My SONIC CD Review

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

I found this quote randomly on the Interweb a while ago but man does it speak the truth. This is the mindset serious gamers should have. This is the old-school gamer mindset. This is my mindset. “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 the Hedgehog CD

Sonic CD was originally released in 1993 Sega’s Mega Drive add-on, the “Mega CD”, hence the name of the game. Amy Rose and Metal Sonic are also introduced for the first time.

While it may sound like a complication mix of Sonic video game music tracks; Sonic CD is a full-on 2D platformer not too dis-similar to the original Sonic trilogy.  While not as well known as the Sonic’s 1-3 & Knuckles, depending on who you ask, it’s the best damned Sonic game as there. Sonic CD was recently re-released for XBLA and PSN; prompting me to give the a game a go. And I do not regret that at all.

Keeping it Ol’ Skool

Firstly, I gotta say that it is very refreshing to play old-school Sonic again. The level structure is very unorthodox, even for a Sonic game, along with the dynamic old-school physics and most importantly No Boosters. Well there’re very few of them and alot of the time they’re hazardous. It’s not about taking control away from the player, forcing the player to go fast because “Sonic has to go fast”. All the control is in the player’s hands.  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. This trick is quite useful. The game actually makes me like the Classic’s stages of Sonic Generations a little less. Sonic CD introduces the infamous Sonic Peelout (Sonic’s figure 8 run) which gives Sonic a boost of speed, much like the Spin Dash, though unlike the Spin Dash this leaves him vulnerable to attacks. The Spin Dash is nerfed compared to other games. but that’s understandable. The spin dash doesn’t serve much use as a speed boost here but  it can be used to batter enemies. So the game wants the player to choose between the Peelout’s speed and Spin Dash’s attack prowess instead of just having one overly-useful 2 in 1 package. It’s nice to have choice.

Sonic the Time Traveler

When you see sparks you’re on the verge of Time Travel. Be careful though, lose momentum and you’ll lose that power altogether.

The main selling-point of this game is Time-Travel. Time is a big theme in this game. Dr.Eggman has manipulated time in order to conduct his schemes and its up to Sonic to stop him. Each level has four different Time Zones. While, the level structure stays the same throughout, the scenery and audio track changes to suit the timeline. Each time you start off in the Present version.  In order to time travel, Sonic has to run past a Time Post which are scattered around the levels. Once collected, Sonic needs to run with enough speed for a certain amount of time in order to break the Time barrier, which is more difficult than it sounds.  Sonic can travel to the “Future” or “Past” depending on the Time Post he got. Collecting a future Time Post will lead you to Bad Future. A post-apocalyptic world where Eggman rules. Literally. In order to prevent such a terrible thing from happening, Sonic must travel to the Past. These level have a more relaxed, prehistoric-vibe. In the Past, if you find and destroy a certain robot generator, randomly hidden in each level, this would create Good Future. Good Future is a perfect utopia where Eggman has been defeated, all his badniks are eliminated and the level becomes a massive celebration. The music all joyous and what have you. It’s pretty satisfying actually seeing the results of your labor and you can’t help but feel proud just by reaching Good Future as it is not easy to do. Time travelling is a clever way of promoting exploration within the game and it is also a nice change from the usual “run to the end” goal. Still, you don’t have to do any of this time-traveling malarkey and could just complete the level the usual way but you really would be missing out on what makes this game special.

Bonus Stages, Tails and other Stuff

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

To get a Good Ending, you need to create a Good Future in every single Zone. As that is no easy feat, you could also “simply” collect the 7 Time Stones basically Chaos Emeralds from the bonus stages. And these Bonus Stages are pretty awesome. Sonic is in a 3D playground and has to destroy all the UFOs within a certain time limit. There’s alot of different terrain on the ground, some slows him down, some takes his rings, some provides him a speed boost and so on. It’s a lot of more fun than Sonic 2’s overused half-pipe stages. I hope Sega brings this back some day.

This new 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. Though, it is a shame that you can’t unlock any achievements while playing as Tails though.

Sonic CD is a kick-ass soundtrack If you pick the the JP soundtrack that is.

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

This last thing I’ll talk about is the soundtrack. Now I know 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 JP soundtrack. Sonic CD is distinct in the fact that the original game was released with two completely different OSTs depending on the region the game was released. There’s the US soundtrack and the “everywhere else” soundtrack; more well-known as the JP soundtrack. Fans have been long debating which is better. The popular consensus is that the JP soundtrack  is better. 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 after Sonic Team split into two after the release of Sonic 1. Half of the team moved to the USA and would eventually make 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. Still, Sonic CD is a hell of a game which is easily worth  the £5 I paid for it.

The Good

  • Innovative Time Travel features adds so much more depth to the game
  • It’s Old-Skool Sonic! Fun and challenging level design for gaming purists.
  • Old-school Physics allows Sonic to do incredibly things
  • The variety of intense boss battles.
  • Features arguably the best bonus stages in the series
  • Features a really good up-beat soundtrack (JP Version)

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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