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Sonic The Hedgehog CD - 25th Anniversary


TheOcelot
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SSMB MADE A GOOD FUTURE IN Zone 3!

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On the September 23rd 1993; Sonic The Hedgehog CD (SCD for short) was released for the SEGA Mega CD console. Directed by Naoto Ohshima (the original designer of the character Sonic). Upon release the game received critical acclaim and sold approximately 1.5 million copies, which was most the successful game on that console. SCD then released in Europe in October 1993 and NA in November 1993. The game has had several re-releases:

  • Microsoft Windows in 1996
  • Part of the "Gems Collection" in 2005
  • android, iOS, PS3, X360 and Steam in 2011 (made by Christian Whithead, which added  playable Tails, proper widescreen, alternative Sonic 2 spindash & physics etc).
  • Released under the SEGA Forever branch in 2018

Whilst Sonic 2 was being developed around the same time over in the US, Ohshima-san was given the reigns to create a different type of Sonic game featuring time-travel. A concept which was unique for it's time (also fascinating that we recently learned they also considered time-travel for Sonic 2). With the more powerful hardware of the Mega CD this allowed Sonic Team to create a game with better visuals, a CD-high quality soundtrack and an animated intro and ending custcene complete with music and vocals. It's believed SCD actually finished development before Sonic 2, but SEGA decided to make the numerical sequel the priority which was released in time for Christmas 1992. This gave Sonic Team Jp time to polish up SCD before release.

Whilst highly regarded, SCD became an obscure title compared to the mega-drive games because the Mega CD never came close to matching the success of the Mega-Drive in terms of sales. It wasn't until 2005 - when it was released as part of the Gems Collection on PS2 and Gamecumbe - that it became more accessible. Then thanks to the brilliant remastered version of SCD made by Christian Whithead - which was released on consoles and mobile platforms in 2011 -  just about every gamer finally had a chance to play it.

The story, as detailed in the Jp manual:

Quote

For one month out of the year, an enigmatic miniature celestial body called the Little Planet appears over the enormous Never Lake. Both a place of beauty and wonder, it is said that time moves freely on the planet, and that entire sceneries can change in a blink of an eye, all because of the mysterious secret they hold, the seven mystical Time Stones. It is said that whoever possesses these gems will be able to freely move through time, just as the surface of Little Planet does.

Almost expectantly, the news of such a place grabs the attention of Dr. Eggman, the mad genius who desires nothing more than world domination. Journeying to the Little Planet, Eggman immediately begins turning it into his personal fortress, littering the landscape with his mechanical genius. Powered not by animals but by the essence of flowers, he sets his army to tear the planet apart so he can claim the Time Stones for himself.

As fate would have it, Sonic the Hedgehog, the speedy blue blur who has stopped Eggman time and again, was also intending on seeing the small, miracle planet, oblivious to the fact Eggman had already beaten him to the locale. Learning of the news that Sonic was fast approaching, Eggman only smiled, excited to put his latest and greatest invention up against the hedgehog, confident that he would finally be able to defeat his arch enemy once and for all...

Arriving at Never Lake, Sonic immediately could tell that something was amiss. The Little Planet, which should have been a shining example of natural beauty, was instead covered in a mechanical wasteland, visible even from the distance he was at. Seeing that the small planet was tethered to the Earth's surface, Sonic examined the mountainside the chain was connected to, recognizing the visage etched into its surface. With the image of Eggman's face smiling at him, Sonic confirmed what he was already expecting. Jumping onto the chain, Sonic quickly darted up, speeding towards the surface of the Little Planet and preparing to face Eggman once more.

What might have otherwise been another simple fight against the genius scientist was immediately complicated by another layer that Sonic only discovered once he set foot in Palmtree Panic. Amy Rose, Sonic's biggest fan and self-proclaimed girlfriend, had been doing what she often did, playing around with her tarot cards in an attempt to look into the future. The cards telling her that she had a "destined encounter" with Sonic at Never Lake, she journeyed herself to the Little Planet, immediately becoming excited once she spotted her blue idol.

