There‚Äôs a lot of Sonic around these days, right? This year alone has seen me review more Sonic games than I can actually remember, although that may have something to do with Christmas shopping-related brain explosions.
So, here we are with Sonic CD. It‚Äôs an old Sonic, so according to the Laws of the ‚ÄėHog, that means it‚Äôs a good Sonic. You know, because new Sonic games are terrible ‚ÄĒ not all of them, true, but nearly. But how well does Sonic CD hold up? Is it actually worthy of the nostalgic praise heaped on it? Well, the short answer is ‚Äėyes‚Äô, and the longer answer is‚Ä¶ well, much the same, but with more history about the game. Onwards!
Sonic CD was released for Sega‚Äôs ill-fated Mega CD peripheral, a wonderfully clunky thing that attached itself to a Mega Drive and allowed you to play a limited assortment of crap titles that tried to fool you into thinking awful, grainy video clips were the future of gaming. There were a couple of gems, however, and Sonic CD was one of them. Sure, there were a couple of intro/ending anime cartoons (that are actually pretty neat), but the extra space was mainly used to 1) provide a varied and high-quality soundtrack, and 2) throw in a ton of level variations.
Unfortunately, few people owned a Mega CD, and thus relatively few people got to enjoy Sonic CD. It got a PC release in the late 90s (which I remember buying at Dick Smiths for $120), and was included in one of the many Sonic compilations on a later console, but has otherwise languished.
Now, however, it‚Äôs available everywhere you might need it! And what‚Äôs more, unlike other Sega titles brought kicking and screaming into the light of the current generation, the emulation and renovation has been handled with a good degree of care and affection. Here‚Äôs what‚Äôs been spruced up:
• Both the US and Japanese soundtracks are now available, and you can switch between them. There was a bunch of controversy around these soundtracks, which you can google if you feel the need. I actually like bits of both of them ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs worth listening to all the music if you have the time. It‚Äôs some of the best game music of the era, in my opinion.
• You can view the game pixelated, or apply a couple of filters to smooth out the edges. Either way, it looks good, and the colours in particular still pop after all these years.
• Your progress can be saved, a welcome nod to the fact that this is 2011.
• Loading times are mercifully non-existent. I mention this because playing the game on an actual Mega CD could be torturous as it sloooooooowly changed from one music track to another, pausing the action while it did so. No longer!
• For some crazy reason, you can unlock Tails and play the game as him. It‚Äôs damn weird, but not unwelcome.
That‚Äôs all well and good, but how‚Äôs the actual game, for the non-initiated? It‚Äôs a tricky question to answer ‚ÄĒ this is a game that was developed concurrently with Sonic 2, but went off in its own direction. In its visual and level design, it shares more with Sonic 1 than the sequel that went on to define a lot about the series.
I‚Äôd say the levels aren‚Äôt always as tight or fun as the main games, and the zones themselves can be pretty random. But there are tons of highlights, particularly Palmtree Panic and Stardust Speedway. Racing Metal Sonic is still great as well, and a couple of the boss fights stand out.
Oh yeah, and there‚Äôs time travel. In every level, you‚Äôll go past signs saying ‚ÄúFuture‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúPast‚ÄĚ. Hit one of these and build up some speed, and you‚Äôll be transported into a different version of the level you‚Äôre currently in. The general idea is to find an evil machine in the past, destroy it, then go and enjoy yourself in the ‚Äėgood future‚Äô version of the level. If you don‚Äôt, you‚Äôll end up fighting Robotnik in the evil version of the future, where everything is nasty and polluted. It gives you a further goal in each level, and really encourages exploration, something later Sonic games unfortunately dropped by the wayside.
Bonus levels, accessible at the end of each act, aren‚Äôt so great. In fact, they‚Äôre really lame. They‚Äôre pseudo-3D, but it‚Äôs hard to control Sonic, and jumping at UFOs (don‚Äôt ask) is an exercise in frustration. But you‚Äôll need to get good if you want to get all the Chaos Emeralds, and therefore the super happy ending‚Ä¶
Whoops, I‚Äôve run on a bit too long for a digital port of an old game. Suffice it to say, this is one of the top-quality Sonic games, even if it‚Äôs a bit weirder and a bit patchier. The lack of slickness ends up being a positive ‚ÄĒ this is a game that‚Äôll stick in your memory, and encourage you to keep coming back to it. Like Sonic? You‚Äôll like this one.