Developer: Sonic Team Japan | Year of Release: 1993 | Platform(s): Mega CD | Genre: Platform | Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (Live Arcade)

“Games recently are too simple. You should die if you make one slight mistake.”

I found this quote randomly online a while ago but it does speak the truth. This is the mindset serious gamers should have. Its a old-school gamer’s mindset and its especially mine. “Games recently are too simple. You should die if you make one slight mistake.” Okay, maybe not necessarily die but you should at least be punished for it and that brings me to 1993’s Sonic CD.

Sonic CD was originally released in 1993 Sega’s Mega Drive add-on, the “Mega CD”, hence the name of the game.

Sonic the Mixtape

While sounding like some Sonic the Hedgehog mixtape; Sonic CD is a full-on 2D platformer not too dis-similar to the original Sonic trilogy. At some point it was the sequel to the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Team had divided into two separate teams; one half developed Sonic 2 and the second half made this cult-classic.

Sonic CD is very refreshing along with the dynamic physics and more importantly… no boosters. Actually, there are a few on them and most of the time they’re actually hazardous. It’s not about taking control away from the player, watching Sonic to go fast because apparently that’s a game. All the control is in the player’s hands. 

Sonic CD introduces the infamous Sonic Peelout gives Sonic a sudden boost of speed ever faster than the nerfed Spin Dash but unlike the Spin Dash this leaves him vulnerable to attacks. So the game wants the player to choose “should I sacrifice speed and safety” instead of just having one game-breaking attack. It’s good to have choice.

Amy Rose and Metal Sonic first debut in this game

The level structure is very unorthodox even for a Sonic game. This game has an added emphasis on exploration and the levels are quite vertically large as a result. With enough speed and a well-timed jump off a ramp and Sonic can soar to the skies reaching all sorts of places. Curling into a ball does give the add a bit more speed and doing this while suspended on a half pipe will see Sonic reaching to higher heights.

Sonic the Time Traveler

The main selling-point of this game is time-travel. Dr.Eggman has manipulated time in order to conduct his schemes and its up to Sonic to stop him. Each level has four different versions called Time Zones. While, the level structure largely stay the same throughout, the scenery, music and enemies change. To time travel, Sonic has to run past one of the “Past” or “Future” Time Posts scattered around the levels. Once hit Sonic needs to maintain with enough speed to break the Time barrier; which can be difficult at times.

‘Bad Future’ Zones are post-apocalyptic landscape where actually Eggman won. In order to prevent such a terrible thing from happening, Sonic must travel to the past zone in order to destroy robot generators randomly hidden in each level. Doing this creates a ‘Good Future’. Good Future is a perfect utopia where Eggman and his badniks are defeated has been defeated and the level becomes a massive celebration. It’s pretty satisfying actually seeing the results of your labor and you can’t help but feel proud just by reaching Good Future.

This is a Bad Future. Where Eggman's sucked the life out of everything.

This is a Bad Future. Where Eggman’s sucked the life out of everything.

Time travelling is a clever way of promoting exploration to the game. Adding depth, longevity and a nice change from the usual “run to the end” goal. You don’t have to do any of time-travel and could just complete the level the usual way but you really would be missing out on what really makes this game.

“Work that Sucka to death! Come on Now!”

Sonic CD’s bonus stages are very good. On a platform 3D playground Sonic has to destroy all the UFOs within a certain time limit. There’s alot of different hazards and power ups from bombs to boost pads, etc There’s a lot more going on than Sonic 2‘s half-pipe stages which frankly have been re-used to death now.

The latest XBLA/PSN port provides the added bonus of Tails being unlockable which is a nice touch. He plays mostly the same as Sonic aside your usual “slightly slower but can fly”. I’m not sure if it’s just me but he seems to fly much slower than in other games. I’ve also faced some glitches playing as him but that understandable as the levels weren’t originally designed with Tails’s flight in mind. Shame that you can’t unlock any achievements while playing as Tails though.

I’d rather Sega bring back these bonus stages instead of constantly re-hashing Sonic’s 2’s half pipe stages.

Alot of Sonic games have a claim to this title but Sonic CD does that one of this best soundtracks around. Overall, I’ll describe it as a mix between Sonic Rush, Streets of Rage 2 and Sonic 3. 90’s Disco Tunes everywhere! I am of course talking about the Japanese soundtrack. Sonic CD is distinct in the fact that the original game was released with two completely different soundtrack depending on the region the game was released. There’s the US soundtrack and the “everywhere else” aka JP soundtrack. The JP track is better. Much better. It’s the game’s default soundtrack anyway so you don’t have to change anything. Moving on.

What could have been?

Sonic CD is technically the second game is the series being developed at the same time as Sonic 2. Sonic 2, 3 and Knuckles which would essentially build on Sonic’s 1 gameplay and introduce many staples in the Sonic series. However, the second half of team stayed in Japan to work on a very different Sonic game, Sonic CD which introducing some radically different ideas and all sorts of crazy level design. Sadly a a game like Sonic CD was never made again but it’s arguably the most innovate Sonic game in existence.

Sonic CD

Presentation With awesome FMVs, a thrilling 90s soundtrack, multiple variants of each zone what more could one ask for. Outstanding
Gameplay Sonic moves just as crisp as the original if not better and time travel is a welcomed addition to the Sonic experience. Excellent
Content Sonic CD has the bonus stages in the series, Time Attack is present for gaming purist and Tails has been added as a playable character. Good

Final Verdict: Excellent

The Good

  • Innovate Time Travel gimmick
  • Good ol’ Classic Sonic physics and level design
  • Greater scope, exploration longevity than a usual Sonic game
  • Amazing Soundtrack (Japanese Version)
  • Fun Bonus Stages

The Bad

  • Some levels can be really short if you’re just going for the end goal.
  • Not much variety between the look of levels in the game. A lot of them look very industrial.
  • Boss fights can be a little quick and easy.
  • Tails can’t unlock achievements

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