None too pleased with Amy's appearance, she may have been nothing more than a slight bother if not for Eggman's intervention. At the outskirts of Collision Chaos, Sonic received his first glimpse of Metal Sonic, a robotic duplicate that Eggman created specifically to counter Sonic's every move. In the blink of an eye, the robot snatched up Amy, disappearing into the horizon. Now Sonic must not only stop Dr. Eggman and grab the Time Stones before he does, but save Amy Rose from the clutches of his metallic doppelgänger.

"No problem! With a little courage, you can do anything!"

You should never mess with time-travel!

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In SCD time travel can be achieved by first touching either a "future" or "past" sign-post, then by maintaining very fast speed for about 4 seconds (the required time varies based on different releases of the game). The player can then travel to the past version which features completely different level design, different colors, different music (in the PAST version they used the PCM format from the Mega CD to create very unique sounding music which suited the past version of each zone). The player can also travel to the bad-future where Eggman has won and the zone is in decay. "A dark and desolate world". A comment on one of my youtube videos perfectly decribes the affects of the bad-future:

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Palmtree Panic - Polluted and half-mechanized land. Left to rot after resources were extracted.

Collision Chaos - Unstable power plant which releases deadly toxins into the air.

Tidal Tempest - Waste dump. Covered in stone carvings of Eggman's face and Eggmobile.

Quartz Quadrant - Slave camp for complete extraction of minerals and other resources from former crystal cave.

Wacky Workbench - Abandoned factory left in state of chaos and disrepair after an operation goes completely awry due to Eggman pumping too much power into the facility.

Stardust Speedway - A city fallen under Eggman's control, which he partially destroys to get spare parts for his ego projects. Altered music and giant Eggman statue serve as constant reminders of who the true lord of Little Planet is.

Metallic Madness - Eggman's base after many years of not maintaining it properly. Nearly everything is broken or on the verge of meltdown. Complete lack of effort to fix anything may be a sign that Eggman has become too obsessed with getting rid of Sonic to think about anything else.

Just running through the zones and beating the game assures you get the bad-ending along with a bad-ending cutscene which shows Eggman still holding the time-stones and Little Planet still tethered (although Sonic gets revenge by hitting Eggman with a rock). Whilst not as sad as the bad-ending in Sonic 2 Master System when Tails dies, it's still pretty dispressing.

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So how do we change this terrible fate? Well, unlike in Sonic 1 & 2 where the only way to gurantee the good-ending is by collecting the chaos emeralds; in SCD there are two methods:

  • By destroying all 14 robot generators - one is hidden in the past version of act1 & act2 in each of the seven zones.

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OR

  • By collecting all seven time-stones in the Pseudo 3D UFO special stages (which you enter via a giant gold ring at the end of each act if you have collected atr least 50 rings.

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By completing either method, Sonic guarantees a good future and you are treated to the good-ending where Little Planet is set-free and Eggman gets his ass kicked!

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There are also Metal Sonic holograms (where he's standing on an animal) which Sonic can destroy. This allows the animals to move freely around the zones. You will then occasionally encounter the animals moving in any time-period. Note that destroying the MS holograms has no baring on getting a good-future. Unlike in Sonic 1 & 2, in Sonic CD when you destroy a badnik a flower appears instead of an animal.

Sonic CD introduced two new characters; Amy Rose and Metal Sonic. Undoubtly two of the most popular characters in the Sonic universe. Also inludes the spin-dash which operates slightly differently from Sonic 2; in that it takes longer to charge-up before release, but when it does release Sonic will launch at top-speed. The game also introduced another very popular move called the "Super Peel-Out", where Sonic can charged-up and release also at full speed, but Sonic this time is up-right (instead of in ball-form) and you get this unique animation where Sonic has his arms behind him and his feet form a figure of eight. A very popular move which has been brought back in more recent games (in SLW).

SCD's unique move-sets and level design has had influence in other games, most recently in Sonic Mania.

