Back Issues [Sonic CDay]: The Sonic Terminator

Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993) released on this day back in 1993. produced alongside the blockbuster Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic CD expanded upon the Blue Blur’s original debut title with lush graphics, a time travel mechanic, gorgeous anime cutscnes, and by introducing players to Metal Sonic (one of Sonic’s most popular and enduring rivals) and Amy Rose. Considered by many to be one of the best of the classic Sonic titles, Sonic CD might not be one of my favourites but it’s still a classic in it’s own right and worth a bit of celebration.

Story Title: “The Sonic Terminator (Part 1 to 5)”
Published: 29 April 1994 to 24 June 1994
Writer: Nigel Kitching
Artist: Richard Elson

The Background:
After Sonic the Hedgehog catapulted to mainstream success and helped SEGA to usurp Nintendo’s position at the top of the videogame industry, SEGA were quick to capitalise on Sonic’s popularity not just with videogames but also a slew of merchandise, including cartoons and comic books. About six months after Archie Comics began publishing a weird amalgamation of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993 to 1996) and Sonic the Hedgehog/SatAM (1993 to 1994) cartoons, United Kingdom publisher Fleetway Editions Limited began publishing “Britain’s Official SEGA Comic”, Sonic the Comic (StC), a fortnightly publication that I collected diligently until its unfortunate end. Though pulling much of its lore from the now defunct Mobius and Doctor Ovi Kintobor storyline that was prevalent outside of Japan, StC was its own beast entirely and quickly veered away from the source material to recast Sonic the a mean-spirited leader of a gang of Freedom Fighters made up of both videogame characters and anthropomorphic characters adapted from the videogames. Like the Archie comics, StC often included a few very loose adaptations of the videogames, though these were often truncated or took the very basic idea of the source material and adapted it to fit with its noticeably different lore. Their adaptation of Sonic CD was no different, renaming Metal Sonic to Metallix and introducing one of the comic’s more dangerous and persistent secondary antagonists.

The Review:
“The Sonic Terminator” begins with the dramatic and violent death of Sonic the Hedgehog! Not to worry, though, this is simply a “practice robot” that was trashed by a blindly fast, electrically-charged figure that is kept in the shadows and only vaguely hinted at. Both Doctor Ivo Robotnik (who, at this point, was directly modelled on the character’s look from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog) and his assistant, Grimer, are pleased as punch with the results of this final test and prepare to send their new creation out to kill the real Sonic. Speaking of whom, Sonic is currently in the Emerald Hill Zone, where Robotnik’s Troopers (basically StC’s version of Swat-Bots in that they are humanoid robots that Sonic is able to smash without holding back as, unlike Badniks, they’re not powered by woodland critters) are arresting an entire village. Despite the concerns of his fellow Freedom Fighters (Porker Lewis, Johnny Lightfoot, Amy Rose, and Miles “Tails” Prower), Sonic rushes in to save the villagers and the entire gang winds up captured as a result, much to Johnny’s chagrin. Sonic, however, retains his steadfast cocky attitude; even when they come face-to-face with Trusk, the captain of the prison ship, and are told that they are being taken directly to Robotnik’s Badnik processing plant at the Veg-O-Fortress, Sonic simply yawns with boredom.

The first two issues are more concerned with a side plot involving the Sky Pirates.

This turns out to be because Sonic has some formidable backup on hand in the form of Captain Plunder and his Sky Pirates, a group of mercenaries and…well, pirates…who Sonic encountered in the Mystic Cave Zone in a previous issue. Thanks to Captain Plunder, Trusk is captured and the prisoners are freed but Porker accidentally lets slip to Filch the Poltergeist where Sonic’s cache of Chaos Emeralds is hidden and the pirates speed off the steal the booty. However, Sonic and the gang are easily able to follow them to North Cave and a fight breaks out; although Sonic is able to incapacitate most of Captain Plunder’s crew using his Super Spin Attack and both Amy and Tails are able to fight them off with their crossbow and a rock, respectively, Captain Plunder gets the upper hand when he takes Tails hostage. This, of course, earns Tails Sonic’s exasperated disdain (not only is StC-Sonic incredibly arrogant, pig-headed, and rude, he also has a tendency to insult his closest friends and constantly degrades Tails with the nickname “Pixel Brain”. It’s actually pretty fantastic to see him be such a snarky asshole all the time) and he is forced to allow Captain Plunder to take the six Chaos Emeralds.

