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Why Sonic CD is one of the greatest games ever made

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Some people love only Sonic 1. Out of all the games in the series, the original has arguably the most iconic art style, the purest gameplay and the most challenge. The Sonic 2 that we know (and most people love) was made in America with more Western ideals. But while Yuji Naka was over in the US of A making that, Sonic’s designer Naoto Oshima was in Japan making Sonic CD--call it Sonic 1.5 if you like. And that makes it very special. It also means lovers of Sonic 1 have a 100% authentic sequel they may never have played.

In 1992, Mega CD was pretty much claiming to be ‘next generation’. Which made this the first next generation Sonic game and elevated expectations significantly. The game needed to look better, offer more in terms of gameplay, and make the most of the new machine’s capabilities. In Mega CD’s case, that meant vastly superior audio.

The Japanese and UK versions of the game shared one incredible soundtrack. The US version… not so much. Fire up the former now and the game is still magnificent. The rising notes of the introduction, the pause, then the ‘woo’ and ‘yeah!’ from what sounds like a crowd of children in joyous celebration at Sonic’s return as the steel drum pounds out the melody. The whole atmosphere seems to say ‘you’re back in the best summer you ever had and everything’s OK'.

Ah, but it’s not OK, is it? Which is where the game’s biggest unique feature comes into play. Dr Robotnik has found a way to send his evil robotic creations back through time. Sonic can time travel using posts found dotted throughout the stages, then return to the past and set things straight.

What follows is one of the best time travel mechanics in any game. Fail to save a level’s past and you’ll screw up its future, resulting in polluted, metallic scenery and a soundtrack that’s best described as 'fudged-up'. Ah, but set things straight in the past and the future becomes an idyllic paradise, free from enemies and glistening with pure waters and sunshine. The music responds too, with familiar level themes bursting from your speakers with fanfares of harmonic brass and near hysterical celebratory cheers.

The game itself is the polar opposite of everything Sonic 2 changed to progress the series. The levels are even more claustrophobic than those of Sonic 1 and speed is used sparingly. But most interestingly, progress is hardly ever funnelled, and completely disregards the ‘hold right to win’ mechanic the series is so often criticised for.


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Sonic

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4 comments

  • Rowdie - February 10, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    Best Sonic Ever. The CD had a done of unlockables as well. Not sure if the recreations retained all that content. Seems to me getting through bonus stages in record times was a big part of the unlockable puzzle. IIRC the final item I unlocked was the Pencil Test. Not sure if it was intended to be funny. It showed pencel sketches of Sonic accelerating to full speed. Easily Sonic CD is one of the greatest games of all time.
  • DREAMCASTSATURN - February 6, 2013 4:25 p.m.

    Great article, Sonic CD is one of my favourite games. Unfortunately, the one thing I disagree with you on is the soundtrack. Both the North American and European/Japanese have good songs and bad songs. I first listened to the NA one, but that doesn't mean I don't think the other is stellar. Its just that both are good in their own way. In some areas, the U.S songs fit better (Wacky Workbench, Tidal Tempest) where in others, the Japanese tracks are better (boss theme, Palm Tree Panic). But to each their own. Regardless, great article!
  • ThatGamerDude - February 6, 2013 3:35 p.m.

    Despite not having played Sonic Cd till last year, I have to say it was one of the best Sonic games I have played. I just wished I could have played it earlier in my life.
  • AlexMS - February 6, 2013 12:18 p.m.

    Fantastic article, that's what I've always been saying, Sonic CD is one of the best 2D sonic game because it has so much depth, you can speed run it (there's even a time trial menu), you can just beat the stages, beat it with the time stones, with breaking the two machines in the past, going to see all good futures or any combination of these.

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