I’m Still Crying About the Sonic Symphony Concert Days Later

Say what you want about the games, Sonic's music is consistently spectacular.

It’s been two days since Sega achieved world peace by holding the Sonic the Hedgehog 30th anniversary symphony concert, but I have not known peace since. Because, friends, I cannot stop crying about Sonic music this week.

My relationship with the series is best described as “lapsed.” I enjoy a good, fast run through a bunch of loop de loops and to ruin Dr. Eggman’s nefarious plans, but my attachment to the series is exclusively tied to Shadow the Hedgehog rather than the blue guy — even if Sega hasn’t done right by the hero’s dark rival. 

While the quality of Sonic games can vary, the series finds consistency in its stellar music. The soundtracks are so good, that it feels like a missed opportunity for Sega to have never made a spin-off rhythm game

Still, even if such a game doesn’t exist, it’s clear that someone at Sega recognizes that the franchise’s music resonates with so many people, considering they put together the Sonic Symphony show. The roughly two-hour-long digital concert led with a performance by The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra playing lovely orchestral arrangements of music throughout the series’ history. This ranged from the first game’s Green Hill Zone track to medleys for games like Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

That was all wonderful, but I gotta admit, what finally made me go from passive listener to an emotional mess was the two acts that followed. First up was The Tomoya Ohtani Band, led by the series’ sound director, playing two songs from Sonic Colors. The game is getting remastered later this year, so it makes sense that it would get a sliver of the show all to itself. Then, the band was joined by guest vocalist Nathan “NateWantstoBattle” Sharp to perform “Endless Possibility” from Sonic Unleashed. And that was one of the two biggest moments of the show for me. I’d never heard Sharp sing before, and he brought an energy to a song I had no previous attachment to (again, no Shadow, no play). It was so impressive that it stuck with me for two days. I then found out he has a whole Sonic album out, which I’ve been listening to since. But the additional orchestral accompaniment from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra pushed me to get choked up, even as I listen to it now while writing this. 

Shadow is my guy in this series, but I love the joy instilled in music that’s about Sonic specifically. Shadow’s themes, in comparison, have heavier rock and distorted electronic vocals. Those distinctions between the two are great. But man, there’s something special about Sonic’s themes and how energetic and hopeful they are. Big pop-rock anthems about believing in yourself and doing cool shit? Love that.

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Then came the “two” in the one-two punch, as Crush 40 took the digital stage to perform a handful of selections from its storied history with the franchise. The band has credits on 11 Sonic games, with well-known songs like the Sonic Adventure 2 theme “Live and Learn,” which closed the band’s set. But that wasn’t the big moment for me. The moment that had me giddy and keyboard smashing into a Discord chat was hearing the crunching guitars of “I Am… All of Me,” the main theme from Shadow the Hedgehog. The band cheesed it up, with vocalist Johnny Gioeli looking right into the camera and saying, “Do you know who I am? I am…all of me” as the band played the opening riffs. All of this happened while scenes from the game that more or less ruined my favorite character’s image are played in the corner. But I was having a moment that can only be described as a religious awakening, wishing that we were in an earnest post-COVID world where I could experience this entire set in person.

I’ve played maybe five or so Sonic the Hedgehog games in the past 15 years, because the character I had an attachment to became the worst version of himself and stopped being a playable pillar. So few games have had the same draw that games like Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, and yes, even Shadow the Hedgehog has for me. But there was a moment when this series meant more to me than almost any other. I doubt Sega has any plans to pivot back to the character-driven, multi-perspective platformers of the early 2000s. But listening to these songs made me feel like I was 10-years-old again, racing my brother through the streets of Sonic Adventure 2’s City Escape stage, thinking if we ran fast enough and far enough, we’d find something new between us and the goal ring.