Gameplay
Basics
When you start the game off, it'll immediately go to the title screen where you can press start/enter and choose to begin the game, or wait a few seconds to see the nice sparkly anime intro. When you press start, there may be a number of options based on how much of the game you have completed. Press left and right to change the selected option and start to choose it. Pick "New Game" to the far left, to start afresh, or "Continue" to play the game from the start of the last level you played previously, Good Futures and Time Stones withstanding. On the PC and Sonic Gems Collection version, you can also choose to exit the game, on the far right. The game consists of seven levels, each separated into three segments. Ordinarily, these segments would be called "acts", but in Sonic CD, rather confusingly, they are called "zones", which is a word usually reserved for the level as a whole. The first two zones contain the usual running through curved roads, jumping on platforms and bopping enemies that you would expect from any proper Sonic game, but the third zone is mainly a boss fight, with only a little of the usual platforming going on, leading up to it. I will get to the game's exclusive time travel aspect in a moment.
Sonic standing, awaiting your commands.
Sonic begins his sprint with a slow walk, when you press left or right along the ground.
Keep the button held for this trademark 'spinning leg' run.
For this game, there is a third running animation where Sonic's legs resemble a figure-8. For the highest speeds only.
Pull out of a full sprint by holding the opposing direction. Sonic will skid to a hault.
Hold up to make Sonic look up. Press up and then press and hold it again to scroll the screen upwards.
Leave Sonic alone and he'll tap his foot impatiently. Leave him like this for three minutes and your game will end!
Controls for Sonic are the same as the Mega Drive games, although Sonic feels a little stiffer to move around now. Move him left and right with the left and right buttons on the D-pad (or the keyboard's arrow keys for the PC version), and he'll gradually increase his speed the longer you hold it. Press up or down to make Sonic look up/crouch down and tap either button twice quickly, and hold it on the second time to make the screen scroll up or down a little way, so that you can see your surroundings. A, B and C (or Spacebar, for the PC version) are all jump, and can be used for the following maneuvers:
Jumping Spin Attack
Simply press A B or C to launch in a spinning jump, which you can use to bop badniks and crack open item boxes.
Press A B or C to launch straight into a spinning jump. As a spinning ball, you'll destroy enemy robots and barriers, and open up item boxes on contact. You'll stop spinning as soon as you land back on the ground, and the height of the jump is dependant on how long you hold down the button for when you press it.
Rolling Spin Attack
Press the down button while running to curl up in a ball soar down slopes and curves.
While moving along the ground, press down to curl in a ball and perform the rolling version of the spin attack. This can take out enemies on the ground and is best used when heading down a slope, as your speed will greatly increase. Jump to get out of it, or just wait until you lose all momentum.
Spin Dash
Hold down and press a jump button charge up the spin dash.
The Spin Dash debuted with Sonic 2, which was made at the same time. It's here, but it works a bit differently to the norm, and you get the impression it was thrown in towards the end of production. When you're not moving, hold the down button and Sonic will crouch down. Then press A B or C while still holding down and he'll begin to spin on the spot. Hold down for at least a couple of seconds, and then release it to let Sonic go spinning fairly quickly across the ground in the direction you were facing, taking out any enemies in his way. If you let go before those first couple of seconds, it won't work and Sonic will just remain where he is, unlike in every other game where there is no mandatory amount of charge up time. You can press A, B or C or hold down for as much as you like, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to how quickly or far he is likely to go, either.
Super Peel-Out
Hold up and press a jump button start running on the spot.
Basically the running version of the Spin Dash. Hold up instead of down then press A, B or C, and Sonic will begin to run on the spot. Keep holding up until you see Sonic at top speed (that weird "figure 8" shape he makes with his legs that seems to only be in this game), which should take about a second, and then release up to blast away across the path. Of course in this version, Sonic is not spinning, so he will be vulnerable to running into a harmful obstacle or enemy. However, at least with the peel-out, you have a visual cue as to when you can release the button, unlike the spin dash.
