Platformer Review

Sonic Origins – Review

Sonic’s no stranger to compilations and remasters, yet after last year’s lukewarm Sonic Colors remaster, some fans have been left skeptical of how future ones might turn out. Spearheading the Blue Blur’s 31st anniversary is yet another remaster, or rather, a full set of remasters. Sonic Origins aims to deliver the definitive experiences of all four of Sonic’s earliest mainline outings, but just how successful is it in achieving that?

Sonic Origins - Sonic 1 End

Blue and Brash

Each game featured in Sonic Origins is a major part of both the series’ history and an important turning point in gaming as a whole. From Day 1, Sonic burst onto the scene with a compelling mix of high speed, skill-based platforming, and a rocking physics system that still feels natural to this day. For each game here, you’re met with simple stories where you’ll spin and jump through enemies in an assortment of colorful stages while collecting rings, all set to soundtracks that still rank among the very best in gaming. There is no bad game in this collection, and each one that comes next winds up better than the last, possibly by a big margin too.

On the surface, Sonic Origins is a fairly simple collection of pre-existing remasters done by Christian Whitehead, one of the head developers of Sonic Mania. The games included here are Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic CD, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. To keep a long story short, these are far and away the best official ways you can experience these classics.

Sonic Origins - Special Zone CD

The core of each game remains much the same, but each game in Sonic Origins has been improved with tweaks both subtle and major, mostly in relation to how they run. Every game has received a big boost to image quality and aspect ratio, being boosted from 4:3 to 16:9 widescreen. This has a huge impact on the game’s overall readability. Sonic’s a fast guy, so seeing more of what’s up ahead gives you more time to react and allows you to play far better than what’s achievable in the older versions. Each game also comes with improvements to framerate, with every single onscreen object now running at 60FPS. Again, it’s subtle, but when seen side-by-side with the originals, the difference is night and day. Some game modes such as Special Stages in Sonic 2 and Sonic CD benefit greatly from these technical enhancements.

There’s also some added content in each game, such as a playable Tails in Sonic CD and Sonic 1, playable Knuckles in Sonic 1, and a brand new level and boss in Sonic 2. These are nice cherries on top for already very replayable games.

Sonic Origins - Chemical Plant

A Speedy Celebration

Sonic Origins does not just take these old remasters and repackage them. It makes some key changes to every game in an attempt to unify them into a single, seamless package, for better and for worse.

Anniversary Mode is the main new mode, holding the broad majority of the changes made to core gameplay. Here, you have the 16:9 widescreen enabled and have an infinite number of lives at your disposal. Rather than be rewarded with a life for every 100 rings you collect, you get a new currency called ‘coins.’ These coins can be used to unlock bonus content outside the games, as well as be used during Anniversary Mode to allow you to restart the many special stages across each stage should you fail. The last change to Anniversary Mode is the addition of the Drop Dash from Sonic Mania across every game, as well as the addition of the Spin Dash in Sonic 1. All told, these changes make for experiences that make the games much more accessible and friendlier than before. Sonic 1 and 2 in particular are notorious for their very difficult endgames, so Anniversary Mode might make the difference between a newcomer completing these games or not.

There’s also Classic Mode, which has you playing the games in what are functionally their original forms. You play with a 4:3 aspect ratio, a traditional lives and game over system, and character movesets are kept the same as their original releases. No Drop Dash in any game, and no Spin Dash in Sonic 1. While I personally never bother with this mode, it can be a good option for purists.

There is a problem, though. This all-or-nothing approach to both game modes ultimately ends up feeling pretty limiting in terms of options. With no options to mix and match game mode settings, you’re left with modes that both might not fully satisfy. While some fans may love some changes introduced in Anniversary Mode, they might not like all of them. I love the widescreen support added to each game, but I don’t want to use the Drop Dash or unlimited lives system, so I’m left having to compromise some of these changes for the sake of other improvements. Seeing as Sonic Mania had a fairly robust system that allowed the player to mix and match elements as they saw fit, Origins’ reluctance to follow through with this is frustrating. 

