The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise features some of the most recognizable music in video games. But what is the single most iconic Sonic song? Some might say that it’s Green Hill Zone or Chemical Plant Zone, both tracks that have been featured and remixed repeatedly across the entire series. And sure, they’re great. But even though I grew up playing Sonic & Knuckles, the song that has become completely identified with Sonic to me didn’t come out until 2001. I’m talking, of course, about the music to Sonic Adventure 2‘s opening stage, “Escape from the City.”
I didn’t play Sonic Adventure 2 in its entirety until it was released on the Gamecube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. But a demo of the game came with Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast, and as a result I played the City Escape stage dozens of times. It begins with Sonic escaping a military helicopter and riding its door like a snowboard through the streets of a San Francisco-like city and ends with a Duel homage as he outruns a giant truck trying to flatten him.
All that is cool, but City Escape wouldn’t be half as memorable without “Escape from the City” in the background. Composed by the legendary Jun Senoue of Crush 40 and performed by Ted Poley and Tony Harnell, Escape from the City kicks off Sonic Adventure 2 with a bang, encapsulating Sonic the Hedgehog’s whole deal with poppy guitar and simple yet effective lyrics. It opens with the words “Rolling around at the speed of sound / Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow / Can’t stick around, have to keep moving on / Guess what lies ahead, only one way to find out.”
And that’s Sonic the Hedgehog, baby! He’s a brash, impulsive but ultimately good guy who loves diving into the unknown and having fun. “Escape from the City” is arguably even more Sonic than Sonic’s actual theme in Sonic Adventure 2, “It Doesn’t Matter.” That song’s good too, and the whole soundtrack is full of interesting, character-defining tracks. But nothing before or since has summed up Sonic the Hedgehog for me better than this song. On the whole, Sonic Adventure 2 represents the perfect blend of Sonic’s early days and Y2K influences, before the overly-serious disasters that were Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Despite all its flaws, it’s still one of my favorite games.
I recently talked about Escape from the City with my colleague Niki Grayson on an episode of Volume Slider, our podcast about video game music. And thinking about Sonic Adventure 2 must have made me wistful for the Dreamcast, because we also ended up discussing Hideki Naganuma’s groundbreaking Jet Set Radio soundtrack. You can hear that conversation in the player below, or you can listen to the show on Spotify — which you should do, because then you can listen to the full versions of all the songs we discuss in the app.
What’s the most iconic Sonic track to you? Oh, and have you ever heard the song that Ice Cap Zone in Sonic 3 was based on? It’s a banger.