Sonic’s Bizarre CD Quality Adven- oh crap I used that joke already
Sonic CD is a rather strange game, and a even stranger pick for my first review of a Sonic game. It was released in 1993 for the Sega CD add on for the Sega Genesis. For the 3 of you who don’t know, the Sega CD add on allowed games to have the benefits of being released on a CD format. Unfortunately back then this just meant pumping the games full of shit FMVs, making a bunch of ports and maybe making a better soundtrack thanks to the CD quality audio. Simply put the system flopped, though not nearly as badly as the Sega 32X. Sonic CD, Night Trap and Snatcher are the only games considered “worth having” out of the system’s library. Of course that is if you have the money to pay for a expensive add on for a Sega Genesis which you need to already have to begin with.
For the longest time I was curious of Sonic CD, it was a strange looking game I’d never heard of that was released on a console I’d never heard of. It was such a…weird looking Sonic game, both in looks and how it played. I watched 2 different LPs of it whenever I had internet, though since I didn’t know what a emulator was back then I never had a chance to play it. That is until I got my PS3 and heard about the revamp of the game that was being released on PSN in 2011. It was one of the first PSN games I purchased and it was also one of the cheapest, the game is only a few euro. The 2011 remake was created by Christian Whitehead, who reworked the game from scratch using his custom “Retro Engine”. Sega then decided to release the game officially and now it’s on Xbox Live, PSN and iOS. They even put Whitehead in charge of Sonic Mania because he’ll fucking make a great game and everyone knows it. If you’re getting Sonic CD you should get the 2011 port as it is incredibly cheap, has beautiful widescreen graphics, bug fixes and a slew of other features that I’ll mention later. For now, let’s talk about the game itself.
Welcome to Sonic land
In the universe of Sonikku and his most despised companions is Little Planet, a mystical place said to appear over Never Lake at the end of each year. Apparently the miniature celestial body can just appear insanely close to a much bigger one without fucking things up. Anyway, the planet has some sort of weird flow of time due to the mysterious 7 Time Stones that are hidden within the strange world. It is said that having all 7 of the mystic relics allow one to move freely through time, not that we unlock something like Time Sonic from getting them.
Sonic decides to head to the planet for the hell of it but finds it chained up to a random mountain shaped like Eggman’s face. Obviously the good doctor wants the Time Stones for himself. Sonic scurries up the chain in a cool little animated cutscene (that plays at 2 fps if you’re using a actual Sega CD) and begins his quest for the Time Stones and to stop Eggs Man. Along the way he comes across his new stalker, Amy Rose, introduced in this game to be a damsel in distress that gets kidnapped by Metal Sonic in the second zone. Oh yeah, Metal Sonic is introduced in this game too but he only appears to kidnap Amy and participate in a shit race midway through the game. At least the concept is cool enough though since this game came out after Sonic 2 the idea of a robot Sonic wasn’t new to people, this guy just appears in more stuff. In any case Sonic has a lot to do to stop Eggman now.
Pls read the enclosed instruction manual
Since this is the first Sonic game I’ve reviewed so far that means I have a bit of explaining to do. Sonic is a hedgehog that looks like Mickey Mouse and can run fast. He can damage things by jumping, which will cause him to go into a spiky ball and destroy anything he touches as well as bounce off them. Momentum is a thing in these games, believe it or not, as going down slopes will cause you to gain speed and going up inclines will cause you to lose speed. With speed, if you press down on the D-Pad you can roll into a ball. When rolling, Sonic keeps his momentum and damages anything he rolls into. Basically Ball = Attack. The simple act of going to the top of a slope with speed, rolling down it and going faster is so nice to perform. Indeed, the appeal of Sonic is using the momentum based gameplay to your advantage, letting you go fast for the sake of it or to further explore the stage by reaching higher pathways.
