Even the idea of reviewing an early-era Sonic game has its charm. In 1993, one could argue that video games were just starting to shed their swaddling clothes. The year might more strongly be associated with Doom and its giant step towards 3D gaming, but a somewhat outside-the-cannon title for the Sega CD console, Sonic CD, reminded some consumers of who had broken the second dimension first (as the blue blur had done in past special stages).
That reminder is back on XBLA, PSN, iOS, and Android, but is it worth acknowledging? In the current climate of abundant side-scrollers both new and old, a visit to this part of the mascot’s past isn’t the simple pleasure it may seem to be, especially seeing as he is readily available – on the same modern platforms – in more classic and impressive appearances.
Damn. I just raised my hand against Sonic – and not against the 21st century variety of contrived hipness, but the old school one. The mirror will never look the same. But I do so with good reason. Sonic CD feels like a step backward from its predecessor Sonic the Hedgehog 2, subtracting Tails from the equation – that’s right, no co-op – and upping the ante with a coat of rather garish colors. The charming graphic design of the Sega Genesis didn’t really carry over, and Sonic CD even had me wondering what animals my mechanized foes once were.
“Don’t worry sir, as a chaser for your eyes we have cobra venom.”
Of course, if you’re a devout fan of 2D Sonic, you’ll find this port to be a welcome dusting-off of an opus praised in its own day (though despite this commercial, it and the Sega CD didn’t sell much). It’s a Sonic experience in both control and level structure; as usual, failure to reach that next ledge rarely results in outright death, but a falling off to a lower branch of the level. Just backtrack or keep moving to the right.
Yes, Sonic CD‘s levels are honeycombs, and somewhere within each is a generator that factors into the game’s premise: run fast enough and you’ll warp to a different time, past, present, or future. If you’ve destroyed one of Dr. Robotnik’s contraptions, the future of a zone will be visibly free of his iron grip. On paper this might sound like an enticing shtick, but paired with the uncertain nature of navigation in a big world, it’s hard to actually make it happen.
Convenient, but you’ll never be afforded this view in-game
Alternatively, completing special stages will work towards unlocking the “good future.” That’s where the 3D kicks in. Yet even here, the fun factor takes a dive compared to Sonic the Hedgehog 2‘s awesome half-pipe ventures.
If you can’t get enough of all things Sonic, then by all means, print this review, burn it, and get the game. Everything you love the series for lies within: supersonic speed, multiple routes, and boss fights. But frankly, they’re back with less grace and charm than the equally priced and available Sonic the Hedgehog 2.