Metallix is immediately established as a fearsome and merciless opponent.

Amusingly, however, rather than the evil energy of the Chaos Emeralds augmenting the Sky Pirates’ disreputable demeanours, they actually have the opposite effect since they absorb evil rather than radiate it and, as a result, Sonic is easily able to retrieve the gems from the now docile (and hippy-like) thieves. This happy ending, however, is mired in the dramatic reveal of StC’s version of Metal Sonic, Metallix, which attacks the Emerald Hill Zone with destructive energy blasts from its stomach laser and demands Sonic’s presence for “extermination”. “Part 3” of the story continues this threat and finally gets around to actually adapting the story of Sonic CD by having Metallix kidnap Amy to lure Sonic the Never Lake; although Sonic is busy playing Marxio Brothers, and despite his grouchy nature, he immediately rushes over to Never Lake and is shocked to find the forest that is usually growing there is gone and that the Miracle Planet has been transformed into a mechanical hellscape. After rescuing Amy from atop a steep column of rock, he snaps at her to cut out the hero worship and tell him what’s been going on. She manages to tell him that Dr. Robotnik has chained the Miracle Planet to Never Lake and transformed it into his newest base before any further exposition is rudely interrupted by Metallix.

Metallix takes Amy to the Miracle Planet and they are trapped there, cut off from greater Mobius.

Over the course of a few action-packed panels, a fight breaks out between Sonic and his unusually loquacious doppelgänger; Metallix tosses boulders at Sonic, all of which he is able to expertly hop over and burrow through, but he is surprised by the robot’s chest laser. The two them battle so fast and so aggressively that neither Amy, nor the reader, are able to make out the action. In the aftermath, Metallix emerges from the dust and smoke as the apparent victor before collapsing into shutdown. Sonic, battered and weary, still finds the energy to insult Amy but, while he appears to have defeated his robotic counterpart, Metallix hits him with a cheap shot and takes Amy to the Miracle Planet as “live bait” and the unimpressed Sonic races off in pursuit. By the time the Freedom Fighters arrive to help, they’re already too late as the Miracle Planet disappears before their eyes, trapping all on its surface in another dimension for an entire month. On the miniature world, Sonic quickly reunites with Amy (much to his dismay) in what appears to be the Bad Future of Metallic Madness. Both characters question how Dr. Robotnik was able to convert the Miracle Planet so quickly, given that the previous month showed no signs of his influence, but their conversation (and the prospect of them being marooned there for a month) is soon interrupted by Metallix. Uncharacteristically, Sonic chooses to flee rather than fight but, as Metallix charges its laser to kill Amy, he comes flying back in with a big Spin Attack after running around the entire planet in a few seconds. Metallix, however, is able to draw additional power from the mechanical surface of the planet; this allows him to erect an electrical shield and charge up a kill shot for his prey after Sonic trips on a loose cable.

Thanks to time travel shenanigans, Metallix is soundly defeated…for now..

Sonic and Amy are saved, however, by the sudden appearance by another Sonic, this one diminutive in stature and holding a grey stone. Sonic #1 is immediately suspicious of the newcomer but Sonic #2 forces him into an energy beam that turns him into a midget as well. Sonic #2 is able to tell Sonic #1 about the grey object he’s holding; it’s the Time Stone, a relic able to transport the holder back into the past and, while Sonic #2 distracts the recovered (and now, from their perspective, gigantic) Metallix, Sonic #1 races off to the past. Arriving in what appears to be Palmtree Panic before Dr. Robotnik polluted the Miracle Planet with his machinery, Sonic’s shock over the sudden disappearance of the Time Stone gives way to his awe at the presence of a massive piece of mechanical hardware. This is StC’s version of the Robot Transporter from the game, which is in the process of transforming and polluting the environment; thanks to having been shrunk, Sonic is easily able to hop inside of the machine and remove its power source, the Time Stone. Having destroyed the machine, Sonic uses the Time Stone to travel back to the present and, in the process, becomes Sonic #2 as he saves his past-self from Metallix, gifts him the Time Stone, and orders him to race off just as he was directed in order to continue the time loop. Although Metallix attacks Sonic with all its power, the environment begins to change around them as his actions in the past catch up to the present; as a result, not only is Dr. Robotnik’s influence erased from the Miracle Planet and Sonic returned to his normal height but Metallix is wiped from existence and the story ends with Sonic facing an entire month alone with Amy.

