SEGA Tunes Vol.2 “Unlikely Melodies by Jamie Maxwell”

Alright ladies and gentlemen we are back, welcome to Tuesday Tunes Vol 2. We apologise for missing last Tuesday but to quote Kazuo Hirai, ” we could’ve given you Tuesday Tunes Vol 1.5 but we took the necessary time to give you Vol.2″ (yes, the quote isn’t exactly accurate).

Last week we introduced you to the melodic tunes of “Unlikely Melody by Jamie Maxwell”, this week we venture deep in to the world of his favorite SEGA games while playing his harmonious renditions of 16-Bit classics.

Star Light Zone from the Original Sonic The Hedgehog

So Let’s jump right into it tell us your favorite Top 10 Sega Series?

Not in any particular order:
Sonic the Hedgehog (well, all the 2D ones)
Streets of Rage
Super Monkey Ball
Space Harrier
Virtua Fighter
Valkyria Chronicles
Yakuza .

And then came Sonic the Hedgehog 2

What is your favorite and least favourite 2D Sonic Game?
My favourite would have to be ‘Sonic 3 and Knuckles’. Of course, that’s what Sonic 3 was originally intended to be in the first place! It’s the pinnacle of the series, hands down. I also think it’s got the best soundtrack of any Sonic game (‘Hydrocity Zone Act 2’, ‘Desert Palace’ and of course ‘Ice Cap Zone Act 1’ are my personal favourites). There’s so much variety in that game: the different power ups, bonus stages, not to mention how the level music theme changes from Act 1 to Act 2 in any given zone.

After thinking about it, my least favourite would have to be ‘Sonic 4 Episode 1’. Yes, it’s a nice love letter to the fans but the level design borrows, no, copies too much from the early games (same bosses, same locations, same set pieces). They pretty much nailed the look and style (aside from Sonic’s slightly dodgy jumping physics), but its wholly unoriginal. Fingers crossed Episode 2 is better!

A rare mellow take on Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s Chemical Plant

I haven’t played that one yet (waiting for all the episodes to be compiled and physically released) but I’m surprised to hear that the physics didn’t bother you,

check this video?

Well, that’s what I was trying to allude to just before. The physics of the game did bother me at first, but I just got used to it. The video you linked to above is really interesting. That guy has every right to be annoyed considering he’s a fan of the original 2D Sonic games. I personally just treated Sonic 4 like it was a completely separate entity, like a spin-off title (excuse the pun!). It’s a good game, but I don’t really class it as a true sequel to the earlier Sonic games.

You’ve played Sonic 3D Blast, you even did an awesome cover from it. Which version have you played and what do you think of the Traveller’s Tales game? (Traveller’s Tales also did Monkey Ball Adventure).

I’ve got the Mega Drive version. Traveller’s Tales are a great developer – I used to love ‘The Legend of Galahad’ (their first game!) and you’ve got to commend them for having the courage to try something different with the Sonic licence. They also knew how to get the most from the hardware as well – both ‘Sonic 3D Blast’ and ‘Toy Story’ look and sound stunning considering the limitations of the Mega Drive hardware.

As for the game itself, it’s alright. It’s got a great soundtrack, nice level design and beautiful visuals but the gameplay suffers from awkward controls that can initially put you off. I don’t think the isometric view has anything to do with it, it just feels like Sonic is on an ice rink all the time! That being said, once you get used to it, it gets better.

In other words: great idea, flawed execution.

Aquatic Zone Flamenco Guitar (style)

After playing Sonic on Dreamcast I thought 3D Blast would’ve been playable if it had the homing attack. What do you think?

It would’ve made it more playable perhaps but I imagine it would take most of the challenge away as well.

What is your favorite and least favorite 3D Sonic game (up until Shadow the Hedgehog the 3D games were both critically and commercially successful)?

I can’t really answer that fairly because I’ve only played ‘Sonic Adventure’. I never played the later 3D games because of the poor reviews they were getting (excluding ‘Sonic Adventure 2’). That being said, from the positive things I’ve read of ‘Sonic Colours’ on Wii, it certainly sounds like SEGA are listening and working on improving future Sonic titles.

