Sonic CD Was A Bold Vision Of What Sonic Could Be

Sonic CD Was A Bold Vision Of What Sonic Could Be

Sonic CD is celebrating its 30-year anniversary today, September 23, 2023. Below, we look back at how its experimental ideas influenced the series going forward.

Trying to get a group of Sonic fans to agree on anything related to the franchise is hard enough, but asking for their feelings about Sonic CD might get you more divided responses than any other game in the series. Out of all the classic Sonic titles, CD stands out as a very strange outlier in its game design–which leads to some very strong opinions from the fandom. But the reasons why it’s so different from its cartridge-based brothers are themselves fascinating. In many ways–and quite fittingly, given its time-travel theme–Sonic CD feels like the start of a different evolutionary path the Sonic series could have taken into the future, but didn’t.

After the first Sonic the Hedgehog became a runaway success, Sega immediately went to work on follow-up games. Two of Sonic’s primary development staff, Yuji Naka and Hirokazu Yasuhara, joined future PlayStation console architect Mark Cerny at Sega Technical Institute with a few other Japanese staff in the US to create Sonic the Hedgehog 2–a very unusual America/Japan co-production for its time. Meanwhile, other original Sonic Team members stayed back home in Japan to plan a Sonic game for the fledgling Mega-CD (Sega CD in western markets) add-on. The system was floundering in its home market but looked likely to do significantly better abroad, much in the same way the Mega Drive (aka the Genesis) had. With Nintendo poised to release its own CD system add-on, having a show-stopper like Sonic on its CD platform would be a tremendous boon in what looked to be the upcoming CD-ROM wars. (Which never happened, but hindsight is 20/20.)

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