Don’t Stop Now, Come On And Rock And Roll!
LOW Sonic (with one slight problem in its presentation).
WTF Sonic (I really love this series).
Look, Sonic the Hedgehog needs no introduction at this point. Ushering in the 16-bit era, Sega’s blue mascot was Mario’s most significant rival throughout the ’90s, thanks to a swarm of legendary games released on the Sega Genesis. Racing through hundreds of levels to fight Dr. Robotnik with his friends Tails and Knuckles, these adventures have clearly resonated with folks over the last 30-plus years.
Now, with the recent release of the Sonic the Hedgehog films and the solid remaster of Sonic Colors that came out in 2021, Sega has released Sonic Origins as a way to introduce new fans to the Blue Blur’s early adventures and give old fans a trip down memory lane at the same time.
Collecting the first four Sega Genesis and Sega CD titles in the series — Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), Sonic CD (1993), and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (2011) — Origins is basically a crash course in Sonic. Each of these platformers follows the same formula in that players run across 2D levels, collect a few items like rings and chaos emeralds along the way, and then fight a boss. It’s super simple stuff that’s aged well, thanks to solid gameplay and bright aesthetics.
Each of the games is presented in two formats, Anniversary and Retro modes. The former removes lives, is played in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and has a brand new series of animated clips that play before and after each game. The latter lets players experience every game as they came out originally, with a letterboxed 4:3 aspect ratio and limited lives.
A few other neat improvements in gameplay include being allowed to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in any game (with the exception of Knuckles in CD). Being able to fly over obstacles as Tails rules, and being able to change characters in places where it was never possible before adds so much replay value. There’s also an option to play these games in one “story mode” allowing every game to be played in sequential order with animated cutscenes breaking down the story in style.
The easier Anniversary mode is where I spent most of my time, as the frequent autosave really helped me out during trickier levels. I do wish that there was a way to play this modern mode in the old aspect ratio, however, since a lot of these older games don’t look as good stretched out to fit modern TVs without a bit of cleaning up. It’s not a dealbreaker, but coming off of how great Sonic Mania looked, it feels like a major downgrade.
Regardless, what matters here is the fact that all these games are together in one package. Hell, finally being able to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the first time in a compilation rules, as many consider it to be the peak of the series.
However, the biggest draw for me was the supporting content included like music, artwork, and even a few videos. As players go through the games, they earn in-game coins that allow them to buy museum items like songs or even animatics from the animated Sonic Mania shorts. Being able to watch the gorgeous opening movie from Sonic CD (animated by Toei) and hear that great theme song was a treat, as was seeing the different box art from every region the games were released.
It does irk me a bit that there are other tracks that can be bought as DLC (which isn’t available to access as of the time of writing) but the package still feels fairly complete overall. Unlike other game compilations I’ve reviewed, there’s a lot of charm and personality here — the menus are vibrant, the bonus features feel like they cater to fans, and the presentation is solid overall. Like a Criterion Collection release, there’s clearly a lot of love here and I do hope Sega considers other, non-Genesis console ports of Sonic games, either as DLC or a separate collection down the line. It would be cool to see stuff like Knuckles’ Chaotix, Sonic Drift, or even Tails’ Adventure on modern consoles.
While I have my qualms with the way the graphical presentation is handled during gameplay, I have to commend Sonic Origins for delivering on its promise. It’s a great collection, and one that got me passionate about the series again — immediately after playing, I downloaded Sonic Mania, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Forces to keep riding this high. With any luck, Sega continues the trend with other classics.
Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Sega. It is available on PS4/5, PC, XBO/X/S, and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 8 hours were spent in single-player and the games were not completed. (These games were also previously played on past consoles.)
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E . This game is perfectly fine for young children, as the violence is very minimal, there is no sexual content, nor any swearing.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: I spent most of my time playing the game on mute and found no issues. Everything has some visual cue, though there’s no way to resize text. Overall, this game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls cannot be remapped and but there are control diagrams for each game.