Of all the Sonic the Hedgehog remakes done by the great Christian Whitehead in his Retro Engine, this is the only one that made it to PC. I am a bit curious about Retro Engine. I was somewhat aware of a Sonic ROM hacking scene, and if Retro Engine was born out of a Sonic ROM, it stands to reason that you could create an identical version of a Sonic game, as far as location of items, enemies and such, and still improve on things like resolution and widescreen support. This beautiful remake runs in 1080p, and the game itself is considered the best of the 16-bit era by many hardcore Sonic fans. I’m glad Sonic CD got a second chance at the spotlight on PC. It’s really a wild ride, and the compact disc allows for higher fidelity music and animated segments, if not just a longer game.
The game starts with an animated segment, with Sonic running through a grassy, rocky terrain with high peaks and low valleys. Strangely, this does not resemble the game’s content a whole lot, but it’s a fun clip, and demonstrates the advantage of the CD format. The game changes the terminology for levels. What was once a Zone is now a Round, and each Round has three Zones instead of three Acts. Rounds include Palmtree Panic, Collision Chaos, Tidal Tempest, Quartz Quadrant, Wacky Workbench, Stardust Speedway, and Metallic Madness. It appears a Round was removed during development, because you go from Round 1 directly to Round 3.
Palmtree Panic is still paying tribute to Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1, and it’s a very vibrant level. Most of all, the timing has changed, like when you hit a ramp, or where you attack an enemy. It’s hard to explain, but it has a different feel to it than other Sonics. Collision Chaos includes a massive pinball machine. Tidal Tempest is the water level, and I hate to be so dismissive, but subsequent Rounds all look a bit similar. Similar because most everything is metallic. Somehow, though, flowers are still able to sprout.
This is the first appearance of Metal Sonic in the series, a creation by Dr. Robotnik to defeat Sonic. Put simply, all you have to do is win a race against him. We also meet Amy Rose, who was introduced in the Sonic manga. Amy is also a hedgehog, and has a crush on Sonic. She follows you to the end of certain Zones. It’s a bit like saving Princess Peach from Bowser. The final boss here is much easier, unlike games before it.
I have said nothing of time manipulation. You will cross signs that are labeled “Future” and “Past.” There are technically four levels in each Zone: Present, Past, Good Future, and Bad Future. I am unsure how the future is chosen, other than perhaps finishing the level in good time with some rings. The music is superb, and you can hear the Redbook audio. The excellent soundtrack is probably one of the things, if not the thing, Sonic CD did right. All the better, in the 2012 remake, you can pick between the US and Japanese soundtrack before playing. Once again, this is a favorite of many Sonic fans. Though I do recommend it, there is definitely more level variety in other games of the series.