, , ,

Platforms – Xbox Live Arcade | Playstation Network | PC (Steam) (reviewed) | iOS (reviewed) | Android | Windows Phone 7
Developed and Published by Sega/ Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead

The idea of rereleasing products is usually held with a certain amount of disdain depending on the fan base. By now, Sonic fans are used to having the originals pumped out on whatever emulator without any real change (usually for the worst). Not that I don’t appreciate the nostalgic frame rate plummet in 2-player Mystic Cave Act 2 in Sonic 2, but it seems Sega have since learnt their lesson.

Sonic CD is the forgotten child in a family that moved out and didn’t tell anyone how to contact them apart from the select few who were there when they left. Some say it was the best child, others say it was given a bit too much attention and I can only carry this analogy off for so long. Regardless, for someone who has played the classics to death and otherwise kept missing the collections CD was included in, I thought it wouldn’t be something I’d end up playing…and then a fan made an engine that made the game play and look better. Fans do what Segadon’t, it seems.

So here’s this, both a review of the significant upgrade CD got (let’s say, it went from normal to super) as well as the game itself, all rolled into one nice reading thing. So in the immortal words of Stardust Speedway’s Bad Future, turn it up!

Whilst the classic Sonics were about control of momentum and applying this to the terrain, CD is something of a slightly different beast. Its focus is split; on the one hand, you have the same old element of getting through a level as quickly as possible, however to achieve the best ending it is exploration that must be exploited. Added to the general mechanics, there are time posts that you pass. When hitting one, you have to gain enough speed and crucially maintain it so that you can warp into the past or the future. What you do, where, can determine the impact elsewhere.

In the past, you must destroy a robot teleporter, but by doing so you free up all time periods worth of badniks in that act and can proceed on your merry way. Thing is, these usually require a bit of skill to get to and this requires traversing said levels. The levels are chaotic, at best description. They are definitely playable, but they lack a sense of organisation that the other games possess. Even though routes through them may be simple, it plain looks weird and you can find yourself in odd loops for a fair chunk of time. With enough skill and knowledge of the lay-outs, this isn’t a problem, but it is one of two flaws I have with the game. The level design is just bizarre. It needs to be reined in a little bit at times and made less confusing. The final few levels also tend to include a fair amount of cheap deaths that don’t help you endear to them.

Still, they’re sufficient and this time around you’re given a new toy; with the update comes the spindash introduced in Sonic 2, to go alongside the ‘peel-out’ move you have which gets you going quicker, but leaves you vulnerable. Both have their place, although I found myself going with the spindash more, most likely out of habit. Regardless, one really great consistency is the presentation.

Both the US and Japanese soundtracks are included, which makes for some great variety, although I would have to say the Japanese one slightly edges out the American as it just fits a teensy bit better. The visual styles of the levels are great and fit in with the other titles seamlessly. This gets really cool when you hear soundtrack remixes and see the levels change by going through time and potentially changing the future.

As for that other flaw I mentioned? Robotnik’s fights are less “See my rhythm and hit me 8 times” and more “Here is something unique, hit me 1-4 times”.  The result is that some are more annoying for their own good and others are just plain easy. The finale, for example, lacks any sense of foreboding and excitement present in 2 and 3&Knuckles (and to a lesser extent 1). The meat of the game is from its levels, but they’re enjoyable enough that that’s acceptable.

Unfortunately I have to throw an important, but specific, criticism out to the iOS version, specifically with controls. Whilst it may be sacrilege to use the analogue stick on my controller, the touch control on my iPod was very frustrating at times. To put it simply – there were jumps on my iPod I really, really struggled with, but doing them with a controller was a breeze. It’s not unplayable, but it’s certainly an unnecessary challenge.

The package itself is pretty vast. As I’ve said, you get to pick from both soundtracks which is great, along with having a playable Tails who wasn’t in the original and makes up for that with having his flying ability allowing him to be pretty much cheat mode. There’s also a time attack mode which will no doubt be rather addicting. Another cool feature is the ability to change the graphical presentation, from giving it a ‘nostalgic’ vibe to smoothening out the fuzziness. The option is simply great. (You can click on the individual images below to show them in 1080 resolution. Hovering over them first will let you see what graphics setting they’re on.)

All in all, there’s a hell of a lot of value to be gotten here, be you out and about and wanting one level’s run, after which you can save and return back to later, or to sit down properly and charge through. Whilst I don’t think it’s as good as the best the classics can offer, it has its place and justifies itself as being a good Sonic game worth having, unlike a recent 2D Sonic title.

Boring Stuff: Played twice to completion, once on an iPod Touch using the Japanese soundtrack and once on the PC, at 1080p on the ‘Smooth’ graphics setting, using a 360 controller and the US soundtrack.