Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Sonic CD: Temporal Duality
20 years ago, Sonic CD was released on the Sega CD (Mega CD for you Japanese and European gamers). The game introduced to the series time travel, Amy Rose and fan favorite robotic knock off, Metal Sonic. By no means was Sonic CD a perfect game (don't let the fans and the press fool you, this game has it's flaws like occasionally screwy level design) but it was still a fantastic entry to the series.
When SEGA of America was localizing the game for Western Audiences, as is often the case, changes were made to the game, but this altercation would split the fanbase on a level that would rival the views of the quality of Sonic's classic and modern game outings. For Sonic CD's American release, the bulk of Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata's compositions (excepet the Past mix level themes) were 86'd and in their place a new score composed by Spencer Nilsen and David Young. This change has caused fans to get into mindless debates about which soundtrack is better. The defunct GameFan called Nilsen and Young's audio "elevator music" while some fans feel the Japanese soundtrack is too loud and in-your-face. I think both soundtracks are awesome so I can honestly say that I didn't have a problem with the soundtrack change. How many games are fortunate enough to get two badawesome soundtracks? Thankfully the community at OverClocked Remix also recognizes both scores because Sonic CD: Temporal Duality pays tribute to both the Japanese and American soundtracks.
Sonic CD: Temporal Duality marks OverClocked Remix's fourth Sonic album and their 45th album release to date. It's split across three digital CDs (plus one bonus CD), consisting of 38 tracks that cover much if not all of the music from each version of Sonic CD. The first disc, PAST, is comprised entirely of remixes from the Japanese soundtrack. Night of the Ninth is an arrangement of one of my favorite tracks from the Japanese version of Sonic CD, Little Planet, a track some may argue is undeserving of being arranged when compared to the likes of Palmtree Panic, Collision Chaos and Stardust Speedway, but I really like what Theory of N did with this track. Speaking of Palmtree Panic, Paradise Paraodox is a wonderful techo/trance arrangement of a song that took years to grow on me (I originally never cared for either version of Palmtree Panic). Chips out of Water has, as you might expect, a hint of chiptunes thrown in but uses samples from the Game Gear. The Game Gear isn't the first system I think of when I imagine chiptunes, but it's very appropriate here and somehow adds to the tranquility of the song. You can hear some Genessis drums at the start of Timekeeper and the song keeps the upbeat flair of the original theme (Quartz Quadrant) quite well. Even that kickin' Special Stage got some lovin' in Bass for a Better Tomorrow, complete with voice samples from Sonic and Eggman. Time Traveller's Delight is a lyrical track and done in the style of 1990s rap. Considering the vocal tracks from the Japanese version of Sonic CD, this remix of Stardust Speedway doesn't seem out of place in the slightest and neither does the Wacky Work Bench remix, which I fully plan on listening to the next time I play the zone in Sonic CD.
Disc 2, PRESENT, focuses on the American soundtrack. Titillating Tempest is one of the songs I heard during the trailer and I can safely say that the whole song is incredible with saxophone work that is to die for. I'm certainly glad I warmed up to Palmtree Panic over the years, otherwise I may not have enjoyed Palm Beach SEGA Tan as much as I did. I was eagerly anticipating the remix of Collision Chaos, quite possibly my favorite track from the American soundtrack and Ion Storms Above the Mechanical Forest does not disappoint. It even has a guitar riff very much like the one in the original. WORK IT! was another track that was teased at in the trailer and while it's sadly much shorter when compared to the other tracks on this album, it still holds it's own with being one of the best tracks presented here and that's saying a lot. The Hero of Time, a track based off the Invincibility and Zone Clear themes really stands out from everything else, with a heavy emphasis on wind instruments. If you didn't think that boss theme couldn't get any creepier, you'd be wrong. Remember how the original had that maniacal laughter? Well Yours Truly, Satan has an even more dreadful feel to it and sounds a thousand times creepier using Mark Hamill's Joker laugh near the end. Definitely not a track you want to listen to at home alone at night with no lights on.
The third disc, FUTURE is a mixture of both Japanese and American tracks. Two Futures is a combo of the Bad and Good Futures of Stardust Speedway in the Japanese version, Whack It is even more chiptune-centric than Chips Out of Water, Gotta Go Faster is probably a nod to Sonic X in it's title and combines the Japanese version of Collision Chaos and Sonic - You Can Do Anything. The final track of disc three, has got to be some kind of jab at GameFan, or at least, that's what I'm taking away from it's title, which is called, I kid you not, Elevator Music, which if you've been keeping up thus far, is precisely what they called the American soundtrack. Ironically, this is actually a remix of the Japanese version of Palmtree Panic.
So you may be wondering, why haven't I said anything about a Sonic Boom arrangement? For some Sonic fans, this was the first Sonic vocal track they ever heard and it would be criminal for there not to a be a single remix of one of the most popular Sonic tracks on this album. Actually, there are three versions of Sonic Boom here. One on Disc 2, A World in Motion, Take it All the Way at the end of Disc 2, which is actually a jazzy non-vocal version and The Boom (Undeleted), which is easily the best of two vocal versions of the course. If you count the instrumental version of A World in Motion on the fourth bonus disc, I guess there are a total of four versions of Sonic Boom.
After spending hours listening to this album, I have the urge to go back and listen to both the Japanese and American Sonic CD soundtracks and I'd love to see OCR tackle other games in the Sonic series. Here's hoping they do a Sonic Adventure album in time. Sami Briggs also deserves a round of applause for his gorgeous album artwork. I came across a clean version of the cover a few months before the album came out and I was floored.
So here's to another 20 years of celebrating Sonic CD and some of the best music in the series. Which soundtrack is better? I can't hear the debaters because I have the volume cranked up as I'm listening to Sonic CD: Temporal Duality and I highly recommend you do the same.
Sonic CD: Temporal Duality