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  • Anti-Climax Boss: The final boss is just Eggman in his normal vehicle with four panels that flip around and whatnot. It's a case of dodging predictable attacks and waiting for a chance to hit him, or just taking the hit and then damaging him using invincibility frames (especially on his first hit, where it's legitimately difficult to find an opening). It's not overly hard or very exciting, especially compared to the final bosses of Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 & Knuckles, although it is a step up from the final boss of Sonic 1. On top of that, in the American version, the boss music is barely different to the normal one; at least the Japanese/European versions had a proper final boss theme.
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  • Awesome Art: The cleaner, higher resolution look of the CD layout and expanded color palette has barely aged the game visually. The game also has some of the most detailed backgrounds and level art in the series, and Stardust Speedway, as well as most good futures, are filled with Scenery Porn. The sprites are also much sharper, and then there's the OVA sequences...
  • Awesome Boss: The race against Metal Sonic, so much so that it was recreated in both Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II and Sonic Generations 3DS, and homaged in both the console version of Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania as straight fights instead of races.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Depending on the region, gamers were treated to one of two different soundtracks, each kick-ass in its own way (as expected from this series). The Japanese soundtrack,note  composed by Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata, has that familiar Sonic sound with a dash of J-pop complete with bits and pieces of sampling (notably, Xavier's "Work That Sucker to Death" is used for the boss music); while the American soundtrack, composed by Spencer Nilsen and David J. Young, is more atmospheric and rock-oriented. The past tracks in the U.S. release were unchanged due to technical reasons, which can be slightly jarring.
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    • For whatever reason, the U.S. release lacks a proper final boss theme. It does differ slightly from the standard boss tune, with a few additional instruments and a couple of the sounds, like the sped-up Eggman laugh, at different points in the track, but you have to really listen out for them.
    • The soundtrack varies per version and region. North America never got the Hataya soundtrack prior to the 2011 re-release; Japan, of course, always had only their own soundtrack (Japanese fans probably aren't even aware there is a different soundtrack, at least until one song from the U.S. soundtrack was remixed for Sonic Generations); Europe got the Hataya soundtrack on the Mega CD version, but the Nilsen soundtrack on the Gems Collection version. The PC version has Nilsen's soundtrack in all regions. The 2011 re-release ultimately fix these woes by having both soundtracks selectable in all regions. However, the intro music for the Japanese soundtrack had the lyrics cut, presumably due to contract issues with the people who sang it. Fortunately, "Sonic Boom" is 100% unchanged. The remake even has proper looping programming for all songs so there's no awkward CD Audio fade-outs, and many of the US songs make use of some additional sections from their extended versions on the little-known "Sonic Boom" soundtrack CD.
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  • Awesome Video Game Level: Stardust Speedway, which allows for speedy movement in contrast to the other stages, which are, for the most part, mazelike and slow-paced. It also contains the race against Metal Sonic. It's so well-remembered among fans of the game that the Bad Future version was used as the stadium for the battle against Metal Sonic in Sonic Generations, and it later made a full-fledged reappearance (using both Past and Present versions) in Sonic Mania, Metal Sonic still included.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The hidden statue in Wacky Workbench Zone 1 serves as this in the original version of the game: if you go into the past and go into a secret passage near the beginning, you'll find an angel statue, which does nothing but dispense rings every few seconds. No explanation is ever given for the statue, and it's entirely absent from the present and Good Future, although in the Bad Future, Eggman has replaced it with a statue of himself, which you can destroy but will get bombs dropped on you as a result.
  • Breather Level:
    • Quartz Quadrant. The roboticizers in this Zone are much easier to get to than Tidal Tempest or Wacky Workbench's.
    • Stardust Speedway, although that might be because it's sandwiched between the two hardest Zones in the game (Wacky Workbench and Metallic Madness).
