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US vs Japanese Soundtrack


Indigo Rush
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Right, Sonic CD.

I tend to hear a lot of hatred towards the American soundtrack of the game, and I do not see why people dislike it so much. It's one thing to prefer one thing over another, but to totally dislike something without a good reason is just plain silly.

So explain to me, why do people hate the American soundtrack? I think it's the better version, in my opinion, because the American soundtrack has a better atmospheric tone and ambiance to it. And besides, Tidal Tempest Present is the win.

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I dunno...I prefer some tracks from both versions, and I think both albums have their strengths and weaknesses. I don't get the hate towards the US version of the soundtrack, but I'm equally confused as to WHY an American soundtrack had to be made as well...what was wrong with the Japanese music?

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In general, I find the Japanese soundtrack to have catchier, more stylish melodies than the US one. Perhaps my one exception is Wacky Workbench, where the inverse seems to be true (Somewhat bland cartoon factory music in Japan, and an inexplicable but nonetheless tappin' disco song in America).

Still, I prefer the Japanese soundtrack as a whole, though I don't hate the American one by any means. It just wasn't very appealing in my opinion.

Edited by El Gran Gordo
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I dunno...I prefer some tracks from both versions, and I think both albums have their strengths and weaknesses. I don't get the hate towards the US version of the soundtrack, but I'm equally confused as to WHY an American soundtrack had to be made as well...what was wrong with the Japanese music?

Well, I'm not sure as to why myself... it would certainly have been easier for the consumers without it, but it has its own strengths.

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US soundtrack = atmospheric, good tunes, enjoyable even without having played the game. Good vocal themes that fit the animations.

Jap/EU soundtrack = generic platformer music, completely forgettable, the vocal themes don't even match the animations well. Stardust Speedway's cool tho.

Palmtree Panic in both versions = hell.

Edited by Flint
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I dunno...I prefer some tracks from both versions, and I think both albums have their strengths and weaknesses. I don't get the hate towards the US version of the soundtrack, but I'm equally confused as to WHY an American soundtrack had to be made as well...what was wrong with the Japanese music?

Seems to me they were trying to make the tone "darker" in some way. As a whole, aside from the strangely inverted Wacky Workbench that I already mentioned, most American songs in the game were far less happy and "bouncy" than their Japanese counterparts.

In the 90s, Sega of America was sort of trying to make Sonic's American image edgier via a number of means- The change in music could be likened unto the change in box art. That is to say, a less catchy but more urgent-sounding song goes with the same mentality as empty-eyes Eggman- He's far less cute, but I guess "cute" was exactly what the localization team was trying to avoid.

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I'd personally use Tidal Tempest for the strange reversal in serious and non-serious. The US one is more catchy and boppy, yet the Japanese one is much more ambient, oddly, aside from the techno bad future track.

Also most people hate the American soundtrack because "IT'S NOT TEH ORIGINAL!!111" or because they're fucking weeaboos.

I do like the Japanese soundtrack a lot, but I think the US version tracks fit the mood better. If I had it my way, I'd play Sonic CD and pick each track individually. There are more tracks on the Japanese soundtrack I can't stand though (Collision Chaos good future, what the hell, the US one owns that), but then you've got crazy shit like Stardust Speedway bad future and Metallic Madness bad future and I can't help but smile.

Also personally I think the Japanese soundtrack might not have rested well with the US audience of the time, it would have been a bit of a joke, so they decided to change it to fit US audiences, and I think Nielson did a fine job, especially with the little time he had.

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I can't be arsed to get into this (I like both soundtracks, but Nilsen has extra respect for his Ecco soundtracks), but:

Wacky Workbench Past is my favorite Sonic tune of all time. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was love. The harmonica lead is phenomenal (I know all of the songs are synthesized, bear with me), and the whole song has jazzy New Yorkern undertones, for lack of a better term since I don't know the proper name of the genre - all I know that this is the kind of song I'd groove to on the girders of a construction site somewhere in the Big Apple. I love this theme.

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I agree in that both soundtracks have their strengths and weaknesses, and that they're both pretty good overall. I prefer the Japanese soundtrack to the American, but still like the American soundtrack quite a bit. I dunno, the Japanese version just seems to have more "feeling" in its tracks, even if some of them are pretty weird-sounding. And Quartz Quadrant Present (Japanese version) is, to me, one of the greatest songs from a video game ever, no other song from either version comes close to it IMO.

