Happy 17th, Sonic CD!

Happy 17th, Sonic CD!

Thanks to AAUK for reminding us of this occasion at the Sonic City Blognik.

If there’s anything that will make me feel real old, it’s the fact that my favorite game is 17 years old today.  Sonic CD debuted on this day in 1993 in Japan for the ill-fated SEGA CD.  Sonic CD is revolutionary and unique for the Sonic franchise, regardless of whether you like the game or not.

Out of the blocks, the game dazzled with vibrant, loud and unique environments and unique level design and CD quality tunes.  The game was the first in the Sonic franchise to allow players to save their progress and upped the presentational value of Sonic games with its heralded anime cutscenes. It introduced time travel to the previously established gameplay of Sonic 1 & 2, a time attack mode and unlockable content.  Sonic CD has widely been recognized as the best in the Sonic franchise.

During development, it was widely speculated that Sonic 2 and Sonic CD were to be the same game.  Early press indicated that these two games were initially one in the same.  When Yuji Naka became dissatisfied with the work environment at SEGA of Japan, he and half of Sonic Team moved to the U.S. and formed the SEGA Technical Institute.  Due to this move, SEGA awarded the development of Sonic 2 to this new U.S. branch.  The other creator of Sonic, Naoto Oshima, was still in Japan and was allowed to pursue his vision for Sonic.

An epic and memorable confrontation.

The gameplay of Sonic 2 was chosen to be the future of Sonic games after Oshima’s vision for CD took a sharp turn in another direction.  Sonic CD‘s time travel mechanic elevated the importance of level exploration.  While scoping the landscape for the time travel points was entirely optional, the level design with its multi-tiered, labyrinthine environments lent itself to the emphasis on exploration.  Those who ignored time travel were also missing out on the beautiful transition the game makes to and from different time periods.  To fully experience the game required many play-throughs to see all of the paths in all of the time periods.  It was certainly different than Hirokazu Yasuhara’s “A-to-B” designs seen in the Genesis games.

The level design and time travel mechanic, coupled with the aforementioned time attack mode and bonuses, gave Sonic CD an unparalleled amount of replay value.  It was the first Sonic game to provide a satisfying amount of reward for favorable outcomes and the player’s dedication to experience everything the game had to offer.

Wacky Workbench's "Good Future" is certainly wacky.

The boss encounters were ones to experience, too.  Never before have players had to race one of Robotnik’s creations in order to beat a zone or use an entire pinball table to best the baneful bald one.  While the final boss was a letdown for most, the creativity put behind them were not only unique to the game, but inspired bosses for future battles down the road.

All of that said, with its unique design choices and praise, Sonic CD can be equally as polarizing as the Sonic games today.  People can hate it equally as much as others enjoy it.  Why do I mention the negatives here on Sonic CD‘s birthday?  To illustrate that making radical changes to the formula and splitting fan opinion has existed long before Sonic jumped to 3D.  It’s not some new phenomenon.  It’s people being people.

Sonic CD is my favorite Sonic game, but I know plenty of people who don’t like it.  I can understand where they are coming from, too.

When Sonic CD hit the market, we had already seen Sonic 1 & 2.  The design choices were established with these two games.  There were noticeable consistencies.  Sonic CD did not entirely follow the blueprint that those two games had laid down.  To think that a character made successful on its speed was supposed to explore to beat the game 100%.  The overall goal was no longer to get from point A to point B.  Those differences were jarring to some people.  While Oshima’s level designs are massive, people can construe them as confounding or not providing enough room to bust some of that signature speed.

Yes, the core of the Sonic formula is there.  The physics, 16-bit graphics and basic gameplay structure exist in Sonic CD.  It was built upon a foundation that was not (and still is not) showing its cracks.  In a time where Sonic wields swords, turns into a werewolf, has friends who shoot guns or relies on the tilt of a controller to direct him inside a picture-book, Sonic CD‘s introduction of time travel seems pretty tame in retrospect.

Stardust Speedway will always be my favorite zone in any Sonic game.

For its time though, the changes Sonic CD introduced were just as deviating.  As time went by, new debates over the game sprung forth, such as discussing the merits of the Japanese/European and U.S. soundtracks.  It remains to be a divisive game within some circles of the Sonic community to this day, underneath all of the praise it receives from the mainstream media and folks like myself.

