The Musical Box #04: Sonic Boom

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #4: Sonic CD

This edition of The Musical Box is dedicated to another very famous video game character: Sonic. I am going to talk about a particular musical moment Sonic CD, released in 1993 for the Sega CD/Mega-CD.

Sonic CD also featured different soundtracks for North American and European/Japanese releases. In this article, I’ll be discussing the North American soundtrack.

The Set-Up

Sonic CD is considered by many to be one of the best games of the series, mainly because it features all the elements the fans love: fast action, creative (and sometimes crazy) level design and, of course, charismatic characters. This version is particularly special because it has a “time travel” gimmick. Sonic can travel to past and future versions of the same level, creating an even richer experience. This is particularly impressive, considering that it’s a 2D-platformer game.

When the game was released, the CD was a novelty and the format was revolutionary for the game industry. Compared to cartridges, CDs have a much greater data capacity and this helped videogame creators to develop bigger and more sophisticated titles. The CD was also the beginning of a new era for game music. For the first time, composers could record music with “real” instruments and reproduce it in-game.

For producers, the CD was the perfect evolution of the cartridge. But, what about the gamers? Did they perceive it as an evolution?

The Moment

Before I even began to play the first level of Sonic CD, I was very impressed by the title screen music. The song had vocals, and real guitars! That was a big surprise for me, since I was expecting to hear the traditional chiptune music that was so common in almost all 16-bit titles, including Sonic games.

“Sonic Boom”, performed by a vocal group called Pastiche (Sandy Cressman, Jenny Meltzer and Becky West), is a powerful, catchy and memorable song, and was composed by Spencer Nilsen. See the moment below:



The Impact

I was a kid when I first played Sonic CD, and when I heard that song, it really changed my understanding of videogame music. It was the first time that videogame music could sound like music performed by bands. “Sonic Boom” wasn’t the only standout track; almost all of the songs in the soundtrack had small touches of real instruments. They were not as evident as in “Sonic Boom”, but there was definitely something special about Sonic CD's soundtrack.

What about you? How did you feel when you first heard “Sonic Boom”?

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, Sandro Tomasetti, and Rafael Martins (Sommastudio).

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