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  • Sonic Origins Review

    This much-anticipated collection of remastered Sonic classics is finally out. How does it stack up? Let’s find out…

    Sonic Origins contains a lot of stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff to talk about, so let’s break it all down into categories, shall we?

    Fancy Features

    Sonic Origins includes a number of bonus features which are largely pretty great.

    The museum is quite nice, particularly the illustrations. These include manual scans, promo art, and even some rare development materials we hadn’t seen before. Some of the older artworks, such as the Harmony and Game Gear art, are a bit low-color; likely being old digital master copies from the 90s. The museum interface itself is a bit counter-intuitive, with multiple different button presses needed to zoom in on an image, plus reversed scrolling controls.

    Newly animated cutscenes bookend each game, offering the same charming silent movie stylings of Sonic Mania Adventures. These look excellent, with cute character designs and expressive character acting. As a bonus, all of those Mania Adventures movies are also included in here, just for the heck of it.

    Mission Mode provides an assortment of bite-sized challenges remixing aspects of each of the games featured. They can be somewhat challenging, but Sonic veterans shouldn’t have too much trouble. It’s also the best way to rack up coins for the museum and retrying special stages. However, at 15 challenges per game, each lasting a couple minutes tops, the mode can feel unsatisfactorily brief.

    Gameplay-wise, the drop dash from Sonic Mania makes its appearance in all of the games. It adds a curious new twist to the gameplay, though its implementation seems a bit bumpy at times.

    Sonic 1

    Sonic 1 is still Sonic 1, but now you can finally play as Knuckles!

    One neat thing about this version is that new level sections were added just for Knuckles/Tails. For example, while you can’t fly over the walls in Marble Zone to skip most the level, Act 3 has a unique path built for flying and climbing. It’s a nice little splash of something fresh on something familiar.

    The special stages here rotate much smoother than the original, though the physics may feel a bit off for some.

    Sonic CD

    The original remaster, Sonic CD seems to have received some special attention.

    The classic animated cutscenes look excellent here, being upscaled by folks from Discotek Media. In an ideal world, they would have been able to do a new HD transfer of the original film reels, but considering those probably vanished ages ago, this is the next best thing. It’s easily the best quality we’ve ever seen these movies.

    In terms of music, the option to choose between the Japanese and US soundtracks returns. And they managed to relicense the vocal tracks for the opening and ending songs this time. So that’s nice.

    Personally, I would’ve liked to seen instantaneous time travel transitions, like the original developers apparently wanted to do but couldn’t due to hardware limitations. Maybe clean up the ring layouts between different times. And Knuckles. Did I mention Knuckles isn’t playable in this one game? C’maaahn.

    Sonic 2

    Sonic 2 is as familiar as ever.

    The new Hidden Palace Zone returns, tucked away in Mystic Cave. Cut from the original game, this mysterious zone was expanded into a full playable level with this edition. I found the new boss a bit tedious, but I appreciate the effort all the same.

    This game also lets you use the forbidden team-up of Knuckles and Tails! Unfortunately, Tails in this game has a tendency to get stuck in the level, leaving you stuck listening to him jump repeatedly until you reach the end. I’m not sure how this affects 2-player mode, but it’s a big annoyance all the same. This definitely needs fixed.

    The special stage half-pipes are rendered in full 3D, allowing for smooth twists and turns. It may seem like an odd mix, but they look nice, retaining that simplistic flat coloring.

    Sonic 3 & Knuckles

    The main attraction, Sonic 3 & Knuckles has finally risen from legal limbo and was given the full HD widescreen treatment.

    Some new flourishes were added, expanding the short story segments endcapping the levels. For example, Tails has an all new intro involving him landing the plane and hopping out. It’s a nice touch that rounds out these brief cinematics well. Also, some new rotation sprites for all the characters (including Super Sonic!) were created to reflect them crouching and looking up, presumably in an attempt to help players struggling with the infamous “barrel of doom”.

    And Blue Spheres fans rejoice! Also added is “New Blue Spheres“, which includes a plethora of challenging new levels, making use of the green spheres and pink warp spheres from Sonic Mania. I like the new interface for this sub-game, showing a new graphic of Sonic popping out of a giant ring as colorful 3D checkerboard planets rotate in the background.

