Video game concerts make everything better. Today’s livestreamed video game concert of Sonic music was so damn great it had me crying in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon—as opposed to my regularly scheduled Thursday cry.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog’s arrival on the Sega Genesis. In the lead up to today’s birthday celebration, Sega added the blue blur to damn near everything. I can play in a Sonic costume in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. I can add Sonic arcade cabinets to my NICU unit in Two-Point Hospital, and if I’ve got 150 bucks laying around, I can pre-order a blinged-out Sonic necklace. But that’s all small potatoes compared to what went down today. To celebrate the 30th year since Sonic spin-dashed into our hearts, Sega put on a concert with the The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra that could reawaken the inner 13-year-old in even the staunchest Sonic cynic.
Seriously, watch this magic:
For close to two hours we were treated to orchestral and then pop-rock renditions of some of the Sonic series’ greatest jams, spanning multiple console generations and hitting some of the spin-off games in between. Y’all, if you need an instant hit of “feel-good” and don’t have any chemical (plant) substances handy, shoving this concert into your earholes is the next best thing. There were no skippable performances. Period. I know the Sonic community at large likes to shit on Sonic ‘06, and rightly so, but we’re not gonna pretend “His World” doesn’t slap.
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Midway through the performance, during an intermission, Masato Nakamura, composer on the first two Sonic games, appeared to thank fans for their years of support. It was so heartwarming watching him animatedly speak about his experiences working on Sonic knowing he was the guy responsible for my memories of gushing with my cousin about Chemical Plant Zone’s killer vibe.
After the break, the concert shifted to Sonic’s later years and ditched the violins for guitar-driven metal courtesy of Sega’s Tomoya Ohtani Band and then Crush 40 themselves. A lot of the 3D Sonic games aren’t that well known to me. But listening to the music from those games presented in this fun, well-produced, and communal way bridged the gap between the Sonic music that I love and the music I was simply aware of. There was something infectiously happy about listening to “Endless Possibility” from Sonic Unleashed that made me want to go back and play the game (werehog sections excluded, of course).
The concert had a surprisingly thoughtful production quality that took it from a simple livestream to an event that had everyone in chat and on my Twitter feed rocking the hell out. Toward the end, Crush 40, the band responsible for a lot of 3D-era Sonic bangers, came on to perform some of their Dreamcast and later Sonic hits. When their set ended, the screen faded to black as though the concert was over. Then words appeared on screen, asking if the audience wanted one more song in increasingly bigger fonts, ending with the phrase “follow me.”
Even I, someone who doesn’t have the same deep and abiding affection for Sonic Adventure 2 as others, knew what that meant and couldn’t help but tear up and sing along. If you watch nothing else of this concert, watch this ending number. Thank you Sega, for a heartwarming, tear-inducing, nostalgic happy-time-memory-recalling performance that surpassed all expectations. And happy birthday Sonic. I hope you stick around for 30 more years.