You’ll also find a variety of objects that’ll launch you with great speed, like springs or speed boosters. Throughout the stage you can find various item boxes which gives you benefits when you destroy them (except the ones with Eggman’s face on it, they deal damage). These items range from a extra life, a shield, temporary invincibility, temporary boost in speed and 10 rings. Sonic dies the instant he takes damage but if he has at least one ring he’ll survive at the cost of dropping all of his rings. Collecting 100 rings gives you a extra life. The shield I mentioned earlier allows Sonic to take one hit without losing his rings or dying if he has none.
What I’ve just spewed out are the basic mechanics to 2D Sonic games. Now let’s see what Sonic CD does that is new.
Sonic has two new moves in Sonic CD. There’s the Super Peel Out which you activate by holding up and the jump button. This causes Sonic to turn his feet into a figure-eight somehow. Letting go of the buttons will cause Sonic to launch forward faster than he can usually achieve. Though waiting will rev up his speed, immediately letting go on the up of the D-pad will still cause Sonic to run ahead, just not at his maximum. The Spin Dash is in this game, just shit since it requires a full charge and isnt as fast as the Super Peel Out. You activate it by holding down and the jump button. You need to wait till it fully charges for Sonic to zoom forward in his ball form. If it isn’t fully charged, Sonic won’t move when you let the buttons go.
The original Sonic 2 Spin Dash (that doesn’t need to be fully charged) is the default in 2011 remake but the Super Peel Out is still faster overall even when you rev the Spin Dash by mashing the jump button. The only negative to the Super Peel Out is that you aren’t in your ball form meaning hitting a enemy while running hurts you and not them so entering your ball form after you activate it may be wise.
Sonic CD is time travels
The main gimmick to Sonic CD is Time Travel. There are 3 Zones per area, with the 3rd Zone being a Boss Zone. Every normal stage starts you off in the Present, the Boss Zones having you locked into the Future for some reason. By touching a Past or Future sign, that sign will appear next to Sonic’s life counter. Now when Sonic picks up enough speed he’ll start emitting large sparkles. Keep the speed going for a bit and you’ll travel through time. Each stage has 4 time periods, each with their own music, looks and alterations to the level’s design to represent the time that you’re in. However while there is one Past and one Present, there are two possible Futures for each Zone.
The Bad Future is the default Future for each zone as somehow, despite your efforts in the Present, Eggman was able to take over here and the Zone is utterly fucked. Getting a Good Future for a Zone requires that you take one of two methods:
Time Travel: Go to the Past. Once there you need to find and destroy the Robot Generator hidden within that time period. This grants you the good future for that Zone and destroys every enemy in the Zone. Destroying each Robot Generator in every Zone will give you the good ending.
Get the Time Stones: Collect 50 rings. Keep them till you get to the exit sign at the end of the Zone and jump into the giant ring after the sign before the stage ends. This will take you to the Special Stage. Here in this trippy, parallax scrolling, F-Zero like world is where you need to destroy 6 UFO enemies floating in the air to earn a Time Stone. Sonic runs and picks up speed automatically, your job is simply turning him left and right and jumping over obstacles. Each stages has a time limit and touching the water or oil will remove 10 seconds. When only 20 seconds remain on the timer a blue UFO will appear than can give extra time if you destroy it. Completing these stages was a utter nightmare on the Sega CD because of the shit collision detection but the 2011 revamp has thankfully made the stage insanely easy to play thanks to its better collision detection and frame rate. Collecting all 7 Time Stones immediately gets you the Good Future for every Zone and unlocks the good ending by default.
Which is the better option?
Out of those two options, getting all the Time Stones is without a doubt the easiest and least painful means of getting the best ending. You have 14 normal zones to get 50 rings and collect the 7 Time Stones. That’s 14 opportunities out of the 7 you’ll need.
Sure, some stages are harder to get 50 rings in but you can get the Time Stones early before the zones become harder. Even if you’re close to messing up in a Special Stage….the game saves automatically at the start of each Zone and Special Stage so you can reset if you’re about to fail and immediately retry the Special Stage. If you miss even ONE Robot Generator in the game, then you’re not getting the good ending. That’s 14 different Robot Generators to hunt down, since the Boss Zones don’t have any Robot Generators. That’s not even taking into account the effort needed to Time Travel or the…..level design itself.
