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Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Development/Music

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The music of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 stands as an ongoing conundrum for Sega due to the choices made during development. It is not fully understood how much of the soundtrack is owned by the company, due to having outsourced its production to third-parties - some of which have chosen to distance themselves from the project in later years.

History

Development

Soon after development on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was complete, core staff members Yuji Naka, Hirokazu Yasuhara, and Takashi Iizuka were brought back to Japan to begin work on Sonic the Hedgehog 3.[1] However, Masato Nakamura (responsible for composing the first two Mega Drive Sonic games) had since experienced a great deal of success with his band Dreams Come True and subsequently increased his contractual demands for producing a possible Sonic 3 soundtrack. Nakamura requested more royalties; both for his new music, and for the reuse of his compositions in the future. Sega of Japan declined, and had to look elsewhere for the composition power needed in such a big-budget title.

Michael Jackson assigned management duties to long-time friend and collaborator Brad Buxer.

Answering the call, Sega was reportedly approached by pop sensation Michael Jackson and his personal sound team. Jackson had a history with Sega (most notably producing Michael Jackson's Moonwalker early in the Mega Drive's lifespan) and had visited Sega's offices in Japan some months prior. As Jackson was both an avid video gamer and a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega accepted immediately. Curiously, a number of Sega of America's upper management, including president Tom Kalinske, recall that Jackson signed no official contracts for the project. Working with Sega of America (reportedly through the dedicated recording facilities at Sega Multimedia Studio), Jackson and his sound team produced a number of original compositions for the project. However, Jackson soon grew dissatisfied with the playback quality of the Mega Drive (likely the "crunchy" sample playback of Sonic 3's sound driver), and voluntarily chose to remove the majority of his compositions from the project.

Depsite Jackson removing his music from the project, his sound team would remain to compose some of the game's final tracks, and either through tribute or inspiration, allusions to the artist's musical style were incorporated into several songs. Much of the game’s new jack swing themes can be attributed to the influence of Jackson and his sound team, and Carnival Night Zone's theme even directly samples the 1991 Jackson song Jam. The soundtrack also features motifs commonly associated with the artist, such as rhythms being punctuated with the occasional “woo!”. Jackson’s presence in the final Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is mostly limited to inspiration, but two of his original compositions are thought to have remained in the retail release: Staff Roll is said to have been directly composed by Jackson, with its general chord progression being reused for the artist's 1995 song Stranger in Moscow, and the distinctive rolling drum beat of Knuckles’ Theme (and by extension, Sub-Boss Theme) had been previously co-composed by Buxer and Jackson for the 1991 recording of Blood on the Dance Floor. Ultimately, Jackson was not credited in either Sonic the Hedgehog 3 or the related Sonic & Knuckles, with credits going to the remaining members of his sound team (Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, Doug Grigsby III, and Scirocco), and with the Sega Sound Team and Cube treated as secondary to the "music composers".

STI's Howard Drossin, from the 1994 MTV television special Rock the Rock.

Additionally, Sega Technical Institute's in-house composer Howard Drossin, was brought in near the end of development to contribute a few themes and jingles to the Sonic 3 project, with most of his contributions being utilized in the later Sonic & Knuckles. Drossin also comments on Jackson's involvement, stating the artist had "nothing to do with the final product", confirming both his involvement and later departure.[2] Curiously, a few of Drossin's compositions in Sonic & Knuckles are used in Sonic 3 & Knuckles to replace Sonic 3 jingles created by Jackson's team.

Even without the involvement of Michael Jackson, it appears the soundtrack to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 underwent a number of changes during development. One of the game's Japanese composers, Miyoko Takaoka, revealed during fan correspondence that she composed the music for Marble Garden Zone and the bonus stage.[3] However, after being shown the bonus stage music in the final game, she did not recognize it as hers, believing her original composition may have gone unused. While she did not comment on Marble Garden Zone, fans familiar with her work claim the final theme does not sound like Takaoka's style. Another composer, Tomonori Sawada, states that he is no longer able to tell which composer created which track, likely due to him no longer having the documentation.[4]

Sega veteran Tokuhiko Uwabo was responsible for managing the game's sound development, which entailed assigning Sega staff to production work and contracting outside composers; he confirms he did not compose for the soundtrack itself.[5] Masaru Setsumaru and Masayuki Nagao (the latter credited to Opus, a sound company he was about to join) were tasked with sound programming, sound effect creation, and arranging music for playback through the Mega Drive's FM synthesis, also confirming they did not compose for the game[5]; Setsumaru later recalled "it was an honor to work on the same project as Michael Jackson."[6]

Composer Yoshiaki Kashima (also tasked with solely developing the entirety of the sound driver[6]) revealed in a 2001 interview that he composed Sonic 3's special stage theme, and that the theme had been previously created for the unreleased arcade title SegaSonic Bros..[7] He also stated he was unable to go into further detail due to confidentiality issues. Fellow composer Jun Senoue echoes these sentiments, stating in a 2010 Nintendo Power interview that he knows "quite a lot" about Jackson's involvement, but cannot disclose any information outside of crediting himself for the game's bonus stage themes.[8]

Legacy

Sonic 3 (also called Sonic & Knuckles) was a lot of fun, but it was also very difficult. Michael Jackson was originally brought in to compose all the music for the game, but at the very end, his work was dropped after his scandals became public. This caused a lot of problems and required a lot of reworking. But the game turned out great in the end.

