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One of my most-played games this summer has been Sonic Runners, the latest free-to-play mobile game to star Sega’s famously fast hedgehog. While I’ve liked Sonic’s prior mobile adventures, Runners finally offers what I’d wanted all along: a 2-D infinite-runner game built to look like his classic adventures, with Sonic hopping between platforms and running through loop-the-loops.
The game is perfect for spacing out with a few minutes of bite-sized Sonic fun. Run, jump, manage some collectibles, and come back later and do it all again—albeit with some of the persistent unpleasantries of being a free-to-play that requires an active internet connection. I don’t mind that players have a limited number of lives that restore over time—I’m not playing for longer than 15 minutes at a time anyway—but there is one thing that seems woefully out of place: the soundtrack.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, like how people who grew up with the Star Wars prequels seem to have less of a problem with them than the people who grew up with the original trilogy. To me, Sonic games should all sound like that bouncy and joyful 16-bit chip tune score from the 1990s. Maybe kids today like the electric guitars and tom drums. It’s not bad music, it just doesn’t get me excited to bash robots and release the sweet animal babies trapped inside of them. Here, I’ve made a video demonstration:
The first half is the game as-is, with the default soundtrack in place. For the second half, I turned off the Sonic Runners’ music and, via the magic of post-production, added the score from Green Hill Zone, the very first area in Sonic’s debut game from 1991. That’s the tune that plays in my head, at least, as I usually have my phone on silent. It seems to work pretty well in this instance, just as well if not better than the original score. I’m not sure if it’s a legal issue that’s stopping Sega from using the music any more, but they’re still using an awful lot of the same sound effects. The jumps and boings haven’t been updated, so why has the music?
In fairness, I do this a lot. Every time I play a Picross game on the Nintendo 3DS, I turn off the inoffensive lounge music and hum the tune from the old Game Boy iteration. Is the Game Boy version’s a better song? Probably not. It’s possible that I only prefer it because I heard that tune for years and years as I replayed every puzzle, and the simple melody wormed its way into my brain forever. Would I be able to hum the atmospheric marimba-tinged tunes of the modern Picross games if I listened to them as often? Maybe. I just don’t want to. I like the soundtrack I’ve already got.