The level design
The original Sonic the Hedgehog had the problem of giving you a character who can go fast but making the majority of the game slow platforming challenges. Sonic CD doesn’t do that…..to a extent. Well the last two zones of the game are large and slow platforming challenges while the rest of the game takes a different approach. Sonic CD’s main focus is exploration. You can easily rush to the end of most of the zones in around 2 minutes, 3 at max. The zones aren’t always built with speed in mind but at the very least the platforming challenges aren’t extremely sluggish and there are often sections where you can just zoom past them on a different pathway. There are a lot of platforming sections but they can be done relatively fast, despite how weirdly structured most of them are. The point is you can beat get through the game quickly, not as much as in Sonic 2 but more than Sonic 1. When going to the past for the robot generator, expect the amount of time you spend in the zone to increase exponentially.
In some zones it is easy to time travel thanks to good Past sign placement and certain sections of the stage being specifically built so that you can keep your speed long enough to time travel (for example, two springs that launch you back and forth to each other). Other times the zone can do the exact opposite and make time travelling a utter chore, especially when trying to find Past signs and keeping them. Not to mention, if you fuck up and lose speed when Sonic begins to sparkle as you attempt to time travel you may lose your Past Sign icon, requiring you to go find another. You may find yourself restarting the stage to retry time travelling when you run out of available Past signs, and that isn’t even half of what’s wrong with this set up. When you get to the Past, you will now have one question that may not be answered for a long while; WHERE THE FUCK IS THE ROBOT GENERATOR?
Sonic CD has many, many, different stage pathways so it isn’t hard to get lost looking for the Robot Generator. This is especially apparent with some zones like Stardust Speedway Zone 2 where the layout can be a utter mess. Just have a look at a Sonic CD level map to see what I mean. Indeed, you will get lost looking for the damn thing if the pathway you chose led you away from where it was. You can see the Robot Generator in every time period but you can only destroy it in the Past and the means to getting to it may have changed along with the level design.
The stages can already be disorientating enough, zones like Wacky Workbench will launch Sonic all over the place making it even harder to make your way around. Can I talk about Wacky Workbench for a sec? Finding the Robot Generator in Wacky Workbench Zone 1 and 2 is insane. In Zone 1, getting to the Past is a chore because of level design and you’ll find the Robot Generator…in a locked area that you cant reach from anywhere around it. This because what you need to do it get CRUSHED by a piston-like object in the upper pathway that somehow takes you into a pipe that leads there. Yes, you need to get crushed by something to get sent to it. Who the fuck would do that? Not to mention Zone 2 straight up puts the Robot Generator in the beginning of the zone and you get launched straight past it as the zone begins so you’ll need to backtrack in either the Present or the Past if you want to find it. Metallic Madness gets even worse, the zone is already a platforming nightmare but finding the Robot Generator is even worse. And remember YOU HAVE A TIME LIMIT OF TEN MINUTES IN THIS GAME. Not much of a Sonic game if you spend all your time getting lost looking for Robot Generators.
I went after all of the Robot Generators on a couple of playthroughs are there is a reason I never went after them again, it’s such a utter pain to do and you really have no reason to do it besides seeing the Good Future when you aren’t able to have all the Time Stones yet. There’s also these Metal Sonic holograms you can destroy in the Past which don’t affect anything except Achievements in the 2011 remake, they just cause animals to appear and roam the zone. Basically don’t bother unless you want a extra Achievement, they don’t affect the ending or the Future.
“Work that sucker to death”
Now in terms of overall stage quality it is fine like I mentioned before, I love how many different pathways are available to you as you make your way through the stage though sometimes it feels like random chunks of level design was just tossed around at various points. The variety in level thematics and gimmicks is great, though Metallic Madness is just a terrible zone completely. All of the zones stand out well in looks and the colour palette for each is extremely varied and even bizarre at points. This is especially evident as you start travelling through time and see all the differences to the level art and the changes in the colours used.
