Sonic CD and the CDX

There was a pretty significant chunk of my life where the Sega Genesis was my favorite console.  I got it primarily for some uncensored Mortal Kombat brutality but soon got hooked onto the system’s other franchises, franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog.  My first Genesis was the Model 2 which included the pack-in game Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and I played the Hell out of it.  Soon after, one of my rare non Christmas or birthday acquisitions would be Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and was probably the first game I ever beat 100% by collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds in all three game modes (Sonic, Tails, and Sonic with Tails).

The elusive Sega CD. It may be huge, but I do confess I think it looks pretty sleak. Of course, this picture doesn't include all of the wires needed to operate both the Genesis and the Sega CD at the same time.

I loved that blue Hedgehog and his two-tailed companion, even Knuckles was pretty cool.  I also played and beat the original Sonic game and continued on with the franchise through the Dreamcast days.  One game that I never did get a chance to play though was Sonic CD.  Sonic CD was, of course, the flagship title for Sega’s CD add-on to the Genesis.  The attachment was not only expensive, it was also terrible and cumbersome.  Don’t believe me, then check out what The Nerd had to say about it a few years ago.  Sure there are some worthwhile games out there, but sadly they were quite few and far between.  I don’t even remember asking my parents for one because that’s a big request.  To get that for Xmas would mean I’d probably get nothing else, and since the software wasn’t very compelling, I learned to make do without.

That meant I could never play Sonic CD, for not only did I never get a Sega CD, I didn’t even know anyone who did.  Feeling nostalgic, I decided I needed to play this game.  I know quite a bit about the Sega CD and that it can be a pretty spotty attachment.  I still have my old Genesis, but I didn’t want to dedicate the shelf space for it and it’s parasitic attachment.  Sonic CD did get released on a compilation a few years back on the Gamecube, Sonic Gems Collection, but it was pretty buggy.  Still, the cheap price tempted me on the resale market until I remembered Sega’s final Genesis revision:  CDX.

The CDX, and for size comparison, a standard Playstation CD jewel case and a more current portable music device, the iPod Touch.

The CDX came out late in the Genesis’ life cycle.  It combined the hardware of the Genesis with the Sega CD in a compact case meant to also function as a portable CD player.  Like most mid-90’s portable CD players, it was really bulky and was not at all shy about sucking the juice from AA batteries making it extremely impractical.  Considering it’s 2011 though, I couldn’t care less about that part of the package and found myself very interested in it’s compact size and functionality.

To eBay I went, only to find that a CDX wasn’t going to come cheap, but like with a lot of things, once I decide I want it there’s no turning back.  After missing out on a few auctions I finally came away with one in pristine condition last week along with 2 copies of Sonic CD, the original (in jewel case) and the re-release that came packaged with the CDX.

Since getting it last week I’ve played and beaten Sonic CD.  Was it worth the 15 year wait?  Probably not.  I had often heard fans cite Sonic CD as the best of the 2D Sonic titles (which I suppose would make it the best Sonic title) and I didn’t come away with that impression.  My favorite is still Sonic 3, especially once added to Sonic & Knuckles.  Sonic CDreminds me quite a bit of the first Sonic game.  In this one Sonic is flying solo and Robotnik is once again up to no good.  This time he’s got a new toy for Sonic to deal with, Metal Sonic!  Metal Sonic makes his first appearance early on and kidnaps Sonic’s girl,

The original Sega CD cases were similar in size to a standard DVD case but made of plastic like a CD jewel case. They were also thicker but just as fragile making it easy to see why DVDs never came in a similar package. The above Sonic CD is the one that came with the CDX which is similar to a digi-pack release only with no room for the booklet.

Amy, giving Sonic even more motivation to kick some ass.  The play mechanics are traditional Sonic, though he does have a couple of new moves.  The spin dash returns from Sonic 2 and he can also rev-up in a standing position.  I never really found much of a use for it as the spin dash puts Sonic into an invulnerable rolling position, but it’s nice to have.  The bonus stage is from a behind the hedgehog perspective once again, only this time you’re guiding Sonic over a pseudo race track to smash these flying saucer type things.  Smash them all in the alloted time and get a time stone.  The time stones are part of the lore of the game’s setting which allows Sonic to do something he’s never been able to do before – time travel.  In each non boss battle zone, Sonic can travel backwards or forwards in time.  This is mostly a gimmick, but it does add variety to the levels so you can experience them in a slightly different way on repeat play-throughs.  Otherwise, it’s possible to make it through the entire game without ever accessing this feature.

Just because the game didn’t live up the hype for me, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.  The level design is cool and the gameplay tried and true Sonic.  I did find the boss battles too easy though, and the confrontation with Metal Sonic was really anti-climatic.  The game also experienced more slow-down than other games.  In all Sonic titles, it’s not uncommon for the game to stutter a bit when Sonic takes damage and loses a large amount of rings.  I found it more frequent with Sonic CDand sometimes the enemy sprites would disappear when this happened as well.  I suppose that’s the trade-off when switching to CD.  I’ve also heard the CDX is more prone to this sort of thing than the Sega CD was, though that was usually in reference to FMV sequences but I’m still leaving it open as a possibility.  The soundtrack is nice, though the poppy up-tempo “Sonic Boom”

The CDX is much smaller than the Genesis and Sega CD combo, but for a portable CD player it's still pretty bulky.

title song isn’t really my kind of thing.  I also miss the classic invincibility music from the first two Sonic games.  I didn’t beat the game completely, which is to say, I didn’t achieve the best ending.  By going back in time in each zone, Sonic can create a good future for the zone by destroying a robot generator.  I didn’t do that for each level, and I didn’t get all of the time stones  I plan on giving it a shot, even if the FMV animated endings are all pretty lame.

This isn’t the end for me and the Sega CDX though.  Not only did I get Sonic CD, I also got the two Ecco the Dolphin games and a compilation title.  There are a few select other Sega CD games I want to check out, and I also plan to make use of that Genesis port in the not so distant future.  It’s a pretty cool little device and I plan on getting my money’s worth with it.  This also isn’t the end of nostalgic video game topics.  Not only can you expect further Sega Genesis and CD titles to pop up on here, but I’ve also decided to get into Neo Geo and plan on having a lot to say about it.

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