May 252016


One great game, two great soundtracks. Composer Spencer Nilsen joins us to talk through both US and Japanese Sonic CD tunes, with emphasis on the “present day” tracks that anchor Sonic’s time-traveling adventure.

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0:00:00 – Sonic Boom (Short Version)

0:12:39 – Palmtree Panic (US)

0:14:28 – Palmtree Panic (JP)

0:20:33 – Collision Chaos (US)

0:22:12 – Collision Chaos (JP)

0:27:21 – Tidal Tempest US)

0:29:16 – Tidal Tempest (JP)

0:32:52 – Quartz Quadrant (US)

0:34:35 – Quartz Quadrant (JP)

0:40:39 – Wacky Workbench (US)

0:42:10 – Wacky Workbench (JP)

0:44:55 – Stardust Speedway (US)

0:46:49 – Stardust Speedway (JP)

0:50:13 – Stardust Speedway Past (JP)

0:51:35 – Stardust Speedway Bad Future (US)

0:55:36 – Metallic Madness (US)

0:57:01 – Metallic Madness (JP)

1:03:54 – Sonic Boom (Full Version)

  23 Responses to “VGMpire 117 – Sonic CD with Spencer Nilsen”

  1. I love Spencer Nilsen’s work generally but to my ears the Japanese soundtrack is far ahead here. It’s more melodic, catchier, more futuristic, and generally more Sonic. Admittedly I had the Japanese import of this back in the day, but as much as I love Spencer’s other work I just don’t like his Sonic work much.

    Great show as usual though, and Spencer makes for very pleasant company. Would be nice to spotlight the good future Japanese tracks at some point, as they’re the most exuberant and enjoyable.

  2. Wow! This was such an insightful episode getting to to hear the personal stories and decisions behind each track by the composer himself! I thoroughly enjoyed the previous episode with Spencer as well, and it’s so great that he’s happy to come on the show because he really gives a lot of detail about what goes on behind the creative process. It’s awesome listening to you geek out with him as well, as it naturally would when two people who appreciate a craft talk at length about it. I love these episodes where you’ve had guests on because they are such a rare gem. Great work, Brett and thanks for putting in all the effort because otherwise, these things wouldn’t exist.

  3. Am I right in thinking that the past soundtracks for Sonic CD were all PCM and not redbook? They always sounded like that to my ears. Maybe that’s partly why the past tracks were the same on both versions.

    • That’s my understanding, yeah. Could be wrong!

      • I think you guys are right. That’s why you can’t listen to them straight off the CD, and I think that’s the bigger reason they didn’t get changed. Changing out one redbook track for another is pretty simple, I’d guess, but changing the PCM would require a lot of programming…..and since I’d assume that would be done by SOJ, AND they likely didn’t see the need for a new soundtrack since the Japanese one was really good, I can see why it didn’t happen.

    • They’re definitely PCM! If you put in the cheat code to access the sound test, the game actually has three different test options, the sound effects, the CD audio, and “PCM,” which covers the past music and a small number of other sound effects.

  4. Yay, a new episode!

    The comparison format was really fun and interesting. I would like to see that return one day if you find some more appropriate titles to relate to each other. Perhaps from the SNES/Genesis era of dueling titles like Aladdin and Jurassic Park? Anyways, just some thoughts.

    As much as I dig Sega’s Japanese composers, I gotta hand Spencer the victory on this one. There are some really rad tunes he put together for Sonic. 🙂

    It’s been nice to have him onboard for these episodes, I love hearing the anecdotes and to get some behind the curtains insight.

    Thanks for another solid episode!

  5. Brelston!
    I’m getting ready for work this morning about 4am, and I thought to myself, “let’s see if VGMpire has a new episode today”. So I look at my phone and it’s in the middle of downloading Spencer Nilsen….”What the heck, I already listened to this, why is it down……Oh what the HELL, SONIC CD WITH NILSEN?!?! OH HELL YES!”

    You made me so very happy today. I listened to the whole damn thing and as soon as it was done I started it over from the beginning. The Japanese tracks sounded like they were really inspired by Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. And the US version of Collision Chaos bad future totally sounded like it was channeling early 80’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi flicks. It also sounded a lot like Genesis FM…..I wonder if they used some of those types of keyboards for that track.

    I gotta say, I was turned off to the idea of Sonic CD being redone as a kid, and really, it probably didn’t need to be done. That said, Spencer Nilsen did a hell of a job and frankly, I like both versions equally. And thanks to Mr. Nilsen for pointing out the tribute album. I had no idea!