  • Broken Base:
    • The American soundtrack vs. the Japanese soundtrack, in terms of "superiority". Flame Wars are not uncommon. This is a particular Berserk Button for Europeans, especially the Brits, who just tend to get whichever region is convenient. They originally got the Japanese soundtrack, yet when both the PC version and Gems Collection came out, the port was based off the PC version which was region-locked to the US, and since the Gems version used the PC port, all countries with that game got the soundtrack. Many a European gamer were not happy about the sudden change. The later PS3, 360 and iOS ports mitigate this by having both sountracks as options, but to this day, fans still debate on which one is better.
    • The level design is a big point of contention. Some like the increased focus on platforming and exploration. Others dislike the decreased speed and labyrinthine level layouts, especially when trying to use time travel posts.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Metal Sonic, whose debut in this game led to him becoming one of the most iconic and popular villains in the series. If there's one thing everyone remembers about this game, it's the spectacular race against him.
  • Even Better Sequel: To Sonic 1. It almost plays like a more refined version of that game.
  • Fanon: It was a common fan theory for years that Sonic CD was set at some point between the first and second Sonic games. Word of God eventually Jossed this, stating that its set after Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles but before Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
  • Franchise Original Sin:
    • This game features slower paced gameplay, a problem that would be exaggerated in some of the later installments.
    • A common complaint about some of the later installments of the franchise is that they made things too bleak for a series about a cartoon hedgehog. Sonic CD's Bad Futures feature rather bleak Scenery Gorn and horrifying implications (Eggman is essentially rendering an entire planet uninhabitable), but they are just that: implications, and the rest of the game is colorful and lighthearted. As time went on, later games (such as Shadow the Hedgehog) stopped having their bleak aspects be mere implications and put the horror front and center, along with having far less lighthearted aspects to balance them out.
  • Funny Moments: The end to the Stardust Speedway race between Sonic and Metal Sonic. The former just barely makes it under a wall as it closes, leaving the doppelgänger to run headfirst into it and mimic Sonic's death animation.
  • Game-Breaker: Tails in the 2011 re-release. Not unlike his Sonic 3 & Knuckles appearance, Tails' flying ability allows him to simply fly over portions of some levels entirely, the game lacking any upper ceiling boundaries to counter this. Because of this, the game prevents the player from attaining achievements/trophies when playing as Tails.
  • Goddamned Boss:
    • Collision Chaos' boss. All you have to do to beat it is to reach the top of the pinball table, but you might take a lot of time trying to do that, as the flipper's controls are very strange (there is a minuscule delay and the physics are off). Robotnik/Eggman will also throw a lot of bombs that act like bumpers, to keep Sonic from reaching him.
    • Metal Sonic can be annoying if you have trouble avoiding obstacles and/or keeping up with him.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • Debug doesn't work in Time Attack mode. Though it seems to prevent the player from cheating, there is a different bug that will give the player a "00:00:00" time record after the level is completed. This way, the player can easily unlock the game's extra content.
    • Not so much a bug as a design flaw but the first boss appears by lowering down from the sky rather than walking in from offscreen. This allows you to run all the way to the right, duck down, and then deliver the three hits to kill the boss without having to wait for him to lower his bumper-shields, turning him into practically a Zero-Effort Boss, and allowing you to kill him in under 5 seconds.
    • As shown in this video, it's possible to warp from the beginning of Collision Chaos Zone 1 to the end if Sonic has the power sneakers.
    • In the 2011 version, at least in the Windows Steam version, sometimes Sonic will go through the ceiling. Unlike the Genesis games, though, a restart is not necessary; jumping enough times will get you on top of the level, where running right a certain amount will trigger the goal even though it can't be seen from there.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • Even though Amy is Sonic's Stalker with a Crush, Sonic is still willing to save her when Metal Sonic kidnaps her. And keep in mind, this game is Sonic and Amy's first meeting. By all accounts, Sonic saved a complete stranger who was enamored with him to the point of childish obsession without any hesitation. No wonder Amy likes him so much...
    • The Good Futures. While most Sonic games from the Genesis era are steeped in Green Aesop and this game is no different, the Good Futures show that the lush environments can co-exist and even benefit from the technology that was implanted in them. If Eggman channeled his intellect for the greater good, Sonic's world would be a much better place.
