Sweet Mountain (Classic) Remix by AshZone ft. Joshua Taipale

TheAshZone has just shared a remix track of Sweet Mountain from Sonic Colours which he created with the help of Joshua Taipale. It sounds great. Here’s what he had to say:

This one actually took a long time to work on, I kinda went for a different take on this one. I actually started on it during Summer and recently came back to it to finish it off. I really didnt know how else to loop the song too. Also, this song is for Sonic Misadventures, the new Sonic show that’s gonna be exclusively on Tails Channel on YouTube! I have to say, this one was really hard to work on, mixing wise, since im not too good at mixing and I wanted to avoid lowering the master volume because the song would turn out way too quiet. Oh well, it’s done. Enjoy!
Also be sure to check out Sonic Misadventures on Tails Channel on YouTube!

You can listen to the track here:

Source: Sonic United Message Board

Behind the Scenes of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal 3DS

SEGA has released a new behind the scenes development video for Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal which is coming out on the Nintendo 3DS. The video features gameplay and an interview with Sanzaru Games. Both Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal are to be released in less than a month from now on the Wii U and 3DS.

The Sonic Second: Sonic 2 Promo Video (Caution: GIF heavy)

In 1992, in order to promote the imminent release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sega produced a Japan-only promotional videocassette. It was much the same thing that Nintendo of America would do a couple years later for the likes of Donkey Kong Country and Starfox 64 so that they could crow about their new technologies in long-form video, hoping to make more of an impact than print or television advertisements. (The technique worked – seeing footage of Starfox 64 from that tape made me covet the game like nothing before or since.)

But I’m here to talk about the Sonic 2 video. You can watch the whole nine and a half minute video below, and if you find yourself confused and bored because it’s in Japanese, just scroll down to read my breakdown of the highlights.

Before we get to the video breakdown, let’s begin with the physical videocassette and its packaging. The cover is very similar to the Japanese Mega Drive game box, with the same artwork and a similar logo and overall layout.

(It’s called a “CHIRA-video”. Google Translate wasn’t very helpful, but my best guess would be that it means “sneak peak video”.)

The tape itself has bold blue and white labeling.

Also included is a cashback coupon which could be used to get 1000 yen off of purchasing the game. (At least, I assume that’s its function.)

Now let’s get to the video itself. It starts with the classic “Sega~!” chant, accompanied by a stop-motion clay Sonic, just like in the Japanese TV commercial for Sonic 1.

The 8-bit versions of Sonic 1 also do something similar.

Then, in a move more characteristic of Sega of America’s marketing than that of Sega of Japan, there are a few comedic scenes of Mario and Luigi being menaced by Sonic and Tails in a section called “Sonic Panic” (unless the whole video is supposed to be called that – it’s kind of hard to tell).

Sonic Panic
I guess years of bopping Badniks has made Sonic and Tails capable of busting through solid metal.
Mario menaced
“Little brat!”
Luigi menaced
Poor Luigi!

There’s a very brief look back at Sonic’s popularity with some footage of a commercial for the first game, and then some hype for the new one. Then there’s a section about the characters, showing some cute art (which can also be seen in the Japanese instruction manual).

(For Tails and Eggman, Yumiko Takahashi is in the picture-in-picture. She’ll be making another appearance later.)

Then Yuji Naka talks for a while, superimposed over footage of the game being played (Emerald Hill, Casino Night, and Metropolis – there doesn’t appear to be anything special about the footage since the build being played is probably the final or something very much like it). I just wish I understood what Yuji was saying!

Yuji talks
Gah! Why so many Yujis? Early ’90s video effects have never been more terrifying.

Next, Famitsu editor-in-chief Koichi Hamamura and BEEP! Mega Drive editor-in-chief Hiroshi Kawaguchi talk about the game. I assume they’re saying nice things!

After that, actors Yumiko Takahashi and Toshinori Omi take the Sonic Challenge! It’s always good to get celebrity endorsements, right? Even though I have no idea who these two are…

Yumiko Takahashi
“Sonikku Tsuu~!”
Toshinori Omi
But will your acting skills be enough to pretend to like the game?

The next section is way too short – it’s only a few seconds – but it’s pretty cool. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the Japanese Sonic 2 TV commercial. I always thought the landscape in the footage was entirely CGI, so it’s neat to see models of the corkscrew path with a camera running through it.

Filming a Sonic’s-eye view
A Sony monitor!? Don’t you know they are the competition?

Here’s the full commercial for reference:

Finally, there’s a adorable animation of Tails. They’re talking about a “Supersonic Action Quiz” being carried out, and then show some special offers like a Sonic 2 hoodie and talk about the included cashback coupon. It’s related to this – I guess they showed these “quiz” commercials and gave away prizes or something? Whatever, I just like the Tails animation.

Tails animation
He’s so cute. It looks exactly like the official character artwork, just in motion.

