Sega of America originally wanted to use its own music for Sonic 2

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Gryson, Mar 8, 2021.

  1. Blue Spikeball

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    The thing is, the changes by SoA's localizations were pretty inconsistent. They would complain about something SoJ did, and then they would do the same thing themselves.


    They complained about Sonic having fangs and being a rock star, only to give him a mohawk and give Robotnik demonic pitch-black eyes.

    They changed the names of the animal friends in S1 from Pocky, Ricky, etc. to things like Johnny Lightfoot, Porker Lewis, etc. And yet when the Japanese S2 devs introduced Miles Prower, SoA insisted on renaming him Tails.

    Also, wasn't SoA the one that had the part of Tails being a bully victim added to the Japanese Sonic 2 story, only to excise it from the game's localization? Did they forget that it was their own idea?


    So yeah. Every way I look at it, SoA's localizers were control freaks who liked to change things for the sake of it.
     
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  2. Beamer the Meep

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    I do think it's important to remember that the CEO of SoJ at the time (forget his name) backed the decisions that Kalinski because he was making the company profitable in America. Conversely, SoJ wasn't as successful and said CEO would reportedly berate them for not being as successful as their American counterparts. Those same people who were berated later rose in the ranks and tend to get in SoA's way even when their decisions were objectively good ones such as the falling out with Silicon Graphics.

    That said, it doesn't surprise me that SoA got carried away. If I was the one making money I suppose I might feel entitled to call the shots. With something as big as their mascot and follow-up killer app that they had people working on directly, it's not a surprise they'd try to leverage it. Now, I'm not really defending it, but I do think we should remember that both sides had problems in this feud.
     
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  3. Dissent

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    I'm wondering if Ohshima is actually saying that he knew it changed but not that all of it changed. Which, technically, is true. The Past songs are all the same.
     
  4. Black Squirrel

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    I think it's more of a crisis of confidence. They have to localise because everything is localised, but then it turns out games sell on their own merits and nobody at Sega knows why.

    But they're trying to market video games before video games had ever really been marketed, so it's not entirely unexpected that not everything works. Greg Martin and his "ass-face" Sonic - it seems like a really dumb move, but Sega were hiring artists that built their careers drawing material for Warner Bros., Disney and Hanna-Barbera - on paper it's one of the best decisions they could make. In practise... Japan did it better, but you couldn't predict that in 1991.

    (incidentally things do get worse going from the US to Japan -> Taz-Mania turned into this mess).


    As far as music goes, again you can see the thought process - Japan's popular music rarely leaves its borders, while America's popular music gets everywhere. So if you want worldwide appeal, get an American do to the music. But it doesn't work like that in real life - the best music comes from the best musician, and the best Sega musicians were in Japan.

    And again, seems obvious, but in 1992/1993, there's no precedent for this. Sonic CD gets changed not because SoA are bored, but because market research says rock is popular and nobody knows how the Japanese soundtrack will be received.


    As to why the characters of Streets of Rage 3 had to have a change of clothes... that one I can't explain.
     
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  5. Gryson

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    I definitely see Sega of America as a double-edged sword.

    Tom Kalinske was hired to market the Genesis in North America. He had no experience with or knowledge of video games, but that didn't matter because his responsibility was just to market a product coming out of Japan. However, not long after beginning his job, he came up with the plan to shift game development and publishing efforts to North America, which Sega president Hayao Nakayama readily agreed with. The logic of the shift was that Americans preferred American-made games, and that would give Sega a leg up over Nintendo.

    The problem, as I see it, was that Sega of America never seemed to care about the games themselves. The company was run by a toy marketing genius and his hand-picked staff, and the focus of almost everything was marketability. Market research was their weapon of choice, and most development decisions centered on "Can we market this?"

    This was primarily realized through a heavy focus on recognizable, licensed properties. Developers were often given severe deadlines that precluded creating quality games. Any game coming out of Japan was approached with caution, with the primary question being "Is this marketable to our American audience? If not, can we alter it so that it will be?"

    Some undeniably great games, such as Monster World IV and Pulseman, clearly didn't pass the test. We can get some insight into this from former Sega of America producer Mac Senour talking about Gunstar Heroes:

    I consider Gunstar Heroes one of the best action games on the console, yet it was turned down by 12 producers at Sega of America because it wasn't marketable due to having small sprites. That really just makes me shake my head. Although Gunstar Heroes was eventually released on the Genesis thanks to Senour's support, it suffered the fate of many other Japanese-developed games: it received no marketing whatsoever.

