The developer who helped bring Sonic CD to mobile platforms in a flawless port is back with a new port, this time of the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Christian Whitehead has brought his remastering touch to the Sonic game that started it all, dramatically improving and modernizing the emulated Genesis version currently on the App Store. Thanks to the rebuilt game’s new native engine, the graphics now support the Retina Display, widescreen, and the iPad. The virtual controls are improved as well, and some minor tweaks and improvements to pathing that will make the game play better than ever.
For extras, there’s the ability to see the US, EU, or JP version of the Sonic 1 cart in the menu, and to play a new Time Attack mode. This revamp releases in April, and will be a free update for those who already own Sonic 1 on the App Store, and will be available on Android as well with gamepad support.
Sonic CD is back for the new generation, albeit only being distributed via digital media this time around. I am not exaggerating when I say that Sonic CD is quite possibly the best port job of a game to mobile ever. While Sega’s Genesis emulation engine has worked a lot better on the more-powerful hardware than it did back in the days of the iPhone 3G, this native engine is a blessing. Designed by Sonic super-fan Christian Whitehead, who designed an engine for running classic Sonic games with their specific physics on any hardware the engine was ported to. Sonic nerds are unstoppable.
Sonic CD follows the basic format of every Sonic game so far: run to right, collect rings, perform the general act of “platforming”. What Sonic CD does differently is in its rarely-imitated time travel system. Players cross “Past” and “Future” lampposts, which will send the player to the past and future after running at top speed for a certain amount of time. In the past, players can find a robot generator that, if destroyed, guarantees a “good future”, where everything is sunshine, rainbows, and happiness, and I mean that pretty much literally. Getting the good future in the first two acts makes the third act, which is a boss fight, a good future, and often makes it easier.
The engine looks and runs perfectly on Android, and very crisp on high-resolution screens. The game supports Android tablets perfectly as well. That the game is running on a new engine instead of a port means that new tweaks and features can be added, and added they have. The spin dash from Sonic 2 and later can be used in replacement of the Sonic CD spin dash, and Tails can be unlocked when beating the game. Tails makes it easier to explore the levels.
The game itself holds up really well; the time travel aspect is not something seen in many other games, and and it emphasizes both adventure, in trying to discover the locations of the generators, and speed, in trying to travel in time in the first place. The soundtracks are great as well; both the original Japanese soundtrack and the American soundtrack are available, so hardcore Sonic fans can finally listen to the game in the way they want to.
Pretty much the only issue with Sonic CD is the controls; the d-pad is kind of small, but that’s about it. The game holds up really well, and its relative scarcity in terms of re-releases makes it only that much more special now. Plus, the reworked engine makes the game feel just like it did back in the halcyon days of 1993, unlike other emulated titles that are exact replications of their original titles. Anyone who’s a fan of the 16-bit era, and especially those who haven’t played this gem yet. The love and work that went into this game is impressive.