Its reception notwithstanding, commendations should be given to Naoto Oshima, who was not afraid to be different and fresh with Sonic.  His bold decision to introduce new elements to a proven formula was groundbreaking for this franchise, especially during its infancy.  Sonic CD was different from any game before it and after it.  It left marks on Sonic fans, both positive and negative.  Oshima had a vision and executed it to a “T,” even if not every Sonic fan was along for the ride.  There was something to take away (the game’s presentation or enhancements to the Sonic formula, for example) that the player could respect or admire.

Where recent Sonic games have caused a split in fan opinion over varying reasons, ranging from legitimate complaints regarding quality to the downright inane, Sonic CD has withstood the test of time in mostly a positive light for its contributions to the Sonic franchise and for simply being a fun and creative experience.

For being solid game that dared to be different with, in my opinion, fantastic results, Sonic CD will always be the bomb.

Share us your memories of Sonic CD in the comments below.  If you think it’s overrated, feel free to express that as well. Keep it cool.

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Brad, also known as "Slingerland," is a staff writer and editor for both The Sonic Stadium and Sonic Retro. His area of emphasis is the inner-workings of the games and laughing at everything. Follow him on Twitter. - @bradflick55


  1. the only reason i picked up a mega cd, and it had me coming back for more, and more and more
    for me the music was a hell of a big part of what made sonic cd so awesome, the japanese/european soundtrack is so radically different in comparison to the standard sonic-esque tracks on the othergames at the time and with that in mind im currently making a remix.

  2. wow….

    this brings back memories…
    my dad bringing home a copy of Sonic CD…being my first Sonic game I’ve played…

    Ever since, I loved the game.
    I don’t play it for nostalgia…
    I play it because it was like… I dunno…my life?

    This game is the reason how I know Sonic The Hedgehog. If I never played the game, then I wouldn’t be here commenting. I wouldn’t be playing any video game. I would be some boy crazy woman who would scold people for liking video games.

    Anyway…… sadly this game doesn’t get the same recognition like Sonic3&Knuckles.

    The game isn’t over rated.
    It never was.
    To me, it was more unique than the other classic games.
    To me, it was better than ANY classic game…AND 3D games.
    Yes, that includes Sonic3&Knuckles, which is a more over rated game to me since everyone won’t shut up about it.

    of course, that is my opinion and I can surely expect IMMATURE responses for saying this.
    Get over it. Period.

    Anyway, TO ME…IN MY OPINION, Sonic CD is by far the best Sonic game I’ve played.

  3. I’ve never got the chance to play Sonic CD while I was growing up. I finally get to play it on Sonic Gems Collection to find out what’s the hype is about. I thought the game is just ‘okay’ to me. It looks like Sonic 2 but with nice music (Japanese music is awesome) and alot of time travelng. It’s alright but I perfer the other classic Sonic games

  4. I wondered if Sonic was punching or copying Guile’s Sonic Boom in the promo art (featuring just Sonic and Metal Sonic), to be honest. I’ll have to give this game another go… Once I get my Gems Collection disc working.

  5. Firstly, hooray for obscure anniversaries!

    Secondly, while I don’t think Sonic CD is the best Sonic game ever (that’s SADX, hands-down), it’s certainly a damn good game. Crazy bosses (the treadmill boss is one of my all-time faves), good music, the time-travel sequences…and THAT intro. That remains the greatest video game intro of all time. I have ‘Sonic Boom’ on my MP3 player and every time it comes on I sing along. It’s just amazing.

  6. It’s Amy and Metal Sonic’s 17th birthday, wow more than 16 years.
    Sonic CD is not only a great Sonic game, it’s one of the best games ever.

  7. I never played Sonic CD until I got the Sonic Gems Collection, and it ROCKED MY WORLD! That game left such a mark on me since I was expecting it to be more like the 3 genesis games. Happy birthday Sonic Boom!

  8. I’m not a massive fan of CD, I don’t out right hate the game, I just don’t see the love. I respect your love for it Brad, except when it comes to the bosses. They are, without question, the easiest and most pathetic out of all the classic games. That being said, I do enjoy the treadmill boss as it tries something different.

    I can appricate the graphics and artwork, the choice of either going back in time to save the future or collect the Time Stones is one of the better aspects of the game to me, as it allows the player to make a choic, rather than forcing you to get the best ending in one option, something I hope Sega will re-visit one day, but I found the level design too clumsy, and the Metal Sonic boss battle will forever go down at the top of my most dissapointing boss battle list. At least the music (either soundtrack) is damn good.

