The Sonic Second: Sonic History Video

Last time on The Sonic Second, I talked about the promotional videocassette for Sonic 2. Well, Sonic 3 got one as well, albeit one that’s less than two thirds the duration at only 6 minutes long. This time it’s not billed as a “CHIRA-video”, either, but as a “Sonic History Video”, and it focuses mostly on exactly that, with only the briefest of Sonic 3 teases at the end.

Again like last time, you can watch the whole video below, and I’ll be posting a breakdown with images of the packaging, screenshots, and my thoughts below that.

Unlike the Sonic 2 promo video, which had a paper insert in a plastic case making it look almost like a slim Genesis game, this one has a cheaper folded cardboard sleeve. It’s still cool, but for a picky collector like me it’s kind of annoying that they don’t match. (Sonic & Knuckles came in a cardboard box, though, so these are just the kind of irksome things one has to learn to move on from.) Again, the cover artwork is the same as the game’s.

The tape itself, however, does match the Sonic 2 one quite well.

And that’s it – as far as I know, no coupons or anything were included with it. So let’s get started with the video. It opens with the same “Sega!” animation as the Sonic 2 promo video.

Then oddly, there’s footage of the Sonic CD opening cartoon, complete with Sonic CD music.

This is a little confusing – if the viewer wasn’t lucky enough to know about the comparatively rare Sonic CD, they might get the impression that this cartoon and music had something to do with the game being promoted, because there’s no indication otherwise. In fact, Sonic CD music is used here and there all throughout the video.

The cartoon culminates in a deft piece of editing that has Sonic’s spinning jump smoothly transition to his jump that smashes the Sega logo in the Sonic 3 intro sequence. Then the “Sonic History Video” title is shown. Not quite as fancy as the gentle fun(?) being poked at Mario and Luigi in the previous video – just a grey background.

Like the previous video, there’s a character section that starts with Sonic, but this time they jump right into it. It’s called “All About Sonic!”, and technically, it’s more than one section, because it’ll keep coming back throughout the video for each character’s profile.

Sonic’s profile:

  • Nickname: Sonic
  • Type: Hedgehog
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 15~16 years old
  • Weakness: Swimming

For the sake of comparison, here’s Sonic’s profile from Sonic Jam (Japanese and English versions):

(I find it interesting that neither Japanese profile commits to an age here, and the American one used 16. Sega now uses 15 according to Sonic’s profile on the official Japanese site.)

Back to the video! In the case of Sonic only, the profile goes into more detail, focusing on three of his individual traits.

For “Hair”, the Sonic 2 special stage is shown, because it’s the best 3D demonstration of Sonic’s spines.

For “Hand”, Sonic 2‘s waiting animation is shown, with Sonic looking at his watch.

For “Shoes”, footage of Sonic running – actually from Sonic 3 this time! – is shown, and the narrator mentions Michael Jackson’s “dancing shoes” from Bad. Naoto Ohshima has mentioned these as the inspiration for Sonic’s shoes in later interviews (e.g. in Gamasutra).

The next section is called “Making of Sonic!”, and whereas Yuji Naka got to talk in the previous video, this one has Naoto Ohshima.

The black and white document being quickly flipped through at the beginning of the segment has some interesting stuff in it I’ve not seen elsewhere. It’s got an odd mix of Japanese and American art – I’d love to see the whole thing, I’m sure there’s great stuff in it, whatever it is. These are terribly blurry, but you can see what looks like Sonic and Tails yawning, running, and a picture of Sonic with a telescope.

After that, while Ohshima talks, a bunch of concept art for the character contest that resulted in Sonic’s creation is shown. This video is the source for many of these images you’ll see around the ‘net.

Finally it’s narrowed down to two rough sketches by Yasushi Yamaguchi (who would later create Miles “Tails” Prower) and Ohshima himself. The latter, at the bottom of the screen, is the famous “Mr. Needlemouse”, or more technically “Mr. Harinezumi” – a Japanese compound word meaning “hedgehog” made from “hari” (needle) and “nezumi” (rat/mouse).

Once Ohshima’s design was chosen, Sonic started to take shape, resulting in his final design.

The segment ends with a mention of Sonic’s public reveal, at Dreams Come True’s Wonder 3 concert tour in Japan.

