Let me preface this with a disclaimer so you understand how this game’s soundtrack warranted an article. I don’t like Sonic CD in the slightest. I’ve tried multiple times to pick it up and enjoy it but it hasn’t worked. It may have birthed Metal Sonic but that’s not enough for me to pretend that I like this game. Quite frankly, anyone who “enjoyed” this is lying and didn’t have a Sega CD to play it. This is revered in the series simply because of Metal Sonic and it’s the best Sonic game on the Sega CD (read as: the best game on the Sega CD). It might be better than Sonic 1 but 2, 3 & Knuckles BODY this game. However, this sound track is fire and I would absolutely force myself through this game another time because of it. Now take note of the fact that I specified the JPN version of the soundtrack. I promise you, that I will get into that later but for now let’s look into this version…the premier version.
Sega, back in the 90’s was not only doing what Nintendon’t but also showing people how to make something out of nothing. The Genesis is home of some of the worst video music of that era due to its soundchip. Nintendo was strict in the way that certain games had to be censored to be on the console (ie. Mortal Kombat) but Sega wanted to be edgier. Embracing this, many of the games opted for edgier (read: trash) soundtracks. By some miracle, we get pure gold with the Sonic series and other games like Streets of Rage and Shining Force.
1993 rolls around and Sega does more Nintendon’t by starting it’s plot to turn the Genesis into Voltron with the Sega CD. What started as an enhanced port of Sonic 2, ended up being its own game, hence: Sonic CD. As awkward as this new hardware looks connected, it allowed for CD quality music and bigger games since it ran on CDs (duh). CDs were a far bigger storage medium than cartridges and music didn’t require as much compression, if at all. This allowed the original development team to go to work on the music.
The soundtrack was a mix of all the popular genres of the 90’s incorporating House, Techno, Hip-Hop and some R&B influences. What made this especially dope is that the game had a heavy emphasis on time travel (ie. present, past, good future and bad future) and one song would get remixed essentially 3 times to fit these themes. The bad future versions of the songs were intentionally darker and made you feel like you messed up by being here. Good future variants were more peaceful and felt more rewarding than the other versions. Meanwhile, the past variants were simpler by design to communicate a time before Robotnik came through and messed things up. The team behind the music knew which instruments and genres to go with for each version and it shows.
The highlights here are mainly the good future tracks but there are some other versions that are great as well. Quartz Quadrant’s good future sounds like a sped up versions of classic Neptunes. Need convincing? Slow it down and add drums. Stardust Speedway’s good future is also fire and has the Lil Uzi Vert accordion going on. The one exception to this is Palmtree Panic where the present is better than the good future in my opinion (that track is way too cheerful for my tastes).
Aside from the good future, Sonic CD has some gems that are highly slept on. The special stage music is one of the best in the series and is the ONLY reason you should tolerate the special stages. The ending theme Cosmic Eternity is sample gold and the first 30 seconds or so is almost like a 90’s ballad. I also like Tidal Tempest’s past version too, that middle section feels like it goes on forever though. Stardust Speedway overall is dope from the present (with the “hands on your knees” chants) to the past with a Kid n Play type feel to it. Sonic CD was low key trying to get you right for the turn up.
I know what you’re thinking and yes there is a US version of the soundtrack but it’s not as good. That is an article or podcast episode by itself. For now, just be glad this version of the soundtrack exists because the US version does nothing to redeem the mediocrity that is Sonic CD.
If you really think Sonic CD was a good game or want that extensive break down of the US version, get at me @luxurytakz worldwide.