Michael Jackson Is (likely) The Reason Sonic 3 Is An Issue for Sega

Wait, what? Sonic Mania’s impending release will just have to do.

Yes, that’s right. The former King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is the sole reason why, when it comes to nostalgia trips, Sega always veers away from Sonic 3.

Well, perhaps not the sole reason, but his long-rumoured (now semi-confirmed) work on Sonic 3’s music and the copyright issues that go along with something like that certainly haven’t helped Sonic 3’s ability to be re-released, tampered with and dissected in most guises.

For those not up to speed, the internet has been awash with conspiracy theories for years that Michael Jackson composed part of Sonic 3’s music. Slowly but surely though, the evidence that Michael Jackson did indeed help with the Sonic 3 soundtrack is at the point where there is now too much to refute. The short version, states that after working with Sega on his own game: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, the pop star became interested in lending his musical talents to Sega’s next Sonic game.

After a number of months of producing sounds and music for the game, it eventually became clear that Michael Jackson wasn’t too happy with the Genesis’ (Mega Drive for us in the UK) sound output, and likely retracted his name from the project. At present, none of this has been confirmed for definite, but enough people have spoken about the potential collaboration enough throughout the years to a point where it’s more likely it did then didn’t happen.

Jackon’s musical tendencies can still be heard in the tracks that made it in the final version of Sonic 3, fuelling the long suspected rumour that, while he pulled his name from the game, the tracks he created were left in. There are some striking similarities between Ice Cap and Jackon’s Smooth Criminal, Jam and the Carnival Night Zone tracks and numerous others which are shown in the video below:

The Huffington Post have put together a full run down of the story of how Michael Jackson became involved with Sega but, on the eve of the release of Sonic Mania, it’s likely that the legal issues with Jackon’s music within Sonic 3 is likely the reason why it hasn’t seen the love and attention that recent ports of Sonic 1, 2 and CD have, despite it arguably being the strongest 2D platformer of the Sonic series.

Even Sonic Generations, which incorporated an entirety of fan favourite zones didn’t include any levels from Sonic 3 across both versions except for a token Big Arm boss fight from Launch Base Zone in the 3DS version, although, it’s quite clear that this is a part of the original game that Jackson probably didn’t put his music to.

The game has seen some fairly straight forward no-frills ports though, with re-releases on the Wii virtual console and the Xbox 360 just under a decade ago. So, you have to assume that Sega can’t tamper too much with the existing music if they were to go down the road of remaking the game for release on modern consoles.

It’s a shame then that as we near the release of Sonic Mania, a game that is looking to not just emulate past glories, but celebrates Sonic in his best and purest form, that there is, yet again, no word on any Sonic 3 nostalgia. So far, Flying Battery (from Sonic & Knuckles) Green Hill (from Sonic 1) Chemical Plant Zone (from Sonic 2) and Stardust Speedway (from Sonic CD) are the only re-imagined zones so far.

It’s not even the fact that Sonic 3 doesn’t have any fan-favourite stages. Who can forget the hellish start of Act 2 to Angel Island, where the Act 1 boss burns the entire forest around you or your brutal drop into Hydrocity with the moving wall that squished thousands of players. And Ice Cap. Do I need to say anything more than just Ice Cap? Snowboards, mini-avalanches, ice loops and robotic penguins, Ice Cap is arguably the pinnacle of 2D Sonic levels.

Sonic Mania looks fantastic to those of us who were infatuated with the blue hedgehog in our youth, but after seeing so many re-releases of Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and even Sonic CD, it looks more and more likely that something is holding up Sega re-releasing Sonic 3. While we’re stretching a little for the truth, it’s likely that copyright issues surrounding Michael Jackon’s contribution to Sonic 3, might very well be the reason for the hold-up.

I’m still holding out for an Ice-Cap inspired level in Sonic Mania, but I won’t hold my breath.

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