Although, as far as the main theme goes, I'd say Sonic Boom wins by far. You Can Do Anything/Cosmic Eternity are good and all, but Sonic Boom just plain kicks ass. I even have that song as one of the ringtones on my phone. :P

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I've brought this topic up time and time again on T-Time, and people are generally polarised on the matter; the Japanese soundtrack does seem to have attracted a bigger fanbase. But I've often wondered if that's because "that's the soundtrack they grew up with".

I think I've eventually come to a conclusion in my mind though. I grew up with the US soundtrack, having bought a Mega CD that was American from a friend who's Dad picked it up there in it's hayday. I therefore grew up with the Spencer Nilsen soundtrack, and I guess that this has had a large bearing on why I like it so much.

The Japanese OST, I think is fair to say "more fitting of the genre". Generally Sonic tunes are quite upbeat and for lack of a better word, a bit more funky. But to me the game was about going back and forth in time to prevent these horrible futures of robotics and polution from occuring - a much more sinister concept in my point of view from the two previous titles. The Nilsen take on the soundtrack is far more atmospheric; something Nilsen repeated in Ecco on the Mega CD, which is a wonderful example of very a dark soundtrack used in a particularly dark game.

US Stardust Speedway still does still win me over however, even with the hillarious comic value of the Japanese one; maybe because he got some chuggy guitar riffs going with quite a promenant bass line too?

Eitherway, I think it's great there are two soundtracks, as it really is an aural example of how differently the same game was marketed to two different audiences. Judging from my recent trip to Tokyo, I definitely now know where that marketing was the most successful, and it was definitely not Japan.

T

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Here's my thoughts, copy/pasted from that Music thread a while back:

The American one, in my opinion, suits the game better; in terms of just being outlandish, it's much more neutral and "normal" than the Japanese/European one, and the songs actually sound a little like something you'd expect in a modern video game. There's vocal sound effects in some stages that go with the flow of the music, like the wordless (I think?) vocal accompaniment in Tidal Tempest present, which happens to be one of my favorite songs from the soundtrack. I actually enjoy it so much, I ported it for a Super Mario World ROM hack I'm designing, using strings in place of the vocals since SMW's instrument selection is limited. One of the people I sent the hack to for playtesting, who hadn't heard this song before, actually said he really liked the song and thought it fit perfectly with the level I used it in, and asked what song it was.

The J/E one, however, sounds more crazy, bouncy, and random. I don't think it quite suits the game as well, but the music itself sounds like it could fit something with a weirder tone absolutely perfectly. It uses lots of vocal sound effects that aren't necessarily coordinated with the music (for example, Eggman's laughing and scorning in Metallic Madness Bad Future), and other fitting effects like the water-dripping sound at the beginning of Tidal Tempest Present. I haven't listened to all of these in full, actually - I'm in America with this version of Sonic Gems Collection and I just downloaded the J/E soundtrack from Shadow of a Hedgehog. I'd venture to say that the Palmtree Panic Present music is just a little too happy for my tastes; while it would definitely have its uses, it doesn't feel right being in a simple grassy field. I think it, and a few of the other tracks, could really only benefit something that was trying to be weird. There's something I'm planning that seems to fit this bill, actually...

For some reason, I'm only really fond of the Present tracks from both soundtracks - that is, I don't dislike the others, but the Present ones are the only ones I'll really want to listen to. Maybe the others are too strongly themed or something... :\

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I like the Japanese version way better than the American one, which sounds very bland and generic to me (I do like some of the American though, it's not bad at all). That said, it annoys me because I don't understand the need of changing the soundtrack in the first place. Why spend resources in one thing that was already good as it was? No one was going to buy the game because of the soundtrack! It brings the old question as to why change the series so much to fit the west. Cute and cool was what the games were (the colours, the music, the characters) and everyone was crazy about the franchise because of that. Why change the soundtrack to fit something darker and edgier that was never there to begin with? I guess they wanted to make the series more gritty and mature but in my opinion, it clashes terribly with the crazy Sonic world, and especially Sonic CD, has.

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The Japanese music is really fucking weird - had some pretty dumb lyrics in some of the songs. There were probably concerns about it sounding "too Japanese," and the Hataya/Ogata soundtrack doesn't fit the American standard of western coolness at the time.

The American soundtrack, dark and gritty? Sounds like pretty standard atmospheric stuff to me.

Edited by Jake
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The American soundtrack, dark and gritty? Sounds like pretty standard atmospheric stuff to me.