Word of advice, don’t play the game in the dark for the love of god your eyes will fucking hate you for it since the stage bizarre colours combined with how much you can get launched by the stage will make you feel disorientated. Expect it to happen anyway in Wacky Workbench because of how the stage launches you when you touch the ground and how the stage flashes routinely at some areas to signify that the lasers around you are being activated. Interesting colour choices that will probably give someone a seizure, but hey at least it tends to look pretty a lot of the time.
Now the boss fights are even more bizarre. Most of them just involve finding a way to HIT Eggman, as most of the time he has a really low amount of hit points. The second boss is one big pinball machine that you need to get to the top of to win. This means the fight can end anywhere between 30 seconds to around 5 minutes. In another boss fight you need to run on a treadmill to damage Eggman’s machine whilst dodging stuff he drops on you. They’re interesting concepts for a boss fight for sure though a good part of them either end really quickly or become annoying as a result of the gimmick in play with Wacky Workbench having a fucking instant kill scenario at the very last part of the battle if you fuck up. The final boss sucks, no question as it literally dies in 4 hits and is pathetically easy to dodge.
The Metal Sonic fight, for all of its fame, is pretty crap. It’s supposed to be a race, with Eggman tailing behind the two with his instant kill laser (no joke, even if you have rings you die) to keep you from slowing down. Problem: It isn’t a race, it’s a battle of Sonic Vs. Rubber Band AI. Metal Sonic will constantly catch up at some points no matter how far you go and if he hits you then you’re knocked back will only a few seconds to get going again before Eggman’s instant kill laser wipes you out. Not to mention the course you race in is horrible with so many spikes and shit in the way to kill your speed. The best thing to do is avoid damage, stick to the upper pathway as much as you can and keep around Metal Sonic since you can easily pass him out at the last second and close the exit in his face.
Its party time
Now yknow what really helps going through the game? The soundtrack, its fucking incredible no doubt thanks to the CD quality audio they had access to. So much variety and atmosphere and funk, it has everything good about a Sonic soundtrack mixed in with whatever 90s CD quality godliness they could toss in. Though I have to admit I’m not a fan of a couple of tracks, its a great soundtrack overall. The vocal tracks are corny as shit but pretty nice, though the vocals were removed for the 2011 revamp. Now I’m talking about the Japanese/European soundtrack specifically. The US soundtrack is different because apparently House music (I think) wasn’t “in” at the time so they changed the soundtrack to terrible sounding atmospheric and industrial crap that sounds like it belongs in a CDi game or something. Though Sonic Boom is a decent song I guess. The 2011 revamp lets you swap between the JP and US soundtracks at will which is great for people who hate good music.
Is the game worth getting? Yes
So overall I’d say Sonic CD isn’t a spectacular Sonic game but I play it often enough because it still gives me what I want from a Sonic game and that’s being able to rush to the end through various pathways. It doesn’t let me do that all the time but much more than Sonic 1 did. Of course the amazing soundtrack might be a factor in my standing with the game as well. The 2011 revamp is both incredibly cheap and is the only one of the classic 90s Sonic games to get a beautiful widescreen version so far. The 2011 revamp also has:
- Tails as a playable character when you beat the game, with new special stage sprites
- Both US and JP soundtracks, as mentioned previously
- A constant framerate of 60fps
- The Sonic 2 Spin Dash as a option, as mentioned previously
- The Time Trial mode from the original game
- All the unlockables from Time Trial mode in the original game: D.A. Garden, Sound Test, a Visual Mode that has all the animated cutscene and stage select
- All secret unlockables from the original game’s Sount Test: Some really weird artwork, debug mode and a secret Special Stage
- Leaderboards and Trophies/Achievements for those who give a shit
If you’re a Sonic fan you’ve already bought the fucking game no doubt. If you’re not one then I think you can really appreciate a pretty good game that has a bunch of extra content being amazingly fucking cheap. Of course you can, so do what you will with the information I’ve given you. I’m outta here.