Sonic Adventure 2 is my favourite game in the series, I can’t believe you haven’t played it. Were you turned off by the Adventure fields in the 1st game or something?

No, I just simply haven’t played it! Nothing in Sonic Adventure put me off. None of my friends had the game and I couldn’t afford it. Later on, at the time of the Gamecube release, I was preparing to go to university so had little money to spend. However, if it comes to PSN I might give it a whirl!

Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Ice Cap Zone – It was the first tune from Unlikely Melody that we heard

Several talented musicians such as Michael Jackson, Jun Senoue and Yuzo Koshiro have all worked on Sonic games, you’ve also covered tracks by them all. Who’s your favourite?

Do you mean purely within a Sonic context, or in general? I think it’s unfair to put Michael Jackson in the same “boat” as the other composers as MJ only had limited credits on Sonic 3.

Yes, purely within Sonic context.

Well, it would have to be Jun Senoue then! Mainly for his work on Sonic 3 but you’ve got to give him credit for his commitment to the Sonic series. In general though, my favourite would definitely be Yuzo Koshiro. He’s so diverse and has a fantastic portfolio of work, including some of my favourite game soundtracks (that aren’t limited to SEGA either!): The ‘Streets of Rage’ series, ‘Revenge of Shinobi’, ‘Y’s I’ / ‘Y’s II’ and ‘Super Adventure Island’ to mention just a few. Listen to them and you’ll realise that he is a master of programming beats and drums!!

It does have a nice soundtrack, look who composed the track.

Oh you’d be surprised how well we’ve listened to Koshiro San’s work! We’ll get to that in just a bit.

Shinobi is one of your favorite games and Yuzo Koshiro has worked on Revenge of Shinobi and Game Gear Shinobi. How come we haven’t heard a cover from you yet?

I actually have a demo of the level one theme (‘The Shinobi’) from Revenge of Shinobi, I just haven’t had time to get round to finishing it. There’s other demos I have as well, from Sonic 1 and 2 on the Master System and two demos of arrangements from Sonic 3. When I first started covering video game tunes, each one I did only took a few hours to do. Now, I like to spend time on them, adding more instruments etc. So naturally it takes longer to finish them.

What is your favorite Shinobi track?

Definitely the ‘Mission One’ theme from the original arcade version of Shinobi. I’ve been trying to figure out that little lopped riff at the start but it’s proving quite difficult!

Have you played the Shinobi (& Nightshade) on PS2? It is made by members from the original Team Shinobi.

No. It looks like it was positively received though! I’ll have to check it out!

They’re real cheap too. But bare in mind it is a new series and has nothing to do with Joe Musachi’s adventure (though he is an unlockable character).

Isn’t this track dedicated to someone familiar?

Moving on, let’s talk about Team Shinobi’s other masterpiece: “Streets of Rage”. You’re a big fan of the series. What’s your favorite game in the series?

Streets of Rage 2. It had everything I wanted in a sequel: more playable characters (each with more unique abilities), better graphics, fantastic soundtrack and great gameplay – not to mention a great two player ‘duel’ mode. I enjoyed Streets of Rage 3 but it just wasn’t as memorable for me. It’s the same with the Golden Axe series: I really think Golden Axe 2 was the best in the series.

Koshiro San’s work on SOR 1 & 2 are quite”>controversial given how the songs sound like 16bit remixes from other musicians. Given that Koshiro san is such a favorite of yours what is your stance on the whole ‘Inspiration’ or ‘Plagiarism’ debate?

Whilst the similarities are uncanny, in this instance I don’t think the issue is worth bothering with. The end product is more important. Yes, he has obviously lifted beats, effects and even in some cases used the same key signatures as those ‘real’ songs listed in the link, but you have to ask yourself two questions at this point. One, is the music good? And two, does it suit the product i.e. does it fit in with the game? The answer to both is, in my humble view, yes.

What I find rather ironic though is that the debate even exists considering Streets of Rage is essentially a rip-off of Capcom’s ‘Final Fight’. That’s no bad thing though, as Final Fight was a great game. In my view SEGA built upon the great ideas of Final Fight and created an even better series of games. In a way I think that’s what Yuzo Koshiro did in regards to the music. He had obviously listened to and taken ideas from music played in clubs around that time and worked those ideas into a great soundtrack for a video game.

