GBAtemp Exclusive Memory Lane #4: Sonic Boom! Sonic CD is now 25 years old

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    And so we meet again once more, readers. Welcome to the fourth issue of GBAtemp’s “Memory Lane” series, where we discuss influential and nostalgic games and hardware that have reached an anniversary milestone. In this installment, we’ll be talking about a game that has gone from being a niche cult classic, to something beloved, and is now considered merely ‘okay’ these days. Exactly 25 years ago saw the release of Sonic CD, the black sheep of the classic Sonic series of old school platformers starring the blue blur. An American release would follow on November 19, 1993, which would see the soundtrack replaced by new songs, including the title theme, of which has become instantly recognizable for most series fans.


    If you couldn’t tell by the name, Sonic CD released as a system seller for the Sega CD addon. Sonic 1 had become a mega-hit and helped propel SEGA into an era where they were considered an equal to Nintendo. Now, it was time for a follow up. The development team from the first game had split off and gone with Yuji Naka over to the United States to work on what would become Sonic 2, while the team in Japan also prepared to make Sonic 2 as well. However, events transpired which lead to the games splitting, with Sonic CD keeping the time travel mechanic and trying new things, and Sonic 2 focusing on refining Sonic 1's formula and creating a faster paced game.

    Thanks to this split, we got two 2D Sonic games one after the other. Sonic CD was due for a release a bit closer to Sonic 2's, but delays pushed it towards the following year. You can still see how there's many elements from Sonic 1 (rather than its sequel) still entrenched in the gameplay, such as a much different spindash, or the slower overall pace of things. On top of that, you have the time travelling mechanic, where you can switch between the past, present, and future, each of which have slightly different level layouts and wildly colorful and detailed designs. As opposed to later entries, Sonic CD isn't about finishing the level quickly, and is instead based upon exploring a level to find out secret areas and paths by switching time periods to destroy Dr. Robotnik's robot generator machines hidden in each act. Doing so would grant you a "Good Future", saving the world and preventing it from a dark timeline where robots and devastation would rule.

    Due to the extra processing power of the Sega CD, Sonic CD was able to make use of FMVs and high quality music. This resulted in a highly memorable soundtrack with energetic tunes, which would alternate depending on what part of the level you were in, with three tracks per "stage"; normal, good future, and bad future. The American release decided to overhaul most of the songs with compositions by Spencer Nilsen, creating contentious debates that continue on to this day over which region had the better OST. Where previous Sonic games had a simple title screen with Sonic confidently wagging his finger to players, CD took things further, and had an entire animated cutscene as the intro, stunning those saw it.

    598408-sonic-cd-android-screenshot-sonic-made-a-good-future-by-remaking.

    In 2005, fans had a new way to experience Sonic CD--through the GameCube's Sonic Gems Collection. It was included for the first time in a compilation pack with other more niche Sonic games alongside Sonic R and Sonic the Fighters. During this time, message boards, gaming communities and chatrooms of the early 2000s held Sonic CD in high regard, even claiming it to be the best Sonic game ever. This created a level of hype and demand for a modern day port of the game, due to so many people wanting to experience such a beloved "masterpiece". Christian Whitehead, also known as Taxman, gave the fans what they wanted, when he created a remastered version of the game for consoles, PC, and mobile.

    However, times have changed, and with the release of Sonic Mania and the rise of nostalgia for Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the common consensus of today seems to consider CD to just be mediocre, and perhaps even overrated. It's been two decades and a half since this game hit the market, and it clearly left its mark on history, influencing future Sonic games, bringing fans together to see it re-released, and giving us Metal Sonic and Amy, two characters who have been mainstays in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. And all of this started way back on September 23, 1993.

    What are your thoughts? Did you play this at launch on a real Sega CD, or did you experience it on the GameCube or older PC port? Were you lucky enough for the Taxman version to be the first one you played? And do you think Sonic CD still holds up to this day? USA or Japanese soundtrack, which is better?! Let us know in the comments below!

    If you liked this article, and would like to see more of these anniversary celebrations in the future, be sure to comment as well, and mention which game you'd like to see featured in future threads!
     
    Discussion (37 replies)
  1. SexySpai

    SexySpai xdddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

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    your mom lol
    i swear this game is just as underrated as sonic chaos.
     
  2. Issac

    Issac I

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    Never played Sonic CD but always wondered what the CD would add to the game. Was it possible to have more happening on screen as well or was it only the soundtrack and the videos?

    And I always mix this game up with that isomeric one... Lol
     
  3. Bu2d85

    Bu2d85 GBAtemp Maniac

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    I’m unfortunately old enough that I played this game on official hardware at launch. I did not watch the video you posted but the song is already stuck in my head.