(As an aside, there’s some music throughout this video that’s not from any Sonic games, and it’s particularly striking in this “Making of Sonic” section. It sounds suitable for Sonic though, and I wonder if it’s just stock music or if someone from Sega composed it.)

The next section is “History of Sonic!”

It opens with this weird drawing of Sonic flying some vehicle (possibly the Tornado, although it would have to be awfully off-model) in pursuit of Robotnik, whose hovercraft has insect wings like something out of Studio Ghibli’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Robotnik appears to have captured Tails, and there’s also a very disturbed bird. There’s no real explanation for its inclusion here.

Next Sonic 1 is shown, and its subsection concludes with some nice drawings of Dr. Eggman.

Next Sonic 2 is shown, and its subsection concludes with Tails’ profile to match Sonic’s at the beginning of the video.

Tails’ Profile:

  • Nickname: Tails
  • Type: Fox
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 8 years old
  • Favourite Thing: Mechanical Tinkering

Again, Sonic Jam profile for comparison:

(You may note that Prower is transliterated into Japanese in two different ways here. The video, as well as the booklets for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, use “PA-U-WAA”, while Sonic Jam matches Sonic 2 and Sega’s current official profile with “PA-U-AA”. The Terada/Norimoto manga uses yet a third way, “PAA-A-WAA”. None of these actually sound like “Prower” – I would have gone with “PU-RA-WAA” myself (compare “power” and “flower”) but what do I know? I also find it weird that “Miles” and “Tails” are both transliterated with a “SU” sound at the end instead of a “ZU”, despite the latter being how “Knuckles” is transliterated. But I’m probably digressing way too much here….)

Next, the video finally gets to the good stuff (from the point of view of a player at the time who’s excited for the next game). Sonic 3, and the new character, Knuckles!

Knuckles’ profile:

  • Nickname: Knuckle
  • Type: Echidna
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: Older than 15
  • Pastime: Digging Holes

Again, Sonic Jam profile for comparison:

It seems a little silly that his nickname is “Knuckle”, but even the narrator of the video calls him that. Also, his age in the video is listed as more than 15, while Sonic Jam just says 15. Seems weird for him to be possibly younger than Sonic, and I guess Sega realised this too, as he’s now listed as simply 16, a year older than Sonic.

With Knuckles introduced, the video goes on to show off the three new shields.

“Thunder Shield”, called “Thunder Barrier” in the Japanese manual for the game and “Lightning Shield” in the US manual. I think it’s interesting that the video uses “shield” despite being Japanese where “barrier” was always the preferred term, even well into the Sonic Adventure era.

“Aqua Shield”, called “Aqua Barrier” in the Japanese manual and “Water Shield” in the US manual.

“Flame Shield”, called “Flame Barrier” in the Japanese manual and “Flame Shield” in the US manual.

(Because there wasn’t any reason to match what the instruction booklet said exactly, I grew up calling them the “Lightning Shield”, “Bubble Shield”, and “Fire Shield”, just because those sounded the most natural to me at the time.)

I guess the new elemental shields were something they were really proud of, because they are the only new features of Sonic 3 that get specific attention. All the other cool stuff, like Ice Cap’s snowboarding and the new Special Stages are relegated to a tiny montage at the end, and then the video is over, signing off with a cute animation and the phrase “See you next Sonic!”

And I’ll see you next Sonic Second. 🙂


h/t Sonic Retro

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The Sonic Second: Sonic 3 & Knuckles Special Stages

The Special Stages in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles have their fair share of secrets. Let’s take a look.


First of all, if we’re gonna be talking about the Special Stages, it would be nice to be able to play them at will. Unless you have an emulator and the relevant save states on hand, that can be bit tricky. Even though the game has a Level Select, there are only two slots listed for the Special Stages, so how can you get to them?

level select

(We’ll be using the combined Sonic 3 & Knuckles throughout this article.)

Fortunately, there actually is a way to access any specific Special Stage from this Level Select screen. First, enter both the Level Select and Debug Mode cheats. Now, highlight “Sound Test” and use ← and → to choose a number from 0 through 7. This is how you specify the ID of the Special Stage you want to play. Then highlight “Special Stage” either 1 or 2, for Sonic 3‘s or Sonic & Knuckles‘ Special Stages, respectively. While holding A, press Start and the Special Stage of your choice will begin.