The Summary:
Now remember, I read Sonic the Comic religiously as a kid; for me, it was one of three influential factors into my fandom for Sonic (the others being the cartoons and, of course, the games themselves) so there is not only a lot of nostalgia there whenever I revisit the comic but quite a bit of bias as I was a big fan of the original stories StC told, its characterisations, and the way they included some elements from the videogames. As a result, I remember enjoying “The Sonic Terminator” as a kid but, as an adaptation of Sonic CD, it’s definitely lacking in many areas. Perhaps the biggest drawback to the story is that it spends two issues messing about with a side plot involving Captain Plunder; at the time, each story in StC was about five pages long so right away the writers have wasted ten pages of story on something that has nothing to do with Sonic CD, though it also appears as though the writers and artists had very little to work with when putting this story together.

Metallix steals the show and comes across as a formidable new villain for Sonic.

Indeed, they must have seen the opening video and maybe a few screenshots and had a rudimentary understanding of the game but there is next to nothing from Sonic CD included beyond the absolute bare minimum. There is only one Time Stone, for example; hardly any locations from the game are used, no enemies or Badniks beyond Metal Sonic appear, and Dr. Robotnik is practically non-existent for the entire story. One benefit of this, however, is that it means Metallix takes centre stage as the primary antagonist. Unlike other interpretations of Metal Sonic, Metallix is very chatty; it taunts Sonic, constantly calculates the odds of success and failure, and comes across as a very threatening and formidable foe not only in its array of attacks and blinding speed but also in its durability. It’s not often in StC that Sonic is unable to trash his robotic foes in one hit and Metallix was certainly the most persistent enemy he has encountered at this point. Even though this story seems to spell the end of the character, Metallix would return with a vengeance later down the line as part of the Brotherhood of Metallix and would be a formidable recurring adversary for Sonic, his friends, and even Dr. Robotnik.

The story’s art is incredible and elevates it despite lacking fidelity to Sonic CD.

What really makes “The Sonic Terminator” shine is the excellent artwork from the always incredible Richard Elson. Elson was to StC what Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante was to the Archie comics and he always delivered on portraying Sonic and the other characters in such a dynamic way. His rendition of Metal Sonic is fantastic and the way he conveys Sonic’s speed is brilliant, allowing for some action-packed panels that really sell the gruelling nature of Sonic’s clash against his doppelgänger. While there isn’t much for the other Freedom Fighters to do, this is at least in keeping with the solo nature of Sonic CD and, while the story isn’t a direct one-to-one adaptation of the source material, StC pretty much never did this when producing the few adaptations they did do over the years. As a result, “The Sonic Terminator” is a great story in the StC canon and perfectly sets Metallix up as a frightening adversary (and therefore a significant story in the large StC lore) but is maybe not so great for those expecting a more literal adaptation of Sonic CD.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever read “The Sonic Terminator”, or any issues of Sonic the Comic for that matter? If so, what did you think of the story and the way it introduced its version of Metal Sonic? Were you disappointed by how few elements from Sonic CD were present in the story or were you just happy to see Sonic and Metallix go at it? Which of StC’s original characters was your favourite and what did you think to Sonic’s characterisation? How are you celebrating Sonic CD’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic CD, or Sonic in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Sonic CDay]: Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Xbox One)

Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993) released on this day back in 1993. Produced alongside the blockbuster Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic CD expanded upon the Blue Blur’s original debut title with lush graphics, a time travel mechanic, gorgeous anime cutscenes, and introduced players to Metal Sonic (one of Sonic’s most popular and enduring rivals) and Amy Rose. Considered by many to be one of the best of the classic Sonic titles, Sonic CD might not be one of my favourites but it’s still a classic in it’s own right and it’s worth looking back on today of all days.

