Format reviewed: Sega CD/Mega CD
Submitted by: John Delaney
Sonic CD has a fearsome reputation among Sonic fans, many of whom believe it can never be bettered. It's certainly the most massive and spectacular. Originally intended to be the Mega CD version of Sonic 2, its design was split when a large chunk of Sonic Team departed to America to join the Sega Technical Institute, but continued to work on a sequel to Sonic's début. The games then started to take very different development routes, with the American side handling the MegaDrive game. This did result in some strange non-sequiturs. Despite releasing a year after Sonic 2, the bulk of Sonic's animation sprites are taken from Sonic 1, as well as some graphical elements of the levels. Special Zones are accessed by jumping through a ring after hitting the end-of-level sign in classic Sonic 1 style. Sonic lacks the smooth spin dash of Sonic 2, and Tails the Fox is also absent.
The extra power of the Mega CD, however, is used to phenomenal effect everywhere else. A time travel element turns the basic seven Zones into a massive twenty-eight: the present, the past and two alternate futures for each level. In order to secure the Good Future, Sonic must travel to the past to locate and destroy the Badnik Generator Robotnik planted there; otherwise, the world will rot under Robotnik’s heel. Each time-line changes the level’s layout and sports an entirely different graphical style from the others.
The levels are insanely bright and colourful; nothing the MegaDrive produced by itself could fuel vivid psychedelic detail like this. Special mention has to be made of the legendary Sonic CD music, which was also unique to each level’s time-line. The Special Zones take the form of Mario Kart-style flat mazes that are enormous fun to play. Sonic CD’s drawbacks are minuscule compared to what the game does right. It seems to rely on the depth of it’s time-travel mechanic rather than pushing Sonic forward as a character, and accessing other time-lines can be infuriatingly difficult. You forgive it, though. Sonic CD easily deserves the reputation it has.