The Sounds of Sega: MAKE BELIEVES REBORN!

Today is first day of my Twenty Days of Sonic Challenge. I’ve been anticipating this test with nervous excitement and a bit of cautious optimism over the past couple weeks or so, but a certain dark cynicism has recently been poking at the back of my brain. The prospect of diving headlong into just about every major Sonic entry is a delightful one to say the least. I’ve spent countless afternoons with my spiky blue friend, and the warm memories of spin dashes and green hills continue to coddle me like a petulant waif clutching his decrepit blue safety blanket.

But something horrifying has slowly been occurring to me. After a four-hour session of Sonic goodness, what’s going to stick with me when I hit the hay?  When I finally drop my controller and in a sigh of total exhaustion collapse onto my coffee table, what ubiquitous and inescapable element of Sonic’s legacy will pervade my psychosis-fueled fever dreams?

The music.

While I am certainly happy to sift through my wistful coma rocking out to Hilltop Tree Zone’s tune from Sonic 2 or Michael Jackson’s inspired diddies from Sonic 3, there are certain Sonic games whose music we do not discuss.  Well, this is a special occasion.  I’m discussing it because this is my article and I’ll do what I want.  You don’t know me.

While most Sounds Of Sega articles are meant to enrapture fellow Sega-philes with the most ear-tickling or simply memorable audible moments of Sega history, this week’s entry is about a little tune that most of us wish we could forget.  Just thinking about it has the bile hiking up my esophagus.

All you need to know is the following incoherent and grammatically mutilated phrase:  “MAKE BELIEVES REBORN (BORN,BORN,Born,born)!”

That’s right, today I’m talking about the main theme to Sonic and the Secret Rings, “Seven Rings in Hand.”

I suppose the slow shift that occurred in Sonic’s music was to be expected.  The Blue Blur is known for his unwavering and now outdated ‘tude, and the hackneyed nu-metal sound that much of Sonic’s modern music is stained with kind of carries that same sensibility.  Sonic tried valiantly to grow up with his fans, desperately clinging to an unnecessary sense of rebellion that people assume is driving those young whipper snappers these days.

To be honest, the early stages of this transition really weren’t all that unbearable.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I quite like the jazzy flavor of Sonic CD’s Sonic Boom.  While Crush 40’s contribution to Sonic Adventure “Open Up Your Heart” made no lyrical sense in conjunction with a game about a blue hedgehog, its hook was undeniably catchy and wasn’t so invasive as to alter the otherwise childlike flavor Sonic Adventure’s gameplay.  But something about “Seven Rings in Hand” just felt like it summed up everything that was wrong about Sonic’s personality at the time.  At the very least, Sonic needed some college dropout to introduce him to some Bob Dylan or something.

This Sonic has Korn in his iPod.

When I first started up Sonic and the Secret Rings, I was promised a return to form for my beloved hero.  Somehow, as soon as I heard those first echoing words of “Seven Rings in Hand,” every drop of hope that once coursed through my veins was quickly traded out for acidic rage.  What the hell was this?  When I play a Sonic game, I am looking for the kind of adventure that is infused with authentic wonder and child-like exhilaration.  Whenever I heard this tune, I felt like I was being manipulated into feeling badass when I really didn’t want to.  The desired exhilaration I refer to is not the kind that comes with jaded angst, Surge soda and toilet papering my neighbor’s house.  It’s the kind that comes with the open-eyed whimsy and a desire for exploration.  Maybe it’s just me, but the feel of “Seven Rings in Hand” and Sonic’s annoying attitude throughout the game just felt like it was proudly displaying the former as some kind of badge of honor.

