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Sonic CD Review: Powerful Port of a Classic Sequel

Sega continues to port out the Sonic series to iOS with Sonic CD Sonic CD - SEGA. This is an achievement, as Sonic CD was one of the lesser-played of the classic Sonic 2D games (it was a release for the Sega CD system, which never really gained popularity back in the 1990s) and it hasn’t been regularly ported the way the original games have. It’s arrival on iOS is a welcome one, and the port is about as good as can be. There are a few flaws, but overall this is another great port from Sega.

The Sonic CD port was done using the Retro Engine, a system developed independently by Christian Whitehead. Apparently, the process was a difficult one — for technical reasons, Sonic CD couldn’t be ported as easily as the other Sonic games.  But Whitehead’s achieved something nice here. The whole game is impressively ported. It looks good, it plays well, and it’s as complete as copyright will allow. It even includes the awesome opening animation!

In addition, the game comes with some neat extras, such as the option to use the Japanese or American soundtrack (it defaults to Japanese) and the original or Genesis spin dash. There are also Game Center achievements (a welcome nod to modern gaming),leader boards, and unlockable extras. All in all, there is a lot of Sonic gameplay here. It’s the most robust Sonic port we’ve seen, apart from Sonic Racing.

The one thing about the port I’m not particularly fond of is the limited d-pad. It’s trying to imitate a Sega controller, but it’s just … not good. This sort of thing doesn’t work well without the tactile feel of the d-pad. Personally, I’d prefer a floating virtual pad, as has become the standard in iOS gaming, or even the looser virtual stick from Sonic 4.

The game itself is more difficult to review, as we’re talking a classic of a bygone era. Sonic CD is generally well-loved by fans of the series. It takes it’s cues from the other Sonic 2D titles, so anyone who’s played the other iOS ports will recognize the green grass level, the water level, the casino level, etc.  Sonic CD did not forge new territory when it released.

Where the game got innovative was in its time travel mechanism. Sonic CD was one of the first games to use the “same level in past, present, and future” trick that we’ve seen many times since. This is both a blessing and a curse for the game. It can be very confusing for more casual players, like those who have only been introduced to Sonic via the iOS ports. For hardcore players willing to invest the time, though, figuring out when to go into the past, what future to use (Good or Bad futures exist in the game), and how to achieve maximum success can be a blast. If you’re a speed player, though, Sonic CD can get a little frustrating.

So, bottom line: Christian Whitehead did a phenomenal job porting this. If you like the Sonic franchise and have enjoyed Sega’s previous iOS ports, this is a no-brainer. Buy the game. If you’re new to the Sonic franchise, I’d say start somewhere else and work your way up to this one. Sonic CD is a great game, but it’s neither the purest nor the easiest entry into the franchise.

Our score:
4.5 out of 5.
Sonic CD - SEGA

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