The thing that really makes Sonic CD special is the time travelling feature, which thus far has not been found in any other Sonic game. Every level has four different parallel versions to it, across three different time periods, and you can travel between them as you progress through the level. In the first two zones of each of the seven levels, there's a Past, a Present, and two possible Futures - good and bad. The third zone (the boss) is set only in the Future, so there are no Past or Present versions there. In each of these timezones, the visual appearance changes dramatically, and the level structure and object placements may differ to varying degrees too. The Present is where you automatically begin the first two zones of each level, and from there you can either travel to the Past or Future using past or future signposts, as explained in the items section below. The Past represents how the level used to look, and Eggman has only begun to place his machinery. The Bad Future is an outcome where Eggman has completely taken over and the whole place is a mass of gloomy technology. By contrast, the alternate Good Future is nice and happy. Any trace of the mad scientist is long gone and the resident animals are free to frolic in a utopian world, though this is still usually mechanical in some aspect.
The Present. This is the default timezone, where everything is pretty normal.
The Past, mostly free of Eggman tech and often a kind of prehistoric, or very natural take on the level. Find and destroy the original machine here to ensure a Good Future.
Good Future - the ideal outcome. Technology is still here but it's usually helpful and environmentally friendly in some way.
The Bad Future is an outcome where Eggman has taken over everything and the place is a mass of gloomy gadgets and pollution.
So what is the point of all this then? Well, if you're just looking for a simple Sonic platforming experience, you're quite free to ignore all of this time travelling malarky and just leg it through all seven levels, no fuss. This would be missing the point of the game though, and there would only be Bad Futures. The main objective is to save Little Planet by undoing all of Eggman's work and aiming to change them into Good Futures for every level. To do this, in the first two zones of each level, you need to travel to the Past and locate a special machine that Eggman has hidden somewhere. By destroying this machine, you earn a Good Future for that zone, and if you wish, you can then travel to the Future before completing the zone, to witness the peace that you've brought to it. This is not necessary though, you just have to destroy the machine to change the Future, otherwise it will remain as the Bad Future. The third, boss zone of each level can only be set in the Future, but which one it is depends on whether or not you destroyed the machines in the Past versions of BOTH of the first two zones. If you only did one of them, you do not get a Good Future for Zone 3, which is what counts, as you have to beat the third zone in the Good Future to completely secure the level. The alternate method of creating Good Futures is to collect all seven of the Time Stones, found in the Special Stages. With all of these in tow, every Future is automatically turned good when you start a level.
With that all sorted out, I better fill you in on the rest of the basics, in case you're unfamiliar with Sonic games. Displayed on the top left of the screen, while playing, is a list of your current score, time spent in the zone (now in minutes, seconds and milliseconds) and current ring total, while current total of lives is listed in the bottom left corner. The symbol there, if a "P" or an "F", indicates whether you are in the Past or Future, or the Present if it's simply a picture of Sonic. You start the game with three lives, and you'll lose one if you take a hit without holding any rings or shield, get crushed between two solid objects, drown, fall off the bottom of the level or reach the 10 minute time limit for each zone. Your score is based on a running total throughout the game, and you earn points by destroying things and getting time and ring bonuses at the end of each zone. You'll get an extra life after earning 50,000 points.
Your ongoing score total is kept on the top left, along with current time spent in the level and number of rings. Your lives are represented by the Sonic icon in the bottom left corner (or it becomes a letter F or P if you're in the Future or Past). If you have a time travel post activated, that panel is also displayed next to it too.
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#1. Comment posted by Ajavalo on Wednesday, 24th June 2009, 10:35am (BST)
The Spin Dash HAS a visual cue about how to release it: when the camera moves all the way to the right. It needs more charge than the peel-out.
#2. Comment posted by Ajavalo on Wednesday, 24th June 2009, 10:53am (BST)
Another thing: I think Sonic CD's levels are called "rounds" (instead of "zones") but I'm not sure, since the game never tells you.
#3. Comment posted by Dr Shyam on Monday, 31st May 2010, 7:42pm (BST)
Being that the game [neither Japanese nor American version] doesn't say 'Rounds'...but instead says 'Zone', I would say Sonic CD's levels are called Zones.
#4. Comment posted by Emerl on Saturday, 19th June 2010, 1:00am (BST)
It may help to know that the only bottomless pit in the game is in the final level, just before the boss.
#5. Comment posted by andy on Monday, 15th November 2010, 5:57am (GMT)
@ Emerl: There are bottomless pits in every level but you can only reach them if you time travel(like I did in CC2... ugh.)
#6. Comment posted by Anonymous on Saturday, 25th June 2011, 5:30pm (BST)
Sonic the Hedgehog ( 2006) also features a technical time-travel plot.
#7. Comment posted by Sonicfan32 on Tuesday, 12th July 2011, 6:19pm (BST)
Most attacks and moves are the same. However, the sound effects sound older to me. Why would they do that in a newer game???
