I’m a sucker for retro games. I grew up in the late 80s and 90s, and video games of that era fast became my bread and butter. The Sony/Microsoft war that’s going on today is just as ferocious as it was between gaming giants Sega and Nintendo. They were the frontrunners of that generation. Things heated up when both companies wanted mascots, characters to lead the marketing campaigns.
For Nintendo, it was a friendly plumber dressed in a red shirt and blue overalls, but for Sega it was a blue hedgehog. Sonic was all about speed, and when the first Sonic the Hedgehog game released on the Sega Mega Drive back in 1991, it didn’t hold back. The games were fast, the sprites were big, and the games were hella’ fun. Sonic’s earlier games have been packaged together so many times on almost every major console. Sonic Origins continues that trend, but this time they added a few more bells and whistles.
This package contains Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic CD, all in their 16-bit glory. In Classic Mode, nothing has changed from their first releases. Each game is displayed in the 4:3 aspect ratio, just like back in the day. It is when you switch to Anniversary Mode that things get a little interesting. This “remastered” mode whips the games into full widescreen without stretching the image. This means you can see more of what’s ahead and more of the timeless 16-bit graphics and infinite lives to boot.
The premise for each of the games is simple: run to the end of each stage, collect rings and rescue Sonic’s friends. Each Zone is separated into Acts, in which the final Act of each Zone results in a boss fight with Eggman (or Dr. Robotnik). That is it. What is special about each game though is the expertly designed levels and how they cater to not only Sonic’s speed but his agility too. Sure, the platforming parts kill the momentum, but it wouldn’t be interesting if you could just hold right on the D-Pad until you reached the end now, would it? There are also special stages, each one different in each game. In Sonic 1, you try to get to the centre of an ever-revolving stage whilst avoiding the goals. In Sonic 2, Sonic and his best friend, Tails, run along a tube-like course avoiding bombs and collecting rings. Sonic 3 & Knuckles requires you to run around a huge sphere whilst collecting blue spheres and avoiding the red ones. Then there’s Sonic CD, which has you running around a racetrack destroying UFOs.
The coolest feature of Sonic Origins is Story Mode. Each game featured is played in chronological sequence separated by animated cutscenes to link them. The cutscenes are fun to watch, and they do their job in keeping the journey coherent, but they do have a Saturday morning cartoony vibe that may not be to everybody’s taste.
Aside from playing the games from start to end, a few other modes change things up a little. Boss Rush Mode has you face the boss from each Zone in each game, Mission Mode sets specific challenges in select segments of the games, and Mirror Mode flips the levels. Mirror Mode isn’t unlocked until completing a game though. Then there’s the in-game Museum, which allows you access to all the artwork, soundtracks and videos once unlocked to explore the history of Sonic and his friends. More can be unlocked by finding Star Coins and spending them on whatever you like.
So, Sonic Origins is just another collection of the titular rodent’s earliest adventures. Would you pay £30 for 4 games that you can easily get and play by other cheaper means? I guess that’s up to you, but personally, I don’t think it is worth it. Each game can be completed in mere hours. Don’t get me wrong, retro fans such as myself will find a lot of joy playing these again and even finding more reason to thanks to the extras packaged alongside the games themselves. A notable change that displeased me was the removal of some of the music from Sonic 3 & Knuckles due to licensing issues; therefore, new tracks were made, and they just don’t fit the bill. Also, releasing more music tracks through paid DLC is ludicrous.
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: PS4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23rd June 2022
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Sonic Origins was provided by the publisher.