    • The Stinger in the Golden Ending It shows some sparks fall and magically make flowers appear while the words "You're Too Cool" appear onscreen.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • One line of "Sonic ~ You Can Do Anything" is "Excalibar - It's not that far". In Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic gets Excalibur. Looks like it wasn't that far after all. Another line from the same song is "Doom room, cosmic zoom, Heads up, Jake it's Sonic Boom!". "Doom room" becomes only more hilarious when you consider the Barrel of Doom from Carnival Night in Sonic 3.
    • "Sonic Boom".
    • The infamous "Fun is Infinite" screen becomes this, when it was revealed that the name of one of the main villains of Sonic Forces is "Infinite".
    • The English manual states that Amy is into fortune telling and that she learned of meeting Sonic via a Tarot card reading. Several years later, Sega would come to own Atlus, creator of the Persona series which features a mythology centered on the Major Arcana.
  • Hype Backlash: Back when Sonic CD was rarer and harder to find, the game was considered one of, if not the best game in the series as a whole by those who played it. However, when re-releases and even a remake allowed it to become more accessible than it originally was, the game became more divisive, with some believing that the game didn't live up to the hype, several even outright hating it.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The Bad Futures, horrifying as they are already, become even worse when you realize that the scale of Eggman's plan means that he is rendering an entire planet uninhabitable.
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks!: Aside from the music replacement, the biggest complaint leveled at this game is that the Eggman boss fights are too easy. None of his machines take more than four hits to destroy; most take three, Tidal Tempest technically only takes one, once you get past his defenses, and the Quartz Quadrant and Stardust Speedway battles don't have you attack him directly at all. Bosses in other classic Sonic games almost always required eight hits to beat (mini-bosses took fewer hits to kill and final bosses usually took more).
  • Just Here for Godzilla: When Sonic CD was re-released on Sonic Gems Collection, many fans bought it just for this game alone.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The JP/EU version of the Stardust Speedway Bad Future theme will often elicit a "HURHUEHUEHUE" or variations thereof when it shows up on YouTube.
    • The JP/EU's stage clear/ending theme also gives us the rather odd shout of "TELEPORTATION YEAH!"
  • Narm: Eggman's reaction when the Wacky Workbench boss vehicle is destroyed. He's supposed to be freaking out but due to his jerky movements he looks more like he's car dancing.
  • Narm Charm:
    • Some of the JP music, like the Stardust Speedway and boss themes, can be kind of silly, but no less catchy.
    • The robotic voice in the Japanese bad future music for Metallic Madness sounds like the Software Automatic Mouth and is basically saying the opposite of the lyrics of that version's theme song, but the song in general (especially the instrumentation) doesn't refrain from reminding you that you screwed up.
      "You can't do anything, so don't even try. Get some help. Don't do what Sonic does."
  • Nightmare Retardant: The Bad Futures may look quite bleak, but at least you have the comically ineffectual Badniks. A Kumo-Kumo, for example, will jump into the air and shoot spider webbing at Sonic to restrict his movements, but the broken-down Kumo-Kumos in Quartz Quadrant's Bad Future will just jump up and down pointlessly. Taking the cake, however, is the Taga-Taga. A normal-functioning one will come over to Sonic and launch its spikes. The ones in Tidal Tempest's Bad Future, on the other hand, will retreat upon catching sight of Sonic.
  • Older Than They Think: While it's more commonly known nowadays, some fans were, and still are, unaware this game marked Amy's first appearance, making her as old, or perhaps older than Tails.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Time travel posts can be used up without activating them if you build up speed for long enough to generate sparks and then lose your speed, or if you cross another time travel post. Since you're running at full speed in an attempt to activate the time travel, you'll need to memorize or stake out the path you're going to take, or put up with the risk of walls, enemies, and other posts getting in the way and ruining the attempt. Very frustrating if you're trying to find Past posts so you can get Good Futures. Conversely, you might hit a Future post if you haven't gotten a Good Future yet, and end up on a booster-filled path that are guaranteed to keep you in motion long enough to travel to the Bad Future, forcing you to now find two Past posts if you still want that Good Future.