#8. Comment posted by Anonymous on Monday, 17th October 2011, 10:23am (BST)
lol, the past music of stardust speedway sounds hippy
#9. Comment posted by Brady Meyers on Monday, 30th July 2012, 6:26am (BST)
In the PS3/PSN version of Sonic CD, the screen does not move to the right when building up a speedier dash move.
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Items
Rings
Sonic's life support system. They're scattered around everywhere, but as long as you have at least one, you won't die when you take a hit from a badnik or obstacle (unless you get crushed by something). Instead, you'll lose all the rings you have, and they'll scatter around the place. Sonic will then be flashing for a couple of seconds, to ensure that he doesn't get hit again until you've had a chance to move him away or grab a lost ring or two. However, if you take a hit without having any rings (or a protective shield), you'll lose a life. Collect 100 rings to gain an extra life, and each one that you're holding at the end of the zone is worth 100 bonus points for your score. Most rings transcend the timezones, so when you see some in the ground that are inaccessible, you'll be able to grab them in a different timezone, where that ground won't be there.
Essential for any Sonic game, rings are your health system. As long as you have them when you take damage, you'll lose the rings rather than a life.
Item Boxes
Use your spinning ability to open up these item boxes. Depending on the picture, you'll either get 10 extra rings, an extra life, a blue shield, a speed boost or invincibility. The blue shield surrounds Sonic, and when he takes a hit, he'll lose the shield, rather than any rings. The speed boost lasts for 20 seconds and will increase the speed of Sonic's movement, and change the music to the speed-up theme. Similarly, an invincibility power-up will surround him in small stars for the next 20 seconds, during which time he'll be invulnerable to any attack (except falling off the screen, drowning or getting crushed). Any badniks that you touch will also explode, and the music is changed to the invincibility theme.
10 ring item box
1-up item box
Shield item box
Speed-up item box
Invincibility item box
Checkpoint
Also known as point marker, starpost, etc, throughout the series. Touch one when it's blue and your position is saved so that if you die afterwards, you'll return to that place, rather than starting from the beginning of the zone. They flash red and yellow to indicate that you've already touched them, and only appear, and therefore are only valid, when in the Present. Past and Futures do not have any checkpoints, so if you die in any timezone other than the Present, you'll always return to the beginning of the zone, but still in that timezone.
An untouched checkpoint. Touch it to save your place (in the Present only), when you lose a life.
A checkpoint that's already been hit flashes red and yellow.
Past and Future Signposts
These are your only method of moving between the different timezones, and using them can be a little tricky, so listen up. They are located in various places across the zones, and will either say "Past" or "Future" on them (both are found in the Present but only past posts can be found in the Future and only future posts can be found in the Past). Touch one to get it spinning, which will prevent it from being used again for the rest of your time spent in the zone (though losing a life will reset them all), and a past/future panel will be added to the lower left-hand corner of the screen. In order to use it, you basically have to run fast enough that you maintain a top speed for 3-5 seconds, without it being interrupted by running into a wall or obstacle. Just like in Back to the Future.. sorta. When you reach top speed while having a past/future panel activated, a trail of white stars will follow Sonic as he runs or spins along, and these will automatically kill any badnik you happen to collide with too, which is handy. If you mess up during the first couple of seconds of getting the white stars, the past/future panel will still be active, so you can try again. During the last 1 or 2 seconds though, the panel will begin to flash and if you mess up, it'll disappear and you'll need to find another signpost that you haven't already touched. Maintain your speed for the full amount of seconds though, and Sonic will be launched into the Past or Future, as the screen goes white and he he blasts upwards through a psychedelic flashing background, reappearing in the same place, but in the new timezone.
Past post
Future post
It can be hard to maintain top speed just by running through the level, but fortunately there are quite a few structural designs or mechanisms that you can take advantage of, which will keep you going without interruption. Note that this procedure will send you only one place forward or back in time, so that going to the Future while in the Past will return you to the Present, and not straight to the Future, and vice versa. Also note that the exact amount of seconds required to time travel appears to vary between the original Mega CD version and the PC/Sonic Gems Collection version. In the Mega CD version, time travel takes about 5 seconds of top speed, while on the PC (and subsequently the PC port featured on Gems Collection), it only takes about 3, which makes things much easier.
