Sunday, March 18, 2012

XBLA review: Sonic CD

Sonic CD has earned something of a cult following over the years. It has quite a reputation behind it from those who played it upon its initial release. But it is also one of the most difficult-to-find Sonic games, due to the fact that it has seen a very limited number of ports and re-releases since its 1993 debut. Now that it's available on Xbox Live, Sonic fans can experience it themselves for a reasonable 400 Microsoft points.

Sonic CD introduced a new mechanic to the series that was pretty groundbreaking for its time. Each level has different gates scattered throughout that will allow the blue hedgehog to travel backwards or forwards in time. Bonus levels also return, albeit considerably differently than their Sonic 2 incarnations. This time around, Sonic can roam around a 3D plane and destroy floating UFO-like machines. These two elements allow each player to tackle levels differently with each playthrough, and are the key components to creating a 'good future' wherein Robotnik is defeated and the world saved from his mechanical creations. It's a very interesting concept and works well, presenting an extra bit of challenge as players must find an area that will allow them to build up enough speed in order to successfully time travel.

The level designs are gorgeous for their day, with plenty of color breathing life into jungle cliffs and underwater mines. Most of the future levels reflect a 'science gone wrong' motif, with lights, wires, and metal in abundance. This XBLA re-release comes with the original Japanese music. The soundtrack sports some kickin' tunes, and is easily one of the best in the entire series.

Sonic CD does fall to one shortcoming, and that is the challenge factor. While each level is designed well and presents a consistent increase in difficulty, the same cannot be said for the boss fights. Each of Robotnik's machines is aesthetically creative, there's no doubt about that. But if you've played any of the old school Sonic titles, each of the encounters with Robotnik will be a cake walk. If you're only marginally familiar with the series, they will still prove rather easy. Conversely, the boss fight against Metal Sonic is not only the best in Sonic CD, but among the best in the entire Sonic series.

Outside of the main game is time trial mode, which allows players to visit all of the stages and any of the three acts that comprise each of these. It is a nice inclusion for old school fans who enjoy revisiting levels to beat their own high scores. And for a game from 1993, it's an acceptable bonus game mode. For fans of the older entries in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, this one is worth checking out.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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