Released: 14 December 2011
Originally Released: 23 September 1993
Developer: Christian Whitehead
Original Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: GameCube, Mega-CD, PC, PlayStation 2, SEGA Mega Drive Mini II (Original); Mobile, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox Series S/X (Remaster)

The Background:
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) was specifically created and marketed as SEGA’s Nintendo-beater and, thanks to selling over 15 million copies, succeeded in its goal. Naturally, SEGA were eager to produce a sequel but, rather than create one game, they ended up making two! With Sonic creator Yuji Naka having moved to America to work on Sonic 2, Sonic’s designer, Naoto Oshima, spearheaded an entirely separate title built on the bones of the first game that would be exclusive to SEGA’s ill-fated CD add-on for the Mega Drive.

Sonic CD is largely known as one of the best Sonic games and was made widely available in 2011.

With Sonic 2 more focused on speed, Oshima placed Sonic CD’s focus more on platforming and exploration with its speed-based time travel mechanic (which was cut from Sonic 2) and included gorgeous anime cutscenes from Toei Animation (which would later be the basis for the feature-length original video animation). Artist Kazuyuki Hoshino designed Sonic’s metallic doppelgänger and biggest fan, Amy Rose (though that character actually debuted, in a slightly different form, in a 1992 manga), both of which were as pivotal to the game as the time travel elements. Despite the game’s U.S. release being delayed for an entirely new soundtrack, Sonic CD was met with widespread critical acclaim but, for many such as myself, the game was somewhat elusive since no one I knew had a Mega-CD and it just wasn’t the same playing the PC version. I first played the game properly when it was included in Sonic Gems Collection (Sonic Team, 2005) but jumped at the chance to play the HD remaster when it first dropped on the PlayStation 3. Developed by Christian Whitehead, this new version of the game was widely available, included Achievement support, numerous bug fixes, and a whole host of new elements that make it the definitive version of this cult classic entry in the franchise.

The Plot:
When the mysterious Little Planet has makes its annual appearance, Sonic travels to Never Lake but finds the planet has been overtaken by Doctor Eggman’s Badniks! When Sonic’s number one fan, Amy Rose, is kidnapped by his robotic doppelgänger, Metal Sonic, Sonic must race across time itself to keep Eggman from polluting the past, recover the seven Time Stones, and ensure a good future for Little Planet!

Sonic CD is a 2D, sidescrolling action platformer that once again sees you guiding the titular blue hedgehog across seven stages (known as “Zones”), each split into three parts (simply called “Zone 1” to “Zone 3” rather than being called “Acts”). At the end of each third Act, Sonic must battle Eggman in one of his contraptions but there’s quite a twist this time around. This time, as well as passing Lampposts to create a checkpoint, Sonic will also run past special signposts; once one of these has been triggered, Sonic will begin to sparkle as he runs and, if he builds up enough uninterrupted speed, he will travel to the past or the future depending on which post he activated. While the general layout of the Zone remains the same in the past, present, and future, there are numerous aesthetic and difficulty differences in each one. The past is generally much more lush and vibrant, lacking many of Eggman’s traps and Badniks; the present is a standard-fare Sonic stage; and the future is a pollution and hazard-infested mechanical hell. When in the past, Sonic must search high and low for a Robot Transporter and a holographic projection of Metal Sonic; destroying both in Zone 1 and 2 ensures that Zone 3 earns a good future, which strips it of all Badniks and hazards and even makes the boss battles noticeably easier.

Sonic CD‘s biggest gimmick is the speed-based time travel mechanic.