    It was a great game but the time travel made it harder than it should have been. I loved all of the sonic games back then and they actually made me switch from Nintendo to Sega. The mid 90’s were not the top of the Sega empire.
     
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  4. RattletraPM

    RattletraPM GBATemp's official 蒸気イーブイ

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    I didn't have the luck to play it on the original console but nevertheless, I've enjoyed the game a lot! I still consider it to be one of the best Sonic games to date, especially considering how it expanded on the first one's ideas while not distancing from it too much. Great animations, great music (JPN/EUR, the US version is a bit inferior imho) and frantically good gameplay overall. Too bad about the easy bossfights tho...

    I've never tried the PC remaster by Taxman tho, even if I've heard that it has some interesting stuff added to it. Maybe I'll snag a copy when I get the chance...
     
  5. tech3475

    tech3475 GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    I find it somewhat overrated (mainly due to the 'best Sonic game' comments).

    That is to say I don't think it's bad (I have the game on 5 different platforms, including an MCD), but I would like to have seen a sequel where it fixed some of the 'issues' I have e.g.
    1) Sonic 2 concept style 'past, present and future' (i.e. they're completely different stages and not just 'minor' edits and give a reason to travel to the future levels)
    2) Make the Time Stones rewarding to collect e.g. instant time travel or some kind of 'super sonic'
    3) Remove some of the game annoyances e.g. exploration with a 10 minute time limit
    4) Not make the boss fights p*** easy (possible exception to Metal Sonic, but I would have preferred that to have been more like Sonic Mania's).

    BTW, I'm guessing you heard the news about the Sonic Chaos remake?

    AFAIK, in the case of Sonic CD:
    1) More storage space for levels (there are 4 versions for each non-boss stage)
    2) CDDA BGM (except for 'Past' levels)
    3) 'Sample' based BGM for 'Past' levels
    4) 'Mode 7'-like effect for special stages
    5) FMV intro/outro

    There may have been other parts of the MCD/SCD which helped e.g. RAM, CPU, etc.
     
    Issac likes this.
  6. SexySpai

    SexySpai xdddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

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    your mom lol
    yes, of course. but other than that there's not much.
     
  7. RattletraPM

    RattletraPM GBATemp's official 蒸気イーブイ

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    To be frank, points 2 and 3 are kinda shared with other Sonic games of its time, especially Sonic 1 where collecting all the emeralds gave no gameplay rewards at all and exploring some of the stages was more of a pain rather than a pleasure (I'm looking at you, Labyrinth Zone). Of course Sonic 2 introduced Super Sonic and 3 & Knuckles made exploration way more enjoyable (with the exception of 3's occasional cheap traps) but I'd say that these flaws are justified if you consider the game's development.

    I haven't had a problem with the past and future stages being minor edits but I'm with you regarding the bosses. They're definitely way too easy. Still, you could say that Mania's Metal Sonic boss isn't that harder either - in fact it could be considered one of the easiest in the game unless you're doing a no hit run :P
     
  8. supergamer368

    supergamer368 this isn’t bookworm adventures deluxe

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    Honestly, this is one pf my favorite Sonic games. It’s weird, it at least used to be challenging before I cleared it multiple times, and I like it.
     
    B_E_P_I_S_M_A_N likes this.
  9. tech3475

    tech3475 GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    Sonic CD for me made 2 and 3 more of an issue, particularly if you try to hunt down Metal Sonic holograms and the Capsules as well as how annoying time travel could be.

    At least Sonic 1 had the excuse of being first in the series and to me 'instant time travel' or some unlocked official level select (not the cheat code) might have been relatively easy rewards to implement, although CD being developed alongside Sonic 2 probably didn't help.

    As I said, the game isn't bad but it just feels overrated when I read some comments (especially those who rate it higher than 2 or 3&K) and I can't help but wonder what a sequel could have accomplished, like how Sonic 2 improved on Sonic 1.

    When you say 3's cheap traps, do you mean things like the Barrel of Doom or the game breaking bugs....I mean Robotnik's traps which required the game to be reset (it's in the manual).
     
  10. RattletraPM

    RattletraPM GBATemp's official 蒸気イーブイ

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    Honestly I don't see that being too different from, say, hunting down the secret rings in Sonic 3&K. But still, as you said, all things considered with its development, again, I'd say it's excusable.