The One You’ve Been Waiting For

The headlining game for Sonic Origins, as well as the most anticipated one among fans of the series, is Sonic 3 & Knuckles. While it’s been included in several compilations in the past, this is the first official time it’s seen a full-on remaster, also made by the same developers as the other ones featured. Of all the games featured here, it’s unfortunately received what is the most compromised reworking of them all.

By and large, this remaster is roughly what you’d expect. The same suite of visual overhauls seen in the other games are seen here, and the game plays just as smoothly as one would hope. Sonic 3 & Knuckles has never looked so slick before, and that’s especially noteworthy in the game’s Special Stages, which originally ran in a less than ideal framerate. There are even whole new sprites added where there weren’t any originally, making the visuals a little more consistent.

Where this remaster starts to falter is in the occasional lapses in polish. While Sonic 3 & Knuckles is far from a bug-free game no matter what you play it on, there were a few instances where my immersion was compromised because something wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Sometimes an obstacle in a level doesn’t work like how it should, and other times AI might get weird for a few seconds. I should stress that these instances are very few and far between, and you aren’t likely to encounter the broad majority of them. For all intents and purposes, this is still the best official way to play one of the best platformers ever made, but it’s not perfect.

The main compromise with this version comes in its music. A certain King of Pop once composed some of the music for this game a very long time ago, and that landed it in legal limbo for a while. To circumvent these legal issues in the newest version, different compositions were added in place of those old tracks. If you’ve played the 1997 ‘Sonic & Knuckles Collection’ on PC, these tracks will be familiar to you. The tracks are good compositions on their own, but the renditions specifically featured in Origins are not up to scratch at all with the rest of the game’s music. It only affects a small portion of the overall game, but the new tracks stick out like a sore thumb.

Sonic Origins - Burning Sonic 3 Level

The Golden Oldies

As for what is completely new in Origins, there is a healthy amount of content on offer here, even for those who’ve played these games exhaustively. Story Mode is one of the headlining new features. Here, you’ll play through every game in the collection back-to-back, as you normally would. While that by itself is standard, each game is strung together by gorgeously animated cutscenes that serve to give further context for the events surrounding them. Sonic CD’s opening and closing anime cutscenes have also seen facelifts, looking crisper than ever. These cutscenes are packed with personality, and the music in each of them helps to wordlessly convey all of the right emotions too.

Outside of the Story Mode, there’s also Mission Mode. Here, you’ll take on a variety of challenges that test your skill in different aspects of play. This can range from speedrunning, to collecting rings in a limited amount of time, to avoiding getting hit, and so on. These Missions are fun, albeit quite basic in execution. They never really end up going past being a decent time killer and nothing else. 

Sonic Origins - Ice Zone

There’s also your staple Time Attack mode, allowing you to speedrun each level and share times online in an attempt to top the leaderboards. For something like Sonic, this is always a welcome feature.

Other than that, there’s also a Museum where you can browse the motherload of all Sonic art collections, which you can unlock through gathering coins in missions or the main game modes. I consider myself quite well-versed in all things Sonic, but some of the art seen here is stuff I’ve never seen until now. It’s perhaps the most comprehensive and deep Museum Mode featured in a Sonic compilation to date, even beating out the likes of Sonic Mega Collection.

Tying all of these elements together is the game’s wonderful UI and menus, which tie the aesthetics of old with 3D dioramas of various settings in Sonic’s world. In a compilation already packed with charm, the fact that even the menus put a smile on my face really shines a light on the love it was made with.

Sonic Origins - Sonic VS Knuckles Cutscene


While it hits a few snags, Sonic Origins is a compilation that runs with absolute confidence in itself. Smooth gameplay and smart new features make for the best ways to experience each of these games. Sonic might be 31 years old, but with this collection, it looks like he hasn’t aged a day.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, XBox

If you would like to read about Platformer games, you might be interested to read this review of Sonic Colors Ultimate or Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.

Many thanks go to SEGA for a PC review code for this title.

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