|Our Score: 8/10 – Good
|The Good: Old-school Sonic has never felt this smooth
|The Bad: Basic features and harder missions locked behind DLC
|Release Date: 23 June 2022
|Developed by: Sega, Sonic Team
|Available On: PlayStation 5/PlayStation 4, Xbox Series/One, Nintendo Switch, PC
|Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
I’m running through the Green Hill Zone for what may well be the 1000th time in my life. Each step in Sonic’s famous red shoes is a step both back in time to an era of nostalgia and childhood, and a step forward into today’s era of console technology. While remasters of classic 2D sidescrollers often don’t look as polished as you’d think, that is not the case with Sonic Origins. Running through familiar stomping grounds like Green Hill and Emerald Hill’s, with their luscious green grass, was a dash down memory lane I won’t soon forget.
Each game in this collection looks cleaner and more vibrant than you’ve ever seen it. The textures of the trees in Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles’ Angel Hill Zone make each one ‘pop more’ – like an army of wood and leaves. The robots have more detail to them so you can see their lines and individual 2D cogs churning. Running through the Aquatic Ruin Zone in Sonic The Hedgehog 2, and having rings exit my body after a grounder breaks through the bricks was as upsetting as ever, but at least the bricks and the grounder itself looked great. Each of the levels has undergone a renovation, and while their structure is still the same, the extra details are tangible.
The sound quality has been much improved as well. None of the individual sounds – whether you’re activating a shield or running into a spring – get drowned out by the soundtrack or each other. Each sound is crisp and distinct. Even the game’s main menu is bright, cheerful, and upbeat in its presentation.
Sonic Origins’ menu is broken up into various 3D islands, each one representing a game in the series (Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Sonic CD). If you purchased the Premium Fun Pack DLC, each island has 3D character animations, but more on that later. The menu is easy to navigate, and there are three ways you can play each game, either separately or by going to Mission Island where you can play them all together as one giant story. However, if you choose this option, you will only be able to play the games in Anniversary mode as Sonic with the CPU controlling Tails in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3. You can play as Sonic and Tails in all four games whereas Knuckles is only available in the main Sonic trilogy.
The movements in each game are very fluid and they control very well, but their fluidity is mostly noticeable in bonus levels. It was a blast using Knuckles in Sonic 2 to fly through the Mystic Cave and use him in the bonus level to obtain chaos emeralds when he was not in the game in the first place. To experience classic levels with fresh mechanics and perspective is part of what makes this remaster great.
Where the classic mode limits you to a 4:3 display and limits your number of lives, the Anniversary Mode bumps things up to 16:9 with no time limit and unlimited lives. You’ll also find coin machines dotted around the levels, and you can then use those coins to redeem extras in the Museum like concept art, comic book covers, and music. There are no microtransactions (hooray) as everything can be unlocked in-game by collecting coins. This gives Origins a lot of unique replay value outside of the nostalgia factor.
If you just want to pounce and beat up on Robotnik all day, you can do that in Boss Rush Mode, and if you clear it you will be rewarded with coins. Or if you just want to play the Blue Spheres mini-game/bonus level from Sonic 3 you can do that too. The game also offers special missions that are separate from the main games, which include things like killing five caterkillers and reaching the goal in a short time, to ‘zero ring’ challenges, and more. They’re fun and are a nice way to motivate people who don’t normally 100% games to really go for that trophy.
Now for the bad part: the 11 harder missions are unavailable unless you purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition, or buy the Premium Fun Pack in addition to the standard game to access them. This is my biggest frustration with how Sega released this game and packaged it. From a quality standpoint, the games play very, very well, but splitting up the features in this way feels like a disservice to an otherwise great package. I played the Digital Deluxe Edition which includes everything including the harder missions.
Locking those missions away is already a bad decision, but it gets worse. Unless you buy the ‘Premium Fun Pack’, you can’t freely control the camera over the main menu islands to ‘explore’ them, nor will you see the 3D character animations that give those islands life. It’s one of the more egregious DLC decisions in recent memory, and very much feels like features are subtracted from the main game rather than added in the DLC.
Outside of those inconveniences, Sonic Origins is a great collection of some of Sonic’s finest outings, with each one running smoothly and without game-breaking bugs (for me on PS5, at least). The only issues I encountered were in Sonic 2, where I got stuck in between two bumpers in the Casino Night Zone and had to restart the level because I couldn’t get out. Also if you choose the CPU to play as Tails, he’ll get stuck and even if you’re *ahem* miles ahead of him you will still hear his jump animation sound throughout the rest of the level. He does not normally fly back down to where you are as he does in Sonic 3.
That aside, Sonic Origins is the best collection of Sonic games around. As ever, the games are accessible and easy to play, and the beautifully animated cutscenes breathe some new life into it.