Sonic CD was developed and published by Sega for the Sega CD in 1993. Sonic CD was one of the launch games for Sega’s expansion console for the Sega Genesis, the Sega CD and Sonic CD was Sega’s attempt at having a system seller for their new console. It was developed between the release of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 released in 1992 and Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles both released then for the Genesis in 1994. Sonic CD wouldn’t be the only Sonic game developed exclusively for the Sega expansions for the Genesis in the 16 bit era, with Knuckles Choatix being developed and released for the Sega 32X in 1995.
The Sega CD was the first of two expansions released by Sega during the 16 bit era to try and keep up the SNES and also outclass it with more powerful technology. However, the Sega CD required the Sega Genesis for it to function, meaning that players required to own both consoles to be able to have a functioning Sega CD. The Sega CD was also considerably more expensive than the Genesis, meaning that the market for Sega home consoles was split. It would then be split more with the released of the Sega 32X in late 1994 and the player would then require 3 consoles to work the 32X. This ultimately ruined Sega’s reputation because from the next console era, Sega was outsold conformably.
The story of Sonic CD is quite similar to previous instalments of the Sonic series where Sonic has to stop Dr Robotnik. However, for Sonic CD there are quite an interesting element to the story where Dr Robotnik has taken over an island called Mirage Island and intends to turn the world into a giant fortress and the way Sonic stops him is by traveling through time. Sonic also needs to rescue a young female hedgehog called Amy Rose, who followed him and was kidnapped by Metal Sonic, who Dr Robotnik dispatched upon realising Sonic was on the island.
I quite like the time travel element of the story because it makes the story feel like copy and pasted from other games in the franchise. The game also introduced Amy Rose, who in later games in the franchise I found to be quite an annoying character, however in Sonic CD she is pretty much the Damsel in Distress. The only problem I have with Amy Rose in Sonic CD, is that the game doesn’t explain why she is following Sonic around and the relationship between Sonic and Amy is explored in later games. I feel that maybe some back story to Amy would have added some reason to care about Amy rather than her being another plot point in the story.
The gameplay of Sonic CD is somewhat different compared to the previous instalments in the series especially with how Sonic controls. The issue I have with the controls is the fact that Sonic doesn’t spindash, but instead revs up by running super fast on the spot. This really affects the ability to gain a speed boost through this method and it has a tendency for Sonic to lose momentum before he gains it. This can get really annoying because just when the player has gained the momentum from the spindash replacement, the momentum is in fact negated. Apart from this spindash replacement being quite annoying, the controls feel just like most other Sonic games.
The graphics of each zone look stunning with each zone going for a theme, whether it be Tidal Tempest being themed around water to Wacky Workbench being themed around metal objects and electricity. The backgrounds of these zones really represent what the zone is representing and most importantly don’t clash with the foreground. The backgrounds feel really far back, meaning that there should be little to no confusion to what is in the background and the foreground. Sonic and the enemy sprites also look really crisp and the animations of these characters are really smooth. This in my opinion is the best looking of the 16 bit era Sonic games because it really pushed the power of the Genesis and the extra horsepower that the Sega CD offered made it look that bit more memorable.
The next area to speak about is how quickly Sonic moves because in this game he moves somewhat too quickly for me. In previous instalments of the series, the speed of Sonic has felt just right with the speed that he can run not enough to make me feel nauseous. However, Sonic CD felt like the developers decided to say how fast can we really make him and this mixed with the level design which I will mention in a minute, it made me feel quite dizzy at times. I know Sonic is fast as a character, but Sonic CD pretty much took that base speed and added 5 turbochargers to Sonic to make him go in my opinion too fast.
There is a mechanic added to Sonic CD that I actually really like and that is the time travelling between past, present and future versions of the same stage. The game has 3 versions of the same stage loaded at the same time, which allows for efficient transitions between the 3 time zones without need to load entirely new levels. This at the time was quite revolutionary and the load times were extremely short as well, which allows for quick, effective time travelling.
The level design of Sonic CD is perhaps one of my biggest problems with the game because the levels are extremely confusing and the level design is too complex. Multiple times I found myself questioning where I needed to go next and also wondering if I had got myself wondering if I had got myself in a position where I was stuck entirely. Also, Sonic’s speed in some situations made it impossible to some see clearly where I had to go and there were even occasions where the speed mixed with the level design made me feel dizzy, almost borderline nauseous. I can understand what the developers were trying to do to really establish large, expansive levels with lots of routes to take, but I feel that they went seriously overboard with this.
The music of Sonic CD to me felt somewhat weird in comparison to the previous Sonic games because the music felt more centred on music that was seen in Japanese pop music. The music still represented each zone relatively well, but I did miss the feelings of the 16 bit sound chip creating the themes. I think the main problem with the music of Sonic CD is that there are no themes that really stand out as amazing or any themes that are really memorable. Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 had extremely memorable music and music that still extremely well known to this day. Sonic CD sadly did not have this and the soundtrack just feels average in comparison to the other 16 bit games. This game was a situation where better sound capabilities didn’t necessarily mean better music. The quality of the instruments used are really crisp and stood out nicely from each other, but the quality of the compositions were definitely lacking in comparison. Also, because the music was based upon Japanese pop, the music has definitely not aged as well as the other games and feels a lot more outdated.
Sonic CD in my opinion is still a good game to play for Sonic fans, but in comparison to Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, there are quite a few flaws to the game which made the game not stand out or really impressed me. The level design caused me to feel unwell on a few occasions because of the sheer speed that the developers pushed Sonic to. The music is really unmemorable and the sound design felt quite bland and uninspired. The time travel mechanics were great and the graphics of the game are stunning for the time. I find the game a good game to play, but sadly not great like Sonic 1 or Sonic 2.
Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use