A SONIC CD Retrospective

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

Sonic the Time Sweeper

Whilst it may sound like some Sonic the Hedgehog mixtape, Sonic CD is actually a full-on 2D platformer not too dis-similar from the original Sonic trilogy. The stand out feature of Sonic CD is time-travel; as Dr.Eggman has manipulated time in order to conduct his schemes and it’s up to Sonic to stop him. This is implemented in such a way that speed has a new purpose, as with enough speed and a bit of luck Sonic can travel through time.

The way this works is that each level can be played in four different Time Zones. The Present, the Past, Good Future and Bad Future.  In order to save the Future Sonic must save the Past. Each Time Zone has a different look, different enemies, music and hidden sections.

Present zones are your standard Sonic affair and Past zones send Sonic to prehistoric versions of the levels. Bad Future zones are bleak, grey worlds where animals and nature have fallen and Eggman has actually won. In order to prevent such a thing, Sonic must destroy Eggman’s robot generators scattered in each past time zone stage.


Sonic CD was originally released in 1993 on the Sega Megadrive’s CD add-on: The Mega CD. Hence the name of the game.

Doing this will create a Good Future – a utopia where nature and technology are in unison; Eggman and his robots have been defeated and the essentially becomes one big fiesta. It’s hard work but also greatly satisfying making a Good Future. As you actually see the fruits of your labour, whilst being applauded for your efforts by the celebratory music you just can’t help but feel proud.

Sonic the Sequel?

Sonic moves around pretty much like he did in Sonic 1; so essentially like a sweet dream. Virgin-tight controls alongside the dynamic physics that the 16-bit games were known for. Using Sonic’s speed to break the rule of physics; to run up walls and through 360 loops.  CD’s stages are quirkier than normal Sonic games.Play though the Wacky Workbench stage and you will know just what I mean.

To travel to an alternative time, Sonic has collect one of the many “Past” or “Future” Time Posts scattered around the levels and then run at a top speed for length of time to burst through the time barrier. This is a lot harder than it sounds. Not so much in the earlier levels where they are so more spacious but the later levels which will throw hazards and Badniks at you to try and stop your momentum.

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

Sonic has to find and destroy all Eggman’s Badnik Generator in the Past in order to prevent a Bad Future.

If this happens you will lost your Time post and have to find another one which can be very frustrating and will happen. Sonic CD is very strict about these things. Also there’s no on-screen indication as to where any of these items are. This goes for Time posts or Generators. It’s literally is a wild goose chase. You have past them already and have to track back. There are times where exploration can feel like work.

Time travel does provide a completely new dynamic which further rewards the player for really exploration even if it isn’t perfectly implemented. It is entirely optional and you can complete each level as normal but then you would be missing out on what makes this game special.

Sonic CD also introduces the infamous Sonic Peelout, the 8 way run, which gives Sonic a sudden boost of speed even faster than the Spin Dash. Unlike the Spin Dash however, the player will be completely vulnerable to attacks. So the player is given options. There will be times when speed is more important and times were you would rather a sturdy attack; Sonic CD provides many scenarios where the better players will be rewarded for making the right decisions.


I wonder if Sega would ever bring these stages back. Lord knows Sonic 2’s bonus stages have been done to death.

Sonic the Mixtape

Sonic CD’s bonus stages are breath of fresh air. In an open platform 3D playground, which is visually impressive for a game released in 1993, Sonic has to destroy all the UFOs within a certain time limit. These stages are littered with hazards and power-ups and vastly different to Sonic 2’s half-pipe bonus stages which has been done to death. The latest XBLA/PSN port provides the added bonus of Tails being playable which is a nice touch.

Benefiting from the Mega CD’s improved capabilities Sonic CD very much looks the part. Improved graphical sprites Different Stage ranged from bright lush worlds to grey, mechanical fortresses and the improved graphical sprites allow this recurring theme of nature vs. technology to be shown on our screens. Sonic also received new idle, running and jumping animations further fleshing out the character in his early years.

A lot of Sonic games have a fair shout to this claim but Sonic CD really does have one of this best soundtracks around. Sonic CD was actually released with two completely different soundtracks depending on the region the game was released. The JP track is better, much better. The Mega CD boosted to audio quality of the Megadrive and it defiantly shows here. Sonic CD’s funky soundtrack can be described as a mix between Sonic Rush, Streets of Rage 2 and Sonic 3; it’s definitely a game made in the early 90s.


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

Favorite Track(s)Palmtree Panic – Bad Future (JP)Stardust Speedway – Good Future (JP)Boss Battle (JP) I could have put about ten tracks to be honest…

Sonic CD

While Sonic 2 built upon the Sonic formula and introduced many staples to the Sonic series, Sonic CD dared to utilize the existing formula in brand new ways bringing in whole new ideas without taking away from what made Sonic fun in the first place. While not perfectly implemented, Time Travel gives Sonic and his speed a whole new defined purpose by literally adds a new dimension of exploration to the game.

Stages became playgrounds to explore instead of just tracks to race through. The game actively encourages the player to seek out sections that in another games they may just normally have run past. It’s a fresh challenge and brings a longevity to the game that wasn’t present before, but underneath the hood it’s still classic Sonic, and presentation wise it’s fantastic. Sadly a game like Sonic CD was never made again, which is a shame because as it’s arguably the most innovate Sonic game ever made. Not bad for a mixtape.

Edited by Ayrton Noye George 


3 thoughts on “A SONIC CD Retrospective

    • Thanks I had Sonic Gems too but on the Gamecube. I was around 15 and I remember not liking Sonic CD that much. I didn’t know the reason for time travelling back then so it seems rather pointless to me. How I was wrong.


      • Yep, I had the same reaction to the game and just played it through not trying to time travel at all, lol! It’s still the classic 2D game I’ve played the least and therefore have still to learn more but reading your review has made me want to play it all over again right now!lol 🙂


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