There are so many great tracks from the Mega Drive/Genesis Sonic games that I could share with you, but these particular selections from Sonic 3 have always resonated with my subconscious.
Both themes for Marble Garden Zone are apparently by Miyoko Takaoka – one of eleven composers who worked on the 1994 game (twelve if you include Michael Jackson. Yes, that Michael Jackson – a fascinating backstory of PR, politics and pop megastars that’s well worth reading up on), and for me possess that mysterious, ethereal quality that can take one’s head to a strange and wonderful place.
I was 21 years old when I first played Sonic 3 (launch day, naturally), but found it one of those games that had the power to make me feel as heady and optimistic as a young boy again. For me the two Marble Garden stages evoke similar feelings to walking on a mountain ridge under a clear, pale blue sky on a crisp and breezy day. Oddly, they sounded achingly nostalgic to me from the first time I listened and they’ve lost none of their power over me today.
How and why exactly that works I don’t know, and I don’t much care to know. Perhaps my soppy cerebrum is just highly suggestible (look at the farthest layers of parallax in the appropriate stages and you’ll see what I mean).
The Act 2 version is a slightly remixed and key-shifted version of the first (I think, although I’m no music theory student).
No wonder I still treasure my Sonic Jam disc for my Saturn. To my knowledge it remains the only subsequent rerelease (of the many times Sonic’s 16-bit adventures have been repackaged) that retains the crucial cartridge lock-on feature.