzak into one great combo. I’m pretty sure this comes from Rogue the Bat’s stages, though feel free to correct me:

You definitely don’t “hear” these songs during the game; in fact, Sega seems so proud of the soundtrack that they mix the sound volume in weird ways during cutscenes. Music completely overpowers the character dialogue…not that most people care about Sonic lore, but still!  The variety on hand usually hits more than it misses, though. Shadow the Hedgehog, somewhat appropriately, gives us themes akin to the industrial style of Nine Inch Nails and junglist break beats, such as in “Rhythm and Balance – White Jungle”.

Who ever thought they’d ever hear that in a Sonic game? Well, other than Shadow’s entirely unmemorable game, I mean. But it’s a stunning example of the textual variety on display. Amy gets something akin to the Spice Girls, while Dr. Eggman’s theme continually talks about himself in the most egotistical ways possible. More than that, each song fits every stage and every character in ways you don’t expect. They’re emblematic to the characters themselves, and it’s difficult for me to separate the silhouette from the overall aesthetics of the game.

I suppose nostalgia has a lot to do with it. The re-release received a rather harsh reception from most publication, unduly so. It’s a charming game with a great style and great music; I just wish people could get over their hangups and just enjoy the game, its music, and all the cool stuff within without the pretensions of “good” or “bad”. This was music of a different era, one entirely more fun than the “serious” games with “messages” that we tend to get. It was a game completely unironic, totally unpretentious, and completely in love with what it was doing: making you go fast, blow stuff up, or collect Chaos Emeralds. The music was part of the atmopshere: fun, challenging, sometimes frustrating, but never dull.

That’s what I look for in life, after all. I’ve met lots of people and each of them has their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. I try not to judge things on face value; the person who looks completely different than you may be your best friend. In the same way, I give every game a chance – somebody took the time, money, and effort to make this interactive entertainment for me. I am not rejecting the offer based on my “superior” taste. Everything has its time and place in whatever context. I had to learn these things myself. God has to teach us these things through experience.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me through Your righteousness.

Psalm 119

There’s no two ways around it: you’ve got to live and learn. All the knowledge in the world can’t give you God’s knowledge, nor can observation from a distance profit you everything. Sometimes you need to get hands on. As the song says:

Live and learn!
Hanging on the edge of tomorrow,
Live and learn!
From the works of yesterday.
Live and learn!
If you beg or if you borrow,
Live and learn!
You may never find your way.

So yeah, go buy this soundtrack on Amazon.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Nostalgia might have something to do with it. I played Sonic Adventure 1 after I learned in video class that you never ever have dialog over a music track with lyrics. So it bugged me that almost all the music seemed to have lyrics. It’s okay. I think our opinions diverge a lot. 🙂

    • @Mjoshua Haha, I would bet! There’s a charm in seeing games trying to be cutscene directors without understanding camera angles, sound mixing, etc. A lot of the PS/Saturn/N64 era had this, and it would seem DC was the last harbor for such a thing.Maybe we just expect more, now? Hearkening to simpler times.

      • @Zachery Oliver I’m always intrigued when people say they prefer games that were cutscene heavy from that gen: “Resident Evil 1 was my favorite!” I always cock my head at that statement and ask, “Did you play the Gamecube RE-make? Much better…” But then again, if I were to play that game again today, I don’t know I’d have the same opinion. I’d probably hate it. Our standards raise, but there are only a few games that really stand the test of time. Mario 64 is definitely one of them.