Sonic the Hedgehog: The Sound of Speed is an arranged album from the crew at Overclocked Remix to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series. All thirteen tracks are based primarily on compositions from the original Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog; some have even been arranged twice over. Though created on a volunteer basis by different contributors at OCR the album is the quality of a commercial release, with solid production values and at least a few very impressive arrangements. Coming from OCR means it's also completely free. As such there's no reason not to just skip this review now and go give it a download. The arrangements are absolutely worth it.
With virtually every track demonstrating high production values, creative arrangement and a good understanding of the source material, any Sonic fan is likely to find something to like, but for me three tracks in particular stand out. The arrangement of the underwater stage theme "Labyrinth Zone" in "Bubble Junkie" smartly leads with New Age aquatic tones before transitioning to the deep synth and catchy vocoder sounds that carry the theme to completion. "Clockwork Criminal" is another synth delight, patiently establishing the main verse of the "Scrapbrain Zone" stage theme with a rolling beat and steady pulses before bringing in more New Age backing synth and a bright, tremendously fun rendition of the chorus. My favorite track by far though is "Spring Junkie", which takes a more chilled tone with its keyboard chords and lets an old-school hip-hop beat and some grooving, deep synth bass keep the track rolling until a brief, playful take on the chorus comes in. All three tracks make great use of the distinctive sound effects from the game, and all three also have some serious groove going on - I've found myself bobbing my head and tapping my fingers to them more than any game music release in recent memory.
The "Green Hill Zone" arrangement "The Sound of Speed" and the "Marble Zone" arrangement "Shifting Islands" boast percussion and synth that are just as excellent as the aforementioned tracks, though the lead guitar in the former and the occasional sax in the latter don't seem like the most ideal choices. Still those and other arrangements serve their respective themes well and help make the album an enjoyable listen all the way through. Only a couple tracks do I regularly skip, and having paid exactly zero for either of them (or the many high quality arrangements on the album) it's hard to feel deprived.
Even if Sonic the Hedgehog: The Sound of Speed were a commercial album it'd still be well worth considering for its standout tracks; the fact that it's free removes any doubt from the equation. Anyone who has fond memories of playing Sonic the Hedgehog or is keen on an '80s game synth throwback with plenty of modern touches absolutely shouldn't let it pass by.