For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:
JP / EU Mega CD:
US Sega CD / Windows 95:
And so finally, in the case of the Sonic CD VERSION OFF:
Which version was the original? The Japanese/European version is technically the original. But I think the US version was released around the same time….with a completely redone soundtrack (minus the Past Time Zone themes, which were not changed, since they were hard coded in the ROM’s PCM.)
Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: The US SegaCD/Windows 95 version is the familiar version for me. I got this game sometime in 1994, very shortly after renting it. I wasn’t even aware the Japanese version had a different soundtrack till probably the early 2000s…and I didn’t get to hear that version till probably the 2006 area, when I found MP3s for download off the internet. I didn’t get to play the game with the JP tracks till the Christian Whitehead version of the game came out for Xbox360/PS3/iOS/Android, and that wasn’t till like 2012 or so.
Sound hardware preferences disclosure: N/A. They’re both Sega CD. In fact, they’re both Redbook Audio (aka, playing of the disc like a music CD and not even using the Sega CD internal sound hardware.)
My verdict: The Japanese/European version.
Why? Just as music in a vacuum, I actually thing I have a very slight preference for the US version (though they are SUPER CLOSE - despite being so “from different planets” different). But I think the JP version is just a MUCH more fitting theme for the level. It’s the game’s obligatory pinball level. The US version almost sounds BGM for rescuing endangered wildlife from danger, and doesn’t say pinball at all. While the JP version perhaps doesn’t SCREAM pinball, it certainly makes a lot more sense than its rival in that context. Especially for as high velocity and high energy as the level is. Also, the Japanese version is just a million times more “16-bit Sonic” than the US version. The JP version is the same Genesis games soul, only using more advanced hardware. Whatever else we could say about the US version, for as great as it is….it's just not Sonic at all….it’s something COMPLETELY different. Also, since both versions use the JP’s past themes, the US version only has three tracks that fit a theme (present, good future, bad future), and then this odd stand-out in the past. The JP version, by comparison has all four versions fitting each other perfectly. This JP track is the perfect compliment to the past theme that I’ve listened to in bafflement for all these years. Lastly, there’s no pretension to the JP version. Everything is synthesized, and everyone knows everything is synthesized. Nobody’s trying to fool anyone. However, with the US version, while the electric guitar is a real person really playing a real electric guitar, everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING is synthesized. However, they’re trying their best to make it sound like NOTHING’s synthesized. While the trick totally worked on me as a pimple-faced, “Holy Crap! CD-Rom is SOOOOOO awesome” 14-year old, who likes his burritos poolside [see the Wolfchild VERSION OFF], this 35yr old sees right through it, and is not amused.
Was this a close contest? All that said, yes, this was as close a contest as any of these. They’re both just SOOOOO great, and I’m perfectly happy to waste tons of time listening to either of them! :-)
CLOSING: Okay, so those are my takes on the FACE OFFs from the “INTRODUCTION TO VGM FACE OFF” blog post. Please, light up the comments sections with your input. Whether you agree with me, whether you think I’m nuts. I don’t care! I want to know what you think, and which tracks you like best!