— Roger Hector, General Manager of the Sega Technical Institute[9]

In an August 2005 interview, Roger Hector ("executive coordinator" of both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles) revealed that Michael Jackson had originally composed the entirety of the game's soundtrack, and additionally stated that the artist was later dropped due to his 1993 sexual abuse allegations[9] (which occurred around the same time). Hector later reaffirmed this statement in a second interview two years later, again claiming that the Jackson soundtrack was never heard by the general public.Media:Makingofs3kpg4.jpg[10] This marked the first public knowledge of Jackson's involvement with the game.

While Hector was not directly involved in the game's development, he was Sega Technical Institute's General Manager and worked directly with Jackson on a number of occasions. Hector claims he was responsible for both hiring and firing the artist, and for bringing in Howard Drossin to replace the offending music (since denied by Drossin[2]). He recalls Jackson's tracks "fitted perfectly for the game, and they had a distinctive 'Michael Jackson' sound. We had it all ready and integrated into the game when the first news stories came out accusing him [of] child molestation, and Sega had to back away from the collaboration... It was too bad nobody outside ever heard the Michael Jackson music."Media:Makingofs3kpg4.jpg[10] This stance was supported by Naoto Oshima in 2018. However, the majority of staff which worked with Jackson argues this was not the case. In particular, friend and collaborator Brad Buxer states that Jackson voluntarily chose to go uncredited due to his dissatisfaction with the playback quality of the Mega Drive (likely the "crunchy" sample playback of Sonic 3's sound driver). Buxer also reconfirmed that the decision was unrelated to the 1993 sexual abuse allegations.

Some time later, it was also discovered that the online discography for Cirocco Jones (credited as 'Scirocco' in Sonic 3) contains a listing for two pieces of untitled music from the project. Labelled "levels 2 & 3", and noting the tracks were composed by Michael Jackson for "Sonic The Hedgehog",[11] it is speculated this numbering refers to either a prototype Zone order or the internal production order of the compositions themselves. Correspondence between Jones and Sonic Retro members has revealed that Jackson's sound team worked "countless hours" with the artist on the soundtrack's production, additionally stating that "Sega owes them money" for unpaid work.[5]

Brad Buxer, one of Jackson's closest professional collaborators and the head of the artist's assigned sound team, was interviewed in December 2009 by Jackson fan magazine Black & White Magazine, where he confirmed that the game's final release of does contain at least one composition by Michael Jackson.[12] According to Buxer, Jackson requested to go uncredited due to dissatisfaction with the sound quality of the Mega Drive's YM-2612 sound chip. He also confirmed the relation between Jackson's "Stranger in Moscow" and Sonic 3's ending theme, and that said theme indeed uses chords originally composed by the two.


B&W: Can you clarify the rumor that Michael had in 1993 composed the music for Sonic 3 video game, for which you [have] been credited?

Buxer: I've never played the game so I do not know what tracks on which Michael and I have worked the developers have kept, but we did compose music for the game. Michael called me at the time for help on this project, and that's what I did.

And if he is not credited for composing the music, it's because he was not happy with the [resulting] sound coming out of the console. At the time, game consoles did not allow an optimal sound reproduction, and Michael found it frustrating. He did not want to be associated with a product that devalued his music...

B&W: One of the surprising things in this soundtrack is that you can hear the chords from Stranger in Moscow, which is supposed to have been composed later...

Buxer: Yes, Michael and I had composed those chords for the game, and it has been used as [the] base for Stranger in Moscow. [...]

— An excerpt from the Black & White Magazine interview with Brad Buxer[13]

In May 2019, Buxer was interviewed for YouTube show The MJCast[14] where he talked about the origin of Stranger in Moscow and his work on Sonic 3, describing how Jackson assigned him to start composing for the game and put him in charge of "delegating other people to help... like Doug Grigsby and Darryl Ross and other people." Buxer frames himself as being the lead on the Sonic 3 project, with Jackson having less personal involvement, and states the team had completed around 41 music cues for game - suggesting that every Act and Zone had a unique track composed for it (even Zones planned for Sonic & Knuckles). If true, it explains why Roger Hector feels people have never heard Michael Jackson's version of the soundtrack.

In 2016, Todd van Luling of the Huffington Post reached out to all of the Western composers involved in Sonic the Hedgehog 3's development.[15] The responding staff revealed that they were assembled by Jackson to assist him in composing music for the game, and that Jackson's music could still be heard in the final release. Additionally, with the 2019 release of the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 1993-11-03 prototype, it appears the music that Jackson's sound team produced was used to replace existing tracks composed by Sega's internal sound team, which would be first heard in Sonic & Knuckles Collection. This lends further credence to Michael Jackson deciding to go uncredited rather than Sega pulling the plug themselves (who could always revert to older, in-house compositions), as well as revealing the rather late nature of Jackson's involvement in the development process.

Legal issues

In the modern age, game companies have become increasingly wary of rereleasing games in their back catalog that they may not own the full rights to (particularly in regard to music and samples), and Sonic the Hedgehog 3's original soundtrack may have been presenting a problem as early as 1997. While Sega isn't thought to have been legally challenged on the game's music, when Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were brought to Windows PCs in the form of Sonic & Knuckles Collection, six tracks (Carnival Night, IceCap, Launch Base, the credits to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Knuckles' theme in Sonic 3 and the Competition menu) had entirely different compositions and both game's Mini-Boss themes defaulted to the Sonic & Knuckles version.