The boss theme for example. We hear maniacal laughter in both versions, but both say very different things. In Japan, we hear the quirky high pitched "Eeh heh heh- Ooooh hoo hoo!", whereas in America we got a deep "MWAAAAA HAH HAH HAH HAH" that sounds far more befitting of a demon/monster/thing than the game's antagonist, a mad scientist. (The Japanese laugh was used as Eggman's voice in that Sonic Jam cartoon, so...)

Eh, but ultimately it's a matter of preference. I like the "too Japanese" style, I suppose, and found it more memorable as a whole, but that's just me- I also prefer the Japanese storyline, style, and atmosphere, so there could be a correlation there. The US soundtrack, admittedly, does match better with America's "edgier" story, empty-eyes Eggman, etc., and for fans who preferred that style, it stands to reason they'd prefer the matching soundtrack as well.

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I feel like the tone and flow of the Japanese tracks were better. The past-present-futures tracks were much more in style with each other, just flipped for the mood of the time you're in. Some really nice effects like the echoing drops in Tidal Tempest are what really make the Japanese tracks for me. That ambient kind of noise fits for this game, because the environments are pretty out there, and it's great for a game about time travel. Indigo, you said the US sound was ambient also, but I feel it more in the JP version. They're also quicker, and I'd much rather run to them.

And the crazy awesome final boss theme wins over the US version hands down. This track is dripping with evil genius.

Edited by Badnikz
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I like both soundtracks, there are some here and there that I prefer in one OST over another. I think as far as vocal songs go, Sonic Boom has a clear advantage over Utoku's songs; it's reserved, but cool, and the ending theme has a western twang to it that I love so much. And they properly match up with the animation, to boot. I dig the chorus of the song, but I really can't get over the silly rap in "Sonic - You Can Do Anything," and the level lyrics were even more ridiculous. But at least the Japanese version had its own final boss theme, which almost sounded like a remix of Sonic 1's Final Zone.

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I think that the US version of Sonic CD is way better than the Japanese version. And I think that the Japanses opening of Sonic X was soo much better than teh cheesey US dubbed, because it has the producer of all of 4Kids and Pokemon films Norman J Grossfeld singing it and it is really bad. So in general the US versions of some Sonic songs are better than the Japanese versions and vise versa.

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I dont think the hate is only for the American soundtrack. The japanese version also get heavy criticism from the people who didnt like it/ heard it.

I guess they wanted to make the series more gritty and mature but in my opinion, it clashes terribly with the crazy Sonic world, and especially Sonic CD, has.

IMO they just wanted to make Sonic CD to be more inspired by SatAM.

Its like USA Boss theme, is really a creepy and dark theme... and I ask, since when Eggman was dark and evil like that? In the original games, NEVER, but he is in SatAM. Its for that I say the USA soundtrack doesnt fit at all with the Sega Sonic, but it does with the Sonic SatAM.

Edited by Ferr
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Some more examples about consistent themes in the JP soundtrack. Palmtree Panic Bad Future still has the horn sounds and little cheering animals, just warped, and the animals sound almost robotic in the future. The theme got a techno-funk style, for the world under Robotnik. The US Present theme sounds more like a Ristar track, which is fine, but then the US bad future sounds like some kind of tribal chant, which doesn't follow from the present track. Not chaotic enough, which is why I like the JP version. The US one sounds desolate.

I think the JP Quartz Quadrant Past and all of its versions are good examples of how the themes progress from a murky basic sound, to something more like regular Sonic music in the present, to this really fast mechanical stuff in the bad future, or a relaxed version of the present theme in the good future. Here's Quartz Quadrant Present, Good Future, and Bad Future if you wanna compare them. There are things that hold them all together, they're just remixes of each other, and the mood totally changes.

Edited by Badnikz
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From the SEGA-16 interview with the chap a while ago:

Sega-16: GameFan Magazine supposedly bashed the game upon its North American release, citing the soundtrack change as its primary reason. Did you ever think a simple change in music would spark such a reaction?

Spencer Nilsen: Again, I think critics were looking for reasons to bash the game, and so many critics are hardcore, loyal fans so their are not very objective. AND… they had all been playing the Japanese version for weeks or months before our version hit the streets, so it was like we replaced the music to Star Wars after the movie had been out for a while. From that perspective, I can't blame them.

I'd have to agree with a few others in here; I think the soundtrack was replaced for cultural reasons; afterall, Toot Toot Sonic Warrior is a silly name for a track!

Read the rest of the interview here.

T

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I actually liked some of the Japanese Music better than the American music, but I also liked some of the American music better than the japanese music. So I'm mixed.

And hold on... Japanese music too silly and happy?

What about this? This one sounds pure evil and makes it seem like you already lost the game =P.

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