(available for Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Playstation 5 version used for this review)
Sonic Origins had a very weird marketing cycle. It was announced last year for the 30th anniversary of Sonic Central, but went radio silent for ages, only showing up in a random tweet with a trailer, that also announced the DLC for the digital deluxe version (which is the version I used for this review). In summation, it’s a collection of Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic CD. Sonic 3 & Knuckles have been bundled as one game, as they should be.
This collection is below full price, which is a good deal for what is essentially 4 games in one. But most of these games are largely purchasable elsewhere, apart from Sonic & Knuckles, which is hard to get due to copyright issues in the soundtrack of the game.
This is a collection of very old games, and it’s not as if much has been done to them, though various changes have been made. I’m going to review this in a similar way that I did Mario 3D All Stars, so I’ll be less commenting on the game itself and instead how the collection plays, considering that these are available in a few other methods- for example if you have the Nintendo Switch online expansion pass, you’ll already have access to Sonic 2 as part of your subscription.
Everyone knows that I’m a huge Sonic fan, so I’ve already bought these games countless times. I fear how many times I’ve bought Sonic 1 & 2. But I’ve also played quite a few collections, and the one beloved Sonic collection that this will be compared to instantly will be Sonic Mega Collection Plus which was made for the Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube and contained Sonic 1, 2, 3, Knuckles, 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, and Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. And that is an interesting comparison to make, since they both have museum features, concept art.
However, if I was to give my opinion on all of the games in question, I would say they all still hold up. They’re all excellent platformers and I really recommend them. Sonic 1 is still a bit rough around the edges since it was still the team figuring out what they wanted to do and places they wanted to grow, and I will say that Sonic CD has some weird level design, but I will say that these games are great, and this collection has not ruined them. We’re not dealing with a Grand Theft Auto Trilogy Definitive Edition fiasco, which is one of the big reasons why I purchased the original emulations of Sonic on steam, just in case this turned into a total disaster.
While these aren’t fully translated versions of the mobile phone versions created by Christian Whitehead, who would go on to make Sonic Mania, they are virtually identical. The only one that required a remaster was Sonic 3 and Knuckles, which is being developed by Headcanon.
So what does the collection get right and what does it get wrong?
- Anniversary mode
The game offers you several ways to play from the menu. You can select any one of the games and you can also select Story Mode, which puts all the games together back to back, playing them chronologically (starting with Sonic 1, Sonic CD, Sonic 2, then Sonic & Knuckles) and now they each come with a newly animated introduction cutscenes as well as an ending for when you beat each game.
Full disclosure, I actually also purchased Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch to play the Story Mode since I planned to play the Story mode on the PS5 mode on a livestream. I did enjoy playing the game in story mode but I was relieved that I didn’t have to beat the game in order to play any of the games individually.
Both games come with two modes and a few ways to play it. There’s a boss rush, which allows you to take on all the bosses in each individual game, mirror mode, which allows you to play the game in reverse (a real challenge if you’ve played these games a lot and you have muscle memory for a lot of the levels). But the main two I’ll talk about are classic mode and anniversary mode. Classic mode is when you play the game as originally intended, nothing is really altered. Anniversary mode means that you gain some slight updates, like adding the spin dash into Sonic 1, which actually kind of breaks the game, as well as all 4 games get the drop dash from Sonic Mania, which comes in very handy.
You also get a lot of what was in the mobile phone ports, like Hidden Palace being put back into Sonic 2, as well as the ability to play as either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in various games. It also marks the first time that you can play as Knuckles in Sonic 1. I did try this out, and personally I thought he played alright, but the level design clearly wasn’t intended for him- though he can break the game in quite a few areas. Marvel Zone is more tolerable in areas due to his gliding ability. He also makes getting out of the water in the Labyrinth Zone a lot easier.
Anniversary Mode’s main gimmick is the removal of lives, you get infinite continues and instead of lives you can build up coins. The coins can be used to buy extras from the museum area, but more importantly, you can spend a coin to have a retry of any special stages where you didn’t succeed, which is where I unlocked Hyper Sonic for the first time ever in Sonic & Knuckles. A lot of people have said that they feel like the challenge is removed from the Sonic games when you take the lives out of the mix, which is something that I was worried about too but I surprisingly found that the challenge was not absent, especially considering that I could be stuck at a checkpoint for ages with very little rings to defend myself, which made some boss fights a lot harder than normal. It really allowed me to appreciate all of the individual levels since I had less fear of having to get back to where I was if a continuation wasn’t available. I think that the ability to continue in special stages is fantastic, since the special stages really require memorisation and you could actually learn to get better as you go along. I think I actually learnt more through doing that and as a result I was getting better at the harder stages as a result, I even defeated a few of the harder stages on my first go if not the first few.
If you don’t like the idea of it and you want the challenge back, the classic mode is there. But I think that the Anniversary Mode is great for newcomers, especially young kids who have been wanting to try out some of the old Sonic games after seeing the movies. And in fact, anniversary mode introduces some of the best quality of life updates for these games in my opinion
- The museum
The museum is great, it really has some cool concept art images and various parts of the soundtracks include several remixes made throughout the years. For example, you can get some of the remixes made in the Super Smash Brothers games.
