The underrated Sonic CD gets a long awaited opportunity to shine with the Genesis titles
Until recently, Sonic CD is the franchise equivalent of a mainstream band's underground LP: only the most hardcore fans have found it, enjoyed it, and shouted its praises into the high heavens. Similarly, CD's an unrefined experiment that tosses many novel ideas to the Sonic formula with mixed results. Back when Sonic CD was a rare find, the flaws were easy to ignore. As a $5 downloadable in 2011, less so.
Visually, CD's a prettier, faster, Darker And Edgier
version of Sonic 1. The basic gameplay retains the familiar Sonic feel, so players wishing to swiftly fly through the levels can. Time Attack mode streamlines the levels for this purpose. For those willing to time travel to destroy robot spawning devices from the past, the mechanic adds to CD's replay value. Just pass a lamppost with the appropriate time warping direction, run like mad, and off you go to the idealistic past...or the grim Bad Future
if the robot machine isn't destroyed.
Sonic CD's qualities come through in other areas, for better or worse. The opening/closing FMV videos are breathtaking glimpses into a potential '90s era Sonic anime. The UFO destroying bonus stages and overall level design, though solid, are pretty strange. Some of CD's seven worlds are mirror images of Sonic 1 levels, though some suffer from dubious enemy/trap/spring/platform placement, especially Wacky Workbench. As for the boss fights, they're more gimmicky puzzle bosses than anything, which makes the iconic Metal Sonic race stand out even further. Sonic fans expecting a challenge might be disappointed, since CD is quite easy to finish.
However, one area Sonic CD rises above other Sonic games is its music. Thanks to the updated port, now everyone can enjoy the 60+(!) samples between the American and Japanese/European editions. Too bad there's no option to customize your own soundtrack, because mixed together, CD's soundtrack is peerless. But hey, at least both Ear Worm
inducing soundtracks are available.
Depending on who you ask, Sonic CD either complements the Genesis era games, or feels like a poor imitation of one. For me, Sonic CD lands dead in the middle. It's superior to Sonic 1 and (to me at least) more ambitious than the erratic Sonic 2, but Sonic 3 & Knuckles trumps CD in every way, except the music.
With the most complete version of Sonic CD available at $5, what do you have to lose?