Sonic Origins just launched today, and Sega’s fans finally got their chance to revisit some of Sonic’s 16-bit adventures compiled from four classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. So far, the experience seems authentic, with one notable exception: fans immediately noticed that some of the original soundtracks featured in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, which were presumably composed by the King of Pop Michael Jackson himself, weren’t included in the new gaming collection.
According to Nintendo Life, former Sonic Team head Yuji Naka has seemingly confirmed Michael Jackson’s involvement in composing the soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 — something that was long speculated but never officially confirmed by Sega. The widespread debate over Jackson’s involvement was sparked in 2006, following a 2005 interview in which the Sega Technical Institute director claimed that Michael Jackson did compose music for Sonic 3. However, the first sexual abuse allegations against Jackson emerged during the game’s development, so he wasn’t credited for his work.
But Yuji Naka wasn’t the only one to confirm Michael Jackson’s involvement in making the Sonic 3 soundtrack; Brad Buxer, a keyboardist who worked closely with Jackson in the ‘90s, confirmed the fandoms’ rumors about Jackson’s involvement. However, according to his account, Sega previously denied Jackson’s involvement without any elaboration, and it was the artist himself who wanted his name removed if Sega’s team couldn’t make the music within the game sound better.
While we can’t say with absolute certainty, the latter doesn’t seem likely, considering that Michael Jackson was an avid gamer and had several of his games released on Sega Genesis, the same platform that Sonic 3 was released on. So, it’s safe to assume that he knew the limitations of console audio at the time. It’s more likely that Sega decided to release Sonic 3 without crediting Jackson and play innocent when asked about it for nearly three decades.
But the truth is out there, and several fans have pointed out that the Carnival Night Zone music sounded like Michael Jackson’s Jam, while Ice Cap Zone had a chord progression that sounded identical to Who Is It. Most notably, the game’s end credits music was apparently based on Stranger in Moscow. Well, according to Buxer, Stranger in Moscow was based on the song for Sonic 3 end-credits scene.
The PC port of Sonic 3 didn’t contain music that was allegedly Jackson’s, and it’s not clear whether those tracks were removed for legal reasons or simply because the entire soundtrack was redesigned, and the developers decided to replace Jackson’s music. Another theory is that the PC port used MIDI music which was incompatible with sound samples used in the Genesis game. However, it was later discovered that the track wasn’t redesigned — It was Michael Jackson’s music that replaced the original tracks.
In the end, it seems a bit pointless to debate which tracks replaced which nearly 30 years after Sonic 3’s original release date. But there are two things that we now know for certain: we finally have confirmation that Michael Jackson worked on the Sonic 3 soundtrack, and Sonic Origins would probably be a slightly better game had it retained Jackson’s music. Oh, and Sonic Frontiers, the upcoming Sonic game, just dropped another teaser trailer.