Onto the next instalment within the GOLDEN AGE of Sonic the Hedgehog’s infamous career, to which we momentarily divert away from the SEGA Megadrive and onto the SEGA CD (don’t you just love it when the video game is titled after the console – it makes things SO much fucking easier to understand!)
Technically, Sonic CD is a spin-off game as it isn’t really connected to the overall arc of the MAIN 2D Sonic games, but at the same time it holds a lot of status and meaning, thus I would be discrediting it by merely passing it off as a side-line event. Sonic CD offers a lot and really strides to be different from both its predecessors and successors. Despite being released after Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD is set prior to that sequels events, acting as a neat little middle story for Sonic to undertake between his monumental tales.
Of course this game reverts more back to the traditional look and feel of Sonic the Hedgehog, but maintains the new Spin-Dash mechanics from the sequel. Miles “Tails” Prower is obviously absent from this game (having not been introduced to Sonic yet) and instead we have a new character joining the narrative, i.e. Amy Rose.
It actually shocked me to find out that this was her original appearance, meaning she wasn’t one of the expanded NEWER characters of the 3D era (similar to Espio the Armadillo, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy Bee originally being introduced in the spin-off game, Knuckles Chaotix).
However, Amy doesn’t appear as a playable character and is rather demoted to a damsel that you need to rescue (not too dissimilar to Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros.), making her appearance appear rather shallow, generic, and slightly sexist. I can at least give credit to SEGA for eventually developing her character within future games, to which she AT LEAST can fend for herself.
I think her only defining trait in this game (despite being a hostage to a fat-bastard and his robot) is her obsession with Sonic, shitting out love-hearts as she tries to cling onto our hero and dry hump him to death (to which I tried my best to avoid her until I was forced to meet my inevitable fate upon the game slapping me in the face for stalling time).
There is a MASSIVE difference in design compared to the OTHER 2D Sonic games, i.e. the time travel aspect. This is a really neat feature for Sonic CD and actually elevates it above MOST Sonic games (both within the 2D era and the later 3D era). However, it isn’t without its flaws. For the most part this new gameplay mechanic makes Sonic CD feel truly unique by having the adventure feel more dynamic, as well as important. Sonic is facing more stakes this time round by not only having to stop Dr. Ivo Robotnik from controlling the world, but also preventing the future from falling into chaos.
Scattered around the levels are PAST and FUTURE signs, which upon spinning them will grant you the ability to travel backwards, or forwards in time. Your main goal is to travel backwards in time to a period in time prior to Dr. Robotnik taking control, and thus destroying his machines which will aid him in converting the area. Once you achieve this you can secure the future’s stability and ensure that it’s no longer controlled by Dr. Robotnik. There’s also the added bonus of finding the time-echoes of Metal Sonic, to which goes towards securing a brighter future.
It’s rather clever how each individual level changes accordingly to the time-period you travel through. The PRESENT will feel (sort of) neutral, having not fully been taken over by Dr. Robotnik, but you can see where the changes have begun to take place and how his Badniks are slowly taking over, along with the development of more mechanical elements to the natural habitat.
Travel to the PAST and you can clearly see how the level looks less overwhelmed by the mechanical world, toned down to mere pipes and common machine systems to help the animals exist, but the natural habitat hasn’t been stripped away yet, and the colourisation is a lot more pleasant and peaceful.
Obviously if you go to the FUTURE then you face a totally controlled Dr. Robotnik world where machinery runs wild, the natural beauty of the world has been completely destroyed, Badniks patrol everywhere, and the colour-scheme is very dark, promoting the fact that you’ve FUCKED-UP, thus letting down your friends, family, and the world as they’ve been taken over by a FAT-BASTARD in a egg-cup.
And how can I brush over the ANIMATED cut-scenes that appear at the start and conclusion of the game (created by Toei Animation [the same studio that produced Dragonball Z]), which I felt was a neat addition to further emphasis how radically different Sonic CD was, and how cinematically impressive Sonic could be.
This was accompanied by the kick-ass song “Sonic Boom” by Pastiche (and composed by Spencer Nilsen), marking the first occasion a track was specifically produced for a Sonic game, which would later become a permanent trend during the 3D era.
Speaking of music, Sonic CD is infamous for having TWO soundtracks (the Japanese soundtrack and the North America soundtrack). From what I’ve heard I definitely prefer the latter as it has more variety and energy, especially when it comes to Dr. Robotnik’s theme. Holy-shit! I mean, I will always call the original theme the BEST simply because of nostalgic reasoning, and the fact it perfectly represents Dr. Robotnik as a threatening opponent, but MY GOD does Sonic CD‘s version take the fucking biscuit.
Nilsen, David Young, and Mark Crew need to pat themselves on the back for producing one of the MOST unsettling boss tracks of ALL TIMES!, which is dubbed by some fans as “Fun is Infinite”. And one can see why! The strange distorted noises, the freakish laughter, the strong emphasis on darkness, and the sensation that you might not win, all come together perfectly to showcase that Dr. Robotnik isn’t a push-over. He’s a dangerous enemy. Sure, he might be a MASSIVE joke in this day-and-age, but Sonic CD (I feel) best represents him at his most dangerous (resembling the kind of threat he delivered within Sonic SatAM).