If you’ve played the first Sonic game then you’ll be immediately familiar with Sonic’s controls and physics. Sonic’s speed, jumping power, and abilities all carry over, making him as tight and responsive as ever, but he is afforded two new abilities. One is a variation on the Sonic 2 Spin Dash (it’s not quite as useful or as fast as in that game, though) and the other is Sonic’s Super Peel-Out manoeuvre, which sees Sonic rev up his legs until they become little more than a blurry figure eight and then rocket ahead at full speed, which is perfect for the few instances where you have the room to travel fast enough to time travel. Sadly, there’s not always the opportunity to do this; like in the first game, Sonic has to earn his breakneck speeds and, all too often, you’ll go running or rolling ahead in a blur of spikes only to slam head-first into a wall, a pit, a bumper, or poorly-placed enemies and hazards. This makes the time travel much harder to pull off than it needs to be as you’ll constantly be fighting to find a long enough stretch of ground or the right opportunity to build up your speed only to accidentally screw up the attempt at the last minute. Similarly, there’s a much greater emphasis on exploration and platforming this time around; every Zone feels like a mixture of speed, loops, and obstacles and the level design is questionable at best and haphazard at worst, with Golden Rings floating inside of the environment and your progress to the many alternate paths either blocked or protected by dead-ends and endless loops. As a result, when you travel back to the past, it can be extremely difficult to navigate through the Zones to find the Robot Transporters and projectors even in the more linear Zones; the bigger, more complicated Zones like Wacky Workbench and Metallic Madness make it nearly impossible to do without a guide or copious amounts of trial and error.

There’s still plenty of opportunities to be bounced around despite the many stage hazards.

Still, speed is a prominent factor in the game; thanks to the Super Peel-Out and new gameplay mechanics, Sonic is much faster than he was in the first game and is still bounced all over the place like a pinball in Zones like Collision Chaos. Indeed, there are technically two ways to play; the slow, methodical Sonic CD way which has you hunting down objects in the past or the faster, more Sonic 2 way which has you racing through Zones as fast as possible and completing them holding fifty Rings or more to enter the game’s Special Stages. Once again, Golden Rings act as your protection from damage; they’ll scatter everywhere when you’re hit and, as always, Sonic is in danger of drowning when underwater in the distinctly Labyrinth Zone-like Tidal Tempest but, thankfully, you don’t seem to spend anywhere near as much time underwater in this Zone. As is to be expected, every Zone has different gimmicks (such as moving or crumbling platforms, tubes, conveyor belts, bumpers, and the like) but these actually change when you travel through time, meaning different routes become accessible in each time period. Zones also take on more and more gimmicks (most of them very dangerous) as you progress but even the first Zone, Palmtree Panic, is crammed full of different ways to navigate. As a result, you’ll be bouncing all over the place in Wacky Workbench but fighting against treadmills and cogs in Quartz Quadrant, racing along tunnels and vast stretches of ground in Stardust Speedway, and dodging spikes, buzzsaws, and a bevy of hazards in Metallic Madness (which also features a unique shrinking mechanic). Thankfully, bottomless pits are a rarity in Sonic CD but crushing weights, sudden spikes, electrified coils, and falling boulders and stalactites more than make up for that! Also, Sonic CD is as difficult as you make it be; if you choose not to try and take the higher, easier, and faster routes or purposely visit the bad futures, then you’re going to have a much tougher time of it than if you actively try and create a good future. This places much more emphasis on your actions actually having consequences as, normally, you only restore (or fail) the world when you lose all of your lives or fail to collect all the jewels but, in Sonic CD, you can actively affect and improve each Zone on a case-by-case basis by collecting the Time Stones or destroying Eggman’s machinery in the past.

Graphics and Sound:
Thanks to the graphical enhancements of the Mega-CD, Sonic CD may very well be one of the most visually striking and vibrant games in the franchise, especially amongst the classic titles. Every Zone is awash with colour and life and full of little details and background elements; every time you travel to the past or future, the Zone gets a complete facelift and takes a much more verdant or ominous light depending on how well you play which really adds to the replayability of the game as every Zone has, essentially, four parts to it (past, present, good future, and bad future) that all present a different aesthetic and challenge while still maintaining the basic structure of the Zone.

