Dr. Robotnik's latest scheme involves the mysterious Little Planet, which appears on the last month of every year over Never Lake. The Little Planet houses the seven Time Stones, with which the holder obtains the ability to travel through time and space. With the control of time, nothing could stop the evil Dr. Robotnik! Never fear, however, because Sonic the Hedgehog is on the case! Unfortunately, Robotnik has decided to unleash Metal Sonic to keep the hedgehog hero at bay; and kidnap Amy Rose to further complicate the problem. In fact, Robotnik's already made use of the Little Planet's lack of any boundaries on time, and has placed robot machines in the past so he controls the future. Now Sonic's got to stop Robotnik, destroy the robot machines, collect the seven Time Stones, save Amy Rose, and deal with Metal Sonic on a tiny planet where time has no meaning! -- from the manual

This game was Sonic the Hedgehog's only appearance on the failed Sega CD. The game is closer in style to the original Sonic the Hedgehog game for Sega Genesis than to any other game in the series. The Sonic sprite is taken directly from the first game and featured additional animation to take full advantage of the Sega CD's abilities. Furthermore, Sonic takes on this adventure alone; Tails and his other friends are nowhere to be found in the game, except for a hidden picture of Tails with the message "See You Next Game!" below him.

The gameplay is unique to say the least. Sonic begins each level in the Present. In order to fully complete the game he must travel to the Past in each level and destroy both the Badnik Machine and the Metal Sonic Hologram. Doing this creates a good Future where no evil can be found. Failure to complete these objectives allows Dr. Robotnik to control the future. Sonic travels through time in a nod to Back to the Future. He has to pass by signposts labeled "Past" and "Future", then run at top speed without stopping for several seconds. Doing so will cause sparkly stars to form behing the hedgehog and after a few seconds he'll rocket through time, arriving in the same location in the same level in another time frame. Past levels are foresty and pristine, Bad Future levels are dirty and stuffed with painful technology.

Then there's this business involving the Time Stones. The Time Stones are Sonic CD's version of the Chaos Emeralds. They can be found in the bonus rounds. To enter the bonus round Sonic must collect 50 rings in a stage and cross the goal with them. If he does so a large ring will appear over the goal (as in the original Sonic the Hedgehog). Jump into the ring to go to the 3D bonus round where Sonic has to run around an obstacle course and jump into UFOs, thus smashing them. Smash the required number of UFOs to gain a Time Stone.

And what about Metal Sonic? This mechanical hedgehog swipes the sweet Amy Rose away in the beginning of level 2. Eventually Sonic will have to face off with his mechanical doppleganger in a speedy race to the finish, with Amy as the prize.

If Sonic can collect all the Time Stones, make a Good Future in every level, and beat Dr. Robotnik then he'll get the Good Ending and totally complete the game. Not completing one of the above leads to the "Try Again" Bad Ending.

The game includes the following levels:

  • Palmtree Panic Zone
  • Collision Chaos Zone
  • Tidal Tempest Zone
  • Quartz Quadrant Zone
  • Wacky Workbench Zone
  • Stardust Speedway Zone
  • Metallic Madness Zone
Each level consists of two stages and one boss stage. The boss stage always occurs in the future; whether or not it's a Good Future or a Bad Future depends on Sonic's performance in the two stages previous.

Sonic CD may not have broken any sales records or set anyone's "Best Games" list on fire, but it definitely deserves a second look (or a first look if you've never experienced it before). The 1995 PC version is still on sale for as little as $10 in some stores in the discount bin (although it only plays on Windows 95 and some Windows 98 systems) and the Sega CD ISO is playable on emulators if you know where to look. Note that there are two versions of the PC port: an OEM version that is slightly buggy and does not rely on DirectX and a DirectX friendly version that was sold in the retail market. Furthermore, the Japanese and English versions of the game differ in that Japan's version contains a different soundtrack than the American/European version. The game was rumored to be included in Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo GameCube, but Sonic Team has stated that the game was removed due to emulation issues. If you poke around the Internet you might find the prototype pictures of the game in which Sonic CD is available from the main menu.

Go get 'em, Sonic!


References:
http://www.sonic-cult.org
Thanks to mfk for information about Tails' hidden appearance.

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