Choosing an ID higher than 7 will just loop around – 8 is the same as 0, 9 is the same as 1, and so on. The attentive amongst you may have noticed that 0 through 7 is actually eight Special Stages, even though there are only seven Chaos Emeralds (or Super Emeralds) in the game. That’s right – just like Sonic CD, both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles have a bonus Special Stage that’s not accessible through normal play.

Sonic 3‘s is a spiral gauntlet that will test your patience and – as it reaches its dizzying conclusion – your reflexes.

Sonic3-yellowem
Map from info.sonicretro.org

Oddly, its palette is different in Sonic 3 alone, but it’s the same stage.

Sonic 3_000
Sonic 3 extra Special Stage
Sonic 3 and Knuckles_008
Sonic 3 extra Special Stage (when locked on to Sonic & Knuckles)

The first one is too low contrast, whereas the second is eerie, bordering on nauseating. I wonder why the change?

Sonic & Knuckles‘ 8th Special Stage is a riot of Orange Spheres, protecting a tiny cluster of Blue Spheres in the centre.

SnKBonus
Map from info.sonicretro.org
Sonic 3 and Knuckles_007
Sonic & Knuckles extra Special Stage

The Chaos Emeralds awarded by these stages don’t have any effect – they don’t summon Ashura, nor transform Sonic into Super Duper Sonic. I guess these stages were made because the developers were particularly enamoured with the whole Blue Sphere thing, and were just making some fun tricky layouts to play. Given the fact that locking Sonic & Knuckles on to Sonic 1 makes nearly infinite Blue Sphere stages, I’m gonna guess that somebody somewhere liked them maybe a bit too much. I can’t blame them; they’re probably my favourite Sonic Special Stages, too.


Have you ever noticed something a little familiar about the colour schemes in the Special Stages in Sonic 3? Each one corresponds quite neatly to one of the 7 zones (counting Flying Battery in its original position between Carnival Night and Ice Cap). Of course, the Special Stages aren’t made out of many colours, so in particular they match up with the colours of their zones’ sky and ground tiles.

AIZ
Special Stage #1 / Angel Island Zone
HCZ
Special Stage #2 / Hydrocity Zone
MGZ
Special Stage #3 / Marble Garden Zone
CNZ
Special Stage #4 / Carnival Night Zone
FBZ
Special Stage #5 / Flying Battery Zone
ICZ
Special Stage #6 / Ice Cap Zone
LBZ
Special Stage #7 / Launch Base Zone

Given how perfectly they line up, it’s extremely improbable that this is mere coincidence. It’s odd though – any Special Stage can be accessed from any zone, so why bother making them correspond? Were they at one point intended to be tied to each zone, like the Sonic Advance series later explored?

In any event, the idea of matching the palettes up seems to have been abandoned by Sonic & Knuckles, because I just don’t see how (all of) these fit without really stretching. It seems to go well starting with Mushroom Hill, but then goes somewhat awry.

MHZ
Special Stage #1 / Mushroom Hill Zone
SOZ
Special Stage #2 / Sandopolis Zone
LRZ
Special Stage #3 / Lava Reef Zone
LRZ2
Special Stage #4 / Lava Reef Zone (Part 2)
HPZ
Special Stage #5 / Hidden Palace Zone
SSZ
Special Stage #6 / Sky Sanctuary Zone
DEZ
Special Stage #7 / Death Egg Zone

Although I could see how maybe the bonus 8th one could line up with Doomsday Zone?

DDZ
Special Stage #8 / The Doomsday Zone

Regardless, the matching Sonic 3 ones are pretty cool, because an attentive player could have deduced a missing zone between Carnival Night and Ice Cap without ever having to pull off the notoriously difficult Level Select cheat.


And finally, a little bit of unintentionally funny “Engrish” from the Sonic 3 prototype that was sadly caught by testers. The Blue Spheres are called “Blue Balls” (ブルーボール) in Japan – check the manual if you don’t believe me – and according to game tester J. Pataki, the “Get Blue Spheres” imperative we’ve all seen countless times originally read “Get Blue Balls”.