The video concludes with a notice for the game’s release date and price. Note that it’s not Sonic Twosday – Japan released the game 3 days early, foiling what would have been a global launch, much to the chagrin of Sega of America. (This story was told in Console Wars, which I reviewed in the last Sonic Second.)

So this videocassette is pretty cool all around. I’m quite happy that I own a copy personally, even though I don’t have a VCR hooked up to use it with. It’s a cool piece of Sonic history. And speaking of “history”… next time on The Sonic Second there’s another videocassette to take a look at. Stay tuned!

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The Sonic Second: “Console Wars” Review

This Sonic Second will be a little different than usual – it’ll be my informal review of Console Wars – Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris, a book that came out earlier this year but I just got around to reading last night. Despite the impartial sounding title, the book focuses heavily on Sega, mostly being told from the point of view of Tom Kalinske during his stint as president and CEO of Sega of America. Because of this, the development of the Sonic games, particularly the first and second, are crucial elements of the story and so I thought it relevant to what I usually cover here.

I’m actually in the habit of reading corporate “thrillers” of this kind, whether they cover fields in which I have some interest, like computers (e.g. Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft by G. Pascal Zachary or Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change by Louis V. Gerstner Jr.) or not (e.g. The Aspirin Wars: Money, Medicine, and 100 Years of Rampant Competition by Charles C. Mann). So I probably would have still enjoyed the book even if it didn’t cover a subject matter that’s important to me personally – but it’s a huge bonus that it does. It’s always been trivial to find documentary coverage of subjects like the Beatles, Walt Disney, or Star Wars, but those are all my parents’ (or my grandparents’) culture that I’ve inherited. To finally have the same thing for the stuff that defined my childhood, to get a behind-the-scenes look at my favourite years of video games, to read a narrative where Sonic and Tails are an important presence, is an especial pleasure. I suppose as my generation gets older, this kind of thing will become more and more common.

My favourite parts were reading about the origins of things like the “Welcome to the Next Level” ad campaign, the “Sonic Twosday” global launch, the “Are You Up 2 It?” tagline, and even the Nintendo Treehouse. These things are practically legendary, but each of them has real people behind them, and their stories are very interesting.

While the story the book tells is fascinating, it’s also frustrating – in many ways, it’s the story of Sega’s self-destruction, a senseless near-tragedy that in retrospective looks like it could have been easily avoided if the Japanese and American branches of the company had only communicated and collaborated better. As exciting as it is to read about the meteoric rise of the Genesis, it all ends on a bittersweet note with the botched launch of the Saturn, from which Sega – and their star Sonic – would never fully recover.

It’s also a little frustrating for another reason – it’s hard to hear about the heated rivalry between Nintendo and Sega. In its lightest moments, it was almost good-natured, but at other times it was brutal. For me, I grew up loving both companies and both consoles – heck, I was privileged enough to have a SNES, Genesis, Turbo-Grafx, and a 3DO – and all the fighting makes me cringe. Sales figures or market share may tell one story, but in the end both consoles brought invaluable experiences to millions, and I could never pick a favourite between them. One could argue that the competition brought out the best in them – after all, we might not have Sonic if not for the desire to outdo Mario – but I’m glad that we’ve finally seen the hatchet buried despite my misgivings about the recent direction of the Sonic series itself.

So what about the quality of the writing? I found it to be quite digestible and well-paced, with a few well turned phrases and mostly natural dialogue. I tore through the whole 500+ pages in one evening, so I guess you could say it was gripping. I have my complaints – characters seemed to have a habit of rolling their eyes, and the author found a few too many ways to unconventionally describe smiles – but they’re minor. More distracting were the handful of inaccuracies, like describing Myau from Phantasy Star as a “muskrat” instead of a “musk cat“, saying that the secret credits in Sonic 1 appeared at the end of the game, and a few misspelled Japanese words, but again these were minor and incidental. On the whole I found the journalism superior to what I’ve come to expect from mainstream coverage of the subject.

In conclusion, although there’s nothing new to get a Sonic trivia-hound’s nose really twitching, if you have an unshakable nostalgia for the days when the TV would scream “Sega!” then Console Wars comes highly recommended from me. I’m also really looking forward to the upcoming documentary and movie based on the book.

If you enjoy the book, here’s some further reading (and listening) I also recommend:

Interview with Tom Kalinske by Sega-16
SEGAbits Swingin’ Report Show #60: Console Wars with Al Nilsen, SEGA’s Director of Marketing (’89-’93)
SEGAbits Swingin’ Report Show #61: Console Wars Release Day Party with Author Blake J. Harris
SEGAbits Swingin’ Report Show #62: Console Wars with Tom Kalinske – SEGA of America’s President (’90-’96)

Also, the book Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children by David Sheff is a somewhat similar read about Nintendo that ends at about the era where Console Wars begins.

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