Sonic CD Review

More than just a classic action game, Sonic CD is an exemplary port of a retro game to a modern platform.

by

History has not been kind to the Sega CD add-on, which has largely been regarded as a failure. Still, the console did have several excellent exclusives, among which was an ambitious time-hopping adventure in its most popular franchise. Sonic CD was one of the games that made a Sega CD worth owning. While its cartridge-based brothers saw frequent rereleases, Sonic CD's reissues on the PC and GameCube (via the Sonic Gems Collection) were clunky and inaccurate, as well as missing features. So it is with great celebration among Sonic series fans that Sega has rereleased Sonic CD on modern platforms as a download game, but what makes it even sweeter is the care and effort that has gone into the conversion.

Time travel in Sonic's world is so quotidian that they post it on street signs.

Sonic CD is very much a game in the classic Sonic vein. As Sonic, you run, spin, and jump around colorful, themed areas; you collect rings, smash enemies, and interact with varied environmental gimmicks. Whereas Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 favored more open stages with lots of speed-boosting contraptions, Sonic CD's stages reflect the more cluttered feel of the original game, with elaborately designed backgrounds and decorations littering the landscape. It's incredibly difficult to simply speed directly through a level in Sonic CD because various traps, enemies, and deviously placed obstacles can send a careless hedgehog reeling.

This approach to stage design has its advantages because Sonic CD is laden with odd little one-off gimmicks and hidden surprises (see if you can find the hidden goddess statue--it even gives you an achievement!). It also influences the overall stage design in interesting ways: Collision Chaos is filled with more high-speed springs and bumpers than any other Sonic zone, while Metallic Madness is a maze that can loop endlessly if you don't pay attention to where you go. Some of the stages, however, have experimental elements that prove to be more frustrating than fun. The much-despised Wacky Workbench level features a magnetized floor that sends Sonic soaring up to the stage's ceiling at the slightest touch, which practically destroys his ability to run for long distances.

In fact, running long distances anywhere in Sonic CD is quite challenging, but there's a design reason behind it. Sonic CD's major selling point in its day was its time-travel feature, which greatly increased the size and scope of the game. Each stage has four variations: a past, present, a good future, and a bad future. And each one has different graphics, music, stage elements, and designs. Travelling through time is accomplished by touching a specially marked "Past" or "Future" signpost and then keeping up a consistent high speed for about five seconds to initiate a time warp. This is often easier said than done. Though some stages have areas well suited to time travel, others require careful obstacle dodging and knowledge of level layout to maintain a consistent speed. Figuring out where and how to initiate time warps is part of the game's challenge.

Will Sonic finally discover the secret to Eggman's luxuriant moustache?

Time travel yields many benefits. Going into the future, for example, means that enemies will be worn down from years of use and less of a threat to Sonic. However, by default, the future is ruined by Dr. Eggman's pollution and incredibly unappealing from a visual standpoint, with broken and malfunctioning machinery spoiling the landscape. To fix the future, Sonic can instead travel to the past, where Eggman has set up a robotic control machine. The past is often the most difficult of the level variations, but destroying the machine in the past changes the default future into a good future, which is bright and colorful, entirely free of enemies, and often features fewer traps and obstacles. Running through the default future might be the fastest way to finish the game, but taking full advantage of the time-travel system to restore the future is the more satisfying way to play.

The interesting level design and the time-travelling gameplay have long made Sonic CD a fan favorite, but the superb port of the game to the Xbox 360 makes an already excellent game even better. The port has been codeveloped with longtime Sonic fan Christian Whitehead, and it's a fine showcase for his custom Retro Engine. The game supports full widescreen display on HDTVs, and a variety of filters allow you to choose between smoother, modern-looking 2D visuals or authentic-looking pixel art that looks practically flawless in high resolution. Other varied visual enhancements show up throughout, ranging from the smoother scrolling of the once notoriously choppy special stages to cleaned-up and polished background elements and enemy motions. You can also select between the original Sonic CD spin-dash (which increases Sonic's speed based on time spent holding the buttons down) and the Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 spin-dash (where rapid button presses increase speed).

The boss encounters, while interestingly designed, tend toward the easy side.

What makes the package even sweeter are the copious extras included. You can freely choose between the Japanese and US soundtracks to the game, though a few of the vocal songs have sadly excised the lyrics due to rights reasons. The original Sega CD edition of Sonic CD offered a host of hidden goodies and unlockable bonuses, such as staff artwork and sound tests. These are all present in the port, along with a major new feature: After completing the game once, the ability to play as Tails is unlocked. Tails' flight ability adds a wholly new element of exploration to the stages, allowing easier access to difficult-to-reach spaces.

