Title: Sonic Origins
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
In retrospect, it’s surprising that a collection housing the iconic classic Sonic games took this long to be made. All franchise contention aside, those older games were genre-defining and remain widely beloved to this day. So this collection seemed like an instant home run when it was announced, and on a base level, it delivers. However, several questionable design decisions and technical hiccups prevent this collection from being as qualitative as it could have been.
Sonic Origins houses four classic Sonic titles, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. They are all 2D platformers where their collective identity is primarily based on momentum, not necessarily speed by itself. And, with the exception of Sonic CD, I had a blast reliving these games since my last time playing them via Sonic Mega Collection. This was my first time playing Sonic CD, and well, it was something.
While it boasts an ambitious time travel mechanic that alters each stage and enjoyable special stages, the level design felt pretty messy with bizarre hazard placements. Further, the stage aesthetics were too bland and unmemorable for my tastes. I greatly appreciated the option to choose between the English and Japanese soundtracks, at least.
On the other hand, the other three games in the package were joyous romps that were fulfilling to revisit. The addition of two selectable modes, Anniversary and Classic, helped provide further replayability, with the former adding wide-screen support and infinite lives and the latter being in 4:3 with classic life implementation.
Still, I find it odd that these modes aren’t more customizable, such as lives being possible for Anniversary Mode. While seemingly minor, it does seem like a design oversight not to allow lives to one specific mode, even if it is catered to modern audiences. Regardless, few major significant setbacks impeded my enjoyment. The Spin Dash being present in all titles, as well as the Drop Dash from Sonic Mania, were neat inclusions that added intriguing supplementary decision-making throughout the zones.
Though, there is a possible overlooked point in Sonic CD when using the Drop Dash. Since that game’s time travel mechanic is dependent on building up enough speed, the Drop Dash can be used in quick succession to trigger time travel far more rapidly than intended. Granted, I don’t find the mechanic all that fun to engage with normally, so I don’t necessarily mind this oddity, but it is indeed peculiar. And now that I think about it, that’s part of the consistent issues I have with Sonic Origins. For as generally great as the experience is, there are always overtly noticeable caveats everywhere.
Returning to Sonic CD, Knuckles is oddly excluded from being playable while everyone is useable throughout the other three games. There are obvious problems in various facets, including the non-CD games. For instance, during Sonic 2, an invisible wall prevented me from progressing in Chemical Plant, requiring me to restart, and I fell through the ground once in Sonic 3’s Sky Sanctuary. It is worth emphasizing that issues like these only occurred a few handfuls of times, so technical obstructions were not overwhelmingly incessant. The game is not completely broken whatsoever. Still, their existence in a collection of classic titles is undeniably troubling. I occasionally experienced frame drops when using Super Sonic, too, which is immensely concerning for what these games are.
A new inclusion within this collection is Coins, a collectible serving two purposes. Firstly, they can be used to retry special stages throughout each game which is immensely helpful for those newer to these extra areas. Additionally, they can be used to buy bonus content from the Museum, a menu containing illustrations, videos, music, and more.
The concept of obtaining celebratory franchise material based on in-game performance is thrilling, yet I gradually found the rewards here to be lacking. The content here is moderately interesting, and I wasn’t expecting other games to be locked behind there or anything. However, one can quickly amass far more coins than necessary for the Museum, making their continued pickups perplexing. It’s just strange how such a major part of this collection’s identity rapidly becomes moot after only a few hours of playing.
The Missions follow a similar philosophy. These optional events have players complete timed challenges themed around the four games to earn S ranks and gain coins depending on performance. Unfortunately, even as someone not particularly proficient in classic Sonic titles, the Missions were mostly pathetically easy to achieve a max rank in, save for a few standouts. I was hoping for these Missions to add genuine challenge and replay value, but they feel like filler content with little substance.
The most endearing part of this package is easily the new cutscenes introducing and concluding each game. They’re all gorgeously animated, also acting as bridges in the package’s Story Mode, which connects the games back-to-back. These scenes undoubtedly aid in further cementing Sonic Origins’ celebratory identity.
Sonic Origins is an ideal package for newer fans to dive into to learn more about the franchise’s beginnings. Sadly, a myriad of odd design choices and bizarre technical hiccups personally brought down this package more than a few notches. Of course, I could have been more vexed by these issues than the average fan, so I may be an outlier. Still, if you’re a dedicated classic Sonic fan, you may want to purchase this package during a sale or investigate whether the console versions fare any better.
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