    The intro, to me, is still the best visual representation of Sonic that I have ever seen, and even with all the advances in CGI, something tells me that no other cutscene will top it.

    Toot Toot Sonic Warrior! Myself and NTom64 recently did a playthrough for the whole game, while it isn’t nearly as good as I hoped it would have been, it can be viewed here: http://www.hellfirecomms.com/video?v=435

  9. I remember seeing that youtube intro on the Sonic Mega Collection and thought “Man, I gotta play that!” Sadly, it wasn’t available on the mega collection, or the Mega Collection Plus.

    When I finally did play it on the Gems Collection, I had a blast. Its definitely one of my favorites. Sadly, my save for the first playthrough is lost, so I had to start over when I got as far as the last level. 🙁

  10. Happy Birthday, Amy Rose! I hope Sonic will take you for special date on your birthday.
    And as for you Metal Sonic, Happy Birthday! I hope you had chance to destroy Sonic and win Eggman’s goal.

  11. Ah, Sonic CD. So many fond memories. I only recently was able to really beat it (with all the Time Stones and Good Futures and whatnot), but my brother and I played the shit out of this.

  12. @FTA: Oh, I totally agree on the boss difficulty. They were easy as hell, but I really like the concepts put behind them.

    I totally get why people don’t like the game overall.

  13. Although I like Sonic Boom (and the extended versions I managed to find on the Internetz), I’m so glad the European version had the Japanese soundtrack. It suited every part of the game so much better. I was playing those tracks for about 10 years after the game came out. Only so many times you can listen to Stardust Speedway though.

    My only fault with the game would be the slightly lunky Sonic 1 physics. Sonic just didn’t seem as nippy in Sonic 1 and CD as he was in 2. And there’s something quite satisfying about wildly mashing the button to do a spin dash in Sonic 2.

  14. Ahh CD…
    For a very long time my most favourite Sonic game.
    Never, NEVER wil I forget the feeling I had the 1. time racing Metal Sonic.
    Today S3&K has become my favourite one, but CD always will have a special place in my heart.

  15. I was born nearly a month before CD was released in japan so i never really got a chance to play it until Gems collection came out, it was by far and away the best game on the disc. It was so different from other Sonic games that it found a special place in my heart. The race against Metal Sonic is now a legendary part of the Sonic series that fans will always love (and also one of the first genuninly hard sonic bosses the first time you play it.) And the characters it introduced are still to this day very popular, Amy was the first female for the Sonic series and Metal Sonic is always gonna be one of the collest villains of the series. I’m probably just droning on now, but DAMN this game was good.

  16. I think it’s a little overrated, but I still like it better than Sonic 1, if only because there are fewer cheap deaths and Sonic is faster (They should have kept the Super Peel Out in future titles. Way better for accelerating up hills than the Spin Dash.) Also, both of the soundtracks are great (although I prefer the Japanese one), and this is easily one of the best looking 16-Bit Sonic games.

  17. Sonic CD was my Second Sonic game for Windows (first being Sonic 3D). I loved this game to pieces and in the winter of 2000, I made my way to the race against Metal Sonic… and lost. By the time I got SA2 on the Gamecube, I got a Windows XP so really couldn’t play it any more, until I got Gems Collection. Now thanks to the internet, I can play the US Version using the patch and the JPN verrsion on Gens!

  18. @talikku how do you play the japanese version on gems without an import, is it a hack or is it as simple as a cheat cd?

  19. I like the game, but I just found it a lot more harder than the genesis trilogy. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I had to look up where every machine was to get the good ending. It was annoying. Exploration just works better in 3D for me. I like it.

  20. How could this game be OVERrated though?? It’s such a great game and u can barely get it hands on it anymore. There’s like 12 ports of sonic 1 but only like 3 for sonic cd. This is by far the best sonic game IMO

  21. @beast145

    Because these days, people just call anything overrated of a large enough amount of people like something that they don’t like as much.

    I’d say this game would be overrated as it’s not THAT special even thought’s it’s great. But at the same time it’s not really bad either. It’s a personal preference thing. I liked Sonic 2 more but I still liked this game. =) I was lucky enough to play this game when I was little before getting it on Gems Collection (luckily because my Sonic CD was dusty and scratched up due to no case for all those years. D:)

  22. I remember there was a forum disscussion about Sonic CD VS S3&Knuckles it full of decent debates between both games but in the end thode games reign supreme, but I’m tired of people saying that S3&k is overrated.

