Ever since the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive launched, I’ve had a soft spot for the blue blur. Those early days were big building blocks in my gaming life, and I’ve revisited them at almost every opportunity that they’ve been re-released. It’s always been a big hit of nostalgia, but outside of the excellent Sonic Jam on the Saturn, they’ve often felt like Sega going through the motions to get the games released yet again.
With Sonic Origins then, we get yet another re-release of the classic 2D titles: Sonic the Hedgehog 1 through 3 and Sonic CD. What differs here mind is the presentation and extras thrown in. Not only can we play the games as originally intended, but Sega have upspuffed and reworked them in subtle ways. The biggest example being that we can now play any of the games as Sonic, Knuckles(except CD), or Tails – the first chance to do so in the original entries without mods. This changes things up in slight ways, but its a cool addition and makes these more than just another port three decades in the making.
Clambering through the Green Hill Zone as Knuckles is strange but fun, while soaring through the sky as Tails in Spring Yard Zone can make that somewhat hectic level a tad more manageable. Handily, we can also have several save files on the go at once so we can check out all the different permutations for comparison.
Arguably as big an addition though is the new Mission mode. This was somewhat vague before launch but has revealed itself as being one of my favourite things about this release. The basic mode is a simple run of all of the games in timeline order – Sonic the Hedgehog, CD, 2, 3 – and works them all into one seamless experience complete with some lovely new opening and ending animations courtesy of the same folk who brought us Sonic Mania Adventures.
My favourite part though are the new single challenge missions. Here, each game gets its own bespoke challenges on bespoke maps. Collect 30 rings in 20 seconds, for example, or get to the end quickly while also defeating a certain amount of enemies. These ramp up in difficulty the more we complete, and some are pretty damn tough indeed. For as much as I love the original games, I can see this being the main reason I’ll be booting this up for the foreseeable future.
Each game also comes in a new Anniversary mode. Here, we get infinite lives as well as a new, actual 16:9 aspect ratio. This might not add much in reality, but it is nice to have the games properly fill the screen now rather than have borders as they typically have in the past. While the games play the same, instead of the extra life boxes we now get coins.
These are collected via the boxes, collecting 100 rings, or completing missions and are spent in the Museum. We can unlock a variety of Sonic memorabilia including artwork, concept work, and some videos. These are cool to see, but I much preferred the approach in the aforementioned Sonic Jam. There we got old ads, trivia, and behind the scenes facts about the games creation. Here, we get what amounts to videos already available on YouTube and some cool but ultimately not all that informative pictures. Coins are easy enough to accrue but are better spent on retrying the special stages in game in my opinion.
There’s also the baffling pre-order nonsense that locks those unwilling/able to do so out of simple features such as…being able to move the camera on the menu, or access to Hard Missions. Admittedly the price to upgrade is small but it reeks of trying to nickel and dime people out of features that have no reason to be excluded. Finally, there seems to be some strange bugs and glitches that, while not ruinous, put a slight stain on this collection. AI characters behave strangely (Tails in particular was always a bit daft, but here he seems adamant to get in the way and die as often as possible), and there have been reports of audio and visual issues, though I must say I’ve not seen anything serious during my time with the game in this regard.
Outside of these issues though, I’ve had a great time playing these games again. They play as good as ever, and with the extra Anniversary mode they look better than ever too. Playing them reminded me of why I fell in love with the series over 30 years ago (although, it also reminded me of the hatred I have for Oil Ocean Zone…) and even though the games can be found literally everywhere now, this is easily the best way to experience them in my eyes. The added Mission modes are great and are my favourite part of the package, but if you’ve somehow now played the originals yet then this is a must play.
Sonic Origins is a great example of packing classic games together and improving them for a modern audience. The added mission modes are the stand out, but the games themselves still play just as good as ever, especially with the new Anniversary mode. Pre-order lock out nonsense aside, this is a fantastic way to experience the classics.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.