Sonic CD has arrived on Xbox Live Arcade, so I thought this was the best time to plug in the PS2 and relive Sonic’s glory days, by playing Sonic CD through Sonic Gems Collection. Sonic CD is often said to be one of Sonic’s greatest games ever. However, I would have to disagree.
The first thing you see when you start up the game, is the title menu. It looks amazing, and Sonic Boom sounds amazing. The animatic cutscene that plays is a joy to watch as well. It’s like watching a proper cartoon. Except it’s only about a minute long. Still good fun.
The game plays, just like you’d expect a 16 bit Sonic game to play. Traditional side scrolling action. Sonic retains all his moves from previous games, and adds a new one, which I’m calling the Quick Dash. When you hold down and the jump button (depends on what console you’re playing the game on, for me at the moment it’s X) and you do the spin dash. But if you hold up and the jump button, Sonic performs the “Quick Dash” move. It works exactly the same as Spin Dash, apart from the fact that Sonic is running instead of rolling, and that unlike the Spin Dash, enemies can hurt you while you’re doing it. It’s for a quick boost, with a chance of death. So I say forget it, and just stick with the good ol’ Spin Dash.
But the Spin Dash itself is difficult to use as well. When you hold down and jump, it begins the Spin Dash. But sometimes when you let go, Sonic goes nowhere, as though he’s just rolled in glue. You have to hold it down for a certain time. In previous games, you don’t have to hold it down for a certain period of time. The amount of time you hold it down, determines how fast and far you will go. So why doesn’t this game do that?
But the thing is, is that this version of the game seems really slow, compared to the original games. I can’t remember what the original version was like, but this seems really slow, which ruins the game for me. That’s my biggest complaint.
The levels still play the same. Get from point A to point B. However CD brings something new to the table. Throughout the level you will find sign posts with Past or Future written on them. If you hit one of these and gain enough speed (which even though it’s a Sonic game can be tricky to do), you will be warped to the past or future version of that zone (depending on which one you hit). The zones are given complete make overs. The music, the aesthetics, hell, even the layout changes. However it’s more than just an interesting gimmick.
You see, the story of Sonic CD is that a planet called Little Planet has appeared. On the planet are some stones called Time Stones (which are nothing like the Chaos Emeralds), which control the passage of time and space. Dr Robotnik (yes kids, he wasn’t always known as Eggman) wants to steal the Time Stones and take over time and space. The swine. It’s up to Sonic to stop him.
Of course, there are the the usual line up of levels, such as the casino themed level, and the level with underwater sections. There’s no casino themed level in this game, but there is one that still has all the bumpers and springs just like a casino level. There’s also a level with a bouncy floor, which can be both enjoyable and frustrating.
In terms of the amount of levels, CD doesn’t know if it wants to be Sonic 1 or Sonic 2. Where as Sonic 1 had three acts per zone and Sonic 2 had two acts per zone, CD has two normal acts and a third act, which is a boss. Not really a complaint, it just feels unesscercary.
In the past version of each zone there are a number of generators (I forget how many). You don’t have to destroy all of them, but if you want to see the “good” ending, then get prepared for a lot of backtracking. These generators are hidden all over the place, and it can take ages to find them all, for each zone. While it does add length to the game, you’ll probably get bored before you find them all. However, destroying all of them, actually changes what the future zone will look like. So, all together, each level has 4 different versions of it. Whether I enjoy it or not, I have to admit, effort was put into this game.
To get the Time Stones themselves, you have to go to a special stage, the same way you did in Sonic 1. However, the stages themselves are completely different. CD’s special stages see you running around a 3D enviroment, attacking space ships. Don’t ask me what it’s all about, I just play it. To get the Time Stone, you have to destroy all the space ships, within the time limit.There’s also numerous different terrains, such as grass and water that will slow you down. These stages are actually pretty fun. While at some times Sonic can be a bit awakward to control, most of the time he’s fine, but you may find yourself misjudging the distance from Sonic to a robot, and may miss a lot of jumps.
The bosses still have the same formula though. Hit them, dodge attack, rinse and repeat. However I haven’t had trouble with any of the bosses I’ve encountered. The first one doesn’t even attempt to attack. The second one was frustrating, mainly because it was bloody hard to get up to him, let alone hit him. However, once you’ve finally succeeded in escaping the pinball machine, he only takes three hits. Hardly worth the effort.
Music wise, I’m not too keen on it. When in many Sonic games there are tunes that can be stuck in my head for ages, such as City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2 or Rooftop Run from Sonic Unleashed, or for something more around the time of CD’s release, Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1. However CD has no tunes that I hum while playing, or after playing. Apart from Sonic Boom. That song is awesome.
When you first start up the first level, the first thing you’re most likely to notice are the colours. The graphics are so bright, I’d better warn anyone who suffers from epilepsy. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they’re bright none the less. Remember how I said Devastator used luminous paint in the ROTF review? He must have walked through Sonic CD to get there. And obviously, it’s Classic 16 bit Sonic, so that will keep the fan boys at bay.
CD is also the game that introduced us to Amy Rose and Metal Sonic. We first meet Amy at the end of the first level, where she chases Sonic and latches on to him. This causes Sonic to slow down, but she can be shook off pretty easily. Metal Sonic shows his ugly mug at the beginning of the second level, where after you have a brief encounter with Amy, he smashes through some spikes (he has guts) and kidnaps her. So Sonic gives chase, post haste!
So overall, I think it’s not the best game in the franchise, but it’s definetly not the worst. Far from it (cough, Sonic 06, cough, Sonic Labrynth, cough). I should really go to the doctors about that cough. While it is all traditional Sonic gameplay, and a lot of effort was put into this game, it just doesn’t work for me. A 5.5/10 as a final score. Sluggish, with some annoying controls.
But that’s for the version on Gems Collection. What about the version that has been released for XBLA? Well I downloaded the demo, so I won’t be able to give my full impression of the game, but, from the one level that it allows you to play, I prefer it a lot more to the Gems Collection version of the game.
The first thing you see after starting up is the title screen. It still looks as amazing as the PS2 version. But where’s Sonic Boom? Same for the animatic cutscene. The music that replaces it, isn’t half as good.
For the actual gameplay, it’s a lot better than the PS2 version. Where the PS2 version felt sluggish, this has the speed that a proper Sonic game should have. The Spin Dash works a lot better as well. Everything is just better! Even though it’s a game I’ve had for many years on PS2, I’m considering handing over the 400 Microsoft Points (metaphorically of course) and downloading it. I had a lot of fun on the one level I can play.
The menus look a lot better as well. Well for a start there is an actual start menu for the XBLA version. Very bright and colourful, reflecting the game as a whole. The pause menu is a lot more interesting than the PS2 version. Now you have an impatient Sonic next to the option, tapping his feet away to whatever music he’s listening to. Wonderman probably.
The graphics and music are the same, but because it’s in lovely HD the graphics are even brighter. You may need to invest in some sunglasses. After playing the Xbox version, I can see why many people consider this game the best in the series. While it still doesn’t take best game for me, it’s certianly rose in the ranks. Keeping in mind this is just one level, I’m going to have to give the XBLA version a 9/10. 4.5 higher than the Gems Collection. Definetly worth the 400 MSP, or whatever you have to pay on the PS3.