Sonic CD is my favorite game in the entire Sonic series, and one of my favorite video games of all-time. Originally released on the Sega Genesis add-on, the Sega CD. Sonic CD is probably also the best game on the add-on as well. Many games on the Sega CD were not very good, let alone playable. Because developers were trying to fit as much full motion video in games as they could, due to the fact that they were on CD's, and not cartridges. Instead of focusing on what actually matters. Gameplay.
Sonic CD is not like other games on the add-on. Rather than focusing on full motion video, Sonic CD focused on improving its gameplay. Using this extra power, the developers made the colors really vibrant, it's very pleasing to the eyes. It also has a CD quality soundtrack, because it is not limited to the Genesis' sound chip. But even though it focused more on gameplay, the game still has an animated intro and endings. Which are fine, because they don't replace the game.
Now I'll explain the gameplay. While Sonic CD may almost play exactly like the Sonic games on Genesis, it actually has a lot of new features. First of all, the main concept around this game is time travel. Through the zones, you'll find signs with the text of either 'Past' or 'Future'. Running past one of these signs will activate it for a short period of time. After passing one of the signs, you are given very little time to gain enough speed to travel to the past or the future. You must keep running until sparks appear behind Sonic, then if you manage to keep those sparks long enough without running into anything, you'll be able to travel.
Travelling to the past will change the look of the zone. The zone will look older, a little more natural. If you travel to the future, the zone will look more mechanic and bland. When you are in the past, there is something you must search for. The robot generator. In each zone's past, there is a robot generator to search for. Once you find it, and break it in both of the zone's acts, you will create a 'good future' in the zone's 3rd boss act. The good futures are lot brighter and vibrant. If you get good futures in all the 7 zones, you will unlock the good ending. If you ignore the generators, after the final boss you'll get the bad ending.
But there's another way to get the good ending. That is to collect the 7 Time Stones. If you collect 50 rings in an act, a giant ring will appear to the right of the goal sign. Jumping into it will bring Sonic to a special stage. These special stages put you in a 3D environment, and you have a set time limit to destroy a certain number of UFO's. You must stay on land, because if Sonic touches the water, you lose 10 seconds. And in these special stages, every secound counts. One touch of the water in a critical moment can lead you to your demise. Overall, the special stages were very enjoyable. Probably my favorite ones in the series. Special stages 1-5 are quite easy, but then 6 and 7 become very difficult.
The zones in the game are, for the most part, among my favorite in the Sonic series. They are very colorful, and all each have their own unique traits. I'll explain them each individually. But first I must adress that this game has 2 different soundtracks, the North American one, and the Japanese one. Which I will get into later. But since I prefer the Japanese soundtrack, they will be the tracks I will talk about.
- Palmtree Panic is the first zone in the game. At first glance, it may seem like your typical 'Green Hill'. But it introduces many new gimmicks, such as 3D loops, which are a blast to go through. The colors are very vibrant compared to Green Hill zone too.
- Collision Chaos is the second zone you'll come across. It's very bouncy, and introduces a lot of pinball mechanics. Some rather annoying parts here and there, but overall pretty enjoyable. What is extremely unpleasing however, is the boss for this zone. Now, after some practice I managed to beat it pretty quickly, but when it's your first time, this boss will take a lot of time.
- Tidal Tempest is the third zone in the game. Even though this is a water-labyrinth type zone, you can actually complete the 2 acts without touching most of the water sections. And even when you are in water, the zone is very generous with the air bubbles, so you shouldn't even drown.
- Quartz Quadrant is the fourth zone, and also happens to be my favorite zone. I really enjoy this zone, I like the choice of colors, and the stage does not have any annoying obstacles. Just a fun zone to go through.
- Wacky Workbench is the fifth zone in the game, and also my least favorite zone... I really don't like this zone. The floor makes you bounce high in the air. Getting through it is a pain, I just want to run to the goal, but unfortunately I usually try to go for the good ending, so I need to stay in it a while in order to make sure I destroy the robot generators.
- Stardust Speedway is the sixth zone in the game, and another very enjoyable zone. This zone is all about speed. Running, running, and more running. There are a lot of different paths, so much exploration in it too. I'd say this is the most iconic stage in the game. Most people remember it for the zone's boss. The race with Metal Sonic, which I'll talk about later.
- Metallic Madness is the seventh and final zone in the game. The first act in the zone isn't that bad. The second act on the other hand is very tedious. Some very annoying enemies, and tricky platforming segments. Finding the generators can become a pain.
So now that I've talked about the zones, I'll talk about the soundtrack. Yes, this game has 2 soundtracks. Sega of America, at the time, felt the need to produce their own tracks, even including their own opening theme. But for some reason they didn't make past themes. I prefer the Japanese soundtrack by a lot. For me, the US soundtrack just doesn't cut it. A lot of the tracks I found very generic. I did enjoy the tunes it made for Stardust Speedway though. Now the Japanese soundtrack is one of the best parts of this game. Fantastic in every way. Probably not a single track I dislike. The fact that this game has 4 songs for every level is amazing. My favorite tracks would have to be the ones from Tidal Tempest, Quartz Quadrant, and Stardust Speedway. I also love the ending theme 'Believe in Yourself'. But for some reason, they couldn't include the lyrics in this version, so it became instrumental. I actually prefer the song this way though. One area where the US soundtrack does succeed , is with the opening theme. Sonic Boom is very memorable compared to the Japanese opening.
This game also introduced a few key characters in the Sonic series. This is where Amy started, she gets captured by Metal Sonic, another staple character in the series. In Stardust Speedway's boss act, you get to race Metal Sonic. I don't think anybody saw this coming, it was a very different and suprising boss. Probably the most iconic moment in the game.
In terms of story, we are given very little. The main goal is to save this planet known as 'Little Planet' from Doctor Robotnik/Eggman, by getting all of the good futures and stopping Metal Sonic.
All-in-all, Sonic CD is a fantastic game that deserves all the praise. It introduced a lot of new elements to make gameplay interesting, and features one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever. If you've played the Genesis Sonic games, you should definitely give it a try. And if you haven't, I'd say this is a good game to get into the series. I think getting the good ending might be a little difficult for new players though. The special stages get pretty difficult, and destroying all the generators can become a very long process.