The first game to feature on our R/R/R Files was always a game I cherished from a young age. After somehow coming across it in a random computer shop, I remembered reading about this game in a gaming magazine when I was even younger and thinking, “I want this game”. It wasn’t the original Mega CD (Sega CD for U.S. readers) version, but it was a PC port made a few years later. As one of the few games worth purchasing for the Mega CD, I wasn’t alone in wishing for a return to form, with some even praying for a change back to the Japanese/European soundtrack. Both the port to the PC and the bundle Sonic Gems Collection far later featured the U.S. soundtrack. Days after publishing the first R/R/R in the series, Sega announced that Sonic CD would make its grand return. Was it worth the wish to preserve this gem of a long gone era?
As far as ports go, this is probably amongst the most ambitious considering the original system died a long time ago. One thing is certain though, they managed to capture everything that made Sonic CD’s level design and visual style great for the day. Not the largest game in the series by a long shot, but the huge complex levels have variety that is unparalleled by subsequent 2D Sonic games. The iconic Past and Future element found here is preserved, along with the “sub-objective” of changing the past by destroying Robot Generators and Metal Sonic projectors.
“While Sonic CD doesn’t change the formula very much or indeed gives the player much that is new, the cosmetic changes are enough to warrant another look at this timeless classic.”
Those who aren’t looking at this with a nostalgic eye may get confused by the level design at times and disappointed with the overly simple boss battles, especially the anticlimactic finale. Special stages are still a unique, albeit frustrating experience where you need to smash UFOs before the time runs out. On a HDTV, the visual upgrade has been handled with more care than usual, meaning, on the right setting, it doesn’t look stupidly blurry. The full-motion videos (FMVs) that were originally blurry in the 90s have been given a coat of paint and look stunning on big TVs now.
With updated ports come a host of features, if handled with an element of care and attention, and this is no exception. Aside from leaderboards, online functionality is non-existent, but there are some extras besides. As in the original Sonic CD there are unlockable extras such as the D.A. Garden, a hub where you can play around with the spinning globe and play some music. These are accessed through playing the Time Attack mode where you challenge yourself to beat your times in any given level. They add an element of replay value, but nothing more than you would have got all those years ago. One new feature is something that surprised me greatly. You can now switch between entire soundtracks before beginning play, meaning that some can now access the original techno based soundtrack for the first time. As for which one I prefer, the vast majority of the Japanese soundtrack is better, meaning that the inclusion of this feature is greatly appreciated.
This port also introduces never before seen features to the game. The first is the option to switch between the classic Sonic CD style spin-dash and the more conventional spin-dash seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and onwards. For me, having this as a switchable option makes perfect sense as, while I can understand that some may wish to keep it as it was, I always preferred how the Mega Drive Sonic games handled the spin-dash. One thing that is a tiny bit peculiar is the inclusion of Tails as a secret character. The nature of the game changes while playing as Tails, since the fox can fly; it somehow feels dirty. Thankfully the Time Attack mode is Sonic only and the sense of achievement when completing a level in a record time is not lost. The price is also something to shout about as it has one of the lowest digital download release price tags I’ve ever seen. For a small investment, this is certainly worth splashing cash on!
A good game is like a good bottle of bourbon: ages well and still stimulates the taste buds. While Sonic CD doesn’t change the formula very much or indeed gives the player much that is new, the cosmetic changes are enough to warrant another look at this timeless classic. Clearly knowing what the people who craved this game wanted to see in the port, the inclusions of changeable soundtracks and alternative spin-dash options make this accessible to anyone who wishes to tailor the experience to their style of play and musical tastes. The inclusion of Tails is slightly alarming, but you can always blank that fox out. It is nearly twenty years since the original classic came out to a limited audience. Now we have the definitive version at a budget price worth shouting about, just in time to mark the end of Sonic’s twentieth Birthday!