This year, Sega has already given us the decent Sonic Generations which mixed classic Sonic with modern Sonic. Even though this was one of the better Sonic games in years it still was missing that 2D pixel-based charm. But in a strange turn of events, Sega has released Sonic CD to the XBLA and PSN for the ridiculously low price of $5.
Sonic CD is most likely the Sonic game that you have never played as it was originally released on Sega's expensive CD attachment. Strangely enough, Sonic CD it not a full 3D polygon based game as its name might imply. Instead, this sequel looks like its Genesis counterparts but with higher quality audio and faster frame rate. An opening animated movie is a nice surprise and there is even an option to smooth or sharpen the sprite based graphics to best suit your television. And to compete directly with the SNES, there are even some Mode7 segments. Of course the standard Leaderboard and Achievements are included as well; even boss fights are more creative. My only complaint graphically is that the colorful and animated backgrounds sometimes make seeing enemies difficult, like the mantis creature found in the later levels or the small flying bug enemies.
But make no mistake, this game might look like a Sonic game that you have played before but the game design stands alone.
For the most part, Sonic has always been a run left-to-right platformer with a strong emphasis on speed; reaching the goal with a fast time has been the focus. Sonic CD is much different. Sure, you can speed your way through each stage, some only lasting about 60 seconds, but that really isn't the best way to experience this game. Instead, Sonic has the ability to travel back and forth between the past and future after walking through corresponding signs. If you fix the problems in the past, it will change the future which will yield the true ending. This also means that each stage can essentially be played in a few different ways, increasing replay value.
In a way, Sonic CD is somewhat contradictory. In order to travel through time, Sonic must reach a top running speed, via Back To the Future style. But the game rewards exploration in exchange for speed and blast processing. This Sonic title probably has the highest emphasis on platforming than any other, putting the running left-to-right mechanic in the backseat. Not that this is seen negatively, it just forces the player to unlearn the Sonic mechanics that have been pounded into our gaming brains since its original release. With this said, there is a bit of a learning curve. Further, each stage revolves around a cramped level design making it difficult to find straight-aways to actually travel through time.
Instead of merely porting this game to the XBLA and PSN, Sega went one step further by adding many upgrades making this downloadable title the definitive version. First, the game runs in 16:9 instead of the letterboxing like the original Sonic ports. This also coincides with the smoother frame rate which makes Sonic just look and feel right. Fans will also be pleased that both the English and Japanese soundtracks are included and Tails, opening up a new way to play thanks to flight, becomes unlocked when the game is completed.
This port has been treated with care and shouldn't be considered as a quick cash-in as the bargain price of $5 might imply. With just about every XBLA and PSN game costing $10-$15, it is quite a surprise to see a $5 release, let alone for a game that fans will surely appreciate.
Better Than: Sonic Free Riders
Also Try: Sonic 3
Wait For It: Sonic Pocket Adventure (NGPC) on 3DS Virtual Console
Follow Me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zackgaz