Ok, maybe I’m being a little harsh.  The song’s lyrics do generally carry a pretty positive message, and they are at least somewhat relevant to what’s going on in the game.  It just feels like they are pushing so hard that Sonic is too cool for school.  Perhaps I wouldn’t find it so grating if it wasn’t blaring at each and every open moment in the game.  It’s like your attention- starved little brother sitting next to you, shouting “MAKE BELIEVES REBORN” during even the slightest lull.  Pull up the game on your Wii menu – MAKEBELIEVESREBORN!  Select a stageMAKEBELIEVESREBORN!  Finish the first stageMAKEBELIEVESREBORN!  Finish a bonus stageMAKEBELIEVESREBORNAAAAAAGGHHH SHUT IT!  SHUT UP!  You break your brother’s arm and you end up in juvie hall.  What the hell’s with that? He wouldn’t shut up.  I let him watch that damn Madagascar movie three-to-four times a week, and I can’t play a Sonic game for a couple hours in peace?  I can’t listen to that “I like to move it, move it” song for ONE. MORE. SECOND. Oh—What?  Um.. Yeah.  Where was I?

no. NO! We were talking about SONIC. SONIC THE DAMN HEDGEHOG.

Even though listening to “Seven Rings In Hand” feels like a nail is being driven through my eye over the course of 6 hours, I can’t deny that its corniness has transformed from infuriating to almost endearing over the years. For many fans, including myself, “Seven Rings in Hand” has earned a place in Sonic’s soundtrack not in spite of, but rather because of its ridiculousness and repetitive qualities.  It’s kind of funny now looking back on it, and many of my friends join me in simultaneously lamenting and rejoicing its very existence. Maybe that’s because the wound has been healing over all those years that I wasn’t playing the game.  Well, so much for that.  Good thinking with this Twenty Days of Sonic thing, Josh.  I hope you’re happy.

In another swift attempt to avoid any responsibility for this condemning article, I will provide one more excuse for my vitriolic furor.  Even though my initial reaction to “Seven Rings in Hand” was one of dismay and irritation, I don’t think it would have bothered me anywhere near as badly if the gameplay of Secret Rings wasn’t so broken.  I won’t get into specifics, but having “MAKE BELIEVES REBORN” as the punctuation to a shit sandwich of a level is like kicking a man when he’s down. My growing frustration and disappointment felt like it was being mocked every time I finally escaped the awkward control and horrible level design only to be greeted by the same repetitive tune over and over again.

With all this bitching out of the way, let me leave you with the lyrics for “Seven Rings in Hand” in their entirety.  If anything, their motivational spirit is sure to get you through your day.

 

Make-believes reborn

Myths in minds re-thought

Question all that’s known

Legends blurred and torn

 

Make-believes reborn (Make-believes reborn)

Myths in mind re-thought (Myths in mind re-thought)

Question all that’s known (Question all that’s known)

Legends blurred and torn (Legends blurred and torn) (Blurred and torn)

 

No such thing as fate for those who speed

A path out of time instead of just living it

So many things erased before they begin

Hopes un-dream instead of what could have been

 

Fortune fades like words in the sand

Just like that it nothing it all just seems

Nothing it all just seems

 

Fortune shines with seven in hand

Back to fact make real of all that seems

Make real of all that seems

 

Seven rings in hand speed through nights with feet in sand

Seven rings in hand wonders all under command

Seven rings in hand wild with just one single hand

Seven rings in hand arrowed hearts catch fire now

 

Make-believes reborn (Make-believes reborn)

Myths in mind re-thought (Myths in mind re-thought)

Question all that’s known (Question all that’s known)

Legends blurred and torn

 

No such thing as an arrow through who dreams

Hopes may burden but forever last to give in

So many things need a push or pull to begin

Un-free to move unless another hand gets in

 

Be it all the same it’s never the same

Just like that just nothing it all just means

Nothing it all just means

 

If all as is then it’s never as is

Back to fact make real of all that seems

Make real of all that seems

 

Seven rings in hand speed through nights with feet in sand

Seven rings in hand wonders all under command

Seven rings in hand wild with just one single hand

Seven rings in hand arrowed hearts catch fire now

 

Memories that dance (Memories that dance)

Fairy tales in trance (Fairy tales entranced)

