Sonic hasn’t exactly had the best track record recently in the gaming space. Modern renditions of the famous blue hedgehog speedster have been met with not-so-great receptions from long-time fans and new ones alike. Despite all that, everyone still universally agrees that the first few original titles saw the franchise at its peak.
Sega would consistently put out one banger after the other with the Sonic brand which effectively solidified the character in gaming history. Over 30 years later, the first four (technically five) titles are once again being re-released on modern platforms. Does it help clean up the legacy that has arguably been tainted with recent attempts to revitalize the brand or will it continue slowing down whatever momentum the franchise has built up in its early years?
Sonic Origins is at its best when you just want to re-live or experience for the first time the magical experience the Sega classics offered. A fun bundle of nostalgia that reminds me what good games used to be: a good game. After all the failed attempts at making a great 3D Sonic experience, he’s now back where he works best in—a colorful 2D world that’s bursting with charm and personality. Strap in, this one’s a fun ride.
Bolder, faster, better
Sonic Origins isn’t just a beefed-up port of the originals. One of the main selling points is how Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Sonic CD have all been remade from the ground up with an entirely new engine. What’s more impressive is how faithful it has all been.
While I can’t claim that I was there to experience them all when they first came out, I definitely had my time playing the old Sonic games before. What Sonic Origins brings to the table is letting the player experience all of the classics with much improved visuals, performance, and quality of life changes while still keeping the essence of what made all of it so great for a generation of gamers.
There are three main modes from the get-go. There’s the anniversary mode which allows you to play all the games in 16:9 aspect ratio and features unlimited lives. As someone who has seen enough game over screens in platformers to last a lifetime, that was a nice little addition that I appreciated. I didn’t realize how fantastic the increased screen size would be considering that movement in these 2D Sonic games is at a breakneck speed and having more opportunities to see what’s in front of you gives just a little bit more time to react.
For the die-hard purists, there is a classic mode that is exactly what you think it is. Do you want the classic 4:3 aspect ratio? It’s here. Do you like managing limited lives and going through the game over screen? Feel free.
Then finally, there’s the fantastic addition of the story mode. This one lets you seamlessly play through all of the titles in chronological order. Just one smooth experience that lets you immerse yourself in all of the games’ 2D glory.
All of the games get a welcome touch-up on the visuals as each level pops with color. Any performance issue that I imagine the old systems would have trying to run that many pixels zoom past the screen is gone. Sonic Origins is beautiful with a buttery smooth framerate.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog felt the most clunky to play with because of the level design. This was around the time when Super Mario was the pinnacle of platformers, so naturally, Sega wanted a piece of that pie. It’s definitely the slowest out of all the games in the package as there are a few moments where routes would require Sonic to stop, turn around, and move a few things here and there to progress more than usual. It ruins any and all momentum built up. Nevertheless, it’s still the classic that started it all and it’s still undeniably fun.
Sonic 2 seems to be the popular fan favorite. Understandably so, the sequel improved immensely on the very strong foundation set by its predecessor. The level design really lends itself well to momentum and the power fantasy one can feel when you get Sonic to go as fast as he can while jumping around and zooming through hoops. While some speed traps can still get annoying, it’s part of the trial and error nature of the experience. This sequel felt like they were really starting to figure out what a Sonic game should be.
Sonic CD felt like a slight step back only because of the controversial time travel mechanic. A lot has been said about this from fans over the years. Some people like it, some people don’t. Personally, I just felt like it would slow down the pace from time to time. I just want to go fast and look flashy while doing so. Time traveling somewhat stops that. It’s not completely game breaking though. A major compliment I could give is towards the amazing soundtrack. Every game in Sonic Origins has amazing music but something about Sonic CD makes it one of my top favorites.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles is technically two games as it is Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles combined. This was personally, my favorite in the package. A wide variety of polished level designs that improved upon the already polished Sonic 2. While the hitboxes of some of the traps in the chemical plant still give me nightmares to this day, Sonic 3 & Knuckles has some of the best levels in the franchise. It’s worth noting that some tracks were removed here due to possible legal and licensing issues. It’s not a complete deal breaker but maybe make sure to listen to the original soundtrack of the Ice Cap zone on the side when you’re playing through it.
Aside from the main experience of the four titles, Sonic Origins offers a couple more extras in the package.
There’s a boss rush mode that lets you run through all of the main bosses of the games to test your combat skills. It’s pretty straightforward, so for someone who cares more about going fast through the unique levels rather than combat in these games, it wasn’t for me.
Mission mode introduces objectives you have to go through in modified levels to earn coins. They’re fun little distractions but I can imagine series veterans steamrolling through these in no time.
There’s an unlockable mirror mode that lets you play through mirrored versions of the levels. I can imagine this is a nice change of pace for those who want to test their pre-existing knowledge of the level designs.
And if you really want to validate yourself, there are also online leaderboards for bragging rights. You can compare and see who has the best times for each level. I’ll be honest, I thought the review phase was my one opportunity to get into those top ranks and even that I couldn’t do.
And finally, there’s a museum mode where you can go through different artworks, cutscenes, music, comics, and even unreleased exclusive content. Playing through each of the games merits you points which will then translate into coins. You can use these coins to purchase extra stuff to look at in the museum. It offers a nice sense of progression to the experience.
Unfortunately, there is additional content that you must pay for which includes additional backgrounds when using the 4:3 aspect ratio, extra music tracks, and hard missions. It’s a little bit disappointing that this was all hidden behind a paywall when they could’ve easily been included in the base package. Considering that the full price is already $40 for games that were already re-released multiple times before, it’s just unacceptable that it even has stripped content just for a few extra bucks.
Final Verdict – 7.5/10
Sonic Origins is an extremely fun package especially if you are a long-time fan of the franchise. It does an amazing job at injecting new energy into the classics that started it all for the blue speedster himself while also making it a bit more accessible for newcomers alike.
The unfortunate drawback is, however, the asking price. While I won’t deny that Sonic Origins is a fantastic experience, I just feel like $40 is too steep considering that the games included in the package can easily be played elsewhere with multiple other platforms.
If you’re really a Sonic fan, then it’s a no brainer of a purchase. If you are just a casual who thinks it looks interesting and you want to get in on it, maybe wait for a sale.
This review was made with a Sonic Origins review code for PS5 provided by the publisher.