Zones are packed full of details and vibrant colours but can look a little busy at times.

Zones have a real depth to them, allowing you to see into the distance and take in just how badly Eggman has affected each environment. You might see a vast sea full of ruins in the past of Palmtree Panic but all you’ll see is pollution and machinery in the bad future; similarly, Tidal Tempest is an unblemished cave in the past but has been transformed into a mechanical base in the future. Zones are also full of interesting and unique graphical mechanics, such as the pseudo-3D ramp at the start of Palmtree Panic, the Mode-7-like Special Stages, how a certain tube in Palmtree Panic will send Sonic smashing through the background and leave a Sonic-shaped hole in his wake, and the way graphics change size as you bounce and run all over the place. Unfortunately, though, I often find Sonic CD’s Zones to be a little too busy; there’s a lot going in the background and foreground, a lot of competing, clashing colours (especially in the garish pink of Collision Chaos), and it can be difficult to keep track of where you are and what’s going on sometimes.

The power of the Mega-CD makes for some gorgeous and well-animated sprites.

The sprites have, however, benefitted greatly from the graphical upgrade; Sonic has more animation frames and a more dynamic moveset and seems far more lively and energetic despite the majority of his assets being lifted from the first game. Sonic also speaks a little bit, shouting out “Yes!” when he grabs and extra life and “I’m outta here!” when left idle for a few minutes (which causes an instant game over). Other sounds, however, are not quite as appreciated, such as the sound Sonic makes when he jumps (which is decidedly squeakier and much more annoying and it also bugs me when it is recycled in both fan-made and official Sonic games). The bosses, too, are bigger and more elaborate than in the first game, requiring actual strategy on your part to defeat and even Amy Rose gets a lot of personality as she follows Sonic around like a love-sick puppy, desperately trying to hug him while love hearts adorably fly from her head.

The anime sequences really bolster the game’s appeal and capture Sonic’s essence.

Of course, you can’t talk about Sonic CD without mentioning the anime cutscenes and the soundtrack. The opening and ending of the game features gorgeously animated anime sequences that showcase Sonic at his best, in my opinion; I loved that these were expanded upon in Sonic the Hedgehog (Ikegami, 1999) and I would absolutely be over the moon if they were brought back for future Sonic games. Sonic CD’s soundtrack is also one of the most beloved and contested in the franchise; many prefer the original Japanese soundtrack and, while that is good, it’s much more peppy and vibrant and happy-go-lucky than Spencer Nilsen’s version for the U.S. As a result, while I prefer some tracks from the Japanese soundtrack, overall I prefer the U.S. one; the invincibility music is better, the boss theme is better, and the U.S. soundtrack is much more in the style of rock and metal than anything else, which I prefer.

Enemies and Bosses:
Once again, Sonic must contend with Eggman’s Badniks; unlike in the majority of the classic Sonic titles, Badniks don’t drop cute woodland critters and, instead, blossom flowers upon defeat (again tying into the game’s overall theme of restoring Little Planet to health) and, honestly, they’re far less prominent than in other 2D Sonic titles. Indeed, Sonic CD’s Badniks mainly exist to screw up your run-up to a time travel attempt and cost you your hard-earned Rings right before the goal and they’re probably some of the most unremarkable in the original games. Eggman’s theme this time around is definitely geared more towards bugs than anything else as needle-nosed Mozzietrons try to skewer you from above, Arachnisprings jump out at you, Damsiltron and Buzz Bomber 2s hover overhead and take shots at you, and Poghoppers bounce around the place on their springy bases. Probably the worst enemies are the Snail-Spikers due to their spikes, Motherbombs (which are invulnerable to your attacks and explode into a shower of projectiles), and the Flashers, which must be hit at just the right time to avoid taking damage from their laser beams. Your main opponent, though, will be the abundance of spikes, springs, bumpers, and other obstacles that mess up your momentum and cost you valuable Rings.

The first boss is, quite possibly, the easiest of any of the classic Sonic videogames.

