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The genius of Sonic CD


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So I decided to have an in-depth look at Sonic CD. You say: 'But why Turnus? Haven't we looked at that game so many times? What original thoughts could you find in this game? Besides, most of us have already come to the conclusion that this game is rather over-rated and is the weakest Classic game'. My post here has an argument that I consider to be important: that this game is actually very good and because of the revisionists criticizing the game many of its strongest merits are overlooked.

In this post I will first look at common complaints towards the game. After analysing these complaints I will look at the greatest aspect of this game and how it is not to be found in either Sonic 1, 2 and 3.

Common Complaints

= The level design is sub-par.

I would say that out of all of the complaints this is probably the most common criticism. People say that the levels are a mess of a design, they go all over the place and that they are too vertical. I can understand this criticism in regards to certain levels. Take Collision Chaos for example:


Yes, this level is very crazy which I am happy to admit. Sometimes you will go into an area, thinking it's a shortcut, only for it to be a dead-end and then there is nowhere to go. This is baffling at time and I don't know what happened in the design team. One of the things this map does not show is the insane enemy placement which can really grate. They may fall from the sky and land on you from nowhere. Minor annoyances.

However, I do not believe that the vertical and complex level design is always a bad thing. Look at Quartz Quadrant:


I would not call this a bad thing. The level design is cleverly and lovingly crafted with many directions to go and with many things to see. Pipes can send you shooting down and up so it's not like they are multiple alternate paths: in fact, they are alternate paths which intersect and form a rather pleasing map.

So then, would you say this level was badly designed? Clearly it is not fair to claim the entire of Sonic CD fails because of (I have seen this comparison) 'schizophrenic' level design. Instead, I would say that the level design is one of Sonic CD's top points. It doesn't emulate Sonic 1 and 2 and tries to do something different and fresh. Yes, the level design is rather experimental and at a non-perfected way but at times it clearly paid off. Palmtree Panic, Quartz Quadrant and Stardust Speedway (for examples) are levels that are fantastic that feel truly different to other Sonic games for this reason. This makes Sonic CD the individual game it is and shapes it to be a truly fresh and, most importantly, solid experience.

= The Time Travel gimmick is not needed and is a badly failed experiment

It is undeniable that the Time-Travel gimmick is what makes Sonic CD such a different and unusual experience. However, there are many people who would claim the Timetravelling is not only tedious, but is one of the main drawbacks to the game. Not only is it a pain to travel to the era you wish to go to (keeping speed and even finding a lamppost) but sometimes the game will fling you to an era you did not want to go to because you are constantly in midair (springs, ramps) and you cannot slow down. Seeing as the game centres around this gimmick (to get the Good Futures) this only drags the game down.

However, I disagree with this. I will concede that the Time-travel lampposts are a terrible idea and are horribly implemented but I still think the concept is fantastic and, for the most part, works in practice. Why is this? If you travel through time then not only does the music (very cleverly in the original JP) and art design change (which is lovingly crafted and clearly had some serious effort put into) but the level design changes. The entire map route changes and this is an incredibly clever idea. If you love Stardust Speedway, there are 3 (and a Good Future) level designs that you are able to swap between. It is a very original concept and one that is unique to this game.

Admittedly, this system is not perfectly thought through. The Good Futures are tedious to get in normal levels and are only practically feasible through the level select cheat. Additionally, the Bad Futures are implemented as nothing more than a booby-trap to keep you from fixing the Past. It would have been much more interesting to have seen the Bad Future serve a more interesting purpose than merely being a trap. The system would have been better if a button-press triggered time travel and if there was a official level select that unlocked all the time zones you had been to. So if you got to Palmtree Panic Good Future it would be unlocked in the level select.

Regardless, the feature may be very flawed but it is original and intriguing. I would not claim that this in any way does serious damage to the game. Instead, this makes the game more individual and have an identity. It may be experimental but at least it does not toe the line in a predictable manner.

The Best Merit Of This Game

The best merit of this game, something that I would like to see come back is the incredible atmosphere in this game. This is accomplished through the art-style and the music.

The art style is tremendous: the game is still eye catching now. I have no qualms in saying this is the most beautifully designed Sonic game ever created. Okay, the graphics are obviously dated but that does not stop this game having a great art design. I would post a picture but it would not do the game justice. Just look at Stardust Speedway and Collision Chaos for examples. You really need to be seeing the game and play it very recently to understand. Incredibly, all of the ers of each level are just as incredible as each other which is the truly incredible part of this. Now you may say "Turnus this is merely graphics? This is obviously not as important as the gameplay!" However I would plead you to change your opinion. The art design goes beyond superficial graphics. They make up the incentive to play the game and give you something to play for. As you watch Little Planet being worked on by Eggman you want to defeat him. It adds to the whole gameplay experience and the atmosphere 
of the game.

And now, the music of this game. It is simply stunning. I am of course talking about the JP original soundtrack. Now you will have heard this many times before but there is something about the music that is often overlooked. As the time periods change the music adjusts and slightly changed the melody and arrangement of the music track for the present era. This really helps the consistency between the time periods and builds up the atmosphere of the game. If you reach Eggman in the Bad Future you can hear that you have messed up on your mission! Conversely, if you reach the Good Future you feel proud with your accomplishments.

Both these points build up the incredible atmosphere that this game contains. Sonic CD easily has the best atmosphere of any Sonic game which not ony helps it form its own identity but also give the player more immersion into their game experience.

This is the main crux of my argument. I consider Sonic CD to be a fantastic Sonic game and that many of its merits are overlooked by people who judge it too quickly because of its experimental nature. If you are to invest time and effort into this game then you will experience a Sonic game unlike any other.
Edited by Turnus
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