Through the Dark, to the Light, It’s a Supersonic Flight – Sonic CD!

There are few people who have not heard of the Sonic game series. The world’s favourite blue hedgehog was introduced over 20 years ago, has been the star of dozens of games, and been featured in yet more.

One of his earlier games was Sonic CD, which became world renowned soon after it came out in 1993, and has remained a cult classic title today. As the original release was only playable on the Sega CD – a Genesis add-on bought by about 15% of Genesis console owners – it has not received quite as much mainstream attention as Sonics 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles.

It’s been ported a couple of times since then: to PC in 1996, and to PS2 and GameCube in 2005. Over the past few months, Sega has released an updated and enhanced version of the game to PSN, Steam, iOS, Windows Phone, and of course Android. Sega has slipped up with previous ports, but have they succeeded here?

Everything Preserved

Nothing has been removed from the original game: the graphics, audio, and level layouts are all the same. At least, that’s true compared to the original US release – this game features the soundtracks of both the US and Japanese releases, but some Japanese songs are missing their vocals, due to licensing issues.

I don’t know whether the game is running within some sort of hidden emulator, or whether the Sega America team had to break down the game and replace code everywhere in order to make it work on the Android platform. If it was the latter, then they did a great job; the ‘feel’ of the game in every aspect is the same as the original 1993 version. The only difference that you can see is the addition of on-screen controls (coming up).

Editor’s note: the game has actually been rewritten from the ground up, mainly by one developer, for a brand new engine that includes a widescreen view, smoother graphics in the special stages, the aforementioned ability to switch music tracks, new menus, and even a new playable character. I think it’s a testament to the quality of the port that Sam couldn’t tell the difference!

Retro enough for you?

As you can see in the Main Menu screenshot below, even the Time Attack mode from the original version is included. Another distinctive feature of Sonic CD you’ll find intact is the inclusion of 3D bonus levels, in which Sonic runs around a racetrack trying to destroy UFOs.

The Main Menu - see the option for Soundtrack? You can switch between the US and Japanese versions.

So the Android version of Sonic CD certainly isn’t one of those half-hearted ports which leave you feeling deceived due to missing features.

Controls – Another Job Well Done

Recently I have given my opinion on porting classic games to smartphones, as well as being disappointed by a poor choice of controls in a number of games including Grand Theft Auto 3. Sonic CD’s port gets things right again and again.

The controls couldn’t be simpler or easier to use. A simple D-pad in the bottom left corner, coupled with the ‘A’ or ‘spin’ button in the bottom right. You don’t have to lift your finger off the directional pad to change Sonic’s direction either – just slide your finger across the pad to the new direction.

This small D-pad and 'A' button are all you need to play.

The Bad Points

One thing I do have to mention is that it is unbelievably difficult to see baddies or obstacles until you actually hit them. Sonic will be going round and round in loops, then he’ll sprint straight into a bee or some spikes.

Trying to differentiate between what is the background and what is the actual level can be a real challenge sometimes. I know I’ve praised the precise-port Sega has made, but this is an annoyance that makes me wish they’d sharpened up the graphics slightly. It would make it far easier to see what I am about to run into. However, I suppose you would get used to spotting things with regular playing, so perhaps it’s not quite so big a problem.

The biggest disappointment about this game is that it’s designed to run explicitly on phones. If you try to run it on a tablet like I did then you’ll be quite disappointed, because everything just gets scaled up. If you’re determined to run Sonic CD on a tablet I recommend that you use the Zoom feature, and not Stretch. The former resembles Sonic, and the latter looks like a jumble of pixels moving through another jumble of pixels.

Download Issues Resolved

If you looked into this game when it launched in December, you may have been dissuaded from buying it due to reviewers on the Android Market reporting that the mandatory in-game downloads were not working. This was true, and led to people effectively losing their money. Android Market’s tiny 15 minute refund window meant people who held on hoping for the download to start were not eligible for a refund.

Don’t worry now though; this issue is gone. The speeds at their end aren’t tremendously fast, but the downloads do complete successfully. If this problem put you off buying this game originally, you may well want to reconsider. If you got the game a few months back and the downloads didn’t work, try again now and enjoy your delayed game!

Final Thoughts

If you enjoyed the Sonic series in its early days or are an enthusiastic retro gamer, then I’m sure you’ll love playing Sonic CD. It can go everywhere you go too, since it’s far more portable than its parent version.

I think the AppStorm rating for Sonic CD should be a respectable 9/10. The majority of the score is earned for being a wonderful port of the original game, but one point is lost for not having an optimised tablet version available. They made an Xbox Live Arcade version of this game, and it’s been enhanced so that it doesn’t look terrible when played on large TVs. It would have been good of them to put the same abilities into Sonic CD for Android.

Altogether, it’s a great game and I have no real complaints. If you’re a Sonic fan, I’d go right ahead and download it.


Summary

An excellent port to Android of Sega's classic Sonic CD.

9
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