Sonic Origins Review: Classic game collection put me in a better mood

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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After playing Sonic the Hedgehog games for three decades, I should be immune to the quick blue Sega hero’s charms. Sonic Origins proved me wrong. A little annoyed after a busy day, I loaded this collection of classic ’90s platformers onto my PS5, and all the tension melted away as soon as I heard that iconic title track.

Sonic Origins, out Thursday on 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, a bit pricey for four retro games released countless times.

I’ve spent most of my time playing in Anniversary Mode, which gives you slightly enhanced visuals, full-screen view, and infinite lives as it’s new to this collection, and I’m out of patience for games over screens. It’s beautifully presented though, with plenty of twists and modern additions to brighten up these old games and provide new ways to experience them. I’ve seen enough as a kid, thank you.

For the purists, you can play in classic mode with retro visuals, a 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, which first came out of Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, as most regions outside the US, knew it) in 1991, was just as much fun as it has been for the past 31 years. There’s a satisfying sense of speed as you speed through the more open levels, while the more labyrinthine levels are fun to explore.

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


It’s also harder than I remember — the Labyrinth Zone Act 3 chase scene took me way too many tries to get through (infinite lives, phew). However, hearing Starlight Zone’s absolute belter of a theme made it all worth it.

The first game feels relatively simple compared to the more advanced sequels, but it remains an essential part of the gaming canon that everyone should play at least once. This is also the console version where you can play as Tails and Knuckles (added in 2013 remaster on iOS and Android), allowing you to explore the levels in all-new ways using their flying, hovering, hovering,  and climbing skills.

Sonic CD is probably the game the fewest people have played since you needed the expensive Sega CD Genesis add-on back in 1993. I had never completed it because the level design always felt like a step down from Genesis. G(I just wanted to go fast!) ames and I struggled to wrap my head around the time travel mechanic.

Sonic CD is the quirkiest game in the collection.


However, it has incredible music and animation — the super cool anime-style cutscenes are shot in all their glory. Good luck getting the theme song, Sonic Boom, out of your head. (Knuckles, unfortunately, cannot be played on Sonic CD.) now that I’ve finally completed it in this collection, it’s a game I’ve come to appreciate, and I’m looking forward to discovering more, especially once you meet it; you can play it again as Tails.

Sonic 2 is my sentimental favorite; I’ve 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 a particular favorite — whose more open design lets Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles through. I ran into a glitch where Tails (as the computer-controlled secondary character) got stuck in a landscape and kept trying to jump out, resulting in an annoying bouncing sound until I completed the level. Not game-breaking, but annoying nonetheless.

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


The final boss (a design closely mirrored the second film earlier this year) is much easier than I realized as a kid. However, it still took me many tries and increasingly furious rants against my partner about invincible frames before I beat him. I loved every second of replaying this incredible game.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles — presented for the first time in widescreen in this collection — are two games in one, as Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles merge. They were originally intended as one game, but Sega chose to release them separately in 1994 due to time constraints and limited cartridge size (and presumably the ability to earn more).

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


This game exudes confidence from the opening moments to the epic finale; stunning character animations — it’s still great to see Sonic snowboard at the start of Ice Cap Zone — more levels than any other, immersive transitions between stages, plenty of memorable boss battles and moments of intense speed. Some of the music has been adapted for this release due to the oft-reported involvement of the late Michael Jackson with the original soundtrack, but it didn’t detract from the experience much for me.

I’m not so nostalgic about this game when I’m the second one, but when I play one after the other, Sonic 3 & Knuckles emphasizes its superiority. Choosing Knuckles offers a significantly different experience than Sonic or Tails, encouraging multiple play-throughs.

There is also a lot of additional replay value in this collection. Once you’ve completed each game, you’ll have access to a mirror mode that lets you progress through each level from right to left (which feels a bit wrong at first), a boss rush mode that enables you to challenge all the big baddies in a row and smaller missions that task you by defeating a certain number of enemies or getting through a challenging obstacle course.

The missions offer new challenges for Sonic veterans.


You can also play all four games in a seamless story mode, linked by beautifully animated cutscenes created for Sonic Origins. In each way, you’ll collect coins 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 as you try to collect all the Chaos Emeralds (which you need to get the real endings).

A hard mode, additional music tracks, and some aesthetic menu options are exclusive to a $45 digital deluxe edition, but they were unavailable during the review period. This article will be updated once I’ve had a chance to check out those features, but the game didn’t feel incomplete without them.

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


No matter which edition you want, $40 is still high for decades-old games – Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscribers can now play a no-nonsense version of Sonic 2 at no extra cost. You could also play Sonic Mania, which paid a glorious tribute to all four of these games in 2017.

Despite the high price tag, the Genesis Sonic games are among the best platform games ever made, and Sonic Origins presents them in the most visually stunning compilation to date. Suppose you want to relive classic 2D Sonic games or introduce them to a new generation of players who have discovered Sonic through recent movies. In that case, this collection is the smartest, most accessible way to experience them. And it still puts me in a better mood when I load it.

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