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Critical Reception: Sega's Sonic CD

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to a recently released downloadable version of Sega's classic platformer Sonic CD, which reviewers describe as "the perfect 2D Sonic game."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to a recently released downloadable version of Sega's classic platformer Sonic CD, which reviewers describe as "the perfect 2D Sonic game." Sonic CD currently earns a score of 88 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Dave Rudden at Official Xbox Magazine scores Sonic CD at 9 out of 10. "Even with Sonic the Hedgehog's return to form in this year's above-average Sonic Generations, we've still been yearning for the 'perfect 2D Sonic game' on Xbox 360," he begins. "Luckily for us, Sonic CD already exists, and it's only $5 on Live Arcade." "Thankfully, this port is a great package," he continues. "Unlike the Sonic Genesis games that Sega's re-released on XBLA over the years, Sonic CD has been refitted to display in 16:9 and it [...] comes with a variety of presentation options that should please Sonic fans of any stripe." Rudden describes Sonic CD as feeling distinctly different from other entries in the series. "While you could complete the Genesis-era Sonic games by running straight from left to right (avoiding a few obstacles along the way), Sonic CD encourages exploration," he explains. "What might normally be a 90-second stage could become a 10-minute adventure: after finding the properly-directing time post and a stretch of land long enough to hit the right time-shifting speed, you can thoroughly explore the past, present, or future to find hidden areas and items." "Given the sizeable enhancements to this version of Sonic CD, it's surprising that Sega is selling it for a mere $5," Rudden writes. "Make no mistake: no corners have been cut, and the developers have put in more than enough extra content (in the form of audio and video options) to properly pay tribute to Sonic's finest spin." IGN's Jack DeVries gives Sonic CD an 8.5 out of 10. "Sonic CD plays like its Genesis era counterparts," he admits. "But what made the game so unique, and cool, was the time travel 'gimmick.' "In each level there are multiple gates you can pass that will allow you to travel forwards or backwards in time, utilizing the Back to the Future method of time travel (go fast!). Depending on when in time you are the levels change with different layouts and enemies." The premise and structure remain compelling nearly 20 years after the game's initial release. "The unique levels are largely the reason Sonic CD stands out after all these years," DeVries says. "Well, that and the cool way the game changes perspective that blew us away in the days before we knew what Sonic looked like from above." "For those of you eagerly awaiting Sonic 4: Episode II, listen up. Sega is promoting Sonic CD as the direct prequel to Sonic 4," DeVries notes. "So not only is this a super fun Sonic game for XBLA, it potentially offers tips about Sega's upcoming projects." Destructoid's Dale North rates Sonic CD a 9 out of 10. "Playing Sonic CD again really took me back," he says. "Sonic CD didn't turn out to be quite the evolution I dreamed of (that nightmare would come later). It turned out to be a lot like the Sega Genesis Sonic titles. But the cool perspective tricks, time travel gimmick and the slick CD audio soundtrack were enough for me. And I must have watched the fully animated introduction movie 50 times. Somehow this became my favorite Sonic game. It still is." North praises the game's difficulty. "I don't know if Sega thought that adopters of their CD technology had a higher tolerance for cheap deaths or what, but there's plenty in Sonic CD," he warns. "This game is packed with more hidden traps, endless loops and pop-out enemies than any other of the 16-bit titles. Sonic has always been a series that wants you to learn its levels to balance speed with survival. This one makes no apologies. I appreciate the stiff challenge, even if it did have me screaming at my television all last night." The port also lets players choose between Sonic CD's Japanese and North American soundtracks. "I'd recommend trying both," North advises. "The English soundtracks features the work of Spencer Nielsen, with its crowning piece being the fantastic opening vocal song, 'Sonic Boom.' [...] The Japanese soundtrack is a better collection of songs overall, with some fine examples of 1990's urban music as interpreted by Japan in the mix. Again, both soundtracks are a delight." "I'd like to think of this release as a sort of gift to the Sonic fan from Sega," North concludes. "Sega wants fans to remember it because it was a high-quality release from them. They also would like those that missed it to experience one of the best games in the franchise. To miss Sonic CD would be to miss some of the franchise's best (and strangest) level designs. They were really creative with this one. You would also miss the race with Metal Sonic by not playing this game, and that would be a shame."

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