I played a lot of Sega Genesis as a kid. Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, ToeJam & Earl — that console had some really great games.
So when the Sega CD came out, obviously I had to have it.
I was in Junior High at the time, so I probably wasn’t allowed to work legally, but that didn’t stop me from shoveling shingles for my dad’s roofing/construction business for $4 an hour. With the Sega CD’s asking price at $299.99, that was 75 hours of pre-teen slave labor.
But I wanted that Sega CD, so I persisted, and I finally got my hands on the console (which, by the way, was an add-on to the original Genesis, meaning you couldn’t play at all if you didn’t first purchase a Genesis.)
Unfortunately, the Sega CD was a grand experiment for cinematic storytelling. If you’re thinking Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted, well, that’s not what this was.
No, this was an excuse to record live-action footage and use it in video games. It was typically used for making what was essentially nothing more than choose-your-own-adventure games with live-action cutscenes. If that sounds cool at all in concept, I assure you, it wasn’t.
However, there’s one gem of a game that at least partially justified the purchase: Sonic CD.
I strongly believe that Sonic CD is the golden standard for what a Sonic game should be. It was a 16-bit 2D side-scroller with traditional high-speed Sonic gameplay. The twist was that there were four complete versions of most of the levels — Past, Present, Good Future, and Bad Future.
Sonic would travel between timelines by hitting a sign and then travelling at a certain speed (I want to say it’s 88 miles per hour, but there’s no way to be certain). You could manipulate this time-travelling system by getting rings in the future, then travelling to the past and collecting them over again.
Of course, arguably the coolest thing that Sonic CD brought to the table was the “Sonic Boom” song and animation.
I always thought that this was the feel that the Sonic cartoon should have gone for from the very beginning.
Was it worth all the back-breaking work I had to do in order to get my hands on the console? I doubt it. Though, to be fair, the Sega CD also had Lunar and a Myst-like Jurassic Park adventure game, which were both fantastic (though not the system-seller that Sonic CD was).
Either way, Sonic CD will always stand out among my favorite games ever made, and I’m glad I got the chance to play it way back in the mid-90s. Having replayed it as an adult (now that it’s available on Xbox Live and PSN), I still see this as the Sonic series’ glorious pinnacle.