Running on all cylinders now… then… whatever.
Sonic games have sucked as of late. Maybe that's too harsh, but it's definitely fair to say they weren't what they used to be. Back in the days of "Genesis Does What Ninten-Don't" there was a concept of "Blast Processing", which is just a fancy name for "We've Got Some Good Programmers!" It allowed Sonic to run so quick, and… well, that seemed to be about it. But that was enough, and why the Genesis/Megadrive sold so well around the world.
While Sonic was great on the Genny, he was better on the extension that was the pre-doomed Sega CD. This is why few people know how awesome Sonic CD actually was: Everything that made Sonic great was made better, with sharper graphics, less tearing and pixilated glitching, absolutely no slowdown anywhere to be found, and a CD soundtrack to rival any game of the generation. But that was 1994, and this is now. The question is, does any of it hold up?
The answer is a beautiful, resounding yes. From the retro look to the early-'90s Saturday morning cartoon opener (and "Sonic Boom", the single greatest theme song in gaming… yeah, I said it), the game is everything the Sega CD provided. For anyone who might have thought the Sega CD was a flash-in-the-pan piece of electro-trash is… well, not entirely wrong, but for anyone who's a fan of solid classic platforming the Sega CD had one of the best 2D games ever. How many old platformers were able to weave through time easily and seamlessly, including multiple different looks and paths to follow in a single two-minute run that all affect the end result of the game?
Even though it's obviously dated when looked at in "Nostalgic" view, changing the option to show the graphics in "Sharp" or even "Smooth" brings out how nice the environments and sprites are. For a game released in 1993, it's impressive how well it holds up; even with a look rooted in the '90s and a single "power-up" in the hedgehog's arsenal, the challenge is still there and it's still a lot of fun weaving through multiple tiers in every stage. That might be one of its downfalls, however, as the game is overall very short, with only a few minutes a stage, and only so much exploring as can really be done in such a short amount of time.
Also, the Time Stones (in place of the Chaos Emeralds) mini-game is still as irritating as any Sonic game of its generation. No more shooting the tube (which I actually enjoyed somewhat), no running over balls, and thankfully no bouncing wildly and near-randomly—instead running along a kind of racetrack surrounded by… aliens? I still don't understand just what's going on, just that it's slick and feels hardly thought-out. Oh, that and it's irritating that the depth perception isn't what it should be, because I know I was jumping at the right times but I missed constantly.
Sonic CD's overall package is bare-bones, with the option for the original Japanese music and a time trial mode being the only notable additions to the game, but with the tiny price point (only 400 MS points) it's an easy thing to forgive. I would have really liked to see something new, like maybe a low-end overhaul of the graphics as an option, but having the different layers there are fine (though minor). Thankfully, though, all of the animations are here—including that kickass "Sonic Boom" opening number—and the game is even smoother than I remember on my SCD. Need a speedrun through the past? This doesn't just fit the bill—it flies through it like a dine-and-dash.