The remake of Sonic CD is a great one, it hits all the right notes a remake should, the actual game though is more of a mixed bag.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD was originally released in 1993, in between Sonic 2 and 3. Sonic CD was the first game in the series to feature animated cutscenes and CD quality music. It’s also one of the most fondly looked upon of the classic Sonic games with some thinking it to be the best of the Mega Drive/Genesis era. I never actually got to play this having never owned a Mega-CD for my Mega Drive so I was very happy when the remake was announced, especially as it came to Steam.
Firstly, I just want to say that this isn’t just a straight port of the original. Sonic CD for Steam, iOS, XBLA and PSN is a remake from the ground up using the ‘Retro Engine’ by indie developer Christian “Taxman” Whitehead. The remake includes a bunch of improvements including true widescreen support, the addition of Tails as a playable character upon completion of the game and the inclusion of both the JP/PAL and US soundtracks.
Sadly though there are no improvements to the overly complicated and busy level designs. The level design in Sonic CD is by far the worst thing about this game. Some of the levels are way too complex for the speed you travel through them and when you add in the Past and Future variations you get a real mess. That is if you can get the speed to time travel. Way too often is your path obstructed by a wall or shallow drop that just ruins your attempt to go back in time to destroy the robot creating machines. The worst culprit is probably the Stardust Speedway Zone with sections that just loop you around and around. Thankfully once you unlock Tails navigating the levels (and subsequent time travel to save the future) becomes much easier due to his ability to fly, making navigating the levels a breeze. Some might say the level design adds a challenge but I much prefer the levels in the other classic Sonic games.
I’m also not a fan of most of the music; some of it just doesn’t feel like it fits in a Sonic game, at least not in a Sonic game for the Mega Drive. The quality of the music is so good that it’s quite jarring with the sprite work. There are some tracks I like such as the Stardust Speedway (JP) themes and Palm Tree Panic (JP). The boss music is also good in that it is pretty damn menacing and dark.
The bosses are pretty cool in Sonic CD. Some are just a normal fight against one of Robotnik/Eggman’s creations but some are more creative, like the boss being at the top of a pinball table and you just need to get to the top. I found myself really looking forward to the bosses while playing.
The special stages are also quite weird. You run around a pseudo 3D arena destroying UFOs while avoiding the water that drains your time. These are quite awkward at first but when you get used to them and start focusing on the shadows and not the actual UFO they become much more fun. Getting all the UFOs gives you a Time stone and getting all the Time Stones makes every future a good future meaning you’ll get the best ending. Sadly there is no Super Sonic or Super Tails in this remake, something I’d have liked to see added but doesn’t matter too much.
Sonic CD is a fantastic remake, it’s true to the original version with its physics and gameplay but adds extras that not only improve the experience but makes the game more fun to play. It runs at a solid 60 FPS and has a selection of visual filters to choose from. The time travel mechanic is a really good idea but sadly the level design hinders it. Thankfully the addition of Tails makes navigating the levels and searching
for time warp posts and machines very easy. I’d say you should probably give this a shot if you’re a sonic fan and have never played Sonic CD before and you should definitely get this if you love the original Sonic CD.
Soinc CD is available now on Steam, XBLA, PSN, Android and iOS and will come to Windows Phone this year.