    Regardless, Sega of America's strategy was clearly successful to an extent. The company grew larger than it had ever been and was able to compete with Nintendo. Their heavily marketed licensed games topped sales charts, selling millions of copies. Tom Kalinske was hailed as a hero--able to sell a product that the Japanese could barely sell in their own country.

    But what was the cost? By shifting the focus from the quality of the games themselves to their marketability, I think Sega's legacy suffered irreparable damage. Nintendo was able to build a monumental legacy on the strength of its many successful in-house properties. People still look back with fondness on the many SNES games they enjoyed in their youth.

    On the other hand, many of the titles published by Sega of America have not passed the test of time. The reason is that clever, aggressive marketing can get you immediate sales, but a quality product is needed to build a legacy.

    I always wonder: What would have happened if Sega of America marketed games like Gunstar Heroes the way they marketed Jurassic Park? Would it have worked? Could Sega have ended up with more Sonic-level properties?

    Oh, and in case anyone wonders, "Didn't Sega make a lot of questionable games in Japan as well?" Definitely. But Sega president Nakayama's approach clearly emphasized game quality over marketability (to the extent that the company was rather clueless about how to market their games effectively). Many of Sega's top Japanese developers from the time have praised the company for the freedom they were given to make whatever they wanted with rather minimal time pressure. This directly reflects what Nakayama was always saying to the media: All that matters is the quality of the games.
     
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  6. Well it seems that SoA got their way in the end with the Adventure series.

    Which is ironically when I stopped liking a majority of the music.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021
  7. RDNexus

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    SA1 OST is more american-style? Hmm...
     
  8. qwertysonic

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    Replacing music in Anime makes sense. Americans don't speak Japanese, but in video games it makes no sense. There's no lyrics so there's no need to localize it. And that's especially true for Sonic games. Genesis Sonic music is about as close to American rock and roll as it gets. It doesn't sound like cutesy Japanese anime music, it sounds like the kind of music 90's skater boys listen to.

    If only that were the case now...
     
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  9. Gryson

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    I should have added to my post the ultimate example of "marketing over game quality": Sonic 3.

    Yuji Naka recounted being forced to release Sonic 3 before it was ready in order to meet a deadline for the McDonald's partnership. Thus was born the lock-on system.
     
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  10. Ted618

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    I've had a pet theory about this for a while - CD's OST was of course mainly influenced by early 90s house and techno (IIRC specific examples given by Naofumi Hataya in interviews have included Frankie Knuckles, The KLF, C+C Music Factory, etc), and while both were considerably popular in Europe and indeed Japan, they were less widely-accepted in America at the time despite originating there. I wouldn't be surprised if people at SoA were a part of that school of thought, or liked it all the same but just didn't think it would appeal regardless.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
  11. Unlimited Trees

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    sega of america always been a buncha bitches, it shoulda been very obvious since they got ridda the good sonic cd soundtrack!

    sega of america can uhhh lick my nuts!!! LOL!

    edit: Spellin mistake whoops! Sega still a piece o Poop tho!
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
  12. SystemsReady

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    I know I'm probably in the minority here (given recent posts I've seen like "America MADE Sonic"), but GOD Sega of America were extremely dumb with Sonic overall and had absolutely no faith in the original vision, and I honestly kind of hate (90s) them for it. The result is a hodgepodge of Sonic "aesthetics" that had to be unified in some form in Adventure and even then I think that the lack of unified aesthetics early on is why Sonic still doesn't have one today.

    Compare Sonic to Pokemon, where the core company/team had a very strong grip on how the series was handled outside of Japan. You recognize Pokemon. They didn't change the character designs (though they wanted to!!) or the music in the games. They brought over the anime instead of making a bunch of terrible "american-centric" shows for it. Even Detective Pikachu came out after Pokemon had established an extremely strict brand identity, so it was weird and interesting as opposed to confusing and jarring.
     
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  13. Black Squirrel

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    Sega of America was, for all intents and purposes, a company established to market Sega's video games in North America. They created the Sega Technical institute for game development and had a bunch of effectively second-party studios producing things, but the core Sega of America business was to have a look at software and decide whether it would be worth selling in that region.

