In this latest edition of the Retro Gaming Cabinet, I want to focus on one of my childhood favorite game series, Sonic the Hedgehog. Specifically, I want to touch on my personal favorite game in the series, Sonic CD.
Sonic CD was originally released in 1993 for the Sega CD/Mega CD add-on console for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive (depending on your region). What really blew my mind about this game was not the graphics, even though they were pretty awesome for the time, but the amazing CD-quality audio. The soundtrack sounded just as good as any rock album to my ten-year-old self. This was really the first game for the Sega CD that really made the add-on worth having. As a kid, I didn’t need a reason to want the CD add-on other than, “Oh! New Sega!” And I still remember the Christmas that I received it. We had already opened all our presents, wrapping was scattered everywhere. Like Ralphie from ‘Christmas Story,’ I was upset that I hadn’t gotten that one gift I had asked for over and over, the Sega CD. As we were cleaning up from the wrapping paper masacre, my parents said, “Oh what’s this behind the entertainment system?” Lo and behold, it was the Sega CD I’d coveted. Even though the system wasn’t as popular, I have some very nostalgic memories of dozens of hours I spent playing the high quality 16-bit games on it.
Now, don’t think that I believe this is the best or the last great Sonic game. In my opinion, there are some real gems that came out later, and there have been some real bombs that came out of the series as well. For better or worse, I can say I’ve played the majority of the Sonic games. After all this time, I can’t help that it has become one of my favorite video game series. I have so many fond memories of playing Sonic as a child and I keep hoping to relive those moments. I will say that when I go back and revisit these earlier Sonic games, I sometimes forget that I’m a thirty-year-old adult.
This game was the introduction in the series for Metal Sonic, who has now become a staple of the series. For those in the audience who have never experienced this gem, I will explain the differences that make this game so good. Like I mentioned earlier, this game has a CD-quality audio soundtrack, but not only that, there are different soundtracks depending on the game’s region. Growing up in the US, I had the US version of the game, so I have nostalgia for the US soundtrack, but many players prefer the soundtrack in the Japanese version of the game, which is also very good. Most people know the chiptune sounds to expect from the early Sonic games, and this game also has some full vocal tracks in it. This was the first time I had experienced this from a home console and it blew me away. Another major departure from the series is the time-travel mechanic. As you run through the stages, you pass gates that say “future” or “past.” If you can keep your speed up for a certain period of time then Sonic would travel to the past or future version of the stage. This wasn’t just a simple palette swap on the stage either, the audio track would change as well and the layout would be slightly different. The audio is generally more pop-sounding and happy in the past version and good future version of the levels, and more dark and electronic sounding in the dystopian bad future version of the stages. There are two endings in this game depending on what you are able to accomplish throughout your playthrough. If you can travel to the past in each act and destroy the so-called “robot generator” placed there by Eggman, then you can fight the boss of each zone in the “Good Future” version of the stage. If you complete each zone in the game this way, then you will get a good ending to the game. There is an ending cinematic that plays on completion of the game that is a fully animated cartoon and the good ending has a different video that plays.
I believe that this overlooked gem is finally getting the attention that I believe it deserves. In recent years, it has finally gotten released on platforms that make it an easy game to experience, even though some, such as touchscreen devices, are not quite ideal ways to play it. Over the years, as I have gotten into conversation here and there with retro game enthusiasts I have realized that a lot of people have never actually tried this game. They may have played Sonic games, but for some reason or another, they have never had a chance to experience Sonic CD and they don’t really consider it a great Sonic game. This game is now playable on PC, emulators (if you so choose), and pretty much all android and iOS devices. Due to personal preference and my general dislike for touchscreen controls, I prefer to pair a physical controller to my touchscreen device if I am going to play it on one.
If you are interested in trying out this game, the easiest and cheapest way to play it (if you don’t own a Sega CD) is on a smartphone or touchscreen device. It’s available for iOS and android devices and can be played with touchscreen controls or with a bluetooth controller. It’s a decent port of the game if you can stand the controls. Of course, it’s best experienced on the classic hardware, but with that option becoming more expensive and rare, it’s nice to have modern alternatives.
This game just happens to be something I’m nostalgic for, but what about your past? What childhood games do you have a fondness for? In my next post, I’ll be visiting something from an even earlier generation, a game on the NES platform. Thanks for playing!