games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Sega Genesis Soundtracks – Sonic 3, Toejam and Earl, More

October 9, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Sonic 3 Knuckles

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! Last week I talked about SNES music so I thought this week would be good to compare against the competitor with the Sega Genesis. The Genesis, generally, had better music capabilities than the SNES but not a lot of games took notice or use of its hardware. The chip that drove it was the Yamaha YM2612 FM synth chip, which (I think) only original models of Genesis’ had. You could definitely tell the difference between it and like a Genesis 3, or those garbage retro systems they release nowadays. My knowledge of Sega Genesis soundtracks/songs is actually pretty limited, so I’m sure there will be a lot of comments acknowledging this fact. Let’s begin:

#8: Castlevania: Bloodlines

Castlevania: Bloodlines soundtrack is perfectly serviceable but that’s about it. It has a few good songs but nothing memorable like other Castlevania soundtracks in the world, at least in my view. This is actually a rare case of a SNES version of a game (Super Castlevania IV) having a better soundtrack than a Genesis version. While it’s not bad, it’s a bit tinny and hollow for my tastes. This SNES > Genesis music trend doesn’t last too long.

#7: Toejam & Earl

The definition of a funky soundtrack, which is even more apparent when the sequel had “Funkatron” in the title. If I had to draw a modern day equivalent to this soundtrack, I might actually say Crypt of the Necrodancer. Both games have music that can be listened to, almost anywhere, and it just makes you feel good. The later day Toejam & Earl games couldn’t hold a candle to the first game’s soundtrack.

#6: Streets of Rage 2

I would swear I’ve heard the song I’ve used in my example, in some other form. Like, a pop song or something, I just cannot place it. Streets of Rage 2 has a pretty jazzy/funky soundtrack, in and of itself. Tracks like Dreamer, Under Logic and Jungle Base help show this off. It’s a great soundtrack for a beat’em up as it helps the player to keep moving forward with punching thugs and picking up random weapons. This is one of the better beat’em up soundtracks, for sure.

#5: Earthworm Jim

The music for the Genesis and SNES versions have (generally) the same notes and themes but that is where the similarities stop. The SNES version just sounds simplier with not as much robust instrumentation. The first few seconds of a song like New Junk City might sound a tad better on SNES (where it almost sounds like a Super Metroid song), but when the actual melody comes in, the Genesis version becomes vastly superior. The funny thing is both versions are done by Tommy Tallarico, with Mark Miller doing an assist for the Genesis version, and it shows how superior the Genesis sound hardware could really be.

#4: Gunstar Heroes

Gunstar Heroes has a great, techno-sounding soundtrack. The best track is level 4, which is the stage in which you are throwing a dice to pick what spaces you go to on a giant board game. The nice thing about the Gunstar Heroes soundtrack is that there are usually three songs per main level: an actual level theme, a mid-boss (or bosses) theme and finally a main-boss theme for when you reach the end. Norio Hanzawa has seemingly disappeared over the last 8 or 9 years but his work in this game, as well as the Simpsons arcade game and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor make him appreciated by me.

#3: Comix Zone

Comix Zone is still such a weird game. The visuals are great, as is the concept that the game is taking place in a big comic, where your character can transition between panels and the main bad guy can draw in enemies for you to fight. However, playing the game sucked hard because you were extremely vulnerable, you had a limited number of moves and there were a lot of cheap deaths. The singular saving grace of the game is the soundtrack, which has a grunge-country sound to it that is rather unique. The level 1 theme would be great space trucker music, assuming we had space truckers. Later episode 2 page 01 and episode 2 page 03 (don’t ask about the stupid track names) help show off the soundtrack more. This game had a soundtest, which all games should have, to help get the soundtrack out there more.

#2: Aladdin

The soundtrack for Aladdin is based off the movie, much like the SNES one. Like with Earthworm Jim it sounds drastically better when run through a Genesis’ sound chip. Co-composed by Tallarico (once again), there is much more fidelity and clarity with the Genesis soundtrack. It has a more chiptune sound to it than the Genesis one but it has more going on and is more recognizable to the movie music, so it’s more relatable. The music is just another reason why the Genesis version of Aladdin is far superior to the SNES one.

#1: Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles

It was a real tossup between this and Sonic 2. While I like Sonic 2’s track of Casino Night and Mystic Cave Zone, as well as the bonus zone song, I still think Sonic 3/Knux has better music. For this, I’m combining both games, since they were originally going to be one game, anyway. The best song, to me anyway, is Ice Cap Zone Act 1, which just has a good beat with some nice effects laid into it. However, both Carnival Night Zone songs are good, Ice Cap Zone Act 2 is solid and so is Flying Battery Zone Act 1 and Lava Reef Zone Act 1. Sonic CD has an awesome intro song but not much else, and most of other Sonic games music doesn’t pass muster.

For comments, list your favorite Sega Genesis soundtracks and why.

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Top 8 Wanted Kingdom Hearts Worlds

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison