Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sonic CD Impressions


Well, it's been out for three weeks now but only recently have I gotten around to playing it.

To tell you the truth, I have never played this game before.  Not on Sega CD, not on PC, not on any compilation games.  To my surprise, this game came out in '93, between Sonic 2 ('92) and Sonic 3 ('94).  However, chronologically it's supposed to be between Sonic 1 and 2 (no Tails at the time). I heard about Metal Sonic, time travel, and how "great" this game is so I figured what the hell, let's buy it.


First, it's worth mentioning that this game wasn't originally affiliated by Sega.  The Genesis games were ported by Backbone Entertainment with Sega's permission.  Sonic CD, however, was ported by some guy by the name of "Taxman" and he later presented it to Sega who said, "What the hell, let's put this on Xbox Live, good work man."  This is incredible.  What effect does the community have on what Sega publishes?  I think that El Semi's work on the Model2 emulator paved the way for Daytona USA on XBL/PSN.  So what does that mean about Bart's Model3 emulator?  Can we see Daytona USA 2/Scud Race in the future??  What else can we do for Sega???

If only Sega gave the thumbs up to that fan remake of Streets of Rage...I don't get it Sega.  The fans are trying to help you out, man!!!


So anyway, about Sonic CD.  If you want a great guide on this game, check out Sonic Zone:0.  It's got a comprehensive strategy guide on all the classic Sonics, including Sonic CD.  It even has huge level maps and whatnot!

Anyway, the first thing I notice about the game is that it that it's brimming with color.  Granted, the bad futures look grim and some of the levels are a complete clusterf*** that don't resemble a stereotypical Sonic zone, it just felt good to play.  Very therapeudic.  I would check out UK Resistance's Sonic CD Screenshot Parade if you haven't already.  Even when you kill enemies, they drop seeds that sprout giant flowers.  I like that.

Then there's time travel.  You can go to the past or the future where the level takes on a different visage.  There's a secondary goal that requires you to go to the past to destroy Eggman's "robot generators" in order to ensure a "good future" for that zone.  One free of the nightmares of Biff Tannen & the almanac, something like that.  At first, I had no idea how to do this so I just kept running right through the level as usual.

Then there's the means in which you time travel.  You stumble across signs labled "Past" or "Future."  The goal is to hit one of those then move quickly without stopping for a few seconds.  Then you teleport like the Delorean from Back to the Future.  At first, I had no clue how to do this.  I would just be running along then I would arbitrarily teleport like "wtf" though it really didn't change the fact the level is beatable in all time zones so I was cool with it.

Anyway, more about time travel later.  My goal at first was to just beat the game and kill Eggman.  TBQH, just beating the game like normal was too easy.  The Eggman bosses in Stage 3 of each zone were not the giant monstrosities of the past.  They were more like puzzles--for instance, navigate through the pinball machine or jump on the platforms to reach Eggman and kill him relatively quickly.  Very strange but also nice since I didn't feel like busting my ass on any really hard bosses.

The first time I died was on the Wacky Workbench (Zone 5) boss with the blocks that shoot you into the air (I got crushed by the ceiling).  Then after that, I made it to the Metal Sonic boss in Starlight Speedway (Zone 6).  This is when the game really kicked my ass.  Minor spoiler alerts ahead.

This boss battle is surprisingly different than in Sonic Generations.  For once, Metal Sonic is invincible.  Yet for some reason, he can't hurt you like a normal enemy would (touch him and nothing happens) except when he's using one of his attacks.  He stands there like a pimp before the race saying, "Can't touch this" or something.  To "kill" Metal Sonic, you have to make it to the finish before he does.  Simple right?

Rather than the collapsing platforms from Generations, Eggman follows you with a huge ass laser which kills you in one hit regardless of how many rings you have.  If you stall for a brief moment and fail to regain your speed fast enough (because of those G-D hills in your way), you're toast.  Really, I had ten lives going into this boss battle and thus, I died ten times in a row.  Thankfully the game allows you to restart from the very stage you were once on so no biggie.  My younger brother wants to try but he dies ten times in a row too.  Then I go again and finally won after five deaths.  So I died 25 times trying to beat Metal Sonic.  How pathetic is that.

So Metal Madness is the last zone in the game (Zone 7) and this stage is dramatically harder than the rest of the game, no surprise there.  Surprisingly, the Eggman final boss was incredibly anti-climatic.  Eggman comes out in a robot with four panels shaped like a SNES controller's d-pad.  Hit him a few times and the game's over.  WTF?  I presume if you collect all the "Time Stones" (*coughchaosemeralds*) or get all Good Futures then you access the "true finale" or something, kind of like the Doomsday Zone from Sonic 3&K.  So that's lame.

So I go back to play the game a second time, trying to get all Good Futures and all the Time Stones for the stupid achievements.  Anyway, you time travel by getting the Past/Future signs and running for a few seconds, either by running through tunnels, flying through the air, whatever.  This has to be my biggest complaint with the game.  There's very few places where you have a clearing to run for a few seconds.  If you falter about a half-second before you teleport, your sign powers go away.  Note that you can't get the time travel powers back from the signs--they can only be used once.  From what I heard, the time required to teleport was much shorter in other versions so that's a bummer.  It's aggravating enough as it is teleport once (to the Past to destroy the robot machine) so to do it more than once is tedious as all hell since I can't waste my time travel signs.

You can also do a "running spindash" in this game too...just hold up instead of down to do it.

Also, the only practical reason to teleport is to destroy the robot machines.  The different time zones have different geography and more rings.  Therefore if you exhaust most rings in one time zone, you can travel to another and gather even more.  What's the point anyway since merely picking up rings doesn't give you points unless you're able to finish the zone with them (which is hard with all the enemies/spikes around)?  This game encourages exploration (excluding a few lightning-fast tunnel seconds) but without any true purpose to teleport other than to check out the change in scenery or to create the good futures, then it's a but confusing.

And then there's the special stages.  Get 50 rings and jump into the large ring right after the ending sign to teleport there.  You're in this trippy faux-3D land, resembling Mario Kart and F-Zero.  Sonic runs around to jump and kill these floating UFOs that randomly move about the place.  Kill them all to get a Time Stone.  Wow, this has to be the most pain-in-the-ass thing ever.  It really hard to get down the timing of Sonic's jumps, much less cope with the sporadic UFO movements.  You have plenty of time to hunt down the UFOs although touching the water instantly takes away 10 seconds which is really bad.

To get all the Time Stones, I had to restart over and over again.  This means going back to the main menu and clicking on your save game again (yes, you can continue on a special stage).  Note that you MUST quit to the main menu before your time runs out since the game instantly saves & escorts you to the next stage once that timer reaches zero so don't screw around when you're almost out of time.

BTW, I love the Japanese soundtrack just for the Palmtree Panic music alone.  Damn, this is just a groovy soundtrack with techno, hip-hop, synthesizers, whatever.  The English version has that creepy boss music which reminds me of that secret message Easter Egg that we should all stay the f*** away from.

Still think it's strange that two entirely different soundtracks were made for this game.  Why does US have a different soundtrack than EU/JP version?  Shocking.

There's not more to say about the game.  Tails is a bonus character who was added by Taxman.  Using him disables achievements so don't bother.  This game places more emphasis on exploration and just chillin' out rather than speed running through the whole thing.  This kind of sucks since there's not much incentive to time travel anyway.  The future is basically useless you're teleporting just for kicks.

But this game ain't bad.  I know some people on the GameFAQs forums (Sonic Generations board included) are rambling about how overrated this game is.  I can't remember who declared Sonic CD was one of the best Sonics ever.  So it's a love-hate game.  I say just buy it anyway.  You really can't go wrong with it, even if you just run through the game in about an hour.

Review Score: 7.75 out of 10.  Mostly cause this game looks really cool.  The score seems overstated but it's an old game with very few changes so what's the point of this number anyway?

I was going to talk more about Sonic but I'll save it for later.  I've gone on for way too long.

We did it!!!  By creating this blog, I've made a Good Future for Sega racers (& video games in general) everywhere!!!  That was the whole point of this blog...good vibrations, baby.


  1. Personally I thought much of Sonic CD's original appeal was because it was something of a mystery. It came out before Sonic 3, but it was on a system most people didn't own, and the visuals, I thought Sega read my mind about what I really wanted to see in a Sonic game. It was darker. Not creepy, depressing, brooding darker, but awesome darker. As a kid I thought Metal Sonic's design was the coolest thing I had ever seen and nothing matched it for years. The thought of racing a metal doppleganger sounded sweet. But like many others, I didn't play it until years later.

    But I did play it on the original Sega CD hardware, and while I didn't expect it to be as epic as Sonic 3&K, I did like that it tried something a little different while maintaining the look and feel of the Genesis Sonic games (as opposed to efforts like Spinball and 3D Blast). I had some reservations about the soundtrack, but I'll admit I was a bit spoiled by the DieHard Gamefan fiasco and Sonic Jam.

    But playing it again for some YouTube videos I uploaded, now that the Genesis Sonic craze died down, its design flaws became really apparent. The stage designs seemed rather messy, I like the idea of time travelling but doing it is more of a pain than it needs to be, the Special stages, the final anti-climatic boss battle, and I felt the efforts to ramp up the difficulty were artificially challenging. I remember looking forward to the Metal Sonic race so badly as a kid, but when I played it, I was not pleased with the stage layout one bit. I'm sure on paper it sounded great, but in execution that one-hit death can be extremely cheap. And I rarely found myself visiting the Good Futures, or even go back to the present once my work was done in the past.

    I will say though that the Special Stages here are a SIGNIFICANT improvement over previous versions. Here, you miss a UFO, you can see how you missed it. Back then, you jumped at a UFO but it suddenly moved to the bottom corner of the screen, leaving you wondering if it moved, you missed it, or the game was being a bastard.

    I think there was also word that after Metallic Madness was supposed to be "Final Fever", the real final boss battle, but was axed along with the original second zone. Taxman did include a screenshot of the second stage as a Sound Test code (32,08 - this also serves as Tails' Stage Select).

    I give it an 8. I applaud Taxman's efforts as this is a hell of a lot better than Backbone's efforts IMO, but you can tell the Genesis games have a more fluid and solid design overall.

  2. And I have to post again saying that (other than saying "Damn, that was an unintentional big post again") the actual word verification to publish that comment was "farthut" Fart hut. I have no idea how to react to that.

  3. You know you can right-click and save word verification pics? I think I saved a few weird ones to my computer.

    When you say "awesome darker," you're probably talking about the hue's contrast which is really neat. I hate games with little contrast that look all greyed-out and boring. Sega games seldom do that.

    Hey, I didn't even know there was an "ultimate final battle." Too bad Taxman couldn't get that in. Really sucks since the game desperately needs it with the anti-climatic final boss and all.

    Oh well, this game has some great ideas on paper that doesn't fully translate to the game. But nonetheless the game's visuals and soundtrack make it all worthwhile IMO.

  4. Yeah, the vibrant colors definitely help to maintain a lively mood throughout the game even with its darker tone. Today's game with a post-apocalyptic theme? Take something modern, destroy it, make everything grey or yellow. Honestly bores me to death. Panzer Dragoon did it right though, giving it a dark mood while having elements of beauty throughout.

    Here, they decided to make the bad futures just as stylish, detailed, animated and vivid as the other stages, making them look badass and awesome in their own right, and some look more interesting than their good futures. And it still feels Sonic. I fell in love with a lot of those dark but vivid futuristic games from the 90's, even if I learned years later that most of them had Akira influence all over them.

    And the darker feel of this game actually complimented Sonic, as opposed to contrived efforts to give his world attitude (Shadow's game), and games relying entirely on their dark, gritty world/character in order to sell. I play some of these games and feel like they're hammering the message, "You think this is badass." No, you're trying too hard.

    And actually, Taxman had considered finishing the axed stages, but Sonic Team preferred the core game to be as close to the original as possible. I don't know how unfinished they were.

  5. Most Sonics have the most colorful games. One of my fave Sonic games is Adventure 2 because I really like the way the levels look. Say what you want about the gameplay but City Escape, Space Colony Ark, the Pyramid level, the Jungle level, Chao Garden, Radical Highway, and even Prison Island looked really good. So it was fun just to look at alone.

    Too bad Sega didn't get the memo when working on Shadow the Hedgehog. Even Sonic '06 looks plain, regardless of the abysmal gameplay.

    You raise a good point about hues. This reminds me of RAGE and Gears of War 3, two things I commented on way back...

    RAGE basically swapped out its hues with green and brown. Kind of like movies with that obnoxious teal/orange/brown/yellow tints. It's a cheap way to convey some sort of mood but it just looks like ass. Now how much do people talk about RAGE nowadays? Hardly at all.

    And there's GoW3 which, from what I've seen, has brighter, more colorful maps now. Apparently, Epic Games got the memo that the most popular MP maps happen to be the most colorful. Just something to think about. Granted, they're not Sonic colorful (it's still an uber-violent game so a bright backdrop would be absurd) but it's a step in our direction.

  6. BTW, when you talk about Taxman's work on the emulator...did he simply read some ROMs or did he recreate it (to some extent) from scratch himself? Because I saw he made his own Sonic 2D engine and that sounds intriguing.

  7. I don't care what anyone says, I loved Adventure 2. And I actually felt nauseous at times playing Shadow The Hedgehog.

    Considering all the talk of RAGE, I wouldn't have even known it had come out if not for a buddy of mine who is a huge fan of id software. He loves it, but I've never been a fan of FPS games, save the Metroid Prime trilogy.

    And yes, Taxman recreated Sonic CD in its entirety using the Retro Engine, which he had developed himself. So yeah, it was rebuilt from scratch; it's not a port or an emulation. I think if you look at a video of the Special Stage on the Sega CD version of the game (Link), you can really see the difference. The PC and Gamecube versions didn't improve on this. So when you think about how this all came to be, it makes this re-release that much more impressive, and why many in the Sonic community are excited for it. More of Taxman's role than the actual game, it seems.

  8. Wow, that's just stunning he made (most) of the game from scratch. Talk about determination. How long did it take him to do this--two years?

    The fact Sega green-lighted the project was interesting too. Like they said, "the guy's worked too hard on this for us to turn it down." Still wonder why Sega rejected the Streets of Rage port. Just befuddling.

  9. Well, according to Sonic Retro's review, he presented a pitch of the game's first stage running flawlessly on iOS and using his engine in July 2009, and word leaked of the XBLA version in August 2011.

    But how long it took him to develop the engine itself, piece the stage together and make it run exactly like its source, I don't know. It seems he also developed his engine for more than just Sonic in mind. Maybe someone can steer his attention towards the Streets of Rage port.

    I personally think Sega green-lit it purely because they saw potential sales. With the Retro Engine they released this on iOS, Android, XBLA, PSN and Steam, for a ridiculously low price as well. They probably also realized how weak their own ports (save AM Port team) have been.