Initially, the new tracks were believed to be replacements to avoid rights issues. However, as these tracks are present in the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (prototype; 1993-11-03), it is speculated that the both the Mega Drive and PC versions may have been developed simultaneously. It is possible that these compositions were the original versions of their respective themes (i.e. what was originally planned before Michael Jackson's team was introduced), and only the Mega Drive development team received the compositions produced by Jackson's repertoire.

No subsequent Sonic game has ever revisited Carnival Night, IceCap, or Launch Base Zone. Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania avoid these levels, and likewise, the mini-boss theme has never been heard outside of Sonic 3. The lone exception is Lego Dimensions, which included Carnival Night and IceCap but sidestepped the issue by not licensing any music from the Mega Drive titles, opting instead to compose new soundalike tracks. Curiously, some of the replaced Sonic 3 jingles have turned up in later games (such as the title screen and 1-up theme), which would indicate Sega owns the rights to those. Most of Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure's soundtrack is lifted from Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles while typically avoiding the purportedly-offending tracks, but strangely uses Knuckles' theme from Sonic 3 for a cutscene.

Sonic 3 is less widely available than its Mega Drive counterparts - while included where it is expected (e.g. Sonic Jam or Sonic Mega Collection), it is often neglected in budget Mega Drive consoles (particularly those made by AtGames). It is also notably absent from the 2018 release of Sega Mega Drive Classics, despite virtually every other first-party Mega Drive game making an appearance. While Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley offered to develop a remastered version of Sonic 3 in line with their mobile versions of Sonic CD, Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, Sega chose not to pursue remastering the game until the release of Sonic Origins in 2022.

List of tracks

This is a work in progress list to identify the sound team and composer(s) behind each track in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Of particular interest is whether said tracks have made reappearances in future Sonic games, indicating they are likely owned by Sega and do not present copyright complications.
Sonic Retro
Discussion Thread
.

Zones


Angel Island Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Angelisland.png
01
ALL
Sega
???
02
ALL
Sega
???
When arranged for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, credit is given solely to Jun Senoue (later debunked by Senoue himself). It was speculated that Tomonori Sawada is the Zone's composer, but confirmed in a 2015 SoundCloud message that he only composed Sonic the Hedgehog 3's title screen theme and some additional jingles.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 1 & 2), Sonic Generations (Act 1), Sonic Mania (Act 1, first 15 seconds only), Sonic Mania Plus (Act 1), Sonic Mania Adventures (Act 1 & 2), True Blue: The Best of Sonic the Hedgehog (Act 1 & 2), and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Act 1 & 2).


Hydrocity Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
HydrocityAct1.png
03
ALL
Sega
???
04
ALL
Opus
Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)[16]
The online discography for Cirocco Jones (credited as 'Scirocco' in Sonic 3) contains a listing for two pieces of untitled music from the game. Labelled "levels 2 & 3", and crediting to tracks to Michael Jackson for "Sonic The Hedgehog"[11], it is speculated this numbering refers to either a prototype Zone order or the internal production order of the compositions themselves. Jones also lists a track titled "The Water", but does not clarify if this is a third track or a title for one of the aforementioned two.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 1 & 2), Sonic Generations (Act 1), and Sonic Mania (Act 1 & 2).


Marble Garden Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Marblegarden.png
05
ALL
Cube
Miyoko Takaoka (Composer)[3]
06
ALL
Cube
Miyoko Takaoka (Composer)
In 2014, Miyoko Takaoka revealed during fan correspondence that she composed the music for Marble Garden Zone and the game's bonus stage.[3] However, after being shown the bonus stage music in the final game, she did not recognize it as hers, believing her original composition may have gone unused. While she did not comment on Marble Garden Zone, fans familiar with her work claim the final theme does not sound like Takaoka's style. During a 2020 Sonic Live event, Takaoka was credited for the song x being used as background music.[17]
Reappears in Sonic Generations (Act 1).


Carnival Night Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Carnivalnight.png
07
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
???
08
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Opus
Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
S3
M.J.
???
Both Acts of the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 version are directly inspired by the 1991 Michael Jackson song "Jam", most notably in the use of a horn-based "downwards fall". The final note in this sequence is accompanied by a distorted "crashing glass" sample taken directly from the song "Jam". The relatively-poor fidelity of the sample's playback supports Brad Buxer's 2009 claim that Michael Jackson left the project from dissatisfaction over the Mega Drive's sound quality. Identical notes between the two songs are highlighted in red:
Michael Jackson Jam and Carnival Night Zone comparison.png
Both acts also contain rhythms inspired by "Entry of the Gladiators" by Julius Fučík, a public domain piece commonly associated with circuses.
Certain bars from the 1993-11-03 prototype's Act 2 theme were used in Sonic Drift 2, crediting Masayuki Nagao & Saori Kobayashi.
Does not reappear in future media.


Flying Battery Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
FlyingBatteryAct1.png
09
ALL
Sega
???
0A
ALL
Sega
???
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 2), Sonic Generations (Act 1), Sonic Mania (Act 1 & 2), and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Act 1 & 2).