  6. I have been waiting for this episode for 4 years. Love that you were able to do another episode with Mr. Nilsen. These composer focused episodes are really insightful and help me appreciate all of the hard work that goes into composing many of these soundtracks.

  7. Woo! While I’ve had a particular preference to the Japanese Sonic CD version, I think Sega fans were lucky to receive two full-fledged soundtracks for one game. You pretty much have to play both regions to get the full experience. I only wish the whole Past/Present/Future thing wasn’t so confusing when playing through. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never been able to just sit down and beat this one — which time gates am I supposed to go through? What happens if I miss out on one? HALPPP

    Out of all the US tracks, Quartz Quadrant was my favorite. Just loved the drumming on it, and it had such a great vibe, I could almost feel the joy oozing out of the instrumentalists. “Sonic Boom” is also just too much fun to sing along to.

    As for the Japanese Sonic CD music, I think the “Act Clear” jingle is still unmatched to this day. “Teleportation, YEAH! STABBIN YO BACKPACK *orch hit flurry*”

  8. This made me re-examine how i feel about the game. I think i’ll have to replay this now 🙂

  9. “Sonic the Hedgehog Boom,” which is basically a soundtrack album for the U.S. version of Sonic CD (with a few Sonic Spinball tracks thrown in), is the first CD I ever owned, and still one of my most listened-to. In my opinion, the U.S. soundtrack is the superior one by a mile, except for the opening and closing themes whose Japanese versions are much better than the U.S. “Sonic Boom” tracks.

    Anyway, Spencer Nilson’s soundtrack for the game is one of the most important albums for me, and I can’t wait to listen to this podcast. Thanks so much for it.

  10. Nilsen’s Tidal Tempest has been solidly stuck in my head since I first listened to the episode. So good!

  11. Love how Tidal Tempest (USA) starts of as Toejam & Earl with Streets of Rage on top and then brings in the Pastiche vocals. My favorite track by far. Great episode!

  12. I LOVE the Sonic CD soundtrack. It has to be my favorite game and soundtrack in the series. I didn’t actually get to play it on the Sega CD as I never owned a Genesis growing up. Instead I got to play it on the Sonic Gems Collection and digitally on XBLA, so I’m pretty well accustomed to both the PAL and NTSC soundtracks. I have my favorites from each one and its weird realizing that the first track that comes to mind for each level is sometimes PAL and sometimes NTSC. I’ve beaten the game with both soundtracks so its really weird realizing how I’m unfamiliar with some of the soundtrack even though I’ve heard all of it. I’ve always wondered why there was a regional soundtrack difference and this is a really great insight!
    Keep up the episodes!

    • I’m confused; which one are you referring to as PAL and which one is NTSC? Both the Japanese and American broadcast standards were NTSC; only Europe(and Oceania?) used PAL. Which version did the Europeans get?

  13. I wasn’t very familiar with Spencer Nilsen’s work prior to this pair of episodes. I knew that he did Sonic CD and Ecco the Dolphin, but I only ever listened to the latter. Spider-Man vs. Kingpin is amazing and I need to work it into my regular music rotation. I also want to track down some of his other music too. Plus it was great to hear him talk about the industry. Hearing about the Sega Music Studios was fascinating.

    Also, I looked up a youtube rip of Spider-man vs. the Kingpin and there was a note that Erik Frykman has a band named GravyBoat. The video gives a link to a currently dead website ( but it might help Spencer track him down.

  14. When I was a kid in elementary school, there was a school dance, and they told us to bring CDs and they would play them at the dance. I brought Sonic CD, but they didn’t understand that you could play it like a CD, and they didn’t play it at the dance.

    Almost though… almost…

  15. I really dug the side-by-side comparisons to the Japanese version, and enjoyed hearing from Spencer Nilsen on both this and the last episode. Guests like him are great, very enthusiastic and generous with stories as well as giving credit where it’s due.

  16. It’s Sonic’s 25th anniversary!

  17. Brett,
    I don’t do Twitter or Facebook, so I’ll just take this space to say how much I appreciate VGMpire. It’s one of a precious few podcasts where I check daily for updates. Thank you for all the hard work you do.

  18. Brett…thank you so much for doing this. This is one of those things that I never thought I’d get to hear, but you did it. This is one my of my absolute favorite soundtracks. I remember recording this onto tape cassette and forcing my mom to listen to it in the car. She hated it. Ahhhh. memories.

    PS: I mentioned your podcast on my blog, The Superb. We started running a feature where we feature a song and breakdown the elements of it we like. Got some inspiration from you.

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