The Mega CD didnâ€™t have many brilliant games but those that were good still play well. This is likely to be down to the fact that the best Mega CD games â€“ such as Final Fight, Snatcher and this Sonic romp – didnâ€™t use focus on using the systemâ€™s frankly rubbish FMV capabilities but rather its ability to throw sprites around. Itâ€™s a format that we rarely see games converted from â€“ Sonic CD itself has only been whored out once, headlining Sonic Gems Collection, and as such we wouldnâ€™t be surprised if most that download this new XBLA/PSN/iOS version have never played it before.
If thatâ€™s the case then youâ€™re in for a treat.
Back in 1993 Sega used the Mega CD to bring us a Sonic game with longer levels and a whimsical musical score, along with an anime intro that really put the early â€˜90s Sonic cartoons to shame. It also had a bonus stage with similar graphical trickery to Mario Kart on the SNES, only instead of racing Sonic had to bash into UFOs flying around the stage.
The graphics are a lot bolder than the first two Sonics due to an expanded colour palette – the backdrops feature quite an esoteric art-direction that only Knuckles: Chaotix can match. The bonus stages look a bit shabby in this day and age but the rest of the game holds up well. The music is still magical enough to get lodged in your brain for days.
Whereas in most Sonic games youâ€™re simply tasked with dashing to the end of the level, Sonic CDâ€™s levels require a bit more exploration. This is because Sonic has to leap to future and past versions of each stage to find and destroy a device to save the world from a gloomy future. To be able to travel through time Sonic needs to keep his speed up, so you also need to look for places in the stages where you can whizz around uninterrupted.
Out of all the 2D Sonic games this is perhaps the hardest to keep hold of Sonicâ€™s rings for a significant amount of time â€“ enemies are placed in places that often catch you off guard. The battle against Metal Sonic is quite tough too, requiring some well-timed jumping. The rest of the bosses are fairly easy due to the very strange decision to put invincibility power-ups in the boss stages. If youâ€™re quick enough you can get to Eggman before the power-up runs out.
Another thing that makes this quite an easy game is that your progress is saved at the end of each stage â€“ if you lose all your lives you can just restart on the level you got to, instead of having to play through the whole game again.
The ending credits show that this conversion was handled by a very small team. As conversions go, theyâ€™ve done a good job. You can change the music from US to Japanese arrangements, the visuals can be smoothed over with a filter if youâ€™re finding them too pixilated for your taste and there are a few unlockable extras including the chance to play as Tails. Achievements donâ€™t unlock when playing as Tails, presumably as his ability to fly would make them far too easy to obtain.
Sonic CD has always struck us as a rather strange game â€“ it was the Mega CDâ€™s system seller but then one year later Sega went and released Sonic 3 which blew it out of the water with smoother visuals, different shield-types and 3D bonus stages. And of course, Sonic 3 didnâ€™t need a Â£300 add-on in order to be played. All of this is irrelevant now though and at a mere 400 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360 and Â£3.29 on PSN the chance to experience this footnote in blue hedgehog history is something fans shouldnâ€™t miss.