Sega managed to pivot fairly well. Once Nintendo’s main competitor, pushing out advanced technologies and games all at once, the company went from being the number two console manufacturer to a software-driven company in the last decade. While they may be known for a few things, perhaps their most famous creation is Sonic the Hedgehog.
The blue, formerly-tubby hedgehog has a thing for speed and has found a new home on iOS. Sonic CD, a fan favorite, was recently released for the iPhone and iPad. Is this game worthy of all the hype, or has Sonic lost his running shoes? Let’s find out.
You are Sonic. Sonic, besides running around quickly, is charged with defeating Dr. Robotnik (calling him Eggman makes me want to cringe. He is, and was, Robotnik) and stopping him from harming the world and all of the itty-bitty, adorable animals inside of it.
This is the most Sonic has stood still since the 90's.
You’ll do this by running (your favorite activity), jumping, and collecting some rings so you aren’t killed by his robots. You’ll also do your best to avoid spikes and deep holes. Whether or not Sonic should be worried about blisters or Athlete’s Foot remains undisclosed, but I’m assuming that he takes the necessary precautions in between stages.
Gameplay & Controls
You may have already gotten the impression that this is a game largely about running and jumping. That isn’t to say that the game is boring by any means; it’s a classic for a reason, and that’s because people enjoy the speed of going through each stage.
See, where other games made it feel like you had a lot of time on your hands (that would be you, Mario) Sonic was always about the speed. You could run faster, jump faster, and win faster than you could with any Mario game. The main goals of each Sonic game are the same: save the critters, run quickly, grab some rings, don’t die.
Sonic is going all meta with his balancing act.
The fun comes from the balance. Get too reckless and you’ll quickly find yourself making foolish mistakes that you could avoid, left with barely any rings to make it through the stages alive (if you do make it out alive). Take it too slow, though, and you have the opposite problem: an abundance of rings without any time to finish the stage.
This balance is expressed simply but wonderfully. The game has two methods of control: the virtual directional pad and a single virtual button. The two allow you to perform a variety of actions; namely, running, jumping, and curling up into a tiny ball of spinning terror.
Visuals & Soundtrack
I’ve got to say that I’m disappointed with the way Sonic CD looks. Maybe it’s because I missed out on the original game, but I’m not a fan of the polygons in this game. I’m more used to the graphical style of the original Sonic games; this is a matter of personal preference though, so you’ll want to check out the game for yourself.
What isn’t a matter of preference is the disorientation that can come from moving too quickly. While the backgrounds are all unique, I found that there was often too many flashes and high color contrasts, particularly early in the game. If you take it slow you can avoid this, but most Sonic veterans will probably try to breeze through the stages as quickly as possible.
Rising above the visuals. And, apologies for the colors; stupid JPEGs.
Where Sonic games have never let down is with the soundtracks. The sounds included with this game are similar to those of the original games, which is in no way a bad thing. Each sound that is played just fits, something that can’t be said of some other games. The soundtrack is also great, tying in with the stages and giving each its own flavor.
Fans of the original game will appreciate that Sega saw fit to include both the Japanese and American soundtracks, giving you access to a variety of songs and a level of control over your experience.
The typical iOS-port extras are present, including Game Center integration – and, thus, leaderboards and achievements. These didn’t have too much of an impact on my playtesting but I’m sure that there are some of you that enjoy being number one in the leaderboards and obtaining each and every achievement possible.
Honestly, I just wanted to use this picture.
Sega’s main addition to the game is Tails, Sonic’s two-tailed (they’re really original with the names here, huh?) ally that used to be reserved to second players and computer-AI alike. Playing as Tails is fun just as a change of pace, and he wasn’t even available in the original game so fans will appreciate Sega adding him here.
Sonic CD is a port of a classic game that defined many gamer’s childhoods. It’s a fairly faithful port with plenty of additions that help bring it into the modern world, making it worth the re-purchase.
If you haven’t played a Sonic game before, you might be willing to give this game a shot. It’s some good fun if you can deal with the fairly basic nature of the game, but it’s really designed to appeal to those that have already played (and enjoyed) previous Sonic games. The controls are spot-on and the visuals are technically great, but if you don’t know what you’re getting into you may be disappointed.
Still, Sonic CD for the iPad is proof that Sega can successfully survive in the new landscape. Their willingness to embrace the iOS platform shows incredible foresight, and their commitment to quality and their fans is admirable. If you love the company or you have fond memories of curling up with a controller and trying to get through each stage as quickly as possible, Sonic CD is a solid investment.