This morning while making my morning coffee and browsing through my email, I came across the most amazing announcement I’ve seen come out of Sega since the Dreamcast. (Yes, I realize Sega has made other, potentially better announcements since then, but still.) Sonic CD is coming to the App Store. If this doesn’t have you squealing with glee, you must not have been alive during the Sega CD glory days, as Sonic CD is by far the absolute best Sonic game. It comes from the era of gaming before everyone felt the need to shoehorn needless 3D into games that are perfectly suited to be sidescrollers, and it was packed with the various benefits the Sega CD could offer: Full motion video, a fantastic soundtrack, and tons of content. There’s even a radical time traveling mechanic where you can travel between the past and future on the same level.
Now, before we (justifiably) start grumbling about the quality of Sega’s various emulated ports, there may be a glimmer of hope out there that Sonic CD might be everything we could ask for and more in an iOS Sonic game. Long-time readers might be pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. If you’re new to the scene, let me introduce you to this video from over two years ago:
To make a long story short, in the summer of 2009, pioneering iOS developer Christian Whitehead announced his “iPhone Retro Engine" and “Retro Engine Development Kit." Sonic CD was the proof of concept Christian used to show just how incredibly well his technology works. We quickly followed up with an interview with Whitehead who got into some details, and made mention that he did in fact pitch this whole project to Sega.
Not long after that, all traces of the Retro Engine and Sonic CD running in it vanished from the internet. All of the communication after the fact was strictly off the record, but one could easily assume that when someone approaches Sega with a working proof of concept to not only port their games to tons of platforms, but do it quickly, easily, and with great performance, they’re going to jump all over it.
If you’re not quite ready to equip your tinfoil hat and go with me on this, consider this: Everything from Sega’s PR blast this morning perfectly describes Sonic CD as we saw it running on the iPhone two years ago. It’s hitting multiple platforms, widescreen graphics, “special iOS features," achievements, and more. If this were anything but Christian Whitehead’s Sonic CD, my gut is telling me that it’d be running in some wacky variation of the Sega CD’s original 320×224 resolution wrapped in a crazy emulator and not enhanced in the slightest… Because, really, that’s how Sega rolls.
We likely won’t have to wait too long to find out either, as it should be playable this weekend at PAX. Hopefully they’ve got the iPhone version there, and I’d put my money on it looking almost exactly like the above video.
Update: It turns out my gut is calibrated particularly well today, as Sonic Retro has confirmed that Christian Whitehead (via his online alias “The Taxman") is involved with this port and it is in fact using the Retro Engine. Sega’s even provided a teaser trailer:
Seriously, can’t wait.
Update 2: We were contacted Christian, who again confirmed his involvement in this release but mentions that only the Xbox Live Arcade version will be playable at PAX. Bummer! We’ll be keeping our eyes out for the iOS version, that’s for sure.