The bosses, though, are a completely different story. Sonic CD features some of the biggest and most unique and interesting boss battles of all the classic games and, while each boss only takes three hits to defeat, they all require different strategies on your part and are affected by whether you battle them in a good or bad future. The first time you battle Eggman, he’s inside of his EGG-HVC-001 mech, which is either a striking pink or an ominous red and sports spikes on the feet. Eggman protects himself from attacks with two bumpers but, after a couple of hits/bounces, these will break off and allow you to land the decisive blow. It’s, quite possibly, the easiest first boss in any Sonic game as even Sonic 2’s Eggmobile took eight hits to defeat.

Bosses require a bit of strategy on your part but are extremely fragile once you get your hits in.

In Collision Chaos, Eggman hides at the top of a giant pinball table and drops weighted balls down at you that can force you to drop down to the lowest level or into some annoyingly-placed spikes. The whole battle is structured very similar to the Star Light and Casino Night Zones and is a clear precursor to Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (SEGA Technical Institute, 1993) in that players must make use of the flippers to bounce Sonic up each level of the arena, ricocheting off of bumpers and such to ram into Eggman’s machine three times. Your enjoyment of this boss may vary as it all depends on how well you get on with the pinball-based Zones and mechanics of Sonic games; for me, this meant it was quite an annoying boss as it can be tricky to get the angle of your trajectory right to go where you need to. At the end of Tidal Tempest Zone 3, you’ll have to chase Eggman around a short maze similar to the end of Labyrinth Zone; unlike in that encounter, though, this time it’s a simple loop that repeats until you land a few hits and you don’t need to worry about spikes or other hazards. Also, after Eggman flees, he floods the area and surrounds his craft with air bubbles and shoots projectiles at you; in order to finish Eggman off, Sonic has to suck up a couple of the bubbles to make a gap in his defences, which is certainly a unique spin on Sonic’s notorious underwater mechanics.

Compared to some of the other bosses, the final battle is a walk in the park!

Probably one of the more frustrating bosses is encountered in Quartz Quadrant; here, Eggman hides behind a giant piston and Sonic is forced to perpetually run on a treadmill lest he be skewered by spikes on the far left of the arena. Unlike the other Eggman bosses in Sonic CD, this boss isn’t about attacking but surviving as Eggman drops bombs onto you, which must be avoided, and you have to wait for the friction of the treadmill to destroy Eggman’s machine and defeat him. Because of how difficult it can be to maintain your speed and footing when avoiding the bombs and their projectiles, this can be a particularly challenging boss for your patience, if nothing else. In comparison, the final boss is a fairly anti-climatic and simple affair; Eggman surrounds his craft with four blades and hovers in a slow pattern around the arena, shooting them at you or occasionally spinning your way. However, it’s ridiculously easy to attack between the blades and, each time you land a hit, he loses one of them so, even though he speeds up and becomes more erratic, he’s made more vulnerable to attack and, honestly, this final boss is easier than the one in the first game!

The race against Metal Sonic might be Sonic CD‘s most iconic, and annoying, boss battle.

Of course, the most iconic boss battle of Sonic CD comes in Stardust Speedway where you’re forced to race against Metal Sonic! This is a thrilling, if frustrating, experience as Eggman flies along behind you firing an instant-death laser and it can be difficult to get up a good run of speed because, again, of spikes, obstacles, and sudden drops or edges in the path. Metal Sonic is completely invulnerable to harm and will charge at you full-speed or electrify its body, which is helpful for breaking spikes and clearing a path for you. Because of the way the screen is locked, though, this isn’t quite the fast-paced experience it’s often thought and interpreted as and is, instead, a strangely-paced, annoying affair that generally comes down more to luck than anything else. The best thing to do is to stay ahead where you can, jump over Metal Sonic, and then blast past it at every opportunity so that you’re on the right side of that wall when it comes crashing down.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As is the standard for most Sonic games, a number of power-up monitors are scattered throughout the game’s Zones. Unfortunately, though, there are no new or exclusive items to be found in Sonic CD; instead, you’ll have to make do with either ten Rings, a shield that protects you from damage for one hit, an extra life, speed-up shoes, or a brief invincibility just like in the first two games.

