Sonic Origins Plus Review – Slowing Down the Blue Blur

    Title: Sonic Origins Plus
    Developer: Sonic Team
    Release Date: June 23, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Sega
    Genre: 2D Platformer

Sonic Origins’ was released with mixed reactions due to its technical issues at launch and a low number of playable games. So, when Sonic Origins Plus was announced as an enhanced version of the base package, I was excited to get the full classic Sonic experience.

While the paid nature of this DLC may be unnecessary, adding a playable Amy into all four games, playable Knuckles in Sonic CD, and the arrival of twelve Sonic Game Gear titles would at least make Sonic Origins a grander package. However, Sonic Origins Plus only partially succeeds in its efforts, providing an experience reminiscent of the base game’s launch.

The major boon of Sonic Origins Plus is the playable Amy in the three mainline titles and Sonic CD. Not only is simply having another character a justifiable excuse for playing through these games again, but she brings her own practical uniqueness to the table.

To elaborate, Amy can use her trusty Piko Piko Hammer to combat enemies while platforming, instilling different approaches to familiar areas and scenarios. This added ability may seem minor in the grand scheme of things, and it is, but it’s appreciated nonetheless, and Amy’s sprites are lovingly crafted, so it’s a plus in my book.

As for Knuckles in Sonic CD, there isn’t much to say since it goes just as you’d expect. This was a neglected oversight from the original Origins that I’m at least glad to see fixed here. Now, the four classic characters are all playable across the four mainline titles, as they should’ve been.

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On the other hand, the other significant addition of Sonic Origins Plus, the Game Gear titles, is disappointing. Before diving into why, though, it’s worth establishing that the following twelve games are made available:

  •  Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic Chaos
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble
  • Sonic Drift
  • Sonic Drift 2
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Tails Adventure
  • Sonic Labyrinth
  • Sonic Blast
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Tails’ Skypatrol

Further, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Drift, and Sonic Drift 2 have dedicated two-player options, which adds value to the package. At first glance, this all seems terrific as one of the main critiques of the original Sonic Origins, the low number of playable entries when considering classic Sonic’s massive library, is directly addressed. However, the performance of these games leaves much to be desired.

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This may seem like an exaggeration, but some of these games felt borderline unplayable. Aside from the meager screen real estate, which may not be fixable given the platforms they were initially released on, their slowdown is severe. For instance, in Sonic 1 Game Gear, approaching collapsing bridges and waterfalls comes with drop frames. Then in Sonic 2 Game Gear and Sonic Chaos, there seemed to be less rhyme or reason for their unacceptable slowdown, as it just happens at will.

Regardless of whether the original releases of these games performed this poorly, steps should have been taken to optimize them in this collection. And if these shoddy showings are somehow exclusive to Sonic Origins Plus, then it’s even less forgivable. Oddly enough, the games that have no platforming elements, such as Mean Bean Machine and Sonic Drift, performed smoothly. Sonic Blast was also surprisingly stable. It’s all just inconsistent. As for the content of the games themselves, they’re pretty hit-and-miss. Plenty of them suffer from mediocre to downright forgettable level design, primarily due to the limited screen space.

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At best, they serve as neat novelties and not much else. In essence, I’m glad these games have made their way to Sonic Origins, if just to elevate the entire package. Still, a few cases of intolerable performance makes them a massive misstep. Further, many of these additions don’t have the staying power of the other classic entries, so whether or not you’ll play them for longer than an hour depends on your history with each game. The audio quality in the Game Gear titles is also occasionally hard to listen to, so I recommend lowering your game volume, especially when first booting them up.

The final inclusions of Sonic Origins Plus are the Premium Fun Pack, providing “Hard Missions, Letterbox Background, Bonus Character Animations in-menu with music player, and additional re-mastered music tracks,” and the Classic Music Pack, which gives more remastered songs. It goes without saying that none of this should be paid DLC. Everything here comes off as features that should have been available to the base game and not behind a paywall.

A cute inclusion is the “Surprise” menu on the Mission Select, housing a new illustration with new tiles unveiled dependent on specific mission completion involving Amy and Knuckles in Sonic CD. As minor as this is, I found it to encourage a nice bit of replayablity.

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Sonic Origins Plus had the opportunity to really deliver a collection of classic Sonic games that fans could experience on newer hardware. While Amy’s playable inclusion is fantastic, the poor state of some Game Gear titles introduces too many points of frustration to overlook. Features like the Classic Music and Premium Fun packs should’ve been a free update. In fact, the amount of purchase bonuses and content locked behind DLC makes experiencing Sonic Origins Plus exhausting. So if you’re desperately trying to complete this collection, then it’s here, but you could just as easily skip this release.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.