I’ll break with you people: I’ve been a fan of Sonic since childhood. Some of the first games I was ever exposed to were Sonic games, whether it was on the Genesis of my babysitter’s son, or my neighbor across the street. I grew up loving the little blue blur, not really caring one way or the other about the 16-bit console wars. (I was barely able to talk when they were at their peak, anyway.) One of my fondest memories is playing the PC port of Sonic CD, as my friend had a copy of the game that came free with his computer. I soon enough got my own copy, and it was glorious.
Many consider Sonic CD to be the best Sonic game, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the perfect mix of blazing speed and awesome platforming (’cause believe it or not, but Sonic doesn’t always have to be running!) While Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles hold up that legacy, Sonic CD brings a new mechanic to the table that encourages a ton of exploration: time travel.
Each zone in Sonic CD has a past, present, and future. You can run through the levels like normal in the present, but when you get to the third act, you’ll find that the future looks a little… bleak. Well, if you happen to run across a “Past” or “Future” post, then build up enough speed and keep it going, you can travel through time. This Back to the Future homage is more than just for show, though. If you travel to the past, then find and destroy
Eggman’s Robotnik’s robot-making-machines and holograms of Metal Sonic, you can finish the level with a “Good Future”.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sonic game without some bullshit shiny stones for you to collect. Instead of Chaos Emeralds, you’re tasked with collecting 7 Time Stones, which are totally not Chaos Emeralds and have the power to control time itself. They’re gotten the usual Sonic way: getting at least 50 rings and then hopping into the giant Special Stage ring at the end of the act. Sonic CD’s special stages are very… Mode-7-ey, but they’re not all that good. I honestly would have settled with Blue Sphere from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but if you’re gonna show off the CD technology, that’s a good way to do it.
This game is not a straight-up port, though. It’s practically a loving remaster of the game, handled by one of the guys from the Sonic Retro site, as well as the creator of a few Sonic fan games. This version includes a ton of awesome features, a few new surprises, and both the American and original Japanese soundtracks, so video game music snobs like myself can finally shut the hell up about which one is better (even though I love both). But don’t take my word for it:
Among the added features include some visual filters the smooth out the pixels, online leaderboards so you can compete for the best times on each level, a handful of Achievements/Trophies, and they also added in Tails, who was never in the original game. If you want to get into the really technical stuff, they also added the ability to use the Sonic 2 spin-dash, which has different properties and timing than the Sonic CD version. It’s that kind of love and care that was put into this remastering.
Of course, Sonic CD isn’t terribly long (I just downloaded it and beat it in the span of 3 hours, after all), but if you’re looking to find all the secrets, such as getting all the good futures, finding all the Time Stones, or even finding some of the harder Achievements, you can put a lot of time into this little download. Hell, the Time Attack mode is just as addicting as ever, with a bunch of unlockable bonuses awaiting you should you bring your total combined time to under 25 minutes. The online leaderboards make it even more fun to shave seconds off your times.
I love the care that was put into making this a reality, from the visual filters to the addition of a character that was never intended to be in the game in the first place, to finally letting people (in the US, at least) choose which soundtrack they want to hear during the game (and let’s be honest, they’re both awesome). It’s not just a great remastering of a classic game, it’s just a really damn good Sonic game, and the fact that Stardust Speedway isn’t in Sonic Generations really bums me out. Plus, it’s only five dollars, which is an absolute steal for this little gem. Your next best bet is getting the Sonic Gems Collection for GameCube, and that disc is weighed down with the alright “Sonic R” and the pretty awful “Sonic the Fighters”.
I don’t care if you’re a Sonic fan or not. This game is an absolute blast to play, especially for the more old-school crowd, and it really shouldn’t be missed. The only terrible thing about Sonic CD is that Sega somehow tied Sonic 4’s story to it.