Sonic Origins Review: This Collection of Classic Games Improved My Mood It's expensive, but the 2D Sonic games have never looked better, and this collection includes some cool bells and whistles that'll delight longtime fans.

Having played Sonic the Hedgehog games for three decades, I should be immune to the charm of the speedy blue Sega hero. Sonic origins proved me wrong. Slightly irritated after a hard day, I downloaded this collection of classic 90’s platforming games to mine PS5 and all the tension just melted away when I heard that iconic theme song.

Sonic Origins, out Thursday for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, includes the original Sonic, Sonic CD, Sonic 2, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. It also costs $40, which is a bit pricey for four retro games that have released countless times over the years.

However, it’s beautifully presented, with plenty of twists and modern additions to freshen up these old games and offer new ways to experience them. I spent most of my time playing the anniversary mode which gives you slightly improved graphics, fullscreen and infinite lives because it’s new to this collection and I’m out of patience with game over screens. I saw enough of that as a kid, thanks.

Purists can play in classic mode with retro visuals, 4:3 aspect ratio (with bars on the sides of the screen) and limited lives. I’m glad it’s possible to recreate the old style of play, but it doesn’t feel like the ideal way to experience these games in 2022.

Diving into the original Sonic the Hedgehog, first released as the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive as most regions outside the US knew it) in 1991, has been just as fun as it has been for the past 31 years. There’s a satisfying sense of speed as you hurtle through the more open levels, while the more labyrinthine ones are fun to explore.

Tails in Sonic 1 in Sonic Origins

Playing as Tails in the original Sonic is one of the fun elements of Sonic Origins.

Sega

It’s also harder than I remember – the Labyrinth Zone Act 3 chase took me way too many tries to get through (infinite lives, phew). However, listening to Starlight Zone’s absolute hammer of a theme was worth it.

The first game feels relatively simple compared to its more challenging sequels, but remains an essential part of the game’s canon that everyone should play at least once. This is also the console version where you can play as Tails and Knuckles (added to iOS and Android in a 2013 remaster), giving you a whole new way to explore the levels with their flying, gliding and climbing abilities.

Sonic CD is probably the game least people have played since it required the expensive Sega CD Genesis add-on back in 1993. I had never completed it before because the level design always felt like a descent from Genesis games and I struggled to get to grips with the time travel mechanics. (I just wanted to go fast!)

Sonic CD in Sonic Origins

Sonic CD is the most bizarre game in the collection.

Sega

However, it has incredible music and animation – the super cool anime-style cut scenes are included in all their glory. Good luck getting the theme song Sonic Boom out of your head as well. Having finally completed it in this collection, it’s certainly a game I’ve come to appreciate and look forward to exploring more, especially if you complete it you’ll be able to play through it again as Tails. (Unfortunately, Knuckles is not playable in Sonic CD.)

Sonic 2 is my sentimental favorite, having spent countless hours on it since Genesis came out in 1992. This game is the perfect sequel, adding layers of sophistication through more colorful levels – Chemical Plant and Casino Night Zones are particular favorites – whose more open design lets Sonic, Tails or Knuckles whistle through. I ran into a bug where Tails (as the computer-controlled secondary character) would get stuck in a scenery and keep trying to jump out, resulting in an irritating bouncing noise until I finished the level. Not groundbreaking, but still annoying.

Sonic 2 airplane (with tails) against a blue sky with following birds

Sonic and Tails take to the skies in Sonic 2, an image you may have seen in the 2022 film’s sequel.

Sega

The Last Boss (a design from the second film closely mirrored Earlier this year) is a lot easier than I realized as a kid, but it still took me quite a few tries and several increasingly angry swearwords at my partner about invincibility frames before I beat him. I loved every second of replaying this incredible game.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles – presented in widescreen format for the first time in this collection – is like two games in one as it merges Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. They were originally intended to be a game, but Sega decided to release them separately in 1994 due to time constraints and cartridge size limitations (and presumably the ability to make a boatload more money).

Robotnik's flying machine explodes after being defeated in Sonic 3 and Knuckles

Sonic 3 and Knuckles has the most satisfying boss fights in the collection.

Sega

This game exudes confidence from the opening moments to the epic finale; Stunning Character Animations – Seeing Sonic Snowboard at the beginning of Ice Cap Zone is still awesome – more levels than any other, immersive transitions between levels, tons of memorable bosses and moments of intense speed. Some of the music was changed for this release due to the often-reported involvement of the late Michael Jackson in the original soundtrack, but that didn’t detract too much from the experience for me.

I’m not as nostalgic about this game as I was about the second one, but playing back-to-back underscores the superiority of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Choosing Knuckles offers a significantly different experience than Sonic or Tails, and encourages multiple playthroughs.

This collection also offers a lot of additional replay value. Once you’ve completed each game, you can access a mirror mode that lets you progress through each level from right to left (which initially feels a bit fake), a boss rush mode that lets you challenge all the big baddies one by one , and smaller missions This task consists of defeating a certain number of enemies or surviving a challenging obstacle course.

Sonic Origins Missions

The missions offer new challenges for Sonic veterans.

Sega

You can also play through all four games in a seamless story mode, connected by beautifully animated cutscenes created for Sonic Origins. In each mode, you’ll collect coins that you can use to unlock music and art in the in-game museum – this element of the game feels a little light given Sonic’s 31-year history – or retry each game’s special stages if you want to try to collect all Chaos Emeralds (which you need to get the true endings).

A hard mode, additional music tracks, and some aesthetic menu options are exclusive to a $45 Digital Deluxe Edition, but they weren’t available during the review period. This article will be updated once I’ve had a chance to try out these features, but the game didn’t feel incomplete without them.

Knuckles fights Robotnik with a pipe organ in the background in Sonic Origins

The version of Sonic 2 of this collection includes the Hidden Palace Zone which was not available in the original version.

Sega

Regardless of which edition you want, $40 is still a lot of money for decades-old games – Subscribers to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack can now play a no-frills version of Sonic 2 at no additional cost. You can also play Sonic Mania, which paid a glorious homage to all four of these games in 2017.

Despite the high price, the Genesis Sonic games are among the best platformers of all time, and Sonic Origins presents them in the most visually stunning compilation yet. If you want to revisit classic 2D Sonic games or introduce them to a new generation of gamers who discovered Sonic through the youngest movies, this collection is the most sophisticated and accessible way to experience them. And it still puts me in a better mood when I charge it.

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