    • Finding and destroying all the robot teleporters for the Golden Ending can be this to some. You are given no waypoints, arrows, or other indicators of where to find them. In fact, the only clue you have is that in the present, you can find the ruined husks of the teleporters in the same place they would be in the past. Given that the later levels can be quite big and the teleporters are often in hard to reach places, expect to get a lot of Time Overs looking for them in the first try. One teleporter in particular requires you to stand on what appears to be a crush trap, only for it to instead transport you to where you need to be.
    • The Special Stages, in which the player can collect all seven Time Stones and achieve the good ending without having to destroy the teleporters, are some of the most reviled in the franchise. Meant to show off the capabilities of the CD hardware, the game tasks the player with destroying UFOs on an island in 3D where touching the water will remove ten seconds off the timer. The trouble stems from its incredibly finicky 3D controls.note  When combined with the 2D sprites and wonky collision detection, it makes the task needlessly difficult and frustrating, especially in the later stages.
  • Signature Scene: It's very hard to talk about the game without mentioning the Metal Sonic race.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The American boss theme sounds a lot like "Pressure Road" from Ys II. The resemblance is one thing, but they both have the distinction of being nightmarish, cacophonous, and incredibly out of place in series that usually have upbeat music.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel:
    • Much of the American soundtrack, despite its reputation. Having a playlist of the soundtrack, or better yet the officially extended CD. Nearly the whole soundtrack is ambient folk crossed with alternative rock and extensive vocal harmonies, making it very soothing to listen to as a stand-alone product.
    • Good Futures. No enemies, a bright and colorful soundtrack, animals living peacefully, and technology being used to benefit nature instead of harming it. One of the earliest examples of Solar Punk.
    • Hearing "Sonic Boom" play during the credit crawl.
  • That One Achievement: Savior of the Planet. To unlock this achievement/trophy, you have to destroy all the teleporters and Metal Sonic holograms in the past. Collecting all the Time Stones makes getting this impossible unless you collect the last Time Stone in Metallic Madness Zone 2. It also qualifies as a Guide Dang It! for most fans.
  • That One Boss: Metal Sonic for some. There's a lot of obstacles in the way, not to mention awkward jump timing, and if you miss any of these, the quirky physics of the game will slow you right down, meaning you need to have near-perfect platforming if you want to keep up with him.
  • That One Level:
    • Wacky Workbench, thanks to the bouncy bottom floor. When it comes to getting a Good Future in Zone 1, it's even harder because of how complicated the path to it is, though at least it's easier to do in Zone 2. It also contains That One Boss. The electrical coils in the upper areas of the level are also problematic (as, combined with the bouncy floor, you can be thrown into the top of the stage right in time to end up in front of an active electric coil; plus they look like they're part of the background, which can be disorienting).
    • The Special Stages. Especially the 7th one.
    • For players trying to finish Time Attack mode in under 25 minutes, Metallic Madness Zones 2 and 3 are easily more irritating than the other levels. Zone 2 takes much practice to complete in under three minutes, as opposed to the previous non-boss levels, which can be beaten in under one minute (and in exceptional cases, 30-45 seconds). Zone 3 has a Platform Hell section at the start, and three extremely tricky enemies to defeat before reaching the boss. You'll be lucky to finish it within two minutes, like the other boss levels.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • The American soundtrack got a lot of flak from fans and critics alike for replacing the Japanese soundtrack. GameFan even rated the North American version lower than the Japanese version for this very reason as they gave the Japanese version a perfect score of 100%.
    • The game itself puts off some fans for being different from the Mega Drive games. Some sources of complaints are the less speed-oriented level design, the unique mechanics, and even the more detailed and intricate level art.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The 2011 remake's Special Stages have had their frame rate considerably improved, giving them a very fluid panning effect as you rotate the camera behind Sonic. It also helped improve the playability of these stages (as depth and perspective were sometimes difficult to judge due to the lack of smooth motion).
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: As this is one of her few pre-Adventure appearances, Amy sports her more tomboyish, spikier look that just seems weird.

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