The only way I can start this review is with a little history lesson, both for people who aren't familiar with Sonic CD, as well as those of you who might not have been reading TouchArcade since the summer of 2009. Let's start at the beginning, so everyone can truly appreciate just how wonderful the very existence of this game is.

Sonic CD, or Sonic the Hedgehog CD was originally released in late 1993 for the Sega CD, Sega's CD-ROM accessory for the Genesis console. Sega CD had actually come out earlier that year, and many gamers (myself included) couldn't wait to get their hands on one as the promise of full motion video powered gaming seemed incredible. Unfortunately, both due to the many technical limitations of the system, as well as the games themselves just not being very good, the Sega CD never really took off quite how I imagined Sega wanted it to. (There's actually a bunch of reasons I could also get into, but I digress.)

Sonic CD represented a blazing torch of promise that I had hoped was going to give the Sega CD the boost it needed, serving as that ever-important position as "system seller." Again, unfortunately, the relative low popularity of the Sega CD accessory made Sonic CD a commercial failure, even though it was a critical success. In fact, I'd still say Sonic CD is the best Sonic game ever released. It was a particularly great Sega CD game, as it played to the strengths of the Genesis with familiar Sonic-style gameplay enhanced through a few tasteful full motion video scenes and some fantastic CD audio.

Fast forward nearly 16 years to a curious question that Sega posted to the iOS community. Previously, Sega's efforts on the App Store were limited to decidedly mediocre games, centralizing almost entirely around emulated Genesis games wrapped in an emulator that really wasn't that great, and still isn't that great. They asked gamers what they'd like to see on the iPhone next, and literally a day later Christian Whitehead revealed his idea. Check out the video from 2009:

 

 

While that video might not be that entirely impressive now, remember at the time we were busy wagging our finger at Sega for continuing to release emulated Genesis ports that played poorly, performed even worse, and just weren't any fun. Then Christian Whitehead comes along with not only a port of the best Sonic game, but also running at 60fps? The emulated Genesis games barely ran at a quarter of that. Our minds were beyond blown, but like all cool things utilizing IP of a larger company, we didn't expect this fan-made Sonic CD project to wind up anywhere other than in a cease and desist letter fired off from Sega's legal department.

We quickly got together with Whitehead, and conducted a fascinating interview where one thing started to become crystal clear: This is a project motivated solely by love for the game. Christian built an entire game engine specifically for porting retro classics, and he had aspirations of working with Sega to actually get his version of Sonic CD in gamers' hands. Following that, things went dark. The fan-made Sonic CD web site vanished and the above video disappeared from YouTube. We assumed the worst, as it seemed reasonable that Sega's legal hammer came down on the project.

 

 

Jump ahead another two years, and out of nowhere that Sonic CD was coming to iOS. We quickly confirmed that this was in fact Christian Whitehead's Sonic CD, and we couldn't have been happier. Sure, the particulars such as release date and other things like that weren't in the open yet, but it was coming, and that was enough.

Tonight, Sonic CD is released to the world, based on the very same demonstration we saw back in 2009, which I suppose brings us to the actual "review" portion of this review. Sonic CD plays like every other Sonic game in that you run from the start to the finish, collecting rings, and fighting bosses every few levels. One radical addition to Sonic CD is the addition of the "Past" and "Future" system. Running past either a "Past" or "Future" sign sends Sonic time traveling to a slightly different version of the level. Initially, the future will be a "bad" future, overrun by robots. However, if you go into the past first, and destroy the robot generator, you'll be able to enjoy the "good" future which significantly fewer enemies. Alternatively, you can just ignore time traveling all together, although I believe (If my memory serves me.) getting the best ending requires unlocking every "good" future.

 

 

In a word, Sonic CD is incredible. It redefines what gamers can expect out of retro iOS ports, while simultaneously making all of Sega's existing ports look absolutely horrid in comparison. The on-screen controls work great, the game performs even better than the original, and they've included not only the Japanese soundtrack, but also the American one. (Note: It defaults to the Japanese soundtrack, so if you're wondering where the familiar "Sonic Boom" song is, you'll need to toggle it in the options.) It's even Universal. I can't think of a single thing that's missing or lacking in any way, in fact, they've even added Tails, who wasn't even present in the original.

I'm not sure what else to say. Here we have the best installment of one of the greatest gaming franchises, which received both flawless review scores and game of the year awards when it was originally released ported with complete perfection to iOS. This is a game you flat out need to buy if you even vaguely consider yourself an iOS gamer. Not only because it's such an impeccable port of an important piece of gaming history, but because we need to vote with our wallets to tell Sega (and anyone else who might be watching) that this is the quality we demand out of retro games brought to the App Store.

