Sonic CD was widely regarded as the greatest Sonic game in the early years by the few people who actually got to play it. You see, Sonic CD was one of the few games released for the SEGA CD add-on for the Genesis back in the day. The add-on didn’t sell very well, and even a game like Sonic CD became a free game with the mailing in of a slip that came with the add-on. Despite this, Sonic fans alike, myself included, often look back on Sonic CD with the greatest feelings of nostalgia.
And now, we can play it once again.
This marks the first time the game has been released by itself since the original launch back in 1993, and a port to the PC in 1996. Sonic CD has only been featured in the Sonic Gems compilation for the GameCube and PS2.
The game plays much like any other Sonic game does. The innovation came in the way of a time travel mechanic. If the player runs into a sign in the level that says past, present or future and maintains a quick speed for a few seconds after that, Sonic will teleport to a different version of that level in a different era. What’s cool about this is the ability to alter how a level might play based on certain attributes. For example, you can go back to the past and take out a robot generator, go back to the future or present, and there will be significantly less enemies. The level will also look brighter and happier as well. You can even tap into this gameplay mechanic to get a different ending, which was also the first (and to my knowledge only time) a Sonic game had multiple endings.
That’s the main game in a nutshell, but what’s been added for the port?
The new version has a host of new options. The most prevalent would be the game running in cool 1080p. Everything from the levels to the menus to the animated beginning and ending have been modernized to run on today’s widescreen sets without being stretched or otherwise compromised. The vibrant colors of the levels really pop out with the graphical enhancements.
They’ve also added a number of filters for how the game looks. You can choose from sharp, smooth or the pixely nostalgia settings. I personally went with the smooth setting because it actually started to look similar to how Sonic 4 looks.
In addition to the graphical enhancements, SEGA‘s finally came around and gave gamers the option to choose between the old, elevator-music-esque American soundtrack, or the significantly more exciting and awesome Japanese soundtrack. This is important, because it was one of the biggest complaints back when the original game was released.
They’ve also added the ability to play as Tails once you finish the game once. It would have been cool if they had included multiplayer along with the inclusion of Tails, but I won’t fault SEGA for not adding it in.
And for those leaderboard junkies, there are online leaderboards and time trial modes to satisfy your need to be better than everyone else.
Sonic CD is the best Sonic game you’ve never played. Life long fans like myself will want to pick it up because it’s unlikely you have a working version of Sonic CD lying around anymore. Fans who may have just become addicted to the Sonic franchise because of Sonic Generations will definitely want to check it out to see old-school Sonic at his greatest. Add that in with the fact that the game is only five bucks, and you’ve got yourself a no-brainer on your hands.
This review is based on a copy of the XBLA version, which was provided to us for review purposes.
Sonic CD features branching gameplay and multiple endings, a first for games of its time, and a reason to keep going back and re-playing levels.