Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sonic CD's Secret Strategy Guide

Believe it or not, this is the American strategy guide for Sonic CD! Back in 1994, between the release of Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, strategy guide publisher Brady Games released this guide. The book covers all of Sonic 3, but as Sonic and Knuckles had yet to be released and because Sonic 3 itself was on the short side, the guide itself came up short. I assume Brady Games solution was to fill the last third of the book with a year too late guide to Sonic CD. In celebration of the rerelease of Sonic's SEGA CD classic, let's crack open this book and take a look inside!

I had this guide as a kid, and the fact that the thing is still in near mint condition says a lot about the quality of the guide. Unlike the awesome Sonic 1&2 strategy guide (which I'll cover here soon), the Sonic 3 and CD guide offered very little assistance, so I rarely used it. Images were poorly captured, there were no stage maps and images and text were randomly tilted and out of sequence. It was and is the worst laid out game guide I've ever seen. Still, it had a great deal of codes and cheats, and in the days of pre-internet that alone made the guide a worthwhile buy. You'll note that the cover does not mention Sonic CD's inclusion, and the back of the book simply states that the guide offers the "SEGA CD version". However, the way this is worded makes it appear that Sonic 3 had an enhanced SEGA CD release.  

Here's the first pages of the Sonic CD section. You'll note that they talk about Princess Sally (Amy Rose's name in the US version) and let players know that Tails is not in the game... despite having stock art of him on the same page and throughout the rest of the guide.

The walkthrough kicks off by telling players that the first few zones are easy and straghtforward, and so the guide itself will not cover the first THREE zones of the game. I have never seen a guide do this before! The first stages deserve to be covered, thats the whole point of a guide! In the case of Sonic CD, players would want to know the locations of signs and generators. But instead, the guide assures players that the game is easy enough that help isn't needed. So it immediately starts with Quartz Quadrant, the fourth zone in the game.  

Above are examples of how the guide is laid out. As I mentioned earlier, there is no real flow to the walkthrough. They just sort of highlight moments in the game, but don't tell players where key elements like power ups and sign posts can be found. Despite not being in the game, Tails appears some more. I guess they knew that seventeen years later, Tails would appear in Sonic CD.

My favorite moment of the guide is when the writer infuses a bit of opinion, by insulting the theme song "Sonic Boom" and comparing it to Barney the Dinosaur's theme. What?! The two couldn't be more different, and yet they went ahead and approved that little comment. The guide can't be bothered to cover the first three zones, but providing a music review is important enough to make it to print. At least the writer thought the animation was "pretty cool". Ha!

The guide ends with this page. Again, Tails reminds us that he isn't in the game by appearing and the guide refers to Amy as a princess. Overall, Sonic CD's "guide" is a bizarre experience. It appears as a secret surprise in a Sonic 3 guide, the guide itself is not helpful, the writers could have eased up on the commentary and instead should have made a proper guide. It's a shame Sonic CD never got a proper guide, as the way the game is played really calls for a guide filled with maps pointing out the best places to reach full time travel speeds and locations of all the key items. To end this on a positive note, Brady Games has gotten much better with their Sonic guides, as their recent Sonic Generations guide was a lot of help. Also, despite not being a great guide, the Sonic 3 and CD guide is a fun read, if only for the funny moments in which the writers offer unnecessary opinion. 


Zik Zak said...

We had something really close in France too.
During summer 1994:

Sonic 1, Sonic 2 (both 8 and 16bits) and Sonic CD walkthrough are very very light.
But here the writer apologizes about the fact that 70 levels can't fit in the issue.

There are some pages about goodies, definitely worth a look ;)

¡ɥsoſ said...

Wow this is really interesting and funny.

It seems like things weren't always as professional back in da day. Especially during the '90s

The GagaMan(n) said...

Zik Zak: those merch pages are great, quite a few things I've never seen before! Pretty sure we had that magazine over here under the name Mega XS with that same Sonic 3 guide in it.