Number 4: Sonic Generations
I'll say this right now, Sonic Generations might be cheating by someones standards. Yes it has won the fourth position, but it does so in a manner some may find questionable. It doesn't make it ineligible for the list, nor does it do anything that any other game composer couldn't conceivably do for their own titles. But because its the only soundtrack even reviewed for this list that acts as it does, I expect some of you may want to ignore it altogether and pretend that some other soundtrack won fourth place. But for the purposes of this list, the Sonic Generations soundtrack has everything it needs to earn the fourth position. It just may feel a bit...well cheap...to some of you.
Alright, enough teasing. The reason that I say some of you may call Generations a cheap win is because it cherry picks. Sonic Generations was a 20th Anniversary title for the Sonic series and can be effectively summed up as a "best of" compilation. Each level in the game is from a prior Sonic game, and each one is playable in two different modes: A 2D classic style starring the original "chubby" Sonic, and a modern 3D style with the modern Sonic. The result is a greatest hits collection of some of the series best stages, with completely redone music to match. That bears repeating. The soundtrack is made up of re-imagined and revisited versions of some of the most fondly remembered Sonic tunes to date. In both a classic style (including 16-bit sound samples) and a modern style.
Starting to see why I think some of you may call this cheating? Granted, any other composer could do the exact same thing, and some have come close. But Generations has a whopping two songs that are actually new to the series, and I wouldn't be surprised if on an in depth examination they were also heavily borrowing from an earlier series melody. So for many of you, I expect this could be a deal breaker. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the most controversial winner of the entire list.
The thing is though, in listening to the soundtrack I was floored by the amount of work put into it. While it may be true that there are only two new songs, each of the classic tunes featured in Generations are so heavily reworked and redesigned that it would by the same token feel just as unfair to deny them entry. In fact, it'd be criminal. The amount of work that went into rebuilding each of these songs is impressive. Take for example this tune, which is the original source. Catchy, instantly memorable. Now this is the redone version as it appears in Sonic Generations. Yeah, that's really different, but still the same basic melody.
Pretty much all of the Sonic Generations showcases the same changes made to that above tune for its pieces (although not all orchestral). Like I said before, it's a greatest hits compilation. If you've been a Sonic fan at any point in the last two decades, you're going to recognize some very familiar tunes as you jam to this soundtrack, be they the classic mix or the modern mix.
So tune recognition aside, what else qualifies Generations as a winner for the fourth position? This was the other pleasing part about Generations, the compositions are actually very solid and quite clever. The songs vary quite a bit, with lots of neat plays on melody and style, often working several melody lines into one song. In fact, one song in particular, a jazzy return to Casino Night, employs no less then four different variations of the classic melody over the course of its run, playing the song four different ways before it finishes. Another 'classic' mix changes things up by working a popular song from an older title into the harmony of a newer song, providing an audio Easter-egg of sorts.
Sonic Generations also is really good at pulling you into the music. Its compositions are clever, but they're also pulse pounding and have a way of pulling in the listener and getting them to start moving. While some of the songs may be laid back and relaxed, most of them are fast moving pieces that really just make you feel like doing something. It's hard to listen to Sonic Generations and not feel involved with the music on some level. Oh, and much like Generations predecessor Colors, Generations can really make you feel like smiling.
Sonic Generations is a gem of a soundtrack, reaching across twenty years of musical talent (something that the Sonic series has never lacked, even if the games took a dive) to assemble a colossal achievement of sound and quality. Simply put, if you can't find something here to make you smile, can't find something that you can't enjoy...well, you may need help. Collecting some of the best music from twenty years of games and revisiting it may seem foolhardy to some composers, but Generations pulls it off with aplomb.
Sonic Generations scores highly in Enjoyment, Emotional Reaction and Game Representation. It also marks the first and most likely only time when I have found an exception to the ten-year requirement for the Nostalgia bonus. Of 69 tracks, only two are new, the rest are all revisited material. Had it been half, I wouldn't have given it, but when more then 96% of your soundtrack is eligible for a Nostalgia bonus it's hard to see a reason not to. Generations also grabs a Non-Gamer Enjoyment bonus.
Stand Alone Quality: 4.25
Emotional Reaction: 5
Game Representation: 4.75
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Sonic Generations is an absolute blast to listen to. Some of the best songs of the series, reborn with new instrumentation but all the old charm. Even if you're not a Sonic fan, this one deserves to be checked out. Sonic Generations: The fourth best soundtrack ever made.
Number 4---Sonic Generations by Jun Senoue and a list too long to post. See the image.