Two soundtracks:

The Jp sountrack was composed by Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata. When SCD was released in NA, SEGA was worried that the Jp music would not be well received by gamers in NA, so an alternative sountrack (composed by Spencer Nilsen and David Young) was created for the NA release. This featured completely new music for the present, good and bad-future of each zone. Although they kept the past music from the Jp version because SEGA in NA didn't know how to create music using the PCM format. Pffft...

The zones; each zone has three acts with a boss fight at the end of the third act (like in Sonic 1).

The game was originally going to just be a enhanced port of Sonic 1, which then evolved in something very different, However, five of the zones in Sonic CD are clearly inspired by zones from Sonic 1:

Palmtree Panic (R1 - when the game was in development Sonic Team labelled the zones R1 to R8) = Green Hill

Collison Chaos (R3) = Spring Yard

Tidal Tempest (R4) = Labyrinth

Stardust Speedway (R7) = Star Light

Metallic Madness (R8) = Scrap Brain

Quartz Quadrant (R5) & Wacky Workbench (R6) zones being unique in that they were not based off of Sonic 1 stages. 

The cancelled R2 stage (which is widely believed-there's evidence to suggest it would have been a marble-ruin theme stage based off of Marble zone from Sonic 1) was cancelled whilst in development because it didn't meet "quailty standards". How this didn't meet quality standards and Wacky Workbench zone (act 1) did....god only knows.

The bosses; Unlike in Sonic 1 where you had a full third act before the boss-fight, in SCD the length of the third act is only about a quarter of the size of a normal act. Each act 3 also has exactly 100 rings which you can collect (apart from CC which has 73 and WW which has 109). Also, unlike in Sonic 1, the challenge of the boss fights in CD is more about the effort of trying hit Eggman at-all instead of just smashing him eight times. Each boss only requires a few hits and has a unique gimmick which tries to hamper Sonic from defeating Eggman.  

Some of these boss fights are also inconic; Palmtree Panic's boss because it's ridiculously easy (easier than Green Hill's), Metallic Madness boss because it's a bit too easy to defeat for the kind of harder difficulty you'd expect for a final fight. The tread-mill (gotta keep running) boss fight in Quartz Quadrant and the very popular-unique fight where Sonic races against Metal Sonic in order to save Amy Rose.

Weird concept art:

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SCD was the first Sonic game to feature in-game dialogue, where Sonic would say "yes" when collecting an extra life. and " i'm outta here " followed by him jumping off the screen if left idol for three minutes resulting in an instant game-over.

...

My thoughts:

Okay, if it wasn't obvious already, I fucking love this game. My first experience was via the (PS2) Gems Collection, which was just an emulation of the orignal game and featured the NA soundtrack. After my first few playthroughs I immediately thought "second favorite Sonic game". There's so much I endore:

  • The fantastic soundtracks. I didn't get to experience the Jp soundtrack until the 2011 release, so naturally I'm nostalgic towards the NA music. I do prefer the Jp soundtrack for it's upbeat feel-good music, but the NA also has some great tracks and does a better a job of creating tracks which suit the atmosphere of each time period. Especially Tidal Tempest & Startdust Speedway bad future music. The Sonic Boom (NA) intro vocal tracks sound great. I think I slightly prefer the Jp "You Can Do Anything" music and the vocals are so cheesy. Speaking of cheesy, I love the Jp boss music "WORK THAT SUCKA TO DEATH, COME ON NOW"