However, in one of the Sonic games, Sonic had to hit a
lot of blue balls. The game screen said “Get Blue
Balls” and our (mostly male) testing team sniggered
all over the place, as will happen, because that was
just funny. The text was later changed to “Blue
Spheres”[…]

See Yuji, it pays to work with a partly English team! 😛

The Sonic Second: Sonic Music… From the ’80s?!

Hello all.

Because I’m a little pressed for time, this week’s Sonic Second will be somewhat brief. I’ll cover something that’s already well known, plus something a little more obscure and cool.


Even though Sonic the Hedgehog is a property from the ’90s, some of the music from the games was composed many years before – in the ’80s.

The first example is Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3, the BGM for which is directly based on a song by the short-lived Arizona New Wave band, the Jetzons. The song is called “Hard Times”, and it’s from 1982 – but it was not released until Fervor Records issued The Complete Jetzons boxed set in 2009.

Now, if you are a Sonic fan, you’ve probably already heard of this unless you’ve been living in Antarctica or something. But here it is again, because I can’t get enough of it:

It may seem weird that Sega would use an unreleased song by an obscure American band for a zone’s BGM, until you realise the common thread – Sonic 3 composer Brad Buxer was the keyboardist for the Jetzons.

The second example is by a composer we all know and love – Masato Nakamura.

While it’s fairly well known that the ending theme to Sonic 2 is based on Dreams Come True’s song “Sweet Sweet Sweet”, it goes deeper than that.

“Sweet Sweet Sweet” is from their 1992 album “Swinging Star” (which was being recorded in London at the same time Masa was composing the Sonic 2 soundtrack) but a demo of the song – simply titled “Sweet” – exists. This demo predates Dreams Come True itself, hailing from a time when they were still calling themselves Cha Cha & Audrey’s Project, which puts it at 1988 at the very latest.

Cha Cha 1
Cha Cha 2
Cha Cha 3

The demos on this tape are extremely hard to find, but I got lucky and snagged some MP3s. Here’s “Sweet”:

The thing that I love about this demo version of the song is that – unlike the album cut – Masa himself is singing the duet with Miwa. I mean, it’s Masa, singing Sonic music, years before the game even existed. It’s way past cool!

It makes one think – are there any other Sonic songs that are partially or wholly from the ’80s and we just don’t know it yet?


h/t Sonic Retro, tatatarzan

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The Sonic Second: Beyond the Games – Music

Throughout all the ups and downs of the Sonic franchise’s history, one thing has remained largely constant: the quality of the tunes. A few stinkers aside (here’s looking at you, Sonic 4 and Sonic Chronicles), Sonic’s music, from its most funky or badass to its most patently absurd, has rocked the ears of fans for over two decades, inspiring countless covers, remixes, and original compositions.

And that music is not merely constrained to the Sonic games themselves. A surprising amount of music, both extensions of the game music as well as brand new content, has seen official release over the years. And this is what The Sonic Second will take a look – or listen, rather – at this week.

Sonic the Hedgehog Boom

Sonic Boom

Released on Hedgehog Day, 1994, and only available as a special treat for those who had preordered Sonic 3[1], Sonic the Hedgehog Boom illogically contains no music from that game, instead comprising extended tracks from the North American version of Sonic CD and Sonic Spinball, of which the former has the lion’s share (despite the cover art).

This soundtrack comes as a salve for those who – like me – love the Spencer Nilsen compositions from Sonic CD but find some of them criminally short as they appear in the game. Unfortunately not all of the tracks are treated with equal care. Some are great; others are practically ruined by inexplicable changes.

It’s also cool to hear the Sonic Spinball songs rendered differently than the Genesis version.

Sonic the Hedgehog – Remix

Sonic Remix

Sonic the Hedgehog – Remix is another soundtrack for Sonic CD, but the Japanese version this time. Containing only 8 tracks, it’s nonetheless full of great stuff. One of the tracks is titled “Dr. Gigglymen” – how can that not be awesome?

Though presented as an album of remixes, much of the music is so wild and far out that it winds up bearing little resemblance to the versions in the game, providing essentially new Sonic CD styled music. Case in point: the delightfully funky – and nearly incomprehensible – vocal theme “Love You Sonic”.

