Sonic Origins Plus Review Game: Revisiting Classic Adventures with New Surprises
Today saw the release of Sonic Origins Plus on all the major platforms, bringing a variety of enhancements to what I had previously referred to as “a potent dose of memories.” While Sonic Origins Plus is certainly the best edition of this bundle, not every upgrade lives up to expectations, and the game’s main draw doesn’t quite make it.
For those who are unaware, Sonic Origins was released one year ago today, allowing players to quickly progress through Sonic the Hedgehog 1, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and Sonic CD from Sega CD while having the option to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in each of them (except Knuckles in Sonic CD, for some reason). You have the option of playing through them in Anniversary Mode, which adds native widescreen support, grants unlimited lives, implements Sonic’s Drop Dash move from Sonic Mania, and gives you the option to replay Special Stages, or in Classic Mode, which keeps the games’ original aspect ratio and lives system. I still enjoy playing through the first four games in the Sonic Origins Plus collection just as much as I did when I first played through Anniversary Mode in this bundle a year ago.
Amy Rose, the pink hedgehog who was previously in danger and was first featured in Sonic CD, is now a playable character in all four of these games thanks to Sonic Origins. She has the same sensation of speed as the other three playable characters, but she also carries her beloved hammer, which she can use to dash after landing or jump with. She plays like Sonic, save for the hammer and the fact that she doesn’t get any additional skills from the elemental shields in Sonic 3. (She can even take the place of Sonic in the Sonic and Tails pairings in certain games.) She doesn’t completely reinvent any of these games, but she does give them a somewhat unique experience, so I was glad to see her join the list.
Knuckles is now a playable character in Sonic CD in addition to Amy; his absence from this game in the original compilation was always puzzling, so it’s wonderful to see that omission corrected in this updated edition. As Sonic CD’s stages are so vertical, Knuckles’ glide can circumvent significant portions of some of them (which obviously weren’t planned with him in mind since he wasn’t yet introduced), and the climbing ability occasionally comes in handy.
The Game Gear library, which contains all 12 Sonic series Game Gear titles, is probably what draws most people to this deal. Although there are many games in the library, including some of my favourites like Sonic Triple Trouble and Sonic Chaos, I can’t help but feel like there was a chance lost. Many of these games were also made available on the Sega Master System, which had a less choppy screen and frequently superior performance. It would have been preferable for Sega to expand their library to include 8-bit titles rather than simply Game Gear.
The Game Gear’s screen is so small that playing past the game’s first boss encounter in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 can be intimidating. This is a problem with the majority of Sonic games for the Game Gear; the series is built around moving from one side of the screen to the other as quickly as possible, so anything that could have been done to fix that would have been a gift.
Moreover, the Game Gear games occasionally have technical issues. In titles like Sonic Triple Trouble, the audio issues—which include echoey and crackling sound—combine with the frame rate dips to produce a frequently terrible experience. Although I am aware that the Game Gear’s frame-rate performance was frequently like this, it still seems horrible to experience an 8-bit game’s difficulties running on the PlayStation 5. This was the company’s chance to fix some legacy issues with these games to make them more playable three decades later, much like Sega did with several issues with the original Genesis games; however, they stopped short of implementing such adjustments.
Although it’s not entirely anticipated, it’s disappointing that Sonic 3’s original soundtrack is still absent from this improved bundle. No matter how often I listen to the prototype songs for Ice Cap, Carnival Night, and Launch Base, they remain colossal downgrades. I recognise that there may be challenging legal issues pertaining to the Genesis songs, but you must have that music in order to call this the definitive edition of Sonic 3. Nonetheless, my original argument for this matter is still valid and also holds true for the Game Gear catalogue: Given the choice between having the games as they are packaged or having no access to them at all, I’d take the former over the latter.
Sonic Origins Plus is an improvement over the original Sonic Origins package in many respects, despite my objections and criticisms. I adore that Amy is a part of Sonic CD and that Knuckles can now glide about. The Game Gear library is also a great addition, despite the fact that there are many areas where it could be improved. Although Sonic Origins Plus is far from perfect, it’s an easy package to suggest for both devoted Blue Blur fans and those curious about why these 2D games still have such a devoted following three decades later.