In 1991, the original Sonic the Hedgehog released on Sega Genesis, giving the platform its first must-own title. Sonic quickly became a global icon, and Sega followed-up the game with several direct sequels and spin-offs. More than 30 years later, Sonic Origins collects several of those games in one package. For fans that grew up during the Sega Genesis era, it's a great way to revisit the old classics, and for newcomers, it shows exactly why Sonic became such a big deal in the first place.
Sonic Origins features four of the franchise's earliest games: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. From the start, players have multiple options to play the games contained within. Classic mode is fairly faithful to the original releases of these games, offering a 4:3 screen format. Meanwhile, the anniversary modes offer several new improvements, including a gorgeous widescreen presentation, unlimited lives, and the ability to collect coins. Coins obtained within the games can then be used to unlock extras, such as music tracks and concept art. Players can also choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. As a kid, I loved playing as Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 thanks to the "lock-on technology" of Sonic & Knuckles, so it was nice to be able to do that once again.
In addition to the classic and anniversary modes, players can check out a new story mode which combines the games into one long opus. To further sell the hybrid concept, Sega created new animated cutscenes that take place before each game. It's a neat idea on paper, and the cutscenes are excellent, but there isn't a whole lot of incentive to play the games this way. Some strange choices have also been made. Sonic CD has been set prior to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (despite the latter game releasing first). Sonic CD's original animated sequence has also been kept, so we have this awkward juxtaposition of a brand-new animated sequence playing immediately before a sequence in a different style. However, in a smarter move, Sega included all of the new animated sequences in every mode, so players don't have to play through story mode to see them.
All four of the games contained in Sonic Origins are excellent. As I noted in a Sonic piece earlier this year, the original Sonic the Hedgehog hasn't aged quite as gracefully as Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Replaying it within Sonic Origins reinforced that belief for me, as I often found that the game's ring and enemy placement was too unforgiving. Of course, most fans are probably familiar with that fact, as the first two Sonic games have been offered countless times on countless platforms; prior to this collection's release, there have been no less than three ways to play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch alone. Even with all the new bells and whistles in Sonic Origins, that's bound to make some Sonic fans feel that this collection's existence is a bit superfluous.
Of course, not every game in this collection is as easy to come by on modern platforms – notably, Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Technically speaking, Sonic 3 and Knuckles is actually two games: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. The two games were split up when they initially released on Genesis, but subsequent releases have combined them as originally intended. Thanks to some legal issues with music that may or may not have been composed by Michael Jackson, Sonic 3 & Knuckles hasn't been released in a few years. Sega has made some alterations to the music to include the game in Sonic Origins, but it's been a very long time since I first played these games on Genesis making it difficult to judge how the tracks stacked up against the original versions. Regardless, Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a great inclusion, and I'm happy that it's here.
The four games contained in Sonic Origins are excellent. More than 30 years later, they've aged quite well, and Sonic Origins is the best possible way to revisit them, or play them for the very first time. Playing all four games, I was taken aback by how Sonic Team was able to make each game feel distinctive. However, after all the reissues some of these games seen, long-time Sonic fans will have to decide if the collection's extras and changes are worth the price of admission. Of course, now that Sonic Origins has been released, I sincerely hope that Sega offers similar packages for other Sonic games. If the company ever decides to give the Sonic Advance games a similar treatment, I'll be first in line.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sonic Origins is set to release June 23rd on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PlayStation 4.