My favourite track is probably the 7 minute and 21 second tour de force “Techno Power Mix”, a mashup of the seven zone BGM.

Another cool thing is the artwork, the original sketches for which can be found in the bonus artwork gallery of Sonic Generations.

Sonic & Knuckles: Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sonic & Knuckles - Sonic 3

Also misleadingly named, Sonic & Knuckles: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 contains only music from Sonic & Knuckles, much of it extensively reworked and expanded.

Unfortunately, as neat as it is to hear extra parts to these classic songs, most of the tracks fare little better than crappy MIDI when it comes to instrumentation.

Virtual Sonic

Virtual Sonic

Sporting the fancy subtitle “Enhanced Music Inspired by the Worlds of Sonic”, Virtual Sonic is perhaps the most interesting album on this list. Composer Howard Drossin recalls it in an interview with Gamasutra:

I remember I did the whole thing in a month. People ask me, you know, “Was this song from this level?” I don’t know. Some of it was expanding upon the Sonic theme and the Knuckles theme, but for others I was grasping. I had a month to do an entire soundtrack because it had to be there in the Luxor Hotel, and I remember begging and pleading for more time. It had to be done for the grand opening of the Sega Store. Some of it is based on nothing but my impression of the Sonic world. Given the time that I had to do it, I think some of it is pretty cool.

Almost all of the songs are totally original, bearing no resemblance to anything from the games. Even the track “Sandopolis” is nothing like the zone BGM.

Highlights include “Metal Sonic”, a grinding rock theme with vocals in the style of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and “Sonic and Knuckles Theme”, which might surprise fans of Sonic Robo Blast 2 if they listen past the 2:00 mark. 🙂

Supersonic

Supersonic

A UK single by “H.W.A featuring Sonic the Hedgehog”, this is a dance track that partially remixes the BGM from Green Hill Zone.

According to the liner notes,

All proceeds that Sega receive from sales of this record will be donated to the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre. The charity helps children with severe learning difficulties communicate through the medium of music.

A sweet gesture, but wouldn’t it have been more effective with a better collection of music?

Super Sonic Dance Attack

Super Sonic Dance Attack

Another dance single, in my opinion somewhat better than the last, this one is derived from Sonic’s main theme from Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 but also contains some melody from Streets of Rage 2 for an odd combination.

A robotic voice intones “I killed Doctor Robotnik” and “I killed the boss” a few times throughout the track, which is somewhat unsettling but at least proves that I was not totally alone in describing the act of defeating Robotnik as “killing the boss” as a kid, though of course he never actually dies.

Wonderman

Wonderman

Wonderman is a single by Right Said Fred, the British act forever infamous for “I’m Too Sexy” (itself sounding a little reminiscent of something out of the Sonic OVA). In what could be considered a lazy and crass move, their song “Wonderman” was musically and lyrically reworked to loosely tie in with the Sonic franchise and was used to promote Sonic 3 in the UK.

It’s hugely cheesy, but I like the song regardless. The music video contains a few Sonic references and footage from Sonic 3, but nothing too special.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic Arcade

And, speaking of cheesy…

Not to be confused with the umpteen other products simply titled Sonic the Hedgehog, this is the album that “They Call Me Sonic” calls home, along with its conspecifics “King of the Ring”, “Sonic & Tails”, “Sonic Electronic”, as well as a handful of forgettable instrumental rave tracks.

Also published by the same company, Arcade Music, were two volumes of Sonic Dance and three volumes of Sonic Mix, European releases that used Sonic imagery but contained pop songs that had nothing to do with the franchise. (The Jive label published eight (!) volumes of the very similar Sonic Dance Power series.) They are notable only for their covers, which depict such unhinged acts as Sonic snowboarding on his own name, Sonic and Knuckles having a spaghetti fight on a rocket, and Knuckles escaping an enormous, luminescent Robotnik while riding a snowmobile.

Sonic Dance Mix 1

Sonic Dance Mix 2

Sonic Dance Mix 3

In short, their contribution to culture is incalculable.

Rad Knuckles
What’s that? I can’t hear you over how fucking rad I am.

^ 1. Sonic the Hedgehog Boom at Sonic Retro.

images from Sonic Retro.

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