    And I'm not convinced they were terrible at that job. I mean, they sold a lot of video games after all.


    12 people rejecting Gunstar Heroes seems like a lot, but if you told me that only 1/13th of Mega Drive owners bought the game (reflecting the interest at SoA HQ)... I'm not sure I'd be all that surprised.
     
  14. Ted618

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    To be fair I would largely put Gunstar's likely poor sales figures over here down to it being badly served in the marketing department, as has already been pointed out. It did unusually well in Japan for a Mega Drive title in 1993, and with very few exceptions it got rave reviews in the Western gaming media; if the execs believed in it more and gave it a bigger push I suspect it almost certainly would've done a lot better.

    SoA's people undoubtedly made some contentious decisions, some pretty justifiable in the context of marketability and profits in the 90s, others confusing with hindsight to the fans, but I wouldn't exactly say their lack of enthusiasm for GH is an example of the former
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
  15. Gryson

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    Maybe in 1990, but not in 1994. Tom Kalinske's whole business plan outlined to the Sega board centered on the idea "you must develop software in the U.S." By 1993 or so, I'd say Sega of America was 100% self-sufficient in regards to development and publishing. It didn't rely on any titles from Japan (although it did make the occasional request, like with Streets of Rage 3). The Japanese titles that SOA decided to publish almost never received any marketing budget. 1993+ is the point where, even though there were some really great games being developed in Japan, they were rarely being localized.

    I'm sure things were different in Europe, but in the U.S. back then, Sega's advertising was almost entirely devoted to U.S.-developed games.

    Sure, of course they were great. The facts show that. The problem I'm pointing out is that they didn't just want to market Japan's products. They wanted to do it all. SOA set up a hardware division and spent over $10 million researching VR, only to conclude it would never work with the current technology. They were funding development of dozens of games in the U.S. from 1993 on. They employed thousands of people. They were far, far more than just marketers of Japan's games. And... the evidence is not really clear that they were as good at those other things as they wanted to be.

    We're not talking about 12 random people, though. We're talking every single one of SOA's producers aside from one--people whose job it is to recognize a great game. They didn't recognize it because their criteria for 'great game' were so far out of sync with users'. Gunstar Heroes was nearly universally praised when it was released and was named Action Game of the Year from more than one publication, yet it sold like shit in the U.S. because it got no marketing. It was a huge missed opportunity. And it happened again and again. Monster World IV? It stars a girl--it'll never sell. But we're sure you'll love Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!

    I realize this might seem to be getting a bit off topic from the thread, but it's interesting to consider the Sonic music issues within the context of how Sega of America was operating then and its attitude towards anything coming out of Japan.
     
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  16. MykonosFan

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    We don't really do shitposting to this degree here.
     
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  17. Ted618

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    Prime example - even the random kids on Bad Influence, known for their obvious lack of prowess and experience in the field of games criticism, knew that Gunstar Heroes was great

    Going back to the main topic, as much as I like the game's music and know that it's very much appreciated by people in the States regardless of what SoA thought at the time, I do get why they decided to scrap the parts that they could of CD's OST, and evidently tried their hand at making 2's before anyone else could in the first place. Not that they should've, by the sounds of things, but for reasons already discussed, they saw nothing wrong.

    Knowing the context of the times is probably key to understanding that, but I what understand less is why some act like these were mind boggling decisions or something - if there's anything SoA did that should be disagreed with today, it's their mismanagement of many titles that could've been potential hits, or at least more cult legends, which didn't end with the MD/Genesis
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
  18. Brainulator

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    If anything, the 32X in and of itself is a testament to how fragmented and splintered Sega was at that time and how it led to less-than-fortunate consequences down the road. Man, the resources that could have gone into Saturn development and advertising...

    I do wonder what the American Sonic 2 soundtrack would have been like, if only because I suspect it would be more mechanical and gritty than what we got.
     
  19. Ted618

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the actual existence of the 32X can be ultimately blamed on Hayao Nakayama's retrospectively foolish concerns about losing ground to the Jaguar, and if it wasn't for SoA we would've even got the thing in the form of a potentially more expensive and financially draining new console, although their hapless splurge on marketing it definitely didn't help.
     
  20. Black Squirrel

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    This is an angle I hadn't considered - I might have to look into it.

    I mean you would probably expect US software to get the most attention, but dunno, I'll have to consult the database.