I never fully understood Sonic CD‘s quality until I bought it for the Mega CD this year (best year EVER). I’d dabbled in the PC and Sonic Gems Collection releases, but when I got the original edition I sat down to play it as it was first intended, and it completely blew me away.
One of my favourite aspects of Sonic CD is Sonic’s animation – just before Sonic 3 made him a more rounded character (in more ways than one), Sonic CD gives us a lean, lithe Sonic, who manages to combine grace and menace in his movements. The level backdrops all feature trademark Sonic touches, from swaying trees to running water, and the bosses stride and stamp on anything in their way.
Speaking of animation, the introductory movie stands as the greatest moving depiction of Sonic ever, as he races through the green fields, the sun racing through the blue sky filled with clouds (and so on…). He breaks boulders, runs on water and even leaves a rainbow when he splashes water behind him. It’s exhilarating and is one of very, very few animations to demonstrate it actually “gets” Sonic. The ending is every bit as good too, of course.
The biggest innovation seen in Sonic CD was the introduction of time travel to the mix, and its success is a big raspberry to anyone who claims Sonic was only ever about speed. Within each level lies a number of time posts, which when activated let you travel back or forwards through time when you reach the right speed (88mph, perhaps?). It’s not just a gimmick, with new routes available in each time period, and destroying Dr Robotnik’s factory in each Act’s past creates an amazingly joyful future, full of blue skies and free animals. Even the music changes, with the Good Future Palmtree Panic being one of my favourite Sonic tunes ever.
One thing that came to mind whilst writing this article was how good a brand new 2D Sonic would have been on the Sega Saturn. It was such a powerful 2D machine that a new game designed to take advantage of all its features would have been absolutely amazing, especially when the Sonic Xtreme videos show what was being achieved in 3D. I suppose I’ll have to add that to the bottom of my list of Sonic regrets.
Sandwiched between Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, Sonic CD bridges the gap beautifully, combining Sonic 2‘s style with Sonic 3‘s heavy exploration, creating an adventure that still amazes over fifteen years after its release.
Thanks to UK:Resistance for providing the screenshots!