Review Summary: Everything's just like an illusion.
The unprecedented success of Sonic Adventure – and its own short-lived, well-loved system, the Dreamcast – inevitably meant that it was going to be copied, in some form, by the games that followed it, for SEGA certainly was/is not averse to making money hand-over-fist, and what better way to follow a hit than with a sequel? And Sonic Adventure 2 was greeted with a special kind of enthusiasm beyond what it altogether deserved; it was an ambitious sequel to the fairly audacious Sonic Adventure, boasting slicker-looking graphics, new mechanics, and an all-new, “multi-dimensional” soundtrack; so new, in fact, that’s almost impossible to compare the sound of Sonic Adventure with the sound of its sequel. They are completely different entities, which is where we run into a difficulty.
Sonic Adventure’s pop-infused soundtrack was very similar to the 90’s pop and synthrock that defined the classic Genesis games; although Adventure had a lot more funk, jazz, and rock in comparison, it was still definitely very poppy, very accessible, and very “Sonic”. Sonic Adventure 2 all but discards that *** in favor of a brand new sound. An enormous amount of musical talent was gathered together for Sonic Adventure – the composers alone consist of Fumie Kumatani (jazz, classical), Tomoya Ohtani (hip-hop, R&B), Heigo Tani (industrial, electronica), Kenichi Tokoi (classical, pop) and, of course, Jun Senoue (AOR, metal, pop). If it sounds like a lot, that’s basically it totally is. SA2’s OST is a huge amalgamation of influences, made by a group of very talented, very excited people looking to create a “multi-dimensional” soundtrack. It’s an album that wants to offer a little something for everybody, and it succeeds, at the cost of making the entire project feel very erratic and unbalanced.
There’s a great deal of hard rock at play here. The fast-moving, ska-like “Metal Harbor”, the synth-infused “This Way Out” and “Remember Me M.F.M.”, the restless “Unstable World”, the dueling guitars of “Boss: -GUN- Mobile” and prog-influenced “Keys The Ruins”. In that regard, the natural response would be assume that Sonic Adventure 2’s primary genre is hard rock. But that’s not quite correct. Far on the other hand, there’s quite a bit of hip-hop going on in Adventure 2, courtesy of Tomoya Ohtani. There’s “Wild Canyon” with its saxual content and groovy electric pianos, the jazzy, processed “Dive Into The Mellow”, the elegant, disco-esque “Space Trip Steps”. Oh, and there’s lyrics like these:
"E-chi-do-na, that's what I'm represtin'
Never seen a mic hog spit like a menace
Wild Canyon fun, I gotta chase a bat, ha
Yeah, Rouge, she's sexy and smooth
A double-cross spy thief that's out for my jewels, ah
I'm feelin her in mysterious ways"
In addition, there’s quite a bit of jazz going on, courtesy of Fumie Kumatani and mezzo-soprano Tabitha Fair, from the lush-sounding, major-key masterpiece that is “Bright Sound” to the Latin-inspired “I’m A Spy”; there’s also “Mad Space”, which plays with a very peculiar 7/8 time signature. There’s also a lot of industrial (“Rhythm And Balance”, “The Supernatural”), electronica (“Shut Up Faker”, “For True Story”, “Trespasser”), and classical orchestral music (“Black Noises”, “Strategy”, “Conquest”).
It’s a melting pot of sounds and influences, and it’s the album’s greatest flaw. There’s just so much going on that it becomes unassailable, over-produced nonsense after a while. The soundtrack is chockablock full of big production numbers. There aren’t a whole lot of toe-tappers in this soundtrack, save for a handful of really catchy tunes like hard-rocking “Live and Learn” or the blissful, nostalgic “Escape From The City”.
With that said, Sonic Adventure 2 does contain some really, really good tunes, some of the best in the series. Almost every song on here, even the mediocre ones, have something memorable and likable about them, be it the lush pop vibe on “Mission Street”, the incredibly peaceful “Chao Garden” (or it’s “Hero Garden” variation), the summery “Professor Omochao”, the flawless key changes in “Deep Inside Of”, or the unforgettable bridge of “The Supernatural”, wherein Everett Bradley descends into scatting that’s filtered to sound incredibly gritty and mysterious. There’s a good deal of awesome vocal numbers as well. “Believe in Myself” (Kaz Silver) is a snazzy melodic rock tune with a beautiful chorus (much better than the dire, slow-burning bore that was the SA1 version of the same song); the sexy “Fly In The Freedom” (Tabitha Fair) has some slick instrumentation that all comes together to create a very bright atmosphere; “Supporting Me” (Everett Bradley) is an industrial rock gem; the song, as a whole, is reminiscent of vague thoughts flying through your head, with its unintelligible vocals, thick distortion, and bass-heavy atmosphere.
There’s a lot of amazing musicianship going on in Sonic Adventure 2 – it is a triumph of musicianship, as point of fact – but as a complete package, it doesn’t work. To quote Emperor Joseph 2 from Amadeus (1984):
“My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious; it's quality work. There are simply too many notes, that's all.”