While Tom Holkenborg’s second Sonic The Hedgehog score isn’t perfect, it lovingly builds on the first with returning themes for both Sonic and Robotnik as well as expanding on it with new motifs (the dramatically ominous Knuckles for one), altogether delivering a pretty solid sequel soundtrack with many a standout action orchestral moment.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 opens with a rumble of ominous percussion as Piece Of Shitake Planet begins, with light flutters of brass then re-introducing composer Tom Holkenborg’s motif for Dr. Robotnik (originating from his first Sonic score) in an unusually hopeful, optimistic mood. This upbeatness then continues for a minute or two before the orchestra then starts to build in the background, becoming louder and more intense until aggressive brass notes and sinister vocals then completely take over for the final few seconds of the piece, ending the cue on a loudly dramatic note. High-pitched, ominous electronics then open Blue Menace, setting quite an unsettling tone for the first minute or so until a burst of almost horror-like brass then shatters the tension, with a rather frantic rendition of Robotnik’s motif racing through on tense, high-pitched vocals. Moody strings and loudly dramatic, villainous brass then follows suit, shortly revealing a brand new theme for the score; Knuckles’ theme. While it sadly doesn’t stick around for long here (as Sonic’s theme then takes over just as the cue closes out) Knuckles’ theme certainly leaves an impression in this track, and a malevolent one at that. Action however then becomes the centre of attention in Mind If I Drive, with Sonic’s theme leading the now rather heroic musical charge for much of the annoyingly short track. Things then slow right back down for the more solemn, subsequent Sonic’s Home, with the aforementioned character’s theme once again featuring though on much gentler, more sombre strings than before. It isn’t very long however before Sonic then leaps right back into traditional rapidity, with the start of A Wachowski Family Special obliging his theme on aggressively fast-paced brass notes. After this the track then slows somewhat, playing a more gradual, gentler rendition of the motif to then finish off the cue.
Sonic, Meet Knuckles is, as you might expect, where two certain themes collide. Malevolent electronics gradually make themselves known as the cue opens, with a dramatic crash of percussion then giving way to a brief reprisal of Robotnik’s theme before the first of the dueling motifs takes the stage; loud, ferocious brass starts to play Knuckles’ theme, establishing it in dramatic villainy over the course of the next minute or so with Sonic’s theme then quickly though worrisomely reprising just before the track closes out. Papa’s Got A Brand New Stache then continues where it leaves off, with continual crashes of percussion and bold, in-your-face brass surging the action forward. Robotnik and Knuckles’ themes once again take centre stage here, with Sonic’s being curiously absent for the entirety of the two minute piece. The Master Emerald though takes a break from emphatic ominousness, instead choosing to enter more hopeful, wondrous musical territory with composer Holkenborg making particularly enjoyable use of the orchestra (especially the strings) throughout the track’s near three minute runtime. This new spark of hope then flares up dramatically at the start of Goodnight Tails, as Sonic’s theme enthusiastically returns on proudly grandiose brass. For the remainder of the piece however the music softens, with gentle strings and peaceful woodwinds taking centre stage with several slow, serene renditions of Sonic’s theme. Optimistic, high-pitched vocals then open Ages Ago, with similarly mellow strings reprising for thirty seconds or so before the vocals then become ominous and loud, with villainous brass taking over as Knuckles’ dramatic theme once again takes centre stage.
A ferocious pace kicks off You Know Nothing About Me, with Sonic’s theme thundering through for a particularly heroic rendition at thirty seconds in. The tension then settles somewhat at the midpoint of the track, with pensive, gentle woodwinds setting a rather peaceful tone before Sonic’s theme then races back into the fray on emphatic brass followed closely by a short and now typically imposing rendition of Knuckles’ motif. Operation Catfish then starts off with some very militaristic-sounding drums before light, almost mischievous strings then arrive to add an element of optimism into the musical mix, with Sonic’s theme then cementing this tonal change towards the end of the cue. Flutters of wondrous strings open Eureka, I Found It, with loudly dramatic vocals helping to emphasize this point with the orchestra then starting to rise behind them. This build-up then continues for several minutes until reaching a loudly ominous crescendo just as the track closes out. It all kicks off with subsequent and standout cue Gotta Go Fast however, as things really get interesting; hopeful strings and upbeat brass open the piece, with a few quiet notes from Sonic’s motif being briefly hinted toward before the full theme then comes dramatically crashing into the fray at thirty seconds in. From here on the orchestra then practically goes wild, with grandiose crashes of percussion, swirls of enthusiastic strings and ferocious brass propelling the action forward for ninety seconds of pure musical glory. My only criticism if any of this magnificent piece is that it’s too short; I only wish it was longer.
The action continues into Entering The Labyrinth, with brassy flourishes and frantic strings taking point for much of the two minute setpiece. Loud, emphatic vocals then join the increasingly frenetic orchestra at the start of the subsequent You Don’t Have To Be Alone Anymore, where hope starts to gain the upper hand once again as Sonic’s theme makes a brief heroic appearance. The action does then slow however in the back half of the cue, with slow, almost sorrowful strings playing together with gentle, low-pitched brass notes for a good minute or so before a gentle, more hopeful flourish of strings then ends the piece. Sinister though as its name suggests switches up the tone yet again for a much more downtrodden, ominous mood as Robotnik’s theme lurks ever malevolently in the background for the first minute or so. After that though it then becomes much louder and more villainous with the full orchestra powering behind it in the back half of the track. Team V.S. Robotnik then kicks off the action finale of the score, with a few brief notes from Sonic’s theme opening the piece before the full-on, frantic orchestral action begins. The aforementioned motif receives several short, grandiose flourishes over the course of the four minute piece alongside a now similarly heroic Knuckles theme. Together the two motifs do battle against Robotnik’s in both this and subsequent action piece Okay, We’re Not Friends, to some pretty spectacular and unapologetically loud musical results overall. As the album then starts to draw to a close, A New Order closes the book on action with several triumphant and happily lengthy renditions of Sonic’s theme. Final cue Dad then settles the score back down for its closing moments, with slow, hopeful strings playing Sonic’s motif gently and proudly, bringing the score to a warm, hopeful finish.
Overall, Tom Holkenborg’s superfast score for Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a highly enjoyable orchestral ride from start to finish, particularly if you were a fan of the first film’s soundtrack. The composer’s main Sonic theme returns in its now typically upbeat, mischievous style throughout the album, building on and sometimes even exceeding (such as in standout cue Gotta Go Fast) the orchestral heroism of the first score. Returning as well in this sequel soundtrack is Holkenborg’s malevolent, memorable motif for villain Dr. Robotnik, and it is also then joined by a brand new theme for the antagonistic new hedgehog Knuckles. The way this new motif in particular is used throughout the score – especially towards the end as its tone starts to shift away from dramatically ominous – is an absolute highlight as well. I would have perhaps liked to have heard a few more, lengthier renditions of Sonic’s theme (as the standout Gotta Go Fast was just too short) and more videogame-esque electronics working together with the orchestra (in a similar manner to that of track Welcome To Green Hills from the first film’s score) would have been great too. That being said though the orchestral style featured throughout Sonic 2 is still very entertaining, with the way it utilises both established and brand new themes as well as both elevating the tension and enjoyability throughout its many edge-of-your-seat action setpieces being pretty sublime. In essence then; while not perfect, it’s another solid score from Holkenborg.
Standout Cue: 15. Gotta Go Fast
Buy the CD for Tom Holkenborg’s score right here, published by La-La Land Records.
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