    Some of Sonic 3‘s songs have been replaced, as I’m sure you’ve already heard. These are the same tracks from the old S&K Collection and, as recently discovered, the original game’s prototype. As someone who played a lot of that old PC release growing up, I don’t hate these songs, though the Genesis-style mixes here leave something to be desired. Additionally, S3&K‘s audio in general seems muffled and over-compressed, especially in comparison to the other games.

    I know the developer wasn’t particularly satisfied with the end result of this (apparently pretty rushed) effort, but I don’t think it’s a complete train wreck either. It’s still a solid effort considering the circumstances, and I would say it’s at least 80~90% of what people hoped for.

    PC Port

    So I’ve been playing this game through Steam, and those considering the PC release will need to consider some things.

    The PC version only includes the most basic of options — resolution, Vsync, and not much else. There are no graphical options for the fancy 3D menus, which will pose a problem for some players…

    For some reason, likely a combination of Denuvo and Hedgehog Engine, this collection of old Genesis games is actually quite demanding. The Steam store page suggests a minimum of 6GB of RAM with a recommendation of 8GB. As someone with a (not particularly beefy) gaming rig, I didn’t run into any performance issues, aside from some frame hitching loading up the menus. Those with, say, a laptop or a lower end computer, however, may not have a very pleasant experience.

    By the way, Denuvo! It’s stuffed in here, per usual for Sega’s PC releases lately. Denuvo is an anti-piracy DRM that’s quite bloated and resource intensive. It sucks, nobody likes it, and shouldn’t be here. But it is. Maybe Sega will eventually remove it, like they did Sonic Mania… or maybe they won’t, like they never did Team Sonic Racing. Maybe with enough complaints, something could happen. I dunno, don’t count on it.


    One of the big sticking points with Sonic Origins is the price. At $40, it’s a pretty big ask for those who have good memories of these games but aren’t necessarily diehard fans. Compounding the issue is the fact that the old mobile ports are “free”, and the previous PC port of Sonic CD was just $5 before it was delisted. If you wanted to be especially callous, you could argue that Mega Collection included more games for the same price 20 years ago.

    There is also the DLC, which is almost completely inconsequential. It includes a handful of extra missions (for Mission Mode), extra border designs (for Classic Mode), some extra music (for the jukebox)(…which are also improperly tagged…), and a few other frivolities. Aside from the missions, there’s really nothing worthwhile here, and the DLC only serves to add extra sting to the $40 base price.

    The next sticking point is the issue of bugs and glitches. These largely amount to odd collision issues (not that the originals were strangers to these either). Sometimes I’d be left thinking “Huh, that hit/crushed me?” But the frustration is largely mitigated by the Anniversary Mode’s infinite lives system, meaning any head-tilting death won’t set you back much.

    But sure enough, scour social media and you’ll find clips of plenty of oddities. I never experienced anything game-breaking. Aside from the some questionable crushes in S3&K, I clipped through a wall once as Knuckles in S1, and a bad time warp in SCD sent me to another part of the level. Also, the credits music in S1 cut out after somehow collecting a 1-up when an enemy was defeated during the animation. Weird.

    Display quality of the games themselves are also on the soft side, which I’m not a big fan of, and there are no options to adjust it. The “anti-aliasing” option makes it even worse. Just carrying over the filters from Sonic Mania would’ve been fine. It’s not horrendously blurry, but I would prefer some sharper pixels.

    In closing…

    Overall, Sonic Origins is a mostly solid package hampered mainly by some… questionable business decisions. Those looking for perfection may be let down by the occasional bug or altered song. If you’re not a Sonic fanatic and you’re not dying to play these games again, it’s fair to suggest you wait, either for a sale and/or potential (hopeful) patches.

    I don’t want to be too down on the game, since clearly a lot of effort was put into it on several different fronts. Yet, at the same time, it feels like some aspects weren’t quite given the level of care they deserved. It’s very much a mixed bag. What should be something great simply ended up being good enough. And I know for a lot of picky Sonic fans these days, “good enough” isn’t good enough.

    Still, I enjoyed it well enough to give it a light recommendation. The games themselves are still as great as ever, despite some shortcomings. But for those who are on the fence, for any particular reason, I can only suggest a “wait and see.”

    Disclaimer: This review was written using a review code provided by Sega.