    About ranking it, it gets third place in my book as far as 2D games go. Mania is first, Sonic 2 second and then CD. Don't get me wrong, 3 & Knuckles is a great game, but I feel like the level design kinda got a step down from the other games (which brings me to the "cheap traps"). It had more dynamic environments with a bigger focus on exploration but imho sometimes it puts you in immediate danger (be it pitfalls, spikes, springs), knocks you down to a lower/lesser path or away from a secret ring without any chance of backtracking or simply put, kills the flow a bit too much at times. I get that the game expects you to have good reflexes but sometimes you simply can't guess what's coming unless you've played that specific stage before. If you notice they've toned it a bit down in Sonic & Knuckles but I still prefer 2 and CD's more streamlined and fast stage design (but of course, it should be noted that even them sometimes aren't exactly perfect either...) On the other hand, Mania has hands down the perfect balance between fast and exploration-focused stages with tons of interactive and dynamic elements, they've really outdone themselves with that game!
     
  11. DeslotlCL

    DeslotlCL GBAtemp's scalie trash

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    You can do anything > Sonic boom

    Period.
     
  12. mightymuffy

    mightymuffy fatbaldpieeater

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    Yeah I was also there at launch...
    I'm on the side of overrated anyway, preferring to plump for any of the Megadrive games, even the first Master System one, and of course Mania, for my Sonic fix over this. It isn't bad, just I can't understand the love it gets. Still, was worth the asking price for the soundtrack and intro alone! :D
     
  13. tech3475

    tech3475 GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    I think one reason why I don’t mind the giant rings as much because you can always save scum them after you complete the game and I’ve never been as frustrated as I was with SCD (no guide runs). Shocked me though when I saw an LP a few years back revealing FBZ’s Gold Rings.

    S3&K is my personal favourite of the MD era for different reasons, although I can see why people may prefer the others, for me, probably out of the main MD games S3&K, S2, SCD, S1.

    I do agree with Mania though, only criticism I have post DLC (which fixed some things) is I would have preferred more original levels and GHZ/CPZ feels overused in terms of nostalgia levels (particularly the former), although these are minor issues.
     
  14. B_E_P_I_S_M_A_N

    B_E_P_I_S_M_A_N knows nothing

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    Heh, this brings me back.

    As a kid who was a bit of a classic Sonic nut, I really wanted this game. It was like the one classic Sonic game that had evaded my grasp, and I was desperate to get my hands on at least a copy of it.

    Younger me was too scared to touch any sort of unofficial emulator, and this was before the Taxman remake came out. I think I tried to convince my parents once to get a GameCube just to get Sonic Gems Collection (the PS2 version wasn't released in the US, for whatever reason).

    I remember being ecstatic upon seeing that the Taxman remake had made its way to the XBLA store. I played the shit out of that game. It was the only Xbox 360 game that I got all achievements in, to my knowledge.

    Looking back, I'm still rather fond of the game. While definitely different from the other classic Sonic games, I find it far from mediocre, and the whole travel back into the past to destroy the robot generator mechanic is a cool addition, allowing for exploration of stages. You can't really play this game like other Sonic games; if you do, the game will be over within half an hour, at most. I also definitely like the game's art style, considering it to be the best of the classic Sonic games.

    I get the feeling most people were disappointed because they were expecting Sonic 2 with time travel, going into the game. It's not. If you can get past that, though, it's definitely worth playing.
     
  15. MegaGenesis

    MegaGenesis GBAtemp Regular

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    While Taxman did wonders to this game in the 2011 recreation, i still think Sonic CD is the black sheep of classic 2D Sonic games. What really kills this game is the overcomplicated level design and overpolluted graphics in the stages. Zones are basically enhanced versions of Zones from Sonic 1, and overall the whole game fell slow paced with the focus on platforming, stage hazards and bad enemy placement. I remember years ago i was super excited to play this game, and got the Gems Collection for my PS2 in 2011. Now i play the PC Taxman version, still not a Sonic game i keep coming back.

    At least Sonic CD introduced Metal Sonic and one of the best soundtracks in the franchise (the JP OST).
     
  16. tbb043

    tbb043 Member

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    Thank goodness, that toot toot song in the original japanese version was beyond cringe worthy, but Sonic boom was a great opening.
     
  17. BlueFox gui

    BlueFox gui SOMEONE

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    love u sonic boob
     
  18. XDel

    XDel Author of Alien Breed: Projekt Odamex

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    Another Huxleyian Dystopia
    Best Sonic game in the classic series for me.
     
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  19. BlueFox gui

    BlueFox gui SOMEONE

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    wait i just realized WHO made this Sonic art used in this thread?
    HIS FUCKING ARMS ARE BLUE ._.
     
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