While Sonic CD is an amazing conversion, there are a few minor issues that keep it away from port perfection. Some rare bugs rear their heads here and there, leading to odd camera shifts and occasionally falling through solid objects. Most players will not encounter these issues in a typical playthrough, however. A few areas where Sonic is forced to travel at high speeds for a lengthy period of time have also been altered so that they no longer trigger time travel to prevent players from warping by accident. While it's nice to not have to worry about inadvertently warping, experienced players may be angered that these places are no longer usable when an easy time warp is desired. Finally, a feature of the Sega CD original that allowed you to restart at the beginning of the current time zone at the expense of one life is completely missing. Because certain areas in some levels become blocked off after proceeding past them (and Sonic CD has next to no instant-death pits to voluntarily kill oneself with), the lack of this feature makes it hard to reach and see certain portions of levels.

Despite a few minor issues, Sonic CD is among the more impressive retro ports seen on modern platforms. Not only is the game faithful to the original, but it's also just plain better in many ways. And at a mere 400 Microsoft points ($5 US), it's a tremendous value to boot. If you remember Sonic CD fondly, there's no better way to enjoy one of the most treasured games in the series. And if you missed out on this one entirely before now, this is a superlative way to experience a beloved classic for the very first time.

The Good
A lot of fun platforming at a very good price
Faithfully converts the pixel look of the original to high-res, widescreen displays
Includes a huge variety of old and new unlockable extras
Offers a unique take on the classic Sonic formula
The Bad
A few noticeable changes to core gameplay may annoy some
Some vocals removed due to licensing reasons
Wacky Workbench level isn't fun
8.5
Great
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Discussion

45 comments
Phazevariance
Phazevariance

Mind you, the best version is the iPhone version because it has those missing vocals for teh opening and ending videos...

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

Sonic CD is definately the best of the Sonic games. Make sure to change the music off the crummy JAP version to the US version (if it isn't by default). It had some of the best music for a game of that generation.

GamesRing
GamesRing

first we get sonic generations and it becomes the best sonic game since too long(or even the best one ever)and after that in almost one month we get a game that is even better than generations D: what is sega thinking right now O.O

Renoo27
Renoo27

@silencedogood17: Nah man, Sonic CD is sic. Then again, so is Generations.

Originalyeti82
Originalyeti82

both this and generations are worth getting. if you can't afford it. rent generations, buy this. generations was definitely good enough to play. friggin' finally.

silencedogood17
silencedogood17

I might just save some money and grab this over Generations, does that sound stupid?

MamaLuigiBarrel
MamaLuigiBarrel

Man, the level design in this game was wacky, but I like it that way because there's a lot of places to explore.

howie1926
howie1926

Damn it....heres hoping I get some Points for Xmas!

Rovelius
Rovelius

@RE4GreatesGame LOL, just LOL. Keep on being a loser fanboy, idiot. I only have a PS3.

mystic_knight
mystic_knight moderator

My fave past time sonic game :p its funny how i just learned something in the game after 15 or so years of not playing it. :P to get a good future go to the past destroy some mechanical device, then go to the future twice. Voila good future... :S i cant believe i just found this out now. :( Im a hopeless fan.

wexorian
wexorian

i'm too old for sonic games but something wakes up when i see sonic and Tryng to play every sonic game even if it's fail :)

vamroc
vamroc

I used to put the Sonic CD in my CD player just to listen to the music from that game because it was good

wexorian
wexorian

3rd game with knuckels was best :PP

SLjimbolian
SLjimbolian

Perhaps the most underrated Sonic game ever, one of my all time favorites.

wavelength121
wavelength121

@VilandasUK Not true in the least, but you knew that didn't you fanboy

VilandasUK
VilandasUK

If GameSpot gave 8.5 out of 10 that means this sonic game is worth to try because these days GameSpot doesn't give high score to any game :)

JunimBC
JunimBC

I saw some gameplays of it, and the game looks so cool... *-*

JunimBC
JunimBC

@Frankestrat247 Sorry for my dumb commentary...it was really idiot .-.

Frankenstrat247
Frankenstrat247

@JunimBC congratulations, that's the dumbest comment I've read all day

JunimBC
JunimBC

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

skullflower
skullflower

For 400MSP this was a bargain. Much fun, and frustration, was certainly had by me.

