Weekly Retro Review: Sonic CD

Weekly Retro Review: Sonic CD

When the CD-ROM technology first appeared, game developers got all kinds of insane ideas. Due to the storage space it opened up, they figured that they could put all sorts of little movies on them. This is how Full Motion Video or FMV came into being on games. And Sega managed to utilize this technology, in combination with their hit 16 bit console the Genesis, to open up a new generation of gaming. At least, that was the idea. The biggest problem with the early games from the FMV era was that they focused so much on making movies (often with b-movie level plots) that they didn’t think much about gaming. In fact, a lot of the Sega-CD’s library consisted of games that mostly had you watching really bad movies, like Night Trap, Sewer Shark, and even a Power Rangers game that was one long button pressing reflex game while badly edited episodes of the hit kids show played in the background. And do not even get me started on those Make My Video games. I still have horrifying nightmares of Marky Mark music playing. But thankfully, the Sega-CD was also often used to make high quality games that kept the mini movies to a minimum and focused on great games. And the best one of them all was Sonic CD.

The game, which is often believed to be set between the events of Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic 2, features the game debut of two long standing and beloved characters in the franchise: Amy Rose and Metal Sonic. Amy first appeared in a comic strip, and when they could not include Princess Sally from the cartoon in the game, she ended up appearing. The story goes that Amy, a long-time fan with a crush on Sonic, follows the hero as he goes to watch the appearance of the Little Planet, a strange little world which appears every few months over a lake on Sonic’s world. The planet does this due to the Time Stones. When they arrive, they find the Little Planet chained up to a mountain that has Doctor Eggman’s face carved on it. The small world is covered with machinery, and before they can investigate, Amy is abducted by a blue metallic blur. Sonic has no choice but to head to the Little Planet, find the Time Zones, set right what has gone wrong, save Amy, destroy Metal Sonic and stop Doctor Eggman. All in a day’s work, right?

Before we talk about the game, let’s get the awesome videos out of the way.

And that’s just the American version. Here’s the original Japanese one

Needless to say, when I saw that, I was ready for awesomeness. And that was the only video on the game… well, other than the ending, which you will get to see later.

Gameplay-wise, if you’ve played an old-school Sonic game, you know how to play this. The only new and unique move in this game is the Super Peel Out. By holding Up and pressing the jump button, Sonic would start running in place, his legs taking the shape of a figure eight. This would achieve a higher level of speed than the typical Spin Dash, but it would leave Sonic vulnerable. Sonic would also assume this animation at his highest level of speed. This is important, due to the time travel game mechanic. Each Zone had three acts, and in the first two acts, you’d find time posts marked with “Past” or “Future”. If you hit this, and ran as fast as you could for as long as you could, Sonic would launch himself through time, and end up in said time period. You needed to do this and end up in the past, find the machine that was making more robots, to prevent the bad future. Assuming of course, you didn’t go for the Time Stones.

The Special Stages in this game consisted of a behind-the-back view of Sonic as he ran through a long track, chasing down little UFOs. If you destroyed all of them, you’d get a Time Stone. Sadly, as this game was in development at the same time as Sonic 2, Super Sonic does not appear here.

Getting all Time Stones allowed you to see the good ending, and guarantee the good future for the Little Planet. As I said, this is the typical Sonic game, with a beach/jungle, casino-type level, and huge factory type level. The highlight for me was the boss battle with Metal Sonic, as you had to race him through the level and not die.

Graphics-wise, it’s one of the pinnacles of 16-bit art, with the original design of Sonic making its last appearance before Sonic 3 and featuring the most hilarious waiting animation of all time, as Sonic would run off and the game would end if you left him waiting too long. The music on both the Japanese and North American versions took full advantage of the CD format to give some truly sweet tunes. This became a point of controversy, because Sega of America changed the soundtrack for the American version. The most likely reason behind this is because Sega USA had its own sound studio and wanted to take full advantage of it to make its own tunes. I personally like both versions, and don’t care either way.

Sonic CD was ported to the PC, and recently was released in the compilation Sonic Gems on the Gamecube (as well as the PS2 in Europe). I highly recommend this classic  if you get the chance to play it. And for sticking it out with me this long, here’s the epic ending video.

Ahmed is not just a fanboy, but also a martial artist and an indie author who has published such fantasy adventure books as "Lunen: Triblood".

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