IceCap Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Icecap.png
0B
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
Brad Buxer (Composer)
0C
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
Brad Buxer (Composer)
The Sonic 3 version is directly based on the song "Hard Times", an unreleased 1982 new wave single by Brad Buxer's band The Jetzons[18], which went unheard by the general public until its inclusion on the 2008 compilation album The Complete Jetzons.[19]. While Jackson was not involved with the song, a section of the artist's famous "Smooth Criminal" shares chord structures with Act 1. While these specific chords were somewhat common in contemporary R&B music (even appearing in Jackson's later "Who Is It"), the familiarity of "Smooth Criminal" and interest in Jackson's involvement resulted in long-standing community speculation that Ice Cap Zone was one of Michael Jackson's uncredited compositions.
The prototype Sonic 3 version is speculated to have been composed by Tomonori Sawada, due to distinct similarities between it and Crystal Egg Zone's theme from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit).
Does not reappear in future media.


Launch Base Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Launchbase.png
0D
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
???
0E
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
???
The Sonic 3 version is speculated to have been composed by Michael Jackson and his sound team.
Does not reappear in future media.


Mushroom Hill Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
MushroomHillAct1.png
0F
ALL
Sega
???
10
ALL
Sega
???
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 1), Sonic Generations (Act 1 & 2), and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Act 1).


Sandopolis Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sandopolis.png
11
ALL
Sega
???
12
ALL
Sega
???
A Howard Drossin composition bearing the same name was included in the 1996 album Virtual Sonic. However, it is a completely different song from the one which actually appears in Sonic 3.
Reappears in Team Sonic Racing and 'Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3.


Lava Reef Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Lavareef.png
13
ALL
Sega
???
14
ALL
Opus
Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
Act 2's theme would later be repurposed for Sonic & Knuckles's Hidden Palace Zone.
Reappears in Sonic Mania (Act 2) and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Act 1).

Sky Sanctuary Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Skysanctuary.png
15
ALL
Sega
???
Act 1's theme would later be repurposed for Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 3 & Knuckles's ending cutscene themes.
It was speculated that Tomonori Sawada is the Zone's composer, but confirmed in a 2015 SoundCloud message that he only composed Sonic the Hedgehog 3's title screen theme and some additional jingles. Masaru Setsumara has also confirmed he is not the Zone's composer.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 1), Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Act 1), Sonic Generations (Act 1), Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Act 1), and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Act 1).


Death Egg Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
DeathEggAct1.png
16
ALL
Sega
???
17
ALL
Sega
???
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (Act 1), Sonic Generations (Act 1), and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Act 1).

Bosses


Sub-Boss Theme ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Aizsubboss.png
18
S3 Proto, S&K, PC, Origins
Sega
???
2E
S3
M.J.
Brad Buxer (Composer)
The Sonic 3 version is derived from the original version of "Knuckles' Theme" from the same game, with Geoff Grace credited as its arranger. It shares similar chord progression with Michael Jackson's "Is It Scary", recorded one year prior to the game's release. Notably, "Is It Scary" was intended for use in the 1993 film Addams Family Values, but its inclusion was cancelled after contractual issues. Alongside Buxer's reuse of his song "Hard Times" for Ice Cap Zone's theme, this reveals that Jackson's sound team were recycling their past, unreleased material for inclusion in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (likely due to the late nature of their requested involvement).
A bug in Sonic 3 causes the Sonic & Knuckles version of the theme to play. This programming oversight (where the game loads the music at ID 18 instead of 2E) reveals the late nature of Jackson and his sound team's involvement in Sonic 3. The 1993-11-03 prototype seems to support this theory, as it only contains the Sonic & Knuckles version.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3, and Virtual Sonic (voice samples).

Boss Theme ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Aizboss.png
19
ALL
Opus
Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
Masayuki Nagao is credited to this composition through his song "Final GP", a track he co-composed with Saori Kobayashi for 1995's Sonic Drift 2.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Sonic Drift 2, and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3.

The Doomsday Zone ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
DoomsdayLevel.PNG
1A
ALL
Sega
???
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Sonic Generations (Nintendo 3DS) (2011 demo)[20], and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3.

Final Boss Theme (Big Arm) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
LBZBoss3Tails.png
30
ALL
Sega
???
"Final Boss Theme" is notably high on Sonic 3's internal track listing, suggesting it was later addition to the project. It is also present in the October 1993 prototype, indicating it may have been created after it was decided to split the game in two.
Reappears in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Sonic Generations (Nintendo 3DS), Sonic Mania Adventures, and Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3.

Bonus stages

Bonus Stage (Rolling Jump) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Magspheres.png
1B
ALL
Sega
???
Also known as the "Glowing Spheres Bonus Stage", it is the first of three parts of track 7 (Rings And Diamonds Land) on the 1994 soundtrack Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 arranged by Akinori Minami. Although VGMdb lists the first section of that track as being composed by Jun Senoue, no evidence on the disc's physical documentation lists composers to associate with any of its tracks.

Special Stage (Blue Spheres) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
S3k specialstage.png
1C
ALL
Sega
Yoshiaki Kashima (Composer)[7]
Was recycled from the unreleased SegaSonic Bros. for the Sega System C2 in 1992 from Stage 40 to 49 gameplay music. The music is also listed as track 15 on the compilation CD Sonic the Hedgehog 10th Anniversary and was rearranged by Tee Lopes for Sonic Mania. The tune is also featured as the third of three parts on track 7 (Rings And Diamonds Land) of the 1994 soundtrack Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 arranged by Akinori Minami.