  23. I admit Sonic 2 is my favourite game in the series but CD is a close second. The exploration required to fully enjoy the game makes it a nice change of pace from the rest of the series.

    I wish I’d gotten the chance to play it with the Japanese soundtrack though (I’ve only played the Gems Collection port).

  24. Sonic CD Japanese & European Version Kick Ass!!!

    This Games Kick ass so much because of the music (better then the US Version) but not what if they re-released Sonic CD for PS3/XBOX 360 as a HD Remix with selectable music from Japanese & European Version or US Version if SEGA will do it (I know Sonic Team will it but SEGA it a another story nobody know it may always use the US Version) also it should add Boss Attack and Endless Mode (it happened I did beat Sonic CD – Mega CD European Version & also on Sonic Gems Collection Japanese version for gamecube – it use SEGA PC Version)

    I got last word to say “Please Re-released Sonic CD HD Remix (Mega CD Version not SEGA PC Version) for XBOX 360/PS3 (with full hd 1080i/1080p features)”@:D

  25. Overrated? It’s sodding underrated if you ask me! Hardly anyone who didn’t know about the SEGA CD never even heard about this game until it was released on Sonic Gems Collection.

  26. Just finished it for the first time. You weren’t kidding about the final boss. Still, it was a pretty fun game, although I prefer the more open and fast levels from the other games. I’ll have to take the games suggestion and “Try Again”.

  27. I actually got this for PC after my weird start on Sonic having played the genesis games on a friend’s console. It was a suprise that my mother had gotten me, it was the best suprise I’ve ever had in Sonic form. This is Sonic in 2D.

  28. Sonic CD. Such an incredible flurry of emotions hits when I hear that title.

    Sonic CD was the first Sonic game I ever completed. The race against Metal Sonic, my favorite Sonic character because of this game, will always be one of my favorite gaming memories/accomplishments.
    The levels were easy enough to play through, but hard enough to get tripped up on, along with the changing between pasts and futures to change things up.
    Sonic CD led to an even greater love of Sonic then previously thought of for me, for its existence truly makes mine a better one.

    Happy belated birthday, Sonic CD.

  29. @ 3THMTHM: Miles “Tails” Prower is 18 and Sonic is 19 (next year is the big TWO-OH)

    Anywho Sonic CD was the 3rd sonic title I’ve played, The first was Spinball which was packaged in with a Genesis 2 model system. It was I believe the 1st or 2nd game I’ve imported, thanks to the Gens emulator I’m able to play off the disc, btw awesome sound track. It was too bad when it came out for gems I was hoping for a sound track toggle to allow player to switch between the two. only one can dream.

  30. Amy is actually over 500 years old. She uses voodoo magic to place her soul in younger hedgehogs to retain her youth, like in that movie “The Skeleton Key”.

    Don’t believe me? Well how do you explain how she changes looks between Sonic CD and Sonic Adventure? They’re different bodies! O___O

  31. I have very fond memories of this game. Back then Sonic CD was quite epic, and I almost get choked up remembering this wonderful game. The Time Travel gameplay made the game feel so much bigger than your usual Sonic game. I was young and I couldn’t really afford a Sega CD, but I rented one to play this game, and boy was it worth it, I spent hours trying to create Good Futures and grabbing all the Time Stones. Not to mention, the gameplay, graphics and music really pulled me in. This is my favorite Sonic game next to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and its still one of my favorite games of all time. Sonic Boom, baby.

  32. Me:uumm… Amy can I please see that Pico Pico Hammer of yours?
    Amy: Of course you can!
    Me: Thanks!
    @Munchy *WAM!*

  33. So…Sonic is 19, Tails is 18, Amy & Metal Sonic are 17 and I have no idea when Knuckles was created. I think that in Sonic Colours, it’s fitting for Tails to have a deeper voice…since he’s an adult now =D

    Yesss, I know it off topic ;p

  34. Wow…17 years…It seems like forever ago that I first played this game. Metal Sonic is one of my favorite Sonic characters of all time, and although I’m neutral about Amy, Sonic CD remains one of my favorite games ever.

    So here’s to you, Sonic CD. And here’s to Knuckles turning 17 in 2011 (February 2nd, 1994)!

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