Sonic CD Review (XBLA)
Posted by Jim Cook, Dec 28, 2011 19:28
While the Sega CD was an unpopular system, it did have some good games. Sonic CD is one of the more noteworthy, taking its place in Sonic the Hedgehog series history as one of the games that was trying new ideas while still mostly sticking to the 2D platforming design made famous by its predecessors. This port of the 1993 classic is impressive for several reasons, among them the low price, that Sonic CD is still pretty fun today, and how much effort went into the project. Much of this is likely due to the involvement of Christian Whitehead, a long-time Sonic fan who contributed an impressive amount of work in porting this game to current systems.
Best compared to its 2D peers from the 90s, Sonic CD at first seems like just a pack of new levels for the same premise. That’s not entirely wrong, but it would ignore some of the more interesting ideas they tried. Along with your usual antics of running, jumping, and spin-dashing to the end of each level while fighting enemies that get in your way, Sonic CD added some creative ideas like time travel. Running by a post labeled ’future’ or ’past’ followed by getting Sonic up to full speed for a few seconds will take you to an alternate version of the current level. It’s immediately recognizable as the same stage, but some of the layouts, level background, and enemies have been changed. This would be a creative enough addition on its own, but doing well in these alternate stages is also one way to reaching different endings. While it is otherwise mostly a normal Sonic game, this change is enough on its own to keep things interesting and reward exploration.
Time travel is a great mechanic, but it’s held back by wildly varying level design. Some stages in Sonic CD are among the best the series has ever had, while others are either sprinkled with too many obstacles to hit top speed for time travel or are just plain frustrating even if you’re ignoring the alternate levels. There will often be walls, enemies, or traps laid out in such a way that most people just won’t be able to react to them while Sonic is at a full sprint, so you’ll have to memorize where they are in order to cleanly get time travel activated. Thankfully, you can just complete the stage normally while carrying fifty rings; doing so brings you to a bonus stage where you can eventually earn a different route to the alternate ending.
This port deserves praise for not just bringing a great game to current systems, but also offering a lot of choice in how you play it. The graphics fit widescreen displays surprisingly well, and they’re joined by your choice of US or Japanese version soundtracks. You can even change the spin-dash behavior to act like it was in different Sonic games, or leave it like it originally was. You can even unlock Tails as a playable character, along with a few other secret tidbits. It’s hard for me to tell precisely where the new content begins and ends due to not having played the original version, but this is nonetheless encouraging since it means you can choose to play Sonic CD in a manner close to the 1993 release or remix certain parts of it at your discretion.
Sonic CD succeeds for several reasons. It’s a fine game on its own, but this is also a very good port that offers plenty of options in how to play. There is even a bit of new content sprinkled in, and all of this is yours for $5 USD/400 Microsoft Points. Sega probably could have gotten away with releasing it at $10/800 Points, so doing it at the lowest price point available for XBLA titles is a strong ’good will’ move and one that makes an already fine game even easier to recommend. If you’re curious about classic-style Sonic the Hedgehog games, and particularly a rare Sega CD release, then definitely pick this up!
Rating: 4.0, votes: 3