Additional Features:
Sonic CD has twelve Achievements for you to earn, some of which are pretty simple; you’d be hard-pressed to play through the game without travelling through time, for example, and you’re guaranteed to get a hug from Amy after defeating Metal Sonic. Others, though, are a bit trickier, requiring you to collect two hundred Rings rather than the usual one hundred, or to find the upper goal signpost in Collision Chaos 2 and a hidden angel statue in Wacky Workbench. Probably the most troublesome Achievements, though, involve beating Metal Sonic without being hit and destroying all of the Robot Transporter and holograms in the past.

Conquer the seven psychedelic Special Stages to get the Time Stones and the best ending.

As in the first game, finishing every Zone except the third with fifty Rings or more allows you to enter a Special Stage by jumping through a Giant Ring. These Special Stages are much more elaborate than in the first game, though, and arguably a bit more forgiving than in the second; here, you must race around a flat area against a tight time limit, avoiding water and other obstacles as you hunt down and destroy a number of UFOs. If you land on water, or similar surfaces, your time will drain exponentially so be sure to avoid these at all costs but don’t go too fast on the booster pads as it can be very difficult to make tight turns. As you destroy UFOs, you can earn Rings and even a time bonus, which is helpful, but while fans can be used to float into UFOs, spiked grates will cost you valuable time. Depth perception is a real issue here as you have to be very precise with your jumps but, if you see your time is about to run about (when it hits, say, ten seconds), you can pause and quit to the main menu and then retry the Special Stage from your save slot, meaning you basically have unlimited tries at each Special Stage and can easily grab all seven Time Stones and get the best ending.

The Xbox Live version of the game includes a host of bonus features, including a playable Tails!

I mentioned before that this was the definitive version of the game and it’s true; you can pick from a variety of display options in the menu, choose between the U.S. and Japanese soundtracks (but can’t mix and match, unfortunately), choose which Spin Dash you want (I recommend the superior Sonic 2 one), and have access to four save slots. Unfortunately, these don’t work like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), meaning you can’t pick and choose a Zone to replay, which is disappointing. You can, however, unlock a stage select, D.A. Garden (basically a sound test which you can also use to enter a variety of cheats, though Achievements can’t be earned this way), and “Visual Mode” (a gallery for viewing the anime scenes) by completing the “Time Attack” mode fast enough. Perhaps the most notable addition to this version of the game is that you unlock Miles “Tails” Prower after beating the game in any way; Tails controls exactly like he did in Sonic 3, meaning he can fly and swim, but Achievements are disabled when playing as Tails as it’d be too easy to get around Sonic CD’s more annoying level layouts.

The Summary:
Sonic CD is an absolutely gorgeous game; it took everything that worked about the first game and expanded upon it wonderfully, bringing a much greater sense of speed and liveliness to the core gameplay and really utilising the power of the Mega-CD to its fullest with its anime sequences, animations, music, and unique time travel mechanic. Yet, as much as I love how visually appealing the game is, I find it lacking in a lot of ways; it’s frustrating at times, the level layouts are massively annoying for a game whose main mechanic is based on speed, and the amount of exploration and trial-and-error needed can get annoying at times. Still, I love how every boss battle is unique and how your actions have actual, visible consequences as you play; it really invites multiple playthroughs to see what each Zone looks like in different situations but, similar to the first game, I find myself less excited to replay Sonic CD and more aggravated as it can be a chore at times. When it shines, it shines brightly and I’d love to see more of this style of 2D Sonic in the future but its more irritating features and mechanics definitely need polishing up first.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you enjoy Sonic CD? Did you own this, and a Mega-CD, back in the day or did you first experience it on PC or through some other port? What did you think to the game’s presentation and which of the two soundtracks is your favourite? Were you a fan of the level layouts and time travel gimmick or, like me, do you think they could have been better implemented? Which of the game’s Zones and bosses is your favourite? Are you a fan of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose? How are you celebrating Sonic CD’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic CD, or Sonic in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Dark Doppelgängers


If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves. Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.


What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.