International App Store Link: Sonic CD, $1.99

Note: Sonic CD will be available in the USA at 11:00 PM Eastern, it should be available everywhere else in the world right now though.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

    It is indeed very awesome. It's very controllable and plays nice and fast. The music is good too. Am wondering how to save and how to get to the settings menu to switch soundtracks from within a game.

    • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

      Oh and Square Enix, I hope you're taking notes.

  • Anonymous

    $1.99 is a bit too much for it IMO. Should have been 99cents!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/AC_Gamer Andy Charalambous

    I've never really been into Sonic games, and probably can't play it with a broken hand anyway. But I would like to do my part in supporting this type of quality, so I will gift this game to one person here who wants it.

    Also, Scribblenauts Remix is on sale, $0.99/69p.

    • Anonymous

      Say what? I'll take it!

      • http://twitter.com/AC_Gamer Andy Charalambous

        We have a winner! I've never gifted an app before, do I just need your email?

      • Anonymous

        Now that is some serious support. Buying the game for someone else to help Sega. The world needs more people like you in it Andy!

      • Anonymous

        Yup just my email!
        it's marvin88v@gmail.com

      • Anonymous

        Huge Thanks by the way!

      • http://twitter.com/AC_Gamer Andy Charalambous

        No problem, I use the UK store, that ok?

      • Anonymous

        US would be perfect. But I can't complain. UK is good :)

      • http://twitter.com/Haribooh Christopher

        If you can't gift to the US store (don't think you can) I'm in the UK & I'll take it! My address is christopherryderharrison@gmail.com, thanks :)

        I have so many happy memories of the original Sonic CD, man it was a great game!

      • http://twitter.com/AC_Gamer Andy Charalambous

        Gifted to you both -- enjoy!

      • http://twitter.com/johnhood John Hood

        Andy,

        That's incredibly generous, sir. You should be lauded for that. :)

      • http://twitter.com/Haribooh Christopher

        Andy, you are a true hero.

      • emmi3

        me too please :)
        I don't have a credit card but i'd like to play this game :(
        emmi3@live.de
        Please, I would be very very grateful :)

      • KK m

        You can just get an App Store card from the store. 5 bucks and you'll be good to go!

  • http://twitter.com/back2this Sean Yuan

    Great write-up. Really looking forward to getting this one in a few hours.

    @back2this:twitter 

  • http://twitter.com/andregnreis André Reis

    On a side topic, when will happen the AppStore lockdown this year?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      12/22 through 12/29!

      • http://twitter.com/andregnreis André Reis

        Thanks!!

  • Anonymous

    A bit much?? How can you expect developers to continue to deliver ports/ games of this calibre at 99 cents. It's amazing it's just 1.99. In fact, I'd have paid 9.99. I'm fact, I will. I'll gift it to four of my friends right now. Go SEGA! Awesome article touch arcade :)

    • Anonymous

      Can I be one of your friends?

    • Nate Goodwin

      Why hello there friend :) lol been a longtime fan of sonic. Even though I'm only 16 I put my dads seta genesis back together when I was 11 just to play sonic. I'm proud of Christian and his audacity to go and do this.

      • http://twitter.com/Jakx102 Jacob Farid Bahou

        Can I be one of your friends as well? :D my itunes account is kh2sora06@aol.com

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLX6MTHEANZVXWAQBR2NJKPACY Anonymous

      I'm a friend too!  I love the Sonic CD!  serpasj@gmail.com

  • Brad Doxey

    Coming to US store?

  • Anti-Archonist

    I can has Sonic CD in US? I guess they saved the best for last ;)

  • http://twitter.com/ZildjianKX Jeff

    Does it support retina display, iCloud game sync, and game center?

    • http://twitter.com/minimaxir Max Woolf

      It supports Retina and Game Center.

  • http://twitter.com/LibrarianMike Librarian Mike

    You know, I've never played a Sonic game in my life...I was always a 'tendo kid. I'm glad they've done a bang-up job of porting it however.

  • Benjamin Oconnell

    Great review. just wish you wouldn't call it a port though, it doesn't need that icky title stamped onto it especially after sega's previous examples of ports (save for SA2B). this game deserves a "remake" title if anything.

  • Jason Felds

    I'm hoping this was just some strange thing on my end. I have an iPad 1, updated to iOS 5. I let the intro movie play, and when it came time to start the game, the screen stayed black. I couldn't play through the first zone.

    Is anyone else getting anything similar?

    • http://twitter.com/porsupah Porsupah

      Same here, unfortunately, with relaunching the app having no effect - just returned me to a completely blank display. Restarting the iPad solved matters, so I suppose it's another of iOS' endearing low memory behaviors.

  • http://twitter.com/phresh_manny manny phresh

    Anyone wanna gift it? My e-mail is phresh.manny@yahoo.com !