On the videos front, it fortunately does not lock several of them behind the coins that you collect in the game, especially for the ones that you can watch for free on YouTube like the Sonic Mania shorts and clips from the Sonic Symphony Orchestra. You don’t get the whole show in here as it only does the melodies of the games featured in this collection. If you want to see the whole symphony, the soundtrack is available on Apple Music and Spotify and you can watch the show on YouTube. I would really recommend it, it’s probably one of the best symphony concerts for a game anniversary that I’ve ever heard.
You could say that the coins do warrant you to play the games over and over again, but if you’re decent at the game you’ll earn plenty over time. And if you purchase the digital deluxe version, you start the game off with 100 coins anyway- but I would recommend saving those coins and not buying too many things in the museum until you’ve done most of the games, since you want to save those coins for repeating special stages.
While I think that the museum could have had more things in it, like behind the scenes documentaries, some of the concept art and backgrounds to look at were really great- and it does feel like it was a real celebration of the history of the franchise- if not it’s complete history, it’s at least it’s most recent.
- Widescreen display
In classic mode, the games are kept in their 4×3 aspect ratio with borders, which can be turned on or off- if there’s one complaint I could make, it’s that there could be more design choices for these borders. However, if you play the game in anniversary mode the game comes in full widescreen. Despite my own concerns about the widescreen display, the games do not feel stretched out, they’ve been matched to widescreen almost perfectly. Sonic 3 & Knuckles looked particularly good in widescreen, and I actually think that you can see a lot more of the colour and the well-crafted design of these games when you see them in widescreen. I did briefly play this on the Switch OLED and the OLED screen made these games look amazing. Considering I played a bit of Sonic 2 on the Megadrive collection that comes with Nintendo Switch Online, you really can tell the difference when playing this game in widescreen for this collection.
- Mission Mode
Mission mode is added to all of the games, which gives you a small section of each level that gives you a simple goal and you can get a ranking based on how quickly you complete this goal, with S rank being the top tier. This actually was a really interesting way of playing the game since some of them were really challenging, and my obsession with being really good at Sonic games meant that I spent a lot of late nights trying to get the S rank- some of these are not easy!
The challenges consist of beating bosses with no rings, adding a bottomless pit to a boss fight, using Knuckles to beat a certain number of enemies while gliding. There’s a bunch of interesting remixes to levels.
If you really are looking for a challenge, these are great ways to do it. But if you’re a completion-ist, getting the S rank on all of these is going to drive you insane.
- Auto saves
This comes in anniversary, classic, and story mode. Each checkpoint gives you an auto save, so you can quit the game and start it right where you left off. This is one of my favourite things about this collection, since it allowed me to play these games at whatever pace I wanted to. It also helps that in the PlayStation 5 version using the trophy hunting features, I could actually start up whatever games I wanted to from the PS5’s starter interface without going through any menus.
Auto save is another reason why I think in some cases this is the best way to play these games.
- Visual fidelity
I put this one into a mixed section because it wasn’t something I noticed a lot myself, but I felt for integrity I should say that some of the pixel art that was used in this has not been brought up to the level that people would have liked and there are some visual inconsistencies. I noticed it myself with Knuckles in Sonic 1, he really doesn’t look like he belongs in that game. But, it could have looked a lot worse. I will say that if you see a side by side on YouTube or have a very keen eye you might notice this point, but I think that the average player won’t notice these aspects of the game.
Again, I’m putting this in for integrity reasons since a lot of people have found some bad bugs in the game. I only came across one serious one, which was with the time trials on the PlayStation, when I tried to look at my time records it actually caused my PS5 to crash, making me do a force reset. Luckily my PS5 was fine, but I felt like I should point this out. I did still feel as though I should bring this up because I’ve been seeing a lot of complaints online.
- The new songs in Sonic 3 & Knuckles
One of the reasons that Sonic 3 & Knuckles had trouble being put in collections is mainly because of the soundtrack issues. The soundtracks in all of these games are amazing, however, 3 of the levels required new songs to be put in since many of them have copyright issues with the estate of Michael Jackson, who has now been confirmed by the Sonic co-creator did take part with the creation of the soundtrack in Sonic 3, though he remains uncredited. The reason why he left the project is still disputed, some claim that SEGA fired him after initial allegations came out, others claiming that he wasn’t happy with how Sega Megadrives sound chips made his music sounds, there’s still no official word on that mystery.
3 stages in Sonic 1 required new music to be put in place, and they used new recordings of the prototype versions of the songs. Those songs don’t sound bad, they’re certainly not as good as the songs that ended up being in the game, and considering what Michael Jackson has been accused of, I’m actually appalled to say that, but the prototype songs are fine. But these new recordings sound terrible! Something must have been going on with the sound engineers. They’re luckily not too distracting and they improve as you go on- but it would have been better if you just put the Steam prototype versions in.
Sonic Origins is an excellent collection of games. I don’t really understand people’s negatives around the game, because I’ve been absolutely adoring it! This is going to be one of my go-to ways of playing these games. I think that there are some valid criticisms arounds some of the pixel art and some of the soundtrack that had to be put in to avoid a lawsuit.
But man, this collection is so good! I would really recommend it to be a great way to get younger kids into Sonic since the anniversary mode gives it a lot of quality-of-life features that improve the game. Old school fans might find some issues with these ones, but I found it to be a great collection. I kind of with the museum contained a bit more, but as a whole, it’s a great collection
Final Score 9.4/10
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