Bonus Stage (Slot Machine) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic&Knuckles MD BonusSlotMachine.png
1D
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer & Arrangement)
The tune is featured as the second of three parts on track 7 (Rings And Diamonds Land) of the 1994 soundtrack Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 arranged by Akinori Minami.
Was also arranged for Cosmic Casino Zone Act 2 in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.
One of the unused music found in the Mega Drive 825 prototype of Sonic 3D (
YouTube
as demonstrated by Sonic 3D's game designer and implementer Jon Burton
) includes this tune as a placeholder for Knuckles' Special Stage, during the time each Special Stage was developed to have their own tunes. He credits the tune to Jun Senoue.

Bonus Stage (Gumball Machine) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Bubblegum.png
1E
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer)[8]
Confirmed through an interview with the composer.
Was also arranged for Cosmic Casino Zone Act 1 in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Competition mode

Azure Lake ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Azure Lake Zone.png
20
ALL
Sega
???
Was arranged for Sky Chase Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Balloon Park ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Balloonpark.png
21
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer)[21]
Was arranged for two Challenge Act themes in Sonic Generations (as a standalone arrangement, and another combined with the Quick Race theme from Sonic Heroes). Composition credit shared with Sega Sound Team on the Sonic Generations Original Soundtrack: Blue Blur music CD (Disc 2, Track 24).

Desert Palace ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Desertpalace.png
22
ALL
Sega
???
Was arranged for Gigantic Angel Zone Act 1 in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Chrome Gadget ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Chromegadget.png
23
ALL
Sega
???
Was arranged for Gigantic Angel Zone Act 2 in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Endless Mine ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Endlessmine.png
24
ALL
Sega
???
The melody bears similarities to "Escape from the City" from Sonic Adventure 2, composed by Jun Senoue. However, Senoue himself has stated that said track is not based on Endless Mine Zone's music[22], nor does he mention working on this piece. Regardless, Cash Cash incorporated the melody for this piece in their Act 1 arrangement of "Escape from the City" for Sonic Generations, during which the player controls Classic Sonic. The original music composition for this arrangement is solely attributed to Senoue on the Blue Blur soundtrack CD.

Themes/Jingles

Knuckles' Theme ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD AIZ1 Knuckles1.png
1F
S3 Proto, PC
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
Brad Buxer (Composer)
S&K, PC, Origins
Sega
Howard Drossin (Composer), Masaru Setsumaru (Programming)
Music used in the prototype occurs during cutscenes with Knuckles at the end of AIZ Act 2 & HZ Act 2 (but not at start of AIZ Act 1). The same music is used in the Sonic & Knuckles Collection PC version. The Sonic 3 version of the 4-bar swinging hip-hop beat was heavily inspired by the drumbeat of "Blood on the Dance Floor", a single by Michael Jackson (with drum programming credited to Brad Buxer) recorded three years earlier. Howard Drossin's tune is featured as track 12 of the 1994 soundtrack Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 arranged by Akinori Minami, and track 2 (Knucklemania) of the 1996 album Virtual Sonic.
Strangely, the Sonic 3 final version of the theme was arranged for the first half of the cutscene that follows the Knuckles boss fight in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.
The Sonic 3 prototype/PC version is the only song from those versions to not be included in Sonic Origins, not even in the Museum.

Title Screen ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 title.png
25
S3C, S3, PC, Origins
Sega / Opus
Tomonori Sawada (Composer)[23], Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
S&K, PC
Sega
Howard Drossin (Composer)[24], Masaru Setsumaru (Programming)
Title screen music changes in the PC version based on the game combination the player chooses to play. Howard Drossin's tune is featured as track 1 of the 1994 soundtrack Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 arranged by Akinori Minami, and track 6 of the 1996 album Virtual Sonic.
Sonic 3's title theme was arranged for the title theme of Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, as well as that game's Special Stage and credits themes.
Masayuki Nagao is associated with this tune via sound credits in Sonic Drift 2's invincibility theme, it being derivative from the Sonic 3 Title Screen theme.

Staff Roll ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD CreditsStart.png
26
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
Brad Buxer (Composer)
S3C Proto
Various
Various
S&K, PC, Origins
Sega
Various
Staff roll used in the PC version accessible through Sound Test of the prototype.
The Sonic 3 version was the basis of a Buxer-Jackson collaboration "Stranger In Moscow", as confirmed in the Black & White magazine interview, and episode 100 of TheMJCast audio interview. Brad Buxer used the same chords. The synth/strings section, as heard in the intro before the lyrics start, is identical to the sequence that plays during the first section of the staff roll. Particularly unusual about this find is that Stranger In Moscow was not released until a full two years after Sonic 3. It has been suggested that the staff roll may have been a prototype to this song.
The Sonic 3C 0517 prototype changed the staff roll music to a medley that incorporate themes from Zones of the S3 & S&K games. However, the final mix is a medley of S&K Zones only.
The Sonic Origins version uses the prototype/PC staff roll theme for the ending sequence if all the Super Emeralds have been collected, and the S&K medley for the credits.

Game Over ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD GameOver.png
27
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer & Arrangement)
Is credited in the Mega Drive version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island for the same cue[25]. Also used for the "Time Over" cue if spending 10 minutes in an Act.
Was later used in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania.