  • http://twitter.com/thefezcam Mario Maldonado

    Now this is what I call Blast Processing!!!!!!!!! SEGA, you really need to update your other Genesis ports like this!!!!!!!!

    Instant buy guys. 

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Inaba-kun

    This is indeed a fantastic port, but there is just one thing missing - the song in the opening movie. I'm not talking about the US soundtrack song, I mean the original Japanese song. I have Sonic CD on a real Japanese Mega CD disc, and played it to death, so I was a little sad when I saw the classic opening song was gone.

    This is the song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWuNtHV8fAM

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I suggest reading the review!

      • Anonymous

        The review doesn't mention the song. The US soundtrack plays an entirey different tune. He's right tho. They took out the lyrics on the Jap/ Europe Soundtrack. I wonder why? *sob*

        "Ten, ten, here we go again....."

      • Anonymous

        Found a quote on the missing lyrics from Christian Whitehead himself. It seems it was a legal issue :(

        "I know it's a bit of a bummer that the vocals had to be left out. It's definitely not something due to laziness or something silly. I couldn't tell you the circumstances, but at least from my understanding there are some rights associated with the lyrics themselves.

        My guess is that since Casey Rankin is no longer alive, there might be problems negotiating the use of the lyrics outside of Japan. Please, don't take this as gospel though since I don't work in legal."

  • http://www.taptoplay.de Lakeshore

    Since it is universal, does it sync via iCloud?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YO7R7CJF4PIVWRYCZDPA3T2S4Y Jose

      Yes it does sync with icloud. I downloaded it on my iPad2 and it was also put on my iPhone without my having to sync to my iMac.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Werner-Ruotsalainen/685558551 Werner Ruotsalainen

    iCade support, please!

  • Anonymous

    But what i want to know is, how and why did sega agree to using Christian's version of the game???? Thats awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/johnhood John Hood

    Picked it up on PSN! Is iOS overkill?

  • http://twitter.com/ross_hudgins Ross Hudgins

    Needs bluetooth gamepad support in the worst way.  Good to see these things done right for change though!

  • http://www.lonseidman.com lonseidman

    I agree with the need for gamepad support, but I have to say is that THIS is how game ports need to be done.  It's absolutely spectacular and in some ways even more enjoyable than the original.   

    Kudos to Sega to welcome Christian's passion for the game and hiring him to make it available legally to all of us fans.  I suspect that many people who didn't have the $$$ for the SegaCD back in the day are playing this for the first time.

    Hopefully Sega will give this same treatment to their other Sonic games in the App store.  I'd gladly pay again to have them run this smoothly.

  • http://twitter.com/newjorg Jörg Tittel

    The review says Sonic CD makes "all of Sega's existing ports look absolutely horrid in comparison." I don't think we needed to compare them to anything to realise that Sega had so far only done a hackneyed cash-in job with its ports (except for the excellent ChuChu Rocket!). 

    If it weren't for Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, a fanboy in Australia who took a Sonic CD iOS port in his own hands, Sega would still only be releasing its crap emulators across all platforms, potentially destroying all of its heritage in one fell swoop. 

    At least someone at Sega had the "vision" to hire Whitehead, rather than burying his initially unauthorised port. Hopefully they can put Whitehead in charge of burying all of their previous emulator efforts and starting from scratch.

  • http://twitter.com/hanerlend Erlend D. Handeland

    "in fact, they've even added Tails, who wasn't even present in the original."
    fantastic! does this mean two-player? over bluetooth?

    • Spencer Green

      Unfortunately, no. Tails is merely a second playable character for the story mode.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YO7R7CJF4PIVWRYCZDPA3T2S4Y Jose

    This is an awesome game. While i owned a Sega Genesis back in the day, i never got the Sega CD so never got the chance to see this. It is an awesome job of remaking the game by Christian and i guess kudos goes to Sega for being smart enough not to sue it out of existence.

    I just hope that they allow him to perhaps remake some of their other Sonic games so that they play as smoothly as this one does.

  • peterson90210

    Quality? They should have re-made the graphics for this game too.

    • http://twitter.com/GhibliBlog DanielThomasMacInnes

       Are you kidding?  These graphics rock!  Look at all those colors - the screen isn't drowning in over-bleached lighting, gun-metal grey and desert brown.  The level design is intricate and complex, and it doesn't exist solely to baby-feed you to the next ridiculous cut-scene.  Yes, today's "games" need to be "remade" to the style of the 16-bit era, not the other way around.

  • Sammy Thomas

    SEGA needs to make a time travel machine to 1993 and ask the developers of this game (or their younger selves) how to make a Sonic game as excellent as this. :)

  • DSmith

    Sega. Make phantasy star online ios you know it makes sense. DO IT!

Sonic CD Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5