Michael Jackson

From Sega Retro

Michael Jackson
Place of birth: Gary, Indiana, United States
Date of birth: 1958-08-29
Date of death: 2009-06-25 (age 50)
Company(ies): Sega of Japan, Sega of America, Midway Games
Role(s): Composer, Dancer, Actor, Spokesperson

Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, and one of the world’s most successful recording artists, Jackson collaborated with Sega on the production of several video games, most notably Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and Sonic the Hedgehog 3.


Sonic the Hedgehog

From his very inception, Sonic the Hedgehog was significantly inspired by Jackson’s celebrity. As one of the world’s biggest pop stars, and one whose fandom easily made it to Japan, character designer Naoto Oshima borrowed Michael’s smooth “coolness” as an inspiration for building the mascot. Sonic’s famous buckled shoes were also directly inspired by Oshima’s viewing of Jackson’s 1987 album Bad.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Sega AS-1

In late 1992, while Jackson was in Japan for his Dangerous World Tour, he met with Sega of Japan and worked with developers Sega AM5 as a celebrity actor for the upcoming Sega AS-1. Shooting scenes for both of the hardware’s ride films, Jackson starred in the titular Michael Jackson in Scramble Training, and played a small role in Megalopolis: Tokyo City Battle.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sometime around early 1993, Jackson became involved in the production of Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s soundtrack. Working through collaborator and tour keyboardist Brad Buxer, and bringing five other members of his associated sound team to the game, he produced a number of compositions for the project (likely through the recording facilities of Sega Multimedia Studio.) Upon hearing his music translated to the Sega Mega Drive’s FM sound hardware (specifically the "crunchy" sample playback of Sonic 3's sound driver), Jackson left the project, citing displeasure in hearing these original compositions in such a relatively-limited format. Contrary to popular belief, the decision was unrelated to the artist's 1993 sexual abuse accusations.

Depsite Jackson removing his music from the project, members of his sound team would remain to compose some of the game's final soundtrack, and either through tribute or inspiration, allusions to Jackson’s musical style were incorporated into several songs. Much of the game’s new jack swing themes can be attributed to the influence of Michael Jackson and his sound team, and Carnival Night Zone's theme would even directly sample the Jackson song Jam. The soundtrack also features motifs commonly associated with the artist, such as rhythms being punctuated with occasional “woo!”s.

Jackson’s presence in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is mostly limited to inspiration, but two of his original compositions are thought to have remained in the retail release: Staff Roll is said to have been directly composed by Jackson, with its general chord progression being reused for the 1995 song Stranger in Moscow, and the distinctive rolling drum beat of Knuckles’ Theme (and by extension, Sub-Boss Theme) had been previously co-composed by Jackson and Buxer for the 1991 recording of Blood on the Dance Floor.

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing

Production history

Song credits

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

  • Knuckles' Theme — Composed by (uncredited)
  • Sub-Boss Theme — Co-composed by (uncredited)
  • Staff Roll — Co-composed by (uncredited)


Jackson’s December 1988 visit to Sega of Japan

During a break from his Bad concert tour, Michael Jackson visited Sega of Japan to both tour their facilities and advise on the upcoming Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18). Photographs of Jackson’s tour through Sega of Japan’s headquarters were later published in an unknown source.[1]

Jackson’s December 1992 visit to Sega of Japan

During breaks from his Dangerous World Tour, Michael Jackson met with Sega president Hayao Nakayama to discuss upcoming games like Michael Jackson in Scramble Training. Photographs of Jackson’s tour through Sega of Japan’s headquarters were published in the February 1993 edition of Sega’s staff newsletter Harmony.[2]