2-Player Results (Competition) ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
S3 2player.png
28
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer & Arrangement)
Is credited in the Mega Drive version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island as the Continue Screen music and the Congratulations Screen music when unlocking the Level Select via a critical error[25]. This music was also used as the Continue Screen music, and the No Way? No Way! Screen music when locking the S&K cart onto another Mega Drive cart, and used for the Continue screen in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Act Clear ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
SonicCanMoveDuringScoreTally.png
29
ALL
Sega
Jun Senoue (Composer & Arrangement)
Is credited in the Mega Drive version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island for the same cue.[25]

Extra Life ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD ExtraLife.png
2A
S3 Proto, S3, PC, Origins
Sega / Opus
Tomonori Sawada (Composer), Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
S&K, PC, Origins
Sega
Howard Drossin (Composer), Masaru Setsumaru (Programming & Arrangement)
S3 version based off the S3 title screen. Likely one of the jingles Sawada referred to composing. This piece was used in a Progressive Insurance commercial in 2012. S&K version uses the tune of the S&K title screen. This tune is likely associated with Drossin. The PC version switches depending on the game combination the player chooses to play.
The S3 version was later used as the extra life jingle in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Mania, while the S&K version was later used in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure and the Mega Drive version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island.
Masayuki Nagao is associated with this tune via sound credits in Sonic Drift 2's invincibility theme, it being derivative from the Sonic 3 Title Screen theme.
Sonic Origins switches between both versions depending on the mode. The S3 version is used when getting Coins in Anniversary Mode, Mirror Mode and Story Mode, while the S&K version is used for extra lives in Classic Mode.

Chaos Emerald ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD ChaosEmerald.png
2B
ALL
Sega
Yukifumi Makino (Composer & Arrangement)
Used as early as Sonic the Hedgehog for the Mega Drive.

Invincibility Theme ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
S3Invincibility.PNG
2C
S3 Proto, S3, PC
Sega / Opus
Tomonori Sawada (Composer), Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
S&K, PC, Origins
Sega
Howard Drossin (Composer), Masaru Setsumaru (Programming)
S3 version based off the S3 title screen. Likely one of the jingles Sawada referred to composing. Was also used during a Progressive Insurance commercial in 2012.
S&K version uses the tune of the S&K title screen. This tune is likely associated with Drossin. Was also used in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.
Also used as the theme to the character's Super/Hyper transformation. The PC version switches depending on the game combination the player chooses to play.
Also remixed in 1995's Sonic Drift 2 as the
YouTube
Invincibility
theme. This game credits Masayuki Nagao & Saori Kobayashi for sound.

Competition Screen ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
S3competitionscreen.png
2D
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
S3
M.J.
???
Prototype didn't use music (was only accessible in the Sound Test), but is used for the Competition Menu in Sonic & Knuckles Collection and Sonic Origins. Mega Drive version is the only MJ team-composed track to use regular drums rather than samples exclusive to it.
It's speculated that parts of the Michael Jackson song
YouTube
You Rock My World
was used as the basis for this tune.

Unused Theme ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Notavailable.svg
2E
S3 Proto, PC, Origins
Sega
???
Replaced with the sub-boss music in the Mega Drive release.
Sonic Origins later uses the theme for the difficulty rating screen in New Blue Spheres.

Data Select ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD DataSelect.png
2F
ALL
Sega
Masaru Setsumaru (Programming & Arrangement)
Appears as a remixed tune in 1997's Sonic Jam during the Gallery visit. The credits of the compilation game's music shows Masaru Setsumaru & Kenichi Tokoi as composers. Tokoi joined Sega in 1996, and likely might not be his composition. This leaves credit to Setsumaru for this tune. However, He confirmed he was not the composer, and didn't know who was.
This piece has also been remixed by Naofumi Hataya for Sonic Gems Collection as "Sonic3 MegaD Mix" and was later included in the 2008 CD True Blue: The History of Sonic the Hedgehog. It was also rearranged for the Gallery Room in Sonic Generations and is included in the game's Blue Blur soundtrack. In all instances, the original game composition is broadly attributed to "Sega".
Was also arranged for the menu theme in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

Drowning Countdown ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD DrowningCountdown.png
31
ALL
Sega
Yukifumi Makino (Composer & Arrangement)
Used as early as Sonic the Hedgehog for the Mega Drive.

All Clear ID Version(s) Team Credit(s)
Sonic3 MD Ending Sonic.png
32
S3, PC
Sega / Opus
Tomonori Sawada (Composer), Masayuki Nagao (Arrangement)
S&K, Origins
Sega
Howard Drossin (Composer), Masaru Setsumaru (Programming)
The S3 version was later used for the results tally after clearing Chaotic Space Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.
The S&K version is unused in most versions. Was later used in Sonic Origins for the results tally after clearing Launch Base Zone Act 2.