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  • I love how good the Super Peel-Out move looks visually when it motion. Was so happy to see it brough back in Mania.
  • Destroying the robot generators and then travelling to the good future is is such a feel-good factor, a satisfying sense of acomplishment. I like that once you have destroyed the robot-generator in each act all badniks in the past, good future (and half of them in the present version) disappear. So you can go through zones a bit more care-free and explore the beautiful paradise you've now created in the good-future.
  • I like the unique style of the boss fights. 
  • The in-game cutscene at the beginning of Collisons Chaos where Metal Sonic kidnaps Amy, leading to the dramatic conclusion when Sonic races Metal in Stardust Speedway is a really cool story element, and helps motivate me to push through each zone. 
  • The time-travelling creates unique immersion. I like how the level-design often makes time-travel easy (with conveniently placed springs) and also allows for a large amount of creativity when time-travelling. I have such a good time eploring the zones, playing with the level-design. I never feel the need to rush through them.
  • Both intro & ending cutscenes are lovely to watch, very impressive for a 1993 game.
  • The vocal track "Cosmic Eternity" is pretty cool..believe in yourself, yourself, YOURSELF.
  • The level design is mostly excellent. Sonic has the tools to race through each zone very quickly. The level design can come across a bit complex-maybe a bit chaotix, but I have such a good time exploring, which is helped by the gorgeous visuals & amazing music.
  • There are lots of fan-games which take influence from SCD's design.
  • Metal Sonic, Amy Rose have been brough back many times since SCD (although not often as playable characters) and the Jp & NA versions of the Metal Sonic boss muisc have had many remixes. 
  • Sonic Mania's level design (especially the new zones) feels heavily influenced by SCD. I've always felt Mania is more of a spritual successor to SCD when compared to the other classics.
  • I fucking love Christian Whitehead's remastered vesrion which I've played to death and thensome. The alternative Sonic 2 styled physics, having both soundtracks included and playable Tails make this the definitive version which everyone should play! 
  • I adore SCD's special stages, athough the frame-rate was pretty bad in the original version (thankfully this was fixed the 2011 remaster). I like how you can experiement/improvise in taking different routes to collect the UFO's.
  • I love how popular SCD is even today. 25 years and it still holds up IMO. Just look at my most popular youtube video; my Tails playthrough of Sonic CD which has nearly half a million views:

 

Of course SCD is not perfect...

The physics aren't as fluid like in Sonic 2 & 3. For example, if you spindash and launch in the air in Sonic 2 & 3 and then press the directional button in the same direction this helps Sonic maintain his speed and momentum, whereas in Sonic CD pressing the directional button causes Sonic to slow right-down an loose momentum, a bit like in Sonic 4 Ep1. If Sonic is travelling in mid-air trying to time-travel (with the sparks coming out behind him), and then lands on the ground; the speed-cap immediately kicks in and Sonic looses mometum and the ability to time-travel at that moment is lost. So yeah, the physics aren't perfect. Whilst the charge-up spindash does release at full speed (which suits the nature of SCD's level design and the time-travel requirement) it definitely feels a bit more cumbersome compared to Sonic 2&3's spindash.

Also, the collision detection - which needs to be good as you arre often trying to be creative and time-travel - is pretty rubbish in this game, especially when moving through tubes.

The Collison Chaos pinball boss-fight is a good concept, but it's execution is bad. So easy just full through the flippers. If can easily take between 18 second and 2 minutes to beat that boss, can become very very frustrating.

The level-design also gets a lot of critisim. It's not as good as in game like Sonic 3, but then the zones are designed incorporate the time-travel gimmick and when in comes to exploration and allowing creative moment, I think SCD does such a good job. I could be wrong, but I think most of the critism of the level design is aimed at Collison Chaos & Wacky Workbench. CC beause some of the design has more vertical routes which leads to slower progression. This isn't always the case, but I can certainly understand some playes findng this frustrating. I think making pink the main colour for the present version of Collison Chaos was a brave choice...

As for Wacky Workbench, the whole zone gets a lot of hate, whereas it's only really the first act which is the big offender. The bouncy floor is fascinating and very brave gimmick to include, but the entire act is hampered and becomes a chore not because of the bouncy floor, but becuase of the 12 pillars hanging from the ceiling which all but completely destroys any horizonal momentum. Whereas in act2 you only encounter the pillars right near the end of that stage. Act 2 allows for much more freedom of movement and is more fun as a result. At least act 1 has the angel statue (in the past version) which generously gives Sonic about 80 rings.

