Review: Sonic Origins: An Excellent Collection for New Fans, Less Than the Hardcore Sonic Crowd

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (docked)

A particularly bright spot in recent Sonic history was the launch of Sonic Mania. Part sequel and part reimagining of 2D classics, that retro revival proved to be one of the highest-rated and best-selling Sonic projects in recent years. In the (frankly disconcerting) absence of a true follow-up to Sonic Mania, Sega has chosen to look to that game for inspiration for the latest 2D Sonic release. Billed as Sonic Origins, this new collection features all four original Sonic games, including the rarely re-released Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in an enhanced widescreen format with the new option to treat all 2D entries as if they were one big game. . The end result is, well, exactly what you’d expect. All of these classic Sonic games are looking better than ever with his re-introduction and some light quality of life updates, but those of you who’ve already been through Green Hill Zone more times than you can count may want a little more. .

Clearly, the main draw of this pack is the original 16-bit platformers, and we’re happy to report that each remains tremendously enjoyable in its own way. There’s a good reason so many Sonic fans remember these games so fondly (and maybe a little longingly), and that’s because these games really got what is sonic about. There are no overwrought stories or self-inserted weird characters here, just a blue guy with a ‘tude’ fighting an evil man with a mustache to save a group of animals and eventually the world.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/undocked)

Here a clear maturation is observed with each release; the original Sonic the Hedgehog presented a rougher, yet cohesive take on that high-speed, momentum-based platformer and each subsequent sequel took it in a new direction with new and interesting ideas. Sonic CD, for example, focused more on exploration and played with a time travel mechanic that saw him visit the past to alter the future. Meanwhile, Sonic 3 & Knuckles included elemental shields that gave Sonic new moves. The level designs also became more refined over time, with Sonic 3 & Knuckles representing a near-perfect realization of that mix of incredibly fast, fluid level design and slower, more measured platforming parts.

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Everyone probably has their reasons why one game was better or worse than another, but the point is that it’s really hard to go wrong with any of these releases. Even the first game, which feels a bit simplistic in comparison, handles like a dream and offers plenty of excitement. Additionally, there’s an option to experience all the games as one continuous experience, complete with some cute animated cutscenes, and this helps avoid any issues you might have with the short length of each individual entry. None of these games are more than five hours long (they are 30-year-old 2D platformers, after all), but playing them all back-to-back as one big game makes for an interesting and surprisingly cohesive experience.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (handheld/undocked)

Each game can be played in classic mode, where the original life system is featured and each title is displayed in its original aspect ratio, or in anniversary mode, which is arguably one of the main draws here. Anniversary Mode updates each title with modern enhancements like widescreen support, Sonic’s Drop Dash move from Sonic Mania (and Spin Dash in the case of Sonic 1), and the option to play as other characters like Tails and Knuckles. in games they didn’t have. originally appear. The new embellishments don’t do much to change the core experience (they’re remasters, not remakes), but we think they do a good job of presenting these classics in the best light possible. Sonic’s Drop Dash, for example, feels like a completely natural addition that gives you an extra tool to maintain speed as you progress through levels.

New to this collection is a Mission Mode, which contains a couple dozen small challenges for each game. These will have you doing things like clearing a certain part of a stage while defeating a set number of enemies, or surviving a level with only one ring. Each mission has a star rating to indicate its difficulty and the speed at which you complete the objective determines what rank you get. Higher ranks will earn you more coins (coins, not rings), giving you some incentive to meet the limited requirements of that coveted ‘S’ rank. While nothing revolutionary, we do enjoy the quick structure of these missions; they often make you think about a level in a way you normally wouldn’t, and later ones require you to perform some advanced tricks to finish them on time.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (docked)

Also, there is a Boss Mode and a Mirror Mode to play. The former forces you to take on a bunch of bosses with or without a few rings and three lives, and the latter simply mirrors the levels. Both are welcome inclusions and good for mixing things up a bit, but feel a bit shallow once you’ve adjusted to their tricks.

Using the coins earned in all modes, you can go to the game museum to spend them on soundtracks, pieces of concept art, and short videos and animations from throughout Sonic’s history. Although it seems like this part of the museum is a bit light on content, we appreciate having something that links your progress across all four games. There’s a nice sense of accomplishment in slowly unlocking and completing the museum’s collection; a welcome addition to the already rewarding experience of playing each game.

One thing we think is worth mentioning is that, as enjoyable as it is, Sonic Origins simply represents yet another re-release of these classic Sonic games, and a pretty expensive one at that. Aside from Sonic 3 and Knuckles, we’ve seen most of these classic Sonic games released in some form on pretty much every gaming platform (and Tesla) in recent years, some of them even being available. on the switch (several times, in fact) through other releases and services.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (docked)

The point is that this is a great collection for anyone who hasn’t played any classic Sonic games and is looking for a worthwhile entry point, but we’d encourage those of you who have already played these games to take a hit. and ask if it is really worth buying them again; If the answer is yes, take a second time to ask if a sale isn’t worth waiting for. There is very little in this version that easily validates a double dip; it’s just all the old Sonic games with some nice but non-essential modern tweaks.

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We think it should also be said that there is a lingering feeling that this collection could have been so much more. The four games on offer here are certainly well presented and fun, but something like Sonic Spinball, Sonic 3D Blast or the much lesser known Knuckles Chaotix might have helped justify that $40 price tag. What about save states or a rewind feature like so many other classic collections? Why isn’t there an option to play Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles separately? The replacement of several audio tracks from Sonic 3 that featured contributions from Michael Jackson is another sticking point if you love the originals, especially when Sega heralds this as the “ultimate” way to play them. The new tracks aren’t terrible (and they’re not really new either), but they’re not the hits we remember from the ’90s.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (docked)

Then there’s the matter of features like harder missions in Mission mode or some screen borders in classic mode being locked behind DLC that Sega wants you to buy separately from the base release. We don’t want to rush to judge a release based on what It is not instead of what it is, but it sounds like Sega is being a bit stingy with this; it’s fine for what it is, but what’s here looks more like a $20 game than a $40 one.

conclusion

Sonic Origins is just more of the same, which is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. On the one hand, it’s a near-definitive way to experience four stone-cold classics that represent some of the highest peaks of Sonic’s career. On the other hand, most of these games are already available and there aren’t many new features or additions that would justify buying them again. If you still don’t have a reliable or convenient way to play these games now, or if this is truly your first time playing them, then we’d say Sonic Origins is the best way to experience Sonic’s 2D heyday. Otherwise, we recommend that you wait for this to go on sale or just stream it.


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