For several generations of gamers, the words ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ conjure both fond nostalgic memories…and recent frustrations. A player’s age can be quickly identified by exactly which Sonic games they consider to be cornerstones of their childhood. Gamers in their late twenties and early thirties point to the classic, side-scrolling Sega Genesis games. The generation that immediately followed (including myself) admonishes a different era: the Sonic Adventure duology and the various 3D titles that followed.
After a strange misstep on the Sega Saturn with Sonic 3D Blast, the Blue Blur burst onto the Dreamcast (and later the GameCube) with a fast, cinematic adventure with the deepest story yet in the series and multiple playable characters. Sonic Adventure 2 followed and gave us the Patron Saint of angsty thirteen-year-olds on DeviantArt and Seeker of that DAMN Fourth Chaos Emerald, Shadow the Hedgehog. Reception to the games that followed were mixed, but for my generation, the ambitious yet admittedly flawed Adventure games still shine.
With the Dreamcast came the capability to include spoken dialogue and music tracks instead of 16-bit chiptunes. Many of the songs are, quite frankly, awesome. The tracks by Crush 40 (and others) never fail to inspire you to get up and sprint a mile and/or kick someone’s ass, like Rocky montage songs for the 128-bit era. Some might look back and mock them now, but in the early days of YouTube, these anthems were everywhere. For me, they’ve never lost their luster and still have a place on my workout playlist, and with this year being the 25th anniversary of the franchise (and 15th anniversary of of the North American release of Sonic Adventure), it’s a perfect time to take speeding dash down Memory Lane and see how these songs can help you even today.
Open Your Heart — Crush 40 — Sonic Adventure
Just listen to that escalating opening rift, like seeping in and bursting through a crack in the dam, not unlike the apocalyptic flood that final boss Perfect Chaos creates. The mood of the song is tense and gloomy, depicting a worsening situation where no one knows if they will make it through, just like the finale chapter of the game as Chaos assumes its kaiju-esque ultimate form after consuming the energy of the Chaos Emeralds. The message of this song, however, is to find hope even in a dark situation. Just as Sonic and friends discover the lingering positively-charged energy of the emeralds and send him Super Saiyan, you too just need to look past the darkness and the disorder to find the light, and find the solutions.
Live and Learn — Crush 40 — Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 simplified the first game’s six story campaigns and gameplay styles into just three play styles across two campaigns, ‘Hero’ and Ow the Edge, erm, I meant ‘Dark.’ Similarities between antagonists and conflicting goals were a major theme of this game’s story, and once again, Crush 40 delivered a rocking main theme that reflected that. This time the lyrics detail learning from past mistakes, putting aside differences, and collaborating with former foes to create a better tomorrow for all who follow.
What I’m Made Of — Crush 40 — Sonic Heroes
The main theme of Sonic Heroes was too poppy for me, possibly because I was still in my own grimdark, Shadow-the-Hedgehog-and-Linkin-Park phase at the time. Crush 40’s composition for the final clash against Metal Overlord, however, blew their previous boss themes out of the water. “What I’m Made Of” is the perfect song for summoning the energy to run that last leg of the race or nail out those last few reps to finish a heavy set of weights. Listen to the embedded video and tell me that you don’t suddenly have the urge to go out and kick somebody’s ass and show them what you’re made of.
Endless Possibility — Jaret Reddick — Sonic Unleashed
Sonic Unleashed‘s ‘Werehog’ mechanic was the strangest (and slowest) idea to come out of Sonic Team since fishing for frogs with a savant feline. That weirdness however doesn’t detract from the nice little jolt that its main theme, composed by Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup, gives me when it comes across my playlist. It’s the perfect song for starting the workout or starting your day. Let the guy who wrote the theme song for Phineas and Ferb remind you that we’ve all got to start from somewhere, and it’s right there for you, the possibilities are never ending.
Of course, there are many, many great songs from Sonic the Hedgehog games that can help power you through a workout or give you a little jolt of Sonic speed when you need it. After all, most of these tracks were written to complement focused, fast gameplay experiences. I chose to focus on these four because of the motivational messages they deliver, so why not apply the empowering lyrics and that burst of hype when preventing the Bio-Lizard from destroying Earth to your own ‘levels’ and challenges? You might not run at super speed, but running that extra lap is its own adventure. Besides, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.
Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for your old OCs.