Image result for sonic cd angel statue

The bouncy floor gimmick was executed perfectly for Chemical Plant act2 in Sonic Mania, because it was never a hindrance due to how the level was designed around it. I remember when Brad Flick asked on this forum what gimmick we'd like to see in Mania, and I suggested the bouncy gimmick from Wacky Workbench as long as the level is designed to accommodate it (yeah I'm totally taking credit for that :P).

 

So...enough about what I like about the game. What are your experiences of Sonic CD? What system did you first play it on? What do you like about it? What don't you like? Does it still hold up for you after 25 years?

 

HAPPY 25th ANNIVERSARY SONIC CD!

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A fun Sonic game if rather messy in places (looking at you Wacky Workbench).

I remember being super excited when I got this game for the PC, though the strange format and the erratic American soundtrack left me bewildered by it. Now I can appreciate it a bit more for what it is.

4 hours ago, TheOcelot said:

The bouncy floor gimmick was executed perfectly for Chemical Plant act2 in Sonic Mania, because it was never a hindrance due to how the level was designed around it. I remember when Brad Flick asked on this forum what gimmick we'd like to see in Mania, and I suggested the bouncy gimmick from Wacky Workbench as long as the level is designed to accommodate it (yeah I'm totally taking credit for that :P).

Wow, actually I never connected the two until you mentioned it. Yeah it goes to show how annoying gimmicks can work if given the proper direction.

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Still my singular favorite game of all time since I first played it back on the Sega CD (USA name mind) and the one I think of when I think of this franchise.

It has the characters who would effectively become my favorite characters in the franchise and I find that he gimped Spin Dash Is beneficial in encouraging the player to learn to use Sonic's movement to overcome the environment instead of just blasting past it at the push of a button. That same level design I've always adored as it truly encouraged exploration and like the original game made rings something that you wanted to hold onto all the way to the end for more than just the score. There was also of course just the atmosphere that has always won me over with the US soundtrack better matching the zone themes and the JP soundtrack better matching Sonic and the cast of characters.

As for my favorite version of the game, easily the Windows 95 version simply because I find the physics there superior to the Whitehead version. Sure it lacks the Japanese soundtrack and Tails(though since the fox boy completely disregards overcoming the environment as part of the gameplay challenge it is no loss to me), but it still has the cleaned up opening and ending.

It's not a perfect game to be sure and never has been, even within this franchise. Sonic 3&K is easily the better game from a technical and presentation standpoint, and it lacks the absolute genius of the original even in its greatest strength of each level challenging you to use Sonic's skill set in different ways to overcome the level and bosses. But what it makes up for in that that it's peers lack for me is in its way to blend freedom of play and focus of objective in a way that I have yet to really encounter in any other game. Then of course there is the sense of speed, atmosphere, character, and charm that is so distinct to CD that I've never seen it recreated anywhere else. For my tastes and perspectives, Sonic CD is still the only game I can think of that I can come back to year after year and play again and again. I hear developers today talk about wanting to build games that never end and are full of more content than you can finish in a lifetime, but where's the satisfaction in that? Where's the desire to challenge yourself to clear the game in a different way, a faster way, a more explorative way? I can't find it in modern games that's for sure. But Sonic CD to this day still provides me with that and is part of what makes it my all time favorite game.

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14 hours ago, TheOcelot said:

What are your experiences of Sonic CD?

When I was younger (was in Kindergarten/First Grade) I saw this at a game store. However, I didn't have enough money at the time so I had to wait a week to get more allowance to buy it.

So a week later, I went back to buy it only to find out it was already sold.

Fortunately, I did see Sonic Spinball was available in its place so I bought that instead.

It wasn't until years later, my dad got the PC Version of the game and I was able to play it on the computer.

The first playthrough I only got to Stardust Speedway Zone.

The second playthrough I managed to go back and beat the entire game. I made my first GameFAQ on the game, which was a Boss FAQ. (I don't think it still exists since I made it on an old computer that almost caught on fire...😨)

Future playthroughs were on the version on the Gems Collection and on the Xbox 360 Version (got all achievements :D). 

I even submitted an entry for the Sonic CD Fanart Contest.

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I didn't win but I still had fun making this.

