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Sonic Origins review: Speeding down memory lane

Sonic Origins is a nostalgic romp through some of Sega's best platformers.

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The Sonic the Hedgehog series established itself as Sega’s premier franchise with a string of beloved platformers in the 90s. A few decades later, Sonic is one of the most prolific franchises in gaming. Audiences will soon have a chance to take a trip down memory lane and revisit four of the earliest entries in the series with Sonic Origins. This collection features classic Sonic experiences and is a joy for both hardcore fans and newcomers alike.

Humble beginnings

Sonic Origins bundles together Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Not only does Origins bundle the four games under one roof, but all four games have been digitally remastered to look and play best on modern hardware. Anniversary Mode lets players enjoy the games in a beautiful 16:9 format, which should be compatible with most modern TV and monitor displays. Players looking for the true and authentic experience can opt for Classic Mode, where the games maintain their original 4:3 formatting.

Sonic Origins lets players enjoy all four games at their own leisure. You can start with whichever title you want, and all modes are available from the start. What’s really neat is that there’s also a Story Mode function, which lets you experience all four games as one continuous experience. It’s an excellent option if you really want to immerse yourself in the earliest days of the feud between Sonic and Doctor Eggman.

The genesis of a classic story

While it’s no secret that the early Sonic games are among the best 2D platformers of their era, Sonic Origins showcases just how well they’ve all aged. Even the opening levels of the original Sonic the Hedgehog have stood the test of time, and I had a huge smile on my face getting to play through them again after all these years. A lot of this is thanks to the work Sega has done to make the old Sonic games play great on modern systems. Playing on the PS5, the controls were tight and responsive, allowing me to properly take advantage of the momentum-based movement and quickly zip through levels.

Sonic Origins also shows off just how diverse the original line-up of Sonic titles were. Each game feels wholly unique, whether it be in the gameplay design or art direction. The time-traveling adventures of Sonic CD were a fresh change of pace from the journey in Sonic 1 and 2.

When loading into a game, players can select to play as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or some combination of the three depending on which game. Each character has their own ability that makes them feel like dynamic gameplay options, like Tails’ ability to fly into the air using his propeller-like tails, and Knuckles’ ability to glide and climb walls. It adds a sense of replayability that encouraged me to go back through levels a second or third time with different characters

In addition to playing through the full stories, all four games in the collection feature a Boss Rush mode, allowing players to take on a gauntlet of all the boss fights from every Act. From Eggman’s various contraptions to Metal Sonic, and several others, Boss Rush is incredibly challenging and a reminder that Sonic boss battles were far from a walk in the park.

You’ve got to be quicker than that

While it was a lot of fun revisiting all the classic Sonic games, I wish that Origins would let you have multiple saves for each game. After playing through half of Sonic the Hedgehog as the blue blur himself, I wanted to go back and play some levels as Tails to weigh the differences. I was able to do so, but it completely overwrote my original progress. This wouldn’t have been as annoying if I had the option to just select levels from the beginning.

As a bundle of classic platformers, it also would have been nice to have some console commands that put more power in the hands of the player. While many will enjoy the authentic experience of fighting through each level, I would have appreciated an option to rewind, or even toggle cheats that add lives or restore rings. It would have empowered me to do more exploring and experimenting during my playthrough. It’s something that we see in a lot of classic video game collections, and Sonic Origins would have benefitted from something similar.

Beautiful blue blur

Sonic Origins also feels like a celebration of where the franchise started out. All of the original animated intros are present and have been given HD remasters. The game’s Museum feature lets players go back and check out retro cover art, screenshots, key art, and cinematics.

Music is key to the identity of Sonic, and all of the original tunes are here in all their glory. As players progress through the four games and unlock more music, they can select and play different tunes from each level in the Museum. There’s even an option to create a playlist of songs to listen to while you browse. I had almost forgotten just how many amazing songs there were in the original Sonic games before I jumped into Origins.

Solidified classics

Sonic Origins is not only an excellent trip down memory lane for fans of the series, it’s also the perfect entry point for those looking to play them for the very first time. The games are all as beautiful as ever and control like a dream. There are also a plethora of bonus goodies that celebrate the iconic artwork and music of the platforming series. While it’s easy to get caught up in arguments about the current direction of the Sonic IP, Sonic Origins is a refreshing reminder that the original games are among the best 2D platformers ever made.


This review is based on a digital PS5 code provided by the publisher. Sonic Origins will be released on June 23, 2022, for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, Ps5, Switch, and PC for $39.99 USD.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Sonic Origins
8
Pros
  • Beautiful remasters of classic games
  • Tight controls
  • Boss Rush is challenging and exciting
  • Museum of key art, cutscenes, and music
Cons
  • No option for multiple saves
  • No console commands
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