Know what to believe (Know what to believe)

Nothing is up to chance (Nothing is up to chance)

 

Make-believes reborn (Make-believes reborn)

Myths in mind re-thought (Myths in mind re-thought)

Question all that’s known (Question all that’s known)

Legends blurred and torn

 

[Instrumental]

 

Seven rings in hand speed through nights with feet in sand

Seven rings in hand wonders all under command

Seven rings in hand wild with just one single hand

Seven rings in hand arrowed hearts catch fire now

 

Seven rings in hand

Nights with feet in sand

Seven rings in hand

Seven rings in hand

 

Make-believes reborn (Make-believes reborn)

Myths in mind re-thought (Myths in mind re-thought)

Question all that’s known (Question all that’s known)

Legends blurred and torn (Legends blurred and torn) (Blurred and torn)

 

Seven seas in hand

Speed of sound through sands

All our hopes and plans

In one single hand

Now, don’t you want to go out and tackle the world?  Personally, I just want to strangle myself.

 

[Edit: I was misinformed in thinking Crush 40’s version of “Seven Rings in Hand” was featured in The Secret Rings.  Thanks for the note, Goldskarr!]

  • Goldskarr

    Actually, the version used in Secret Rings wasn’t by Crush 40. I can’t remember the dude’s name, though.
    Crush 40 DID do their own version of it, like His World from that-which-must-never-be-named. If you wanna hear the Crush 40 version, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voI-9TdS0Jw

  • Goldskarr

    Steve Conte, that’s the one who did the original. Sorry for double posting.

  • Josh Newey

    Well, that’s embarrassing. Thanks for the correction.

  • grolt

    Modern Sonic has always had this problem trying to have it both ways but really having neither. On one hand it’s a kids franchise, and indeed they seem to be the ones that have kept the franchise afloat after all those rough forays in the mid-aughts. On the other, it thinks it has edge, trying to appeal to some kind of invented machismo that they original generation of Sonic fans seems to have by mere fact that they are mostly male and mostly in their twenties and thirties. You can see this kind of misguided pandering right from the start of Sonic Adventure. Compare that to the synth-y wonder of Sonic R or Sonic 3 and you can see where Sonic stopped being a gaming franchise and instead a brand.

    I pretty much had the same reaction as you when I first heard this theme, but honestly, I was ready for it after all the faux-rock stuff SEGA had been forcing into their Sonic games prior. It’s a broken game for sure, but I did enjoy it in spurts, you could see some creativity behind it, however blunt the controls.

    The Black Knight seemed to go even further away from the original Sonic formula, at least gameplay wise. I can’t speak about the music, but that one looked like the SEGA brass really had lost it, at least on paper.

  • Josh Newey

    @grolt
    Good points all around. I think my hope with Secret Rings was to get the same kind of style we finally got with Colors. The fairy tale leanings of both Secret Rings and Black Knight sounded so much more unabashedly childlike than stuff like Sonic 06 and Shadow The Hedgehog, so I had built this new hope that Sega wasn’t afraid to pander to a sense of wonder again. I suppose I didn’t feel so much surprised with the hard rock theme as much as I felt disappointed. Heeere we go again.

    As for the gameplay, I’ll agree that Secret Rings definitely has its moments. That dinosaur stage sticks out in my mind specifically. It was the first time in a while that I saw some really fresh ideas coming out of Sonic Team. The visuals were also some of the best on the Wii at the time. Besides the janky and hopelessly imprecise controls, though, I was having more and more problems with the momentum-shattering level design and Sonic’s bizarrely forced running mechanics.

    The Black Knight is one game in this marathon that I am very curious to try. When it was in development, I’m pretty sure nobody fell into the fabled Sonic Cycle stage of excitement over it. I ignored it more aggressively than just about any other Sonic game in history. If I go in knowing it’s infused with the style I can’t stand and some terrible gameplay, I’ll probably be able to surpass any disappointment and find something redeeming… Eh, who am I kidding?

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