Sonic Origins Review – A Potent Pack Of Nostalgia

While fans often debate the merits of modern Sonic the Hedgehog video games, the consensus is that the ’90s were the franchise’s most consistently great years. Sonic Origins brings together the four games most commonly associated with the term, delivering at its core an outstanding group of classic titles. But through multiple modernizations and updates, Sonic Origins makes a strong case for being the best official way to experience Sonic’s heyday in 2022.

Playing through the four games in this collection – Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic CD – is still incredibly fun. Sure, some frustrating design elements from Sonic 1 and CD haven’t aged as gracefully as the other two games, but they’re all true classics in the 2D platformer genre. Speeding through the Chemical Plant Zone is just as fun today as it was in Genesis, and I couldn’t have stopped the smile that spread across my face if I’d tried when the opening scene of Sonic 3 played out.

Sonic Origins offers easy access to all four of these popular titles with new beautifully animated cutscenes. You can play them in classic mode, keeping the original aspect ratio and limited lifespan system, or you can play your favorite anniversary mode. Here, the aspect ratio natively matches widescreen monitors, Sonic can access Sonic Mania’s drop-dash movement, and the limited-lives system is removed. Instead of earning extra lives by playing in Anniversary mode, you’ll earn coins that can be exchanged at the museum for cool digital collectibles like vintage illustrations, videos, music, and even excerpts from the Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony. These items are probably available online, but they are nice celebratory bonuses in the in-game museum.

However, my favorite thing about my coins was using them as extra tries in the tricky special stages. Regardless of the game, few moments in these early Sonic titles are more frustrating than missing a special stage and knowing you need to find another entry point to try again. The coin system in Anniversary Mode mitigates that frustration without taking away the excitement, as you still need to pull off a near-perfect run to win the prize.

For those looking for new experiences, Mission Mode lets you tackle reshuffled experiences within stages from each of the four titles. Completing objectives like defeating a certain number of enemies or collecting a set number of rings earns you extra coins and a spot on the leaderboard. While the missions start out easy, they get harder as you unlock more of them, offering plenty of surprises and fun twists for longtime fans. Additionally, once you complete a game for the first time, you unlock Mirror Mode, where you can play the stages from right to left. Finally, each game has a Boss Rush mode where you can fight the biggest baddies one by one. Mirror Mode and Boss Rush are fun distractions, but I don’t see myself reversing entire games or attempting the boss gauntlets more than a few times.

While the games are faithful to the original and still great fun, a few audio issues mar the experience. In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, some zones use different music than the Genesis release, apparently due to licensing issues of the original tracks. Zones like Ice Cap and Launch Base just don’t feel the same without their iconic tracks driving the action. The different music removes much of the nostalgia of these stages and the replacement songs are significantly weaker than the original tracks. However, if the alternative were to exclude Sonic 3 from the bundle, I’d rather lose those songs than arguably the best game in the saga.

But the most egregious audio problem occurs in Sonic 2. When Tails falls behind in this game (which happens a lot), he’ll constantly jump instead of respawning and flying back to you, and will trigger the sound repeatedly until you either enter a special phase, complete the level, or one of you dies. This issue overshadows this game’s excellent soundtrack and has often made me want to mute it to make the playthrough bearable.

While the music changes and audio glitches are disappointing, overall the Sonic Origins package is great. Having the best versions of the classic Sonic saga in one package is extremely satisfying, and the Anniversary Mode improvements make the experience of playing through them more enjoyable than ever. Even in a gaming landscape where most of these games are already available for download on every platform, Sonic Origins is a worthwhile bundle. Sonic Origins Review – A Potent Pack Of Nostalgia

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