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Jeremy Jastrzab
16 Dec, 2011

Sonic CD Review

PS3 Review | No need for those Rose-coloured glasses.
Post-release peripherals are always a tricky business. An early example can be traced back to 1993 (and even further back) with the Mega-CD add-on for the Sega Mega Drive. While a noble early attempt to get around the storage limitations of cartridges, it simply was too far ahead of its time. One of the beneficiary titles from this medium though, was Sonic CD, a title considered to be among the better of the ‘classic’ Sonic the Hedgehog titles. Taking advantage of the extra storage space, the original 1993 release of the game was praised for its innovative gameplay mechanics and use of CD quality sound.

Sonic CD is one of the more highly regarded of the classic Sonic titles, and the XBLA/PSN re-release is, surprisingly, one of the better modern ports/recreations for downloadable services and mobile platforms to be seen in recent times. It’s got more content than the original, and has been superbly cleaned up to look great on a digital display. And best of all, it’s been released at a very affordable 400 MSP/$5, which makes it a more valuable prospect than a lot of existing titles… such as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

The hedgehog who leapt through time.

The hedgehog who leapt through time.
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Aside from being the first official title to introduce Amy Rose and Metal Sonic, the major gameplay hook in Sonic CD was the ability to travel through time. While you have to remember that the way games conveyed narrative nearly 20 years ago is nowhere near as sophisticated as it is now, the basic story is that Sonic has to save ‘Little Planet’ from the clutches of Dr Robotnik/Eggman, who is taking advantage of the planet’s time manipulation properties to purport his nefarious plans… whatever they may be. It was quaint to see some of the early attempts at animated cut scenes in a game.

If you’ve ever played a classic Sonic title, you’ll know the drill. The game is divided into seven zones, each with three acts. Sonic himself is endowed with the Spin Dash and Super Peel Out, the latter being a faster attack but leaving him more vulnerable. Now it would be simple enough to dash through the game in attempt to finish it in the two to three hours that it will take, thanks to a fairly generous save system (particularly by 1993 standards). However, doing so will only yield you a fraction of the points that you’d want if you’re challenging the leaderboard and the ‘bad’ ending.

Eggman is a stupid name for a bad guy.

Eggman is a stupid name for a bad guy.
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Little Planet was once a beautiful place with several unique areas, but Dr Robotnik’s influence has started to have a negative impact on each of the levels you enter during the ‘present’. The actual purpose of the game is to travel to the past - by hitting the signs in each zone that say ‘Past’, then running uninterrupted to gather enough momentum - and find the hidden ‘Robot Generator’. Doing so in each of the first two zones will help you create a ‘Good Future’, in each act’s third boss zone. Failure to do so will create a ‘Bad Future’, where the traps and enemies are much harder. You can also create a Good Future by collect 50 rings in a stage and completing the special (gloriously nostalgic mode 7) 3D stages that follow, to earn a Timestone.

As a bonus, players will be granted access to play through the game with Sonic’s buddy, Tails, unlike in the original, as well as modern conveniences such as online leaderboards to compliment the story mode and Time Attack. While the aficionados will be very happy to get their teeth back into some classic Sonic action, it’s important to remember that a lot of the gameplay integrity is intact, meaning a game that doesn’t always play like you want it to, what with occasionally erratic and fiddly controls. There is a strong emphasis on memorising the levels and get a very good feel of the way the game plays, and gunning for high scores. Today’s kids mightn’t get it, but those who stick with it and learn will get to experience the pleasure of completing levels in rapid time and at break-neck speeds.

One of gaming's iconic rivalries.

One of gaming's iconic rivalries.
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The most impressive part of the port has been the conversion to HD. Sure, it retains the visuals as they were in 1993, but in a way that doesn’t sacrifice either charm or integrity for performance, or vice versa. Each of the levels is rather unique, and all built with a nice curve through more challenging areas and deeper parts of the planet. Uniquely, Sonic CD has the option of changing between the Japanese and US soundtracks. Both are excellent, amongst the best of the series, and ode to how much a great sound track can add to a game.

Sonic CD is more than a faithful port, as it has genuine enhancements, while managing to still retain the original flair and nostalgia, especially for a title that played somewhat different to others in its vintage. It’s a title that very proudly displays character and flair that’s missing in many modern top-flight games. Fans know what they’re getting, and at a very reasonable price, but it’s actually a title that is a great introduction for players yet to play much classic Sonic. Just remember, that you’ll be playing by the game’s rules, where your hand won’t be held and not everything will happen as you want it to. But hey, for the price of admission, it’s a piece of gaming history that’s hard to ignore.
The Score
Sonic CD is one of the more robust examples of quality nostalgia and how developers should handle their distribution in the modern age. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 Comments
2 years ago
Great review Jeremy. I couldn't agree more. I have the iOS version which is excellent too and will be grabbing the Live version just to show Sega that outsourcing your work to someone who is passionate about what they do is an encouraging business practice.

Sonic CD is a cherished title of mine and it's a true pleasure to see it recreated perfectly on new consoles.
2 years ago
I saw this pop up in the store on Friday and was contemplating a purchase because I had heard that Sonic CD was great and the price was low.

Thanks for the review. I'm gonna fire up the PS3 and grab this today icon_smile.gif
2 years ago
I felt they improved if for nothing else but finally fixing the spin dash. It used to work on the Mega CD that you had to hold it down to get more speed. Now it works just like it does in Sonic 2. I also welcome 16:9 support.

The US soundtrack sucks except the "Sonic Boom" theme. Thankfully the Japanese one is there (Palmtree Panic is still IMO the best theme in the series)
2 years ago
renegadesx wrote
The US soundtrack sucks except the "Sonic Boom" theme. Thankfully the Japanese one is there (Palmtree Panic is still IMO the best theme in the series)
I agree. Obviously having only played it on PAL Mega CD, I really missed the lack of 'You Can Do Anything' aka 'Toot-Toot Sonic Warrior' on the Japanese tracks which really pumped me up during the opening cinematic. Music only just doesn't do it for me, but it's better than nothing.

The US soundtrack, which I've never heard before is dismal. It's great that Mr Whitehead chose to include it for purists and people who played through that version and have their own fond memories of it though.

Speaking of which, it's great to see an Aussie developer be allowed by Sega to create such a wonderful recreation of a revered classic! Just awesome.
2 years ago
I strongly disagree. While I wouldn't call the Japanese music dismal, I much prefer the U.S. soundtrack. Maybe that's just nostalgia talking, but I was very irritated at first, since the Japanese music was the default. I was much happier when I went to the soundtrack option and switched it. The music was the biggest reason why I bought it. I'm sure lots of people will tell me how wrong I am, but I feel that "Sonic Boom" is the weakest track on the U.S. version, only because I don't care for the vocals. Yes, I know that there are some vocal parts to the other tracks, but they seem to compliment the music on those. I can't be the only person who likes the U.S. music better, but then, I liked most of the music on the Megadrive version of Lemmings,too.
2 years ago
In the 90s I was definitely a Sonic kid, and almost every time a Sonic article comes up on PALGN I can't stop myself from bagging out SEGA for how crappy their games have gotten lately.

I bought this for the iPhone and was a bit taken aback to find that I found the level design haphazard and boring, with no real incentive for exploration.

Weird how your tastes change.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/12/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Sega

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