Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Soundtrack September: Sonic 3

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)
Platform: Genesis/Megadrive
Composers: Michael Jackson, Brad Buxer, Cirocco Jones, et al

The Sega Genesis wasn't particularly beloved for its audio, which depended heavily on a Yamaha FM synthesizer (frequency modulation synthesis is difficult to use effectively and often gives grating results in less-than-expert hands). Only a few composers would master writing for this format and produce a Genesis game soundtrack that really showed off the hardware's true capability.

The first two Sonic games were decent in terms of sound design, but it wasn't until Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that the music really reached its full potential. Each of the game's six unique zones is divided into two acts, with the music in the second act taking the form of a variation on the theme of the first. That, plus the five "competition mode" stages makes for a soundtrack as hefty in volume as it is strong in quality.

Michael Jackson was one of ten composers to contribute music to Sonic 3, but since the game was released less than a year after Jackson was publicly humiliated by allegations of sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy, he remained uncredited. (For his part, Michael Jackson didn't wish to be credited anyway; according to long-time collaborator and tour keyboardist Brad Buxer, who also wrote music for Sonic 3, Michael was unhappy with the technical limitations of the hardware and didn't like the way the console made his music sound.) In spite of not having his name on the product, however, examples of Jackson and Buxer's songwriting styles do appear on the product.

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