With a Past or Future post activated you need to reach sprinting speed, and a trail of stars will appear behind you. Maintain the sprint for 3-5 seconds to warp one step into the Past or Future!
Machine
This, ladies and gentlemen, is your target. In the Past of every first and second zone of every level you will find one of these machines hidden away somewhere. All you have to do is destroy it by jumping on it, and you'll immediately ensure a Good Future for that zone, even if you then die before getting to the end (unless you lose all your lives). It's often surrounded by enemies, but every enemy in the zone automatically turns to dust as soon as it's destroyed. You can see what remains of the machine in the Present, in the same place, but you can only destroy it when in the Past. They are also worth 1500 additional points.
The machine. Find and destroy it in the Past to ensure a Good Future for the zone.
Metal Sonic Hologram
Something else to locate and destroy, though this is an entirely optional extra. In the Past of every Zone 1 and 2 (except for the final level), you'll find a hologram of Metal Sonic causing trouble amongst the local animal residents. Destroy the hologram generator next to him and the animals will begin to prance around the stage freely, as they do in the Good Future. That's your good deed for the day.
An optional extra, destroy the projector of a Metal Sonic hologram in the Past.
Goal Signpost
This is nothing more than a visual guide to tell you that the end of the zone is just to the right of its location. This can be very useful if you want Good Futures and are trying to locate the machine in the Past, or earn enough rings to qualify for the Special Stage, because if you get too close to the end-of-zone signpost, the screen will close behind you and won't let you go back. This goal signpost gives you a warning and as long as you stay to the left of it, you'll be able to continue your play in the zone, until you're ready to complete it.
You're near the end when you see this.
End-of-Zone Signpost
This signpost showing Dr. Robotnik's ugly mug can be found at the end of every Zone 1 and 2. Touch it to get it spinning, where it'll eventually land on a picture of Sonic's face, and bring up the zone completion procedure, where your score is tallied. This is the only way to end the zone, and continue to the next one, and Sonic will automatically walk off-screen to the right after a moment.
Touch to finish the zone.
Special Stage Ring
If you manage to complete any Zone 1 or 2 with 50 rings on hand, a huge ring can be found to the right of the end-of-zone signpost. Jump in it to access one of the seven Special Stages, where you'll get an opportunity to obtain one Time Stone. See the Special Stage section for details.
A huge ring, the Special Stage entrance, appears at the end of Zone 1 or 2 when you complete it with at least 50 rings.
Capsule
These only appear at the end of Zone 3, after you've defeated the level boss, and instead of the signpost. In order to finish the level, you need to jump up and touch the large blue-ish grey tank, which will begin to explode. Sonic will run off to the right, while some flowers will appear out of it, thus securing the level as being officially free of Eggman. The score is then tallied up and time and ring bonuses are added, before moving to the next level.
This capsule appears at the end of Zone 3. Destroy it to complete the level.
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Common Objects
Springs
A vertical spring.
A horizontal spring
A diagonal spring
Come in horizontal, vertical and diagonal flavours, and this game can often be quite imaginative with how it uses them, in some levels. The verticals and diagonals are used to send Sonic flying upwards or across when he jumps on or touches them, and you have a certain amount of directional control, using the left and right buttons. You will not be spinning, however, so be careful of badniks and other obstacles along the way. The horizontals can be used as a quick speed boost across the ground, and red springs are more powerful than yellow ones. Some vertical springs are embedded in the ground, and while normally a pair of horizontals that face each other would be nothing more than an annoyance, in this game, they're extremely useful for zipping between timezones easily. Another common use for a spring is to have it on a little wheel, cycling back and forth over a small area.
Spikes
Spikes - don't touch the sharp ends!
Each small set consists of four spikes, and are clearly harmful to touch on their business end, but their sides are safe. Can be found on the ground, ceiling, or horizontally on the walls, and in either large groups or single sets, to jump over. Some can repeatedly slot in and out of the ground.
Switches
Press buttons to open doors and stuff.
Flat grey switches in some levels can cause something nearby to change when you land on top of them. Often for opening up doorways or bridges.
Air Bubbles
Air bubble clusters. Wait for them to produce large bubbles, which you can refill your air supply with.
Only found in one level of this game, but I thought I better mention them here anyway. For sections where you have to go underwater, Sonic can last only 30 seconds without air. During the final 10 seconds, a countdown will begin, and you'll drown at the end of it if you don't get to the surface, or obtain some air from these bubble clusters, which are found at various points along the ground. They produce small bubbles and big bubbles, and its the big ones that give you another 30 seconds worth of air, although you may have to wait a little bit before they are produced. Just touch them to suck 'em up. Unlike in most other games of the series, there is no scary countdown theme. Only a series of bubbly sound effects.
