Vice: The 'Sonic Adventure 2' Soundtrack Was Era-Defining and Awesome


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2018
When I was 10 years old, my parents sent me to a boarding school in Suffolk—a picturesque part of eastern England that was recently immortalized in the annoying Ed Sheeran song "Castle on the Hill." Despite sounding like the premise to a screenplay residing in the wastebasket of Wes Anderson's imagination, my memories from then are mundane and decidedly un-twee. I remember feigning excitement during the 2002 World Cup; I remember using deodorant for the first time and being made fun of for not knowing how to rollerblade. But most of all, I remember playing a shit-ton of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Nintendo Gamecube, a mildly enhanced port of the Sega Dreamcast game released in June 2001.

Fifteen years later, and my early, illustrious English education has clearly paid off. At the time of writing this, I am unemployed and addicted to Postmates. I am also about to beat Sonic Adventure 2 for the first time in over a decade, and have been forced to reconcile my nostalgia with the harsh reality that it is not a terrific game: The controls are frustrating, the "treasure-hunting" levels dramatically upset the game's pace and the Doomsday plot reads like a Bob Books Armageddon.

But the soundtrack is definitive.

Pop culture pundits will tell you that the quintessential piece of video game music is the theme to 1985's Super Mario Bros. To '80s kids, that's probably still the case. But to a generation of gamers who came of age in the late '90s and early '00s—especially those who were reared on primordial, "All Your Base Are Belong To Us"-esque meme culture— Sonic Adventure 2's "Escape from the City" is an epochal anthem. It's a song cherished by so many that some have even fought to have it replace the Star-Spangled Banner as the United States' national anthem.

Escape from the City" isn't technically Sonic Adventure 2's theme song—that would be "Live & Learn", another scorcher—but it's typically the first "real" song a player will hear in the game. (Assuming they choose to start the game as Sonic and not his cold-as-ice antithesis, Shadow the Hedgehog.) Moreover, "Escape from the City" is a statement of theme.

Sonic Adventure 2 exists in a world where hair metal never died, and I mean that literally: Some of the vocalists featured in the game's soundtrack include Ted Poley from Danger Danger (who scored a minor hit with 1990's "Bang Bang"), Paul Shortino from Rough Cutt (an obscure '80s metal band from Los Angeles with one of those Wikipedia pages so strange and hagiographic that it must have been written by someone in the band), and Tony Harnell of Norwegian glam band TNT and (briefly) Skid Row.

But this pop metal influence has been crossed with the leaner sensibilities of punk and whatever was being classified as "alternative" at the time, resulting in a strain of ass-rock that sounds surprisingly evolved. "Escape from the City" in particular—with its breakneck tempo, metallic bass intro and chunky power chords—brings to mind peak-era pop-punk; it's even genuinely sort of edgy.

Multiple composers are listed in the credits to Sonic Adventure 2, but the game's principal musical force is arguably composer and guitarist Jun Senoue. Senoue—who has been writing music for Sega games since 1993, and who cut his teeth on projects like the obscure 1994 RPG Dark Wizard and the Worldwide Soccer series—was chosen as the main composer for the original Sonic Adventure in 1998.

While composing music for NASCAR Arcade in 2000, Senoue formed the half-real rock band Crush 40. The project technically consists of Senoue and vocalist Johnny Gioeli, although the Crush 40 tag informally refers to Senoue and whoever. ("Escape from the City" appears on a standalone album the band released in 2003, for example, even though it features Ted Poley and Tony Harnell on vocals, not Gioeli—and unlike its in-game counterpart, it unfortunately does not loop for eternity).


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