14 hours ago, TheOcelot said:

What system did you first play it on?

I first played it on the PC Version back in the day.

I still have it as well as Sonic Gems Collection and the Xbox 360 Taxman Version.

14 hours ago, TheOcelot said:

 What do you like about it?

I loved:

  • the Time Travel aspect of the game and how there are basically 4 versions of all 7 Zones. When I make Zone Topics it's always fun to talk about them and their differences.
  • I also loved the alliteration of the Zone Names.
  • that most of the Badniks in this game don't have Official English Names except for Needlenose, Hoverby, & Bomb. So I went ahead and created my own Nicknames for them as a side project (Anton's name works in English so I didn't change it).
14 hours ago, TheOcelot said:

What don't you like? Does it still hold up for you after 25 years?

I hated:

  • that on some versions of the game, the animated cutscenes ran very, very slow...
  • Wacky Workbench Zone was a nightmare during my first playthrough. It's also really easy to Speedrun through this stage.
  • Metallic Madness Zone Act 3. Not only does Sonic have to quickly hop over the platforms above the bottomless pit but he also has to avoid getting crushed once he makes it to the other side.
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Dang it, someone beat me to making this topic.

After all, this isn't just birthday of a game, but also of my favorite Sonic character.

Happy Birthday to Metal Sonic!

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Sonic's oldest rival and Eggman's greatest creation, Metal Sonic never broke popularity as much as Shadow or Tails,  but considering how other Sonic characters are treated, Metal is going really strong. And this year in particular has some of his greatest triumphs. Mania, Mania Adventure, IDW comics. Now just to make him playable in 3D platformer...

 From basic arguments like killer design to dissecting his deceptively simple appearing personality, I could probably talk few paragraphs talking on why I like Metal Sonic.

But instead I'll do some shameless self advertisement. I decided to celebrated Metal's birthday by writing a story about him. "Maximum Metal" is celebration of Metal's history, in-dept look at his personality (plus few other characters) and reinterpretation of his origins. It's 7 chapters each around 10 minutes of reading.

And if you're a lazy bastards not interested in reading... well, maybe you want to fave a collab I shown above.

https://www.deviantart.com/metalskulkbane/gallery/

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I've said it once, I've said it again. CD in my honest opinion is downright the most awful Classic game, maybe slightly above 1 if I'm feeling really generous. It's filled with absolutely crap level design that feels like it's not designed well whatsoever for the kind of platformer that Sonic is. A ton of the stages serve to do little else but be frustratingly annoying instead of fun with wacky design. The elements it introduces is heavily underused too. Time travel is cool but it's a chore to get back to the past, and when you get there, it requires a ton of annoying back-tracking, the special stages pretty much suck, the figure-8 move is underutilised because the spin-dash still has a lot of utility, and Amy/Metal Sonic seem underused - boiling down to one cutscene and one boss, when you could've had Metal as a reoccurring boss that leads up to the final showdown in Stardust Speedway.

What it gave us in characters is good, I'm happy it gave us Metal Sonic and Amy. Music, graphics, cutscenes. Good. Good. Good. But I have tried time and again to get into this game, everytime I see it praised as "the best sonic ever" and every single time, I cannot stand it because the level design just downright kills it. It's a frustrating mess of conflicting ideas and concepts that just gets too much on my nerves honestly.

But on the positive note, at least it gave us some of the best music in the series...

 

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Yup, SCD is definetly the obscure and controversal one. Maze-like levels, tedious concept of searching signposts and generators which is hardly suits Sonic just as Chaotix gameplay in SH - the gameplay was irritating for me at worst and bleak at best, and the only one part of my walkthrough which I will remember warmly is the race with Metal Sonic.

But somehow it delivers one of the best music in the series. I know, I told earlier that I find both soundtrack versions boring, but now, when I've listened to the US soundrack more and closely while on my job (cuz my job SUCKS BALLS), I can say that this music just rocks - in a multiple sense of the word. I'm now listening to it constantly, especially Stardust Speedway Present while writing articles or walking on night streets with a can of beer in hand.

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