Sonic the Hedgehog’s 30th birthday party shines with a full-blown orchestra

If anyone deserves a proper 30th birthday celebration it’s Sonic the Hedgehog. At various points it wasn’t clear the speedy critter would make it – having had to survive a plethora of shitty films and lacklustre games. But goddamn the bells of victory sound sweet.

Sonic the Hedgehog has been speeding through grassy hills and futuristic cities for 30 years. Saving animals from the evil Dr. Robotnik, collecting all the golden rings, even making sure Sega doesn’t go completely bankrupt. Hell, it’s all in a day’s work for this celebrated icon of the video game industry.

To show him that his work hasn’t gone unappreciated, Sega decided to throw him a big old fashioned 30th birthday bash; one that would turn his old foe Super Mario a colour so green that he would likely be mistaken for his brother Luigi.

sonic the hedgehog birthday
Image: Sonic 30th Anniversary Celebration / YouTube

At the centre of this spectacle was the only element of the Sonic the Hedgehog games that comes close to the legendary status of the character himself: the music.

Artists have taken inspiration from the Sonic the Hedgehog games for decades now, with Wiz Khalifa even going as far to include Green Hill Zone as a sample in Ms. RighterfernowHowever, the way that the music was presented at the birthday celebration was even more impressive. It was transcendent.

sonic orchestra
Image: Sonic 30th Anniversary Celebration / YouTube

The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra livestreamed a gorgeous set, that runs for over an hour, of the most influential and celebrated compositions of the franchise’s history. To hear these pieces of music in this context is something truly remarkable – an experience that tugs at the heartstrings of one’s youth and envelopes you in the most comforting brand of nostalgia.

The man at the centre of much of this music, Masato Nakamura, deserves a great deal of credit for his work on the series; and should forever be included in the canon of great video game composers. Although, at least to some degree, I feel like that’s damning him with faint praise. The truth is that Sonic the Hedgehog needs Masato Nakamura – possibly even more than the other way around.