Phil-teh-Pirate
Phil-teh-Pirate

This year has been all about Sonic. A string of good games is the least the series deserves.

HalcyonScarlet
HalcyonScarlet

I'm surprised at how good it is, it's probably one of the best 2D Sonic games i've played. Don't know why it's taken Sega this long to make a decent rerelease really. It's a bit like having this amazing Mario game and not letting people play it. Couldn't believe it only cost 400ms points. For some reason I expected it to cost 2 or 3 times that.

Raxyman
Raxyman

I guess it's official. Sonic is BACK! Great review BTW, the score it's just about right.

otanikun
otanikun

@Shawn45, you couldn't be anymore wrong. I want to applaud you for putting words in my mouth for starters, and secondly, Gamespot has quite a track record for putting lower than average scores on a game they themselves didn't like because of even the slightest change in the instance of ported games. Now I'm not saying nobody is entitled to their own opinion, in which case everybody is, but it's the core gameplay and how fun it is that should take precedence over removed vocals and a not so fun zone. The bevy of extras and unlockables, achievements and improved visuals and animation over the original should tower over a few tiny imperfections, yet they're always brought front and center and results in a lower score although the imperfections are negligible and hardly worth mentioning. In my humble opinion the game, even with it's slight blemishes, is definitely worth at least a 9.5 rather an 8.5, but then again they're just numbers, what really matters is the gamers experience while playing the game, not some websites opinion of what's good or what's bad about it.

Butchcassidy79
Butchcassidy79

I’m a bit disappointed that they have removed the lyrics from the music in the intro video (The Japanese version), it was very cool!! , anyways I just bought the game yesterday and gonna completed it to today when I can, but hopefully they did NOT remove any more lyrics from the rest of the levels BGM. And if they did….Will they better release an update for the game to allow you to use costume music tracks in the game (I have the original music from Sonic CD the Japanese Sega CD game which I want to use :) ). But till now the game is GREAT :)

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

It seems it takes sonic 5 seconds to get to 88 mph.

theJBlounge
theJBlounge

Oh man next time I'm near my Xbox, I'm getting this. I own the Sega CD and Gems Collection versions so I'm so looking forward to a version with the Japanese soundtrack.

Crazyguy105
Crazyguy105

Will download. Sounds like SEGA did an amazing job on this port.

Dezuria
Dezuria

Sonic CD, Snatcher, Shining Force CD, Popful Mail, Lunar series. The Sega CD might have only had a handful of great games, but man were they great games! Amazing for their time.

Shawn45
Shawn45

@otanikun "They didn't give a game I liked a perfect score, it must be because they hate games I like!" Grow up, an 8.5 is a great score, just because a game you liked didn't get a perfect score, doesn't mean the reviewer or the website is bad.

Superzone
Superzone

Looks like a great deal. Will download.

soulless4now
soulless4now

I've never played this game, but I want to now.

GulliversTravel
GulliversTravel

Its a shame that none of the reviews are stressing what makes the game so great and that is the exploration aspect of it, and instead focusing on the just the time-travel bit.

otanikun
otanikun

I really don't see what's to complain about this game, but then again this is Gamespot and they find everything to complain about no matter how small it is. I'd give this game a perfect 10/10.

TimboII
TimboII

I'm glad they gave this port the attention it deserves. I only wish Sega had cared the same amount about their other Sonic games that were ported. Too bad all Sega CD games hadn't been this good or the thing may have lived a while longer.

luneth77
luneth77

@ziproy Haha, yeah I was just at gamerankings and saw the 0/10 score and was looking forward to reading that review. Just a glitch unfortunately.

ziproy
ziproy

Lol the link said you gave this game 0.0

Son_of_Bmore
Son_of_Bmore

Y doesn't Gamespot do video reviews anymore

00J
00J

i loved this game on the Sega Cd, the music was awesome as well as the opening anime sonic video, this was really one of the best uses of the Sega CD... It was so cool needing to get up to 88 miles per hour and hold it long enough to initiate the time jump... lol

Sonic CD More Info

First Release on Nov 19, 1993
  • Sega CD
  • PlayStation 3
  • + 6 more
  • PC
  • Xbox 360
  • iPhone/iPod
  • Android
  • Windows Mobile
  • Ouya
Sonic CD bridges the gap between his oldest adventures and his new digital exploits.
8.8
Average User RatingOut of 1039 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Sonic Team, Sega
Published by:
Sega
Genres:
2D, Action, Platformer
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
All Platforms