List of samples

Download.svg Download Sonic 3 Samples (WAV Format)
File: S3sampswav.rar (125 kB) (info)
The DAC audio samples located within the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 ROM (
Sonic Retro
originally extracted by Stealth
) are listed here as part of an ongoing project to locate where they came from.
Sonic Retro
Discussion Thread
.
DAC Audio Samples List ID Type Source Description / Usage
81 Drum Snare
82 Drum Same as 83, 84, 85 Tom
83 Drum Same as 82, 84, 85 Tom
84 Drum Same as 82, 83, 85 Tom
85 Drum Same as 82, 83, 84 Tom
86 Drum Kick
87 Drum Snare
88 Drum Kick + Cymbal
89 Drum HiHat
8A SFX Same as 8B Hit (Metal)
8B SFX Same as 8A Hit (Metal)
8C SFX Pop, Click
8D Drum Same as 8E
8E Drum Same as 8D
8F Clap
90 Drum Same as 91, 92, 93 E.Tom
91 Drum Same as 90, 92, 93 E.Tom
92 Drum Same as 90, 91, 93 E.Tom
93 Drum Same as 90, 91, 92 E.Tom
94 Drum Same as 95, 96, 97 E.Snare
95 Drum Same as 94, 96, 97 E.Snare
96 Drum Same as 94, 95, 97 E.Snare
97 Drum Same as 94, 95, 96 E.Snare
98 Drum Same as 99, 9A Timpani
99 Drum Same as 98, 9A Timpani
9A Drum Same as 98, 99 Timpani
9B Drum Snare
9C SFX Shaker
9D SFX Kick (Distorted)
9E SFX Hit
9F Sample (Original) Michael Jackson: "Jam" "Jam!" long (Played at 13.5kHz) / Carnival Night Zone
A0 Sample (Original) Michael Jackson: "Jam" "Jam!" short (Played at 13.5kHz) / Carnival Night Zone
A1 Sample (Original) Michael Jackson: "In The Closet" ([1]) Glass Break 1 / Carnival Night Zone
A2 Sample (Original) Michael Jackson: "In The Closet" ([2]) Glass Break 2 / Carnival Night Zone, Launch Base Zone
A3 SFX Hit
A4 Drum Kick (Muted)
A5 Sample (Sample Pack) Norman Cook: "Skip To My Loops" (Track 64) "Come On!" / Sub-Boss Theme (S3)
A6 Drum E.Snare
A7 Drum Kick (Vintage)
A8 Drum Kick (Processed)
A9 Sample (Sample Pack) Norman Cook: "Skip To My Loops" (Track 64) "Woo!", "HUH" / Sub-Boss Theme (S3)
AA Sample (Sample Pack) Run-DMC: "Peter Piper" (1:56) "Go!" / Launch Base Zone
AB Sample (Edited Sample Pack) Same as AA sample with snare drum added "Go!" + Snare / Launch Base Zone
AC Drum Kick (Processed)
AD Percussion Same as AE Hit (Wooden)
AE Percussion Same as AD Hit (Wooden)
AF Percussion Same as B0 Hit (Metal)
B0 Percussion Same as AF Hit (Metal)
B1 SFX Sci-Fi Sound
B2 Clap Same as B3 / Knuckles' Theme (S3)
B3 Clap Same as B2 / Knuckles' Theme (S3)
B4 Sample Same as C1, C2, C3, C4 Chord Stab
B5 Sample Chord Stab
B6 Sample (Original) James Brown: "Say It Loud, I'm Black & I'm Proud" ([3]) "Yeah", "Hey" + Kick / Knuckles' Theme (S3), Sub-Boss Theme (S3)
B7 Drum Kick
B8 Sample Same as B9 Chord Stab
B9 Sample Same as B8 Chord Stab
BA SFX Cymbal (Reversed)
BB SFX Record Scratch
BC Sample Chord Stab
BD Drum Kick
BE Sample (Edited Sample Pack) Same as A9 plus glass break added "Woo!" + Glass Break / Sub-Boss Theme (S3)
BF SFX Click
C0 Sample (Original [?]) Breath
C1 Sample Same as B4, C2, C3, C4 Chord Stab
C2 Sample Same as B4, C1, C3, C4 Chord Stab
C3 Sample Same as B4, C1, C2, C4 Chord Stab
C4 Sample Same as B4, C1, C2, C3 Chord Stab
XX Sample Similar to BC Chord Stab