Sadly, this game seems great on paper but in terms of execution it does start to fail in many areas, namely the level designs. They are like FUCKING mazes and unless you know where the machines are you’re NOT finding them. I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve been watching my partner play this games for nearly 4 years now, with Sonic CD being a particular FAVOURITE of hers, to which she’s learnt the ins-and-outs of the game’s structure. So a new-comer (such as myself) who didn’t grow-up with the game is going to have a hard time.
Now, technically I shouldn’t have too much of a problem playing this game (given that I grew-up playing 2D Sonic games), but Sonic CD doesn’t play like a usual 2D Sonic game. The levels are designed to be rather difficult to manoeuvre around, causing you to easily lose your bearings. The platforming can become very tedious in how the levels branch out into many different paths, added by the carefully constructed means of getting to where you need to be. Even just running towards the Goal can prove a challenge.
And I guess that’s where the MAJOR problem lies, an objective. Sonic isn’t really known (or least back then anyway) for mission-based level designs, and combined with slow, annoying-as-fuck level designs (which can easily get you either killed, bounced around, or just prevent you from completing your task) this quickly becomes extremely difficult.
You’d need a walkthrough to know what you’re doing and that sucks the FUN out of it. I couldn’t physically play this game without being guided, but after a while I got too frustrated with the badly designed levels that I lost interest in destroying the machines and just ran straight to the Goal (FUCK THE FUTURE!)
But then I feel BAD because I’m technically being penalised. If you don’t destroy all the machines you don’t get the GOOD ENDING, thus it doesn’t matter if you get to the end of the game and defeat Dr. Robotnik (like you normally would) because you didn’t technically win. Essentially, playing Sonic CD as a Sonic game isn’t advised because it DEMANDS that you follow its unique format which JUST doesn’t fit in with Sonic’s design.
Heck, even the other 2D Sonic games get it WRONG in terms of how they should treat Sonic. He’s supposed to be the FASTEST mascot alive and yet Sonic Team constantly throw hurdles in his way, to the point where he has to slow down in order to successfully move past them (defeating the point much?) Sonic CD is notorious for randomly placing hurdles, or Badniks, conveniently in the way either to obstruct you, slow you down, or just simply fuck with you.
And don’t get me started on Dr. Robotnik’s boss battles! Some of them are really fun and inventive, but then others are just a MASSIVE PAINS IN MY ARSE, to which one of them is completely broken. I’m serious! The boss battle for “Collison Chaos Zone” is set out like a massive pin-ball machine and you have to work your way up in order to defeat him. Even my partner finds this FUCKING DIFFICULT! (So that should tell you everything!)
It’s a massive game of luck and it all depends on HOW nice the game wants to be, meaning you could be flinging around like a helpless jackass for 5 MINUTES with no immediate progress, constantly going from making some serious progression to being forced to backtrack because Sonic fell back down to the bottom because of the tediously placed bouncing obstacles and the piss-poor directional control. And then when you do finally reach him he only takes 2 HITS and then he’s dead. Fuck me!
Of course the boss for “Stardust Speedway Zone” is WITHOUT A DOUBT the true highlight of the game as you have to race Metal Sonic to the finish line in order to claim your prize (which is unfortunately Amy [lucky “fucking” me]). The level design is actually fairly easy, and is structured accordingly.
Sure, it becomes massively tense when you hear Metal Sonic approaching from behind, and then he suddenly hurtles past you like a FUCKING bullet, to which you better pray he doesn’t hit you, as well as making sure you keep up your momentum to take the lead again. But is still remains FUN and (most importantly) FAIR! And then you’re completely satisfied seeing the metal twat crash and die after failing to reach the finish line first (in your FACE faker!) It’s simply a GREAT segment (which I wished was applied to the rest of the game).
It’s not like Sonic CD isn’t fun but it’s certainly a chore from start to finish if you want to play it properly, which is totally advised unless you want to let down the little critters as they’re turned into mindless drones to serve a fat-bastard as he ensnares the world and turns it into a nuclear power-plant.
I can’t even say it’s a bad game because it’s perfectly clear that a lot of actual work went into making this game. But sadly they didn’t really consider the implication of “This is a SONIC game!” to which you can clearly see that a lot of the game’s additions just don’t work with this type of franchise and character.
Maybe it just needed some tweaking. I don’t know. All I would say is new-comers best do their RESEARCH and be prepared for what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not a SONIC game. It merely features Sonic. Sure, it may fool you at first into thinking it’s 2D Sonic, but it isn’t, at least not in the traditional sense. You will be quickly arse fucked backwards, forwards, and then-some, until you finally realise that you’re Sonic CD‘s bitch and that all hope for saving the future is pointless. Unless of course you’re sad enough to play the game long enough to learn its secrets, but I simply CAN’T BE ARSED.
Also, did I mention that in order to ACTIVATE your trip through time you first need to use your SPEED to create the jump. But the level design is mostly fucked, so if you DON’T KNOW the ins-and-outs of the level’s structure you won’t have a bloody clue where the best place is to activate your ability, which will probably result in you hitting a wall, or a Badnik, or some other fucking obstacle (that was just put there to FUCKING ANNOY ME!) and cancel out your efforts, meaning you can no longer travel in time and then you might as well throw in the towel, take a vacation, and just wait for Doomsday to happen (but at least this way you can fucking relax).
Double also, the “Special Zone” is too FUCKED. The incorporation of the 3D mechanics just DOESN’T work accordingly, the controls are stiff, and the objective is NEAR impossible, made worse by the annoying addition of a timer (which goes down faster if you land in water [WTF?]).