Sonic CD Review (XBLA)

Game Review: Sonic CD
Release Date: 12/14/2011
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Sonic Team, Blit Software/Christian Whitehead
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Android, iOS
MSRP: 400 MS Points, $5 (PSN), $1.99 (iOS)
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Website: Sonic CD

Sonic the Hedgehog is back! Shortly after his first defeat of Eggman, the rotund villain used the power of the Time Stones to travel back in time and corrupt the past to destroy the future. With a villainous Metal Sonic matching the Blue Blur move for supersonic move (and a kidnapped Amy Rose further complicating things), Sonic has to run to the Past to save his Future. The title that once set the benchmark for what could be the perfect combination of quality gameplay only enhanced by CD space in the 16-bit era has entered the world of digital downloads. Can Sonic CD keep up with the times?

For traditional Sonic CD players, very little has changed. Through six Zones of three Acts each, Sonic must run, jump, spin dash, and Super Peel-Out to the goal post, all while destroying Badniks and taking out Eggman’s latest robotic and technological destruction machines. Sonic CD threw in the concept of time travel to the game, letting players travel to the prehistoric past and both dystopian and utopian futures of each level, based on the simple actions Sonic has in the past, destroying two items plaguing the denizens and the world. If Sonic succeeds, the future turns into a brighter place, effectively merging technology and nature; clean running water is pumped throughout a lush forest, for example. If Sonic fails to track down Metal Sonic and the Badnik generator in each level, the future will grow worse; grimy oil will slosh through running the wetlands. The change isn’t just cosmetic, as some paths will open, some will close, and previously blocked off areas might allow Sonic to reach them now.

For the 2011 revision of the title, Blit Software and Christian Whitehead have effectively added what was needed to update the title while not messing with anything. Sonic’s down-attack spin dash now looks like it does in every other game, and upon one completion, Tails, in all his flying glory, is unlocked. These two diversions were around thanks to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a game that was developed alongside Sonic CD but released before. Beyond these updates, both the American and Japanese soundtracks are available from the start, three rendering modes can make the game look sharp but pixelated to blurry and smooth. Achievements have been added, and a good player will get half through a normal play through.

Sonic CD is one of the best Sonic games, coming from the Genesis era where Sonic had no faults, up until Sonic 3D Blast. The title’s time-travel aspect adds a good amount of replay value, so players can see what the good and bad futures look like. Unquestionably, the additions to this 2011 release make it worth playing again for old players, if only to see how Tails handles in a game he wasn’t built for. With an “Extras” tab waiting on players to unlock special features, it seems that nothing was left on the cutting room floor, although we’ve yet to actually find the requirements to unlock them (it likely is “find all Time Stones and/or make all Good Futures”, as “beating the game” didn’t unlock anything but Tails).

While there’s a Time Trial mode allowing players to replay any level, it’s limited to speed runs; there are no time travel capabilities, nor is there the option to select which version of the level you’ll play on. To go through the game and check out different timelines, you’ll have to start a new file again; while there is a save game option (even though the title can be beaten in an hour or two), there’s no chance to travel back to previous levels, attempt to get all the Time Stones, and so forth. While Tails’ inclusion in the game is much appreciated, it’ll only take a few minutes of playing as him to realize that his flight ability doesn’t offer much in this game; the levels weren’t designed for it, and he moves rather slow.

Sonic CD is one of the finest adventures of the heroic hedgehog, and one almost lost to time, with rare re-releases in the modern day. With its incredibly affordable price tag and substantial upgrades and modernizations, it’s a definite steal to go digital for this one.

  • A classic adventure, only enhanced
  • Lack of a true stage-select means replaying the whole game over
  • The addition of Tails is fun but futile

Final Score
9 out of 10

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