List of sound staff

Name Group Role Description
Tokuhiko Uwabo Sega Sound Team Sound Director Tokuhiko "Bo" Uwabo is a composer and Sega Sound Team member responsible for managing the game's sound development, which entailed assigning Sega staff to production work and contracting outside composers; he confirms he did not compose for the soundtrack itself.[5]
Sachio Ogawa Sega Sound Team Sachio Ogawa is a composer and Sega Sound Team member.
Yoshiaki Kashima Sega Sound Team Sound Programmer, Sound Designer, Sound Driver Programming Yoshiaki Kashima is a sound programmer and sound designer with Sega Sound Team, tasked with creating Sonic the Hedgehog 3's music driver entirely by himself.[6]
Masaru Setsumaru Sega Sound Team Sound Programmer, Arranger Masaru Setsumaru is a sound programmer and Sega Sound Team member. He is one of few Sega of Japan employees to confirm Jackson's involvement in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Tatsuyuki Maeda Sega Sound Team Composer Tatsuyuki Maeda is a composer and Sega Sound Team member.
Tomonori Sawada Sega Sound Team Composer Tomonori Sawada is a composer and Sega Sound Team member.
Masayuki Nagao Sega Sound Team Sound Programmer, Arranger Masayuki Nagao is a sound programmer and arranger with Sega Sound Team. As Nagao was preparing to migrate to a new job at Opus, he is credited to said company instead.
Jun Senoue Sega Sound Team Composer Jun Senoue is a composer and Sega Sound Team member. He is one of few Sega of Japan employees to confirm Jackson's involvement in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Miyoko Takaoka Cube Composer Miyoko Takaoka is a composer. She is credited to Cube, the sound production company she was contracted through.[6] Between her and fellow Cube composer Masanori Hikichi, they created a total of eight tracks for the project.[26]
Masanori Hikichi Cube Composer Masanori Hikichi is a composer. She is credited to Cube, the sound production company she was contracted through.[6] Between him and fellow Cube composer Miyoko Takaoka, they created a total of eight tracks for the project.[26]
Masanori Nakayama Studio Who Masanori Nakayama served an unknown role in the soundtrack's production. He receives a Sound Special Thanks in Sonic 3's credits.
Michael Jackson Jackson's sound team Composer Michael Jackson was an American pop music artist who became involved in the composition of Sonic the Hedgehog 3's soundtrack relatively late in development, bringing a number of members of his personal sound team to the project.
Brad Buxer Jackson's sound team Composer, Arranger Brad Buxer is a composer and one of Michael Jackson's closest professional collaborators at the time. He is one of three members of Jackson's sound team to confirm the artist's involvement in the project through the 2016 Huffington Post article.[15]
Robert Green "Bobby" Brooks Jackson's sound team Audio Engineer Bobby Brooks is an audio engineer and long-time collaborator of Michael Jackson and his siblings.
Darryl Ross Jackson's sound team Audio Engineer Darryl Ross is an audio engineer and Michael Jackson collaborator.
Geoff Grace Jackson's sound team Composer Geoff Grace is a composer and Michael Jackson collaborator.
Doug Grigsby III Jackson's sound team Producer Doug Grigsby III is a producer and long-time Michael Jackson collaborator. He is one of three members of Jackson's sound team to confirm the artist's involvement in the project through the 2016 Huffington Post article.[15]
C. Cirocco "Scirocco" Jones Jackson's sound team Producer C. Cirocco Jones is a producer and Michael Jackson collaborator. He is one of three members of Jackson's sound team to confirm the artist's involvement in the project through the 2016 Huffington Post article.[15]
Mayumi Nina Sakazaki Jackson's sound team Coordinator Mayumi Nina Sakazaki ("MRM") was Michael Jackson's long-time Japanese coordinator, personally responsible for assisting the artist while working in the country. She is given a special thanks in Sonic 3's credits.
Howard Drossin Sega Technical Institute Composer Howard Drossin is Sega Technical Institute's in-house composer. He recalls being called into the project at the last minute to create a number of jingles for Sonic 3, most of which would go unused until the release of Sonic & Knuckles. He receives a Sound Special Thanks in Sonic 3's credits.
Roger Hector Sega Technical Institute General Manager Roger Hector was Sega Technical Institute's General Manager, and while not directly involved in sound production, was responsible for a number of important decisions relating to Michael Jackson's involvement with Sonic 3. Hector states that he was the one officially responsible for both hiring and firing Jackson, and for assigning Howard Drossin to replace the offending music. Hector was the first person within Sega to bring the artist's involvement to light, and is the source of the claim that Jackson was fired over his 1993 sexual abuse allegations.

Interviews

External links

References

  1. The Story of Sonic Team – 1997 Developer Interview
  2. 2.0 2.1 Howard Drossin interview by SageXPO (August 2008)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Miyoko Kobayashi confirming credit for Marble Garden on her personal Twitter
  4. https://imgur.com/o7TQff6
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 [
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: Stuff I've gotten from the Sonic 3 music team; post #662546 by Dissident93
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: Stuff I've gotten from the Sonic 3 music team; post #662546 by Dissident93
    ]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 [
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: New info on MJ involvement?; post #764635 by Dissident93
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: New info on MJ involvement?; post #764635 by Dissident93
    ]
  7. 7.0 7.1 Milpo Interview by LOst (July 23, 2001)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jun Senoue interview by LOst (June 2002)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Roger Hector interview by hxc (August 2005)
  10. 10.0 10.1 File:Makingofs3kpg4.jpg
  11. 11.0 11.1 Cirocco Jones' website (Wayback Machine: 2006-11-14 05:59)
  12. https://vgmdb.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3511
  13. Brad Buxer Interview (Black & White, November/December 2009)
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W06T6whrqQs
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 https://testkitchen.huffingtonpost.com/michaeljacksonsonic/
  16. Masayuki Nagao#Sonic the Hedgehog 3
  17. https://youtu.be/QdU6AvbGyHg?t=1663
  18. Even more Sonic 3 music details emerge
  19. Fervor Records at Center of Sonic The Hedgehog / Michael Jackson Musical Mystery
  20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXWMurAdls
  21. SONIC GENERATIONS ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK BLUE BLUR on VGMdb
  22. Jun Senoue answering a fan's question on Twitter
  23. Screenshot showing the messages between Tomonori Sawada and a fan
  24. Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Development/Music#Howard_Drossin
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 [
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: The "Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles" Quest for Music Composer Research; post #951242 by ICEknight
    Sonic Retro
    Sonic Retro forum thread: The "Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles" Quest for Music Composer Research; post #951242 by ICEknight
    ]
  26. 26.0 26.1 Cube's old list of works (Wayback Machine: 2004-04-03 19:31)


Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic3 title.png

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