Badniks
Most enemies can be disposed of with a swift spin attack
A newer model, in the Present or Past only.
An older model, from the Present or Futures only.
A variety of enemy robots created by Dr. Eggman. Each one moves and attacks differently, and almost all are resident to only one level each. They're all explained individually on their level pages, but most can be defeated by spinning into them, and each one is worth 100 points on your score. Bop some more while maintaining the same spin without breaking it, and you'll score 200 for the second badnik, 300 for a third, and 1000 for each subsequent one. A few things worth noting about Sonic CD's range of enemies.. Contrary to tradition, they don't contain trapped animals inside them. Instead, upon destruction they release a small seed which falls to the ground and a large, fairly Green Hill Zone-esque flower immediately sprouts from the ground, spinning away. Another less obvious point is that, in-keeping with the time theme, there are actually two versions to most badniks; new, fully working ones and old, tired ones that tend to be slower and less dangerous. In the Past, you'll only find new ones, while only old ones reside in the Future, and the Present contains both versions. Sadly, the instruction manuals don't help us much with any names, and only some have Japanese names, while I don't think any have been given official English aliases.
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#1. Comment posted by Anonymous on Monday, 11th March 2013, 7:29pm (GMT)
I once found 2 new badniks in palmtree panic bad future- the stinging one and the butter fly one, is this a glicth.
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#1. Comment posted by chicobo329 on Tuesday, 27th December 2011, 8:08am (GMT)
The 2011 re-release adds a Sonic 2-style Spin Dash which is enabled by default. This has pretty much the exact physics and use as in Sonic 2: just mash a button when crouching to charge up speed. Because this new Spin Dash can be launched quickly, this creates new uses such as going underwater in Tidal Tempest quicker or performing long distance jumps after the initial speed boost of a Spin Dash. The original Sonic CD Spin Dash can be enabled if one desires.

One minor detail changed regarding the signposts at the end is that the score will tally down while the End of Act music is playing in the original. In the 2011 re-release it instead waits for the End of Act music to finish and then tallies down the score. There also seems to be a little more leniency in keeping Sonic on screen after passing the signpost, presumably to get back to the Special Stage ring if you missed it.

You can also get achievements related to the elements on this page in the 2011 re-release, 'King of the Rings' (collect 200 or more rings in any one Act), and '88 Miles Per Hour' (travel through time at least once). 'Paradise Found' is given for completing a zone while in a Good Future.

Metal Sonic holograms now have a use for players as the game's ultimate achievement, 'Savior of the Planet' requires players to destroy all Machines and Metal Sonic holograms in all Acts of all Zones in the game.
#2. Comment posted by chicobo329 on Tuesday, 27th December 2011, 8:15am (GMT)
Tails is a selectable character in the 2011 re-release after you beat the game once. He's unlockable for a reason: his ability to fly in a game that was not designed for Tails' flight makes several Acts a breeze by simply flying over obstacles or large portions of the stage. Tails can perform many of the same feats that Sonic can do such as time travel and entering special stages except for the Super Peel Out which he cannot do. His ability to fly is precisely the same as in Sonic 3 and can damage enemies and bosses if they come into contact with his spinning tails while in flight. He can also swim under water just like in Sonic 3 and cannot damage enemies with his tails while doing so.

Tails' spriteset in the 2011 re-release is based off of the Sonic 2 spriteset, not the Sonic 3 spriteset. This is most evident from his flying sprites, although they made new Sonic 2-like fatigued and swimming sprites. This choice by the developers gives Tails' sprites more consistency with Sonic's and makes sense for a game that was created before Sonic 3. The developers were not lazy at all with this spriteset and gave Tails several new sprites to mirror Sonic's, such as spinning in the air from a spring launcher, going in special stages, and interacting with stage gimmicks such as the spinning Wacky Workbench platforms and Palmtree Panic's giant loop sprites. They even gave Tails a full set of tiny sprites for the Metallic Madness Act 2 shrink ray! Very nice work on their part.
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Content for this page last edited:
22nd June 2009

Files last uploaded for this page:
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Features and Obstacles
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Basics
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General Notes
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General Notes
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Basics
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