By Joseph Walter
Of the many 2D-to-3D transitions, the Adventure series has aged on the poorer side of the scale. Glitchy, twitchy and unreliable gameplay, hideous character models and animations, and often out-of-this-world, thematically dissonant plots plague these games to their core.
Attempting to go back to them now (like I have, in my foolish quest for Sonic Adventure 2's well-hidden "Green Hill Zone" remake) is an exercise in frustration, and occasionally self-crucifixion. It's just a simple fact of life: these games have not aged well, even when compared to earlier peers like Super Mario 64, which continues to provide timeless (and reliable, non-glitchtastic) entertainment.
Hopefully, with the coming advent of Sonic Mania, the forces (no pun intended) behind Sonic will realize that sharp 2D gameplay is the way to go, and they'll stick with it.
Regardless, there are a few positives to the three-dimensional endeavors.
The first, is the exceptional design aesthetic, particularly in SA2, which features an incredibly realized and crazy world, from the gorgeous and unbelievable design conceptions of the space colony Ark's interior, or the idea that the highways in Sonic's world are filled with loops and impossible geometry, complete with fighter jets tearing through said loops in pursuit of errant hedgehogs.
Secondly, the games run smooth as hell, and are also clear as day, which is an unbelievable achievement considering the low-quality televisions at the time, and the limits of gameplay engines.
Thirdly, is the music. Despite a few truly awful clunkers, much of the 3D games in the series have excellent music (in fact, I have a guest writer working on an article about that very subject... and he better hurry up!)
So for this week's "Weekly Soundcheck," I wanted to talk about "Azure Blue World" and "Windy and Ripply" for Sonic Adventure's "Emerald Coast!"
One last thing to note before we run away from impossibly large, rampaging Killer Whales... the main motif of these two songs seems like it could be a loose take on the game's main theme, "Open Your Heart," but I can't personally confirm this. I've noticed that a lot of the Adventure 1 & 2 tracks do have similar sounds and structures, so it's likely this is just a compositional coincidence.
Azure Blue World
The wailing guitar, driving drum beat and sparkling notes in the background do a great job of capturing the feel of the gorgeous and tropical Emerald Coast.
The main body of the song, with its mandolin-like guitar generates a carefree excitement and :58's first rendition of the chorus, a tone-shift from the motif first heard at :2 (even :15), conjures an epic and nostalgic atmosphere (following a structure similar to "Green Grove Zone" from Sonic 3D Blast... a game whose soundtrack will be the focus of a full article in the future) perfectly catering to the Sonic fans playing this inaugural 3D entry for their favorite hedgehog.
The slight variations that carry on as the piece proceeds are delightful, but it's the guitar solo at 2:33 that solidifies this track as incredibly bad-ass, eschewing the care-free nature of the tune in exchange for that desperation that permeated throughout the earlier game's soundtracks. Add in the ever-more-prominent keyboard sequences during the climax of the solo and you've got one hell of a piece of music, all the way through to its fantastically dreamy conclusion.
Windy and Ripply
Next up are fantastically aquatic synths, unafraid to take a minor-mode approach to the motif, offering a lovely underbelly to the tune, especially when they transition to a more triumphant sound before the song reverts back to the chorus' rendition of the main Emerald Coast motif.
The only downside of this particular song is that it lacks as many notable variations as its "Act 1" kin was happy to deliver throughout its runtime, although it does still manage to have a satisfying conclusion, leaving me and the listener quite happy!