There have been many instances where games have walked a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism, but in this industry thats largely how games progress. People take established ideas from pre-existing games, build upon them and make them better!

Streets of Rage 2 – End Theme

While on the topic I was listening to your cover of Alisia Dragoon (featured last week in the various demos Maxwell is working on) and I noticed a startling similarity to “Seal – Kiss by a Rose” surprisingly enough the game was released 3 years before Seal ever came up with the song.

Yes, I can see why you would think that! Both tunes are in a Minor key and they are both in 3/4 time. The melody does have a similar feel to it. Maybe Seal is a secret fan of the game? 🙂

You’ve covered a track from Yu Suzuki’s Sword of the Vermilion, a game that many members of our staff haven’t even played. It didn’t fair too well with the critics as it came out after Phantasy Star 2 and the expectations were really high. What were your first impressions of Vermilion?

At the time I had never played the game let alone heard the track! Someone requested it on Youtube and sent a link to the original song so I had a listen and really enjoyed it. After recording it I went out and bought the SEGA Mega Drive Collection for PSP, which had the game on it. My first impressions were mixed. It had a great (if predictable) start and I loved the first person view for the dungeons but the battles were so frustrating. What is it with RPG’s and enemy blobs?! I got a few hours in but left it there. I probably ended up playing Shinobi III or Sonic instead! I did listen to the full soundtrack though and really enjoyed that.

Yu Suzuki would be proud

What is the logic behind your user ID? “mymorningjackets” I always wondered.

Oh man, if there is one thing I could change it’s my user ID. The thing is, when I first signed up to Youtube, I just wanted an account so I could gather all my favourite videos together and comment on them etc. I never planned on uploading any of my own videos let alone videos of video game arrangements, so I didn’t think of anything original. The username is actually the name of one of my favourite bands (with an ‘s’ on the end): ‘My Morning Jacket’. It was a really lame choice! I sincerely hope that no fans of the band have clicked onto my channel by accident!

The ‘Unlikely Melody’ name was just something I always thought had quite a nice ring to it.

The first VGM video I did was the Mirror’s Edge theme ‘Still Alive’ and that was recorded for a good friend of mine (who coincidently used to work for SEGA here in the UK, funnily enough!). I didn’t think that much of it but once I saw that people were actually listening to it (and wanting the tab!) I thought “hmmmm what other songs could I cover?”! It just spiraled from there really!

Lastly what are the future plans for “Unlikely Melody”?

Well, ideally I’d love to have a career in composing music for games (and/or video game localisation – I did a course in Japanese at university and have just started learning the language again) but I’m not going to get anywhere by covering video game tunes on a classical guitar (though the guys over at OC Remix got their work featured in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, which is brilliant!!). I’ll record a few more arrangements, but after that I’m going to focus on recording original material. I’m also writing about video games again (I did my Masters thesis on video game music) so we’ll see if anything comes from that!

I’ve loved every second of recording the arrangements and I’m really grateful to the people who have taken the time to listen to them and leave comments. I’ve met some really great people through doing it! I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Domo Arigato Gozai Maus Jamie Chan no interview desu. it was an absolute blast and we wish to have you again in the future for new fans of Unlikely Melody be sure to check out Jamie’s YouTube Channel.


6 responses to “SEGA Tunes Vol.2 “Unlikely Melodies by Jamie Maxwell”

  1. Fallout911 says:

    This would have been a GREAT podcast!

  2. Again with the unnecessary apostophe S. It's embarrassing to read. The Plural of "Melody" is "melodies". Please stop making my teeth hurt.

  3. CrazyTails says:


  4. -nSega54- says:

    Haha glad he didn't like Sonic 4 either.

  5. That's pretty neat. Now that the title is fixed, I can relax enough to listen. 🙂 I have a new appreciation for Sword of Vermillion, which used to just make me mad.

  6. cube_b3 says:

    How come Streets of Rage vs Final Fight discussion hasn't started?

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