Sonic Origins (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 07.08.2022 1

Review for Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch

As the 30th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog whizzed by, SEGA lacked for a game of any kind, so it's a little surprising not even a compilation was able to release in time. Sonic Origins is that game, though, bundling some of the Blue Blur's greatest hits from the 16-bit days into a package that was worked on with Sonic Mania talent Christian Whitehead and Headcannon. Launched with a multitude of glitches and some questionable download content practices, is this the collection Sonic fans deserve?

Game compilations are a solid method of celebrating any series' milestone anniversary and are equally ideal for newcomers or younger players curious to try out a franchise they haven't had a chance to before or who may have missed out on the classics from back in the day. There is no question some collections deserve better than just scraping the ROMs together and throwing them onto a disc, though - or, in Nintendo's case, making time-limited releases of games that have never been available outside of their original hardware before, then removing them to never be purchased again (see: Super Mario Sunshine and its inclusion in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars compilation that was only available for half a year). That said, there's nothing wrong with basic ports if the price is right.

Over the years, SEGA has been keen to put its flagship franchise and many of the original Mega Drive titles on nearly every piece of gaming hardware possible, to the point the Japanese developer collaborated with a skilled fan to help bring Sonic CD and Sonic 2 to mobile and HD consoles with widescreen support, among other enhanced features. The successful partnership led to the much celebrated Sonic Mania (the true Sonic 4 in many fans' eyes) and brings us to the present with new modes for the games featured in Sonic Origins.

Screenshot for Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch

The titles most Sonic fans are familiar with are the only included games in this bundle: Sonic 1, Sonic CD, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Arguably, this is where the Sonic series was at its very best, with 16-bit graphics and that iconic Mega Drive sound chip. Sonic CD, being a SEGA CD game, probably passed most people by, but its inclusion here is important as it bridges the gap between Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, and, more importantly, shows there is more to Sonic than just zipping through left-to-right stages, with some quite thoughtful level design that elevates the title into a category all of its own.

On that theme, there is a chronology to the games here that SEGA has gone out of its way to promote as part of this collection. By playing the remastered Anniversary Mode versions of the games, wonderful opening and ending animated cutscenes will play to give a firmer feeling of continuity between each title. The included Story Mode turns all these games into one grand adventure, too, letting you play through each one sequentially, from Sonic 1 right through to the end of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. These touches are extremely pleasing and go above and beyond what should be expected of game compilations today.

Screenshot for Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch

Still with the remasters, these updated widescreen versions bring things up to date by doing away with the lives system, meaning 1-ups cannot be found and Game Overs don't exist. Again, a welcome change that also incorporates autosaving at each stage checkpoint. Collectible coins can now be found in place of extra lives, with these used to unlock extras in the Museum (music, art, videos), but, crucially, act as a means of retrying special stages when a failed attempt at grabbing a Chaos Emerald occurs by spending one of them. It's not as abusive as save stating or rewinding allows for (which would have gone down a treat), but it's a welcome feature that means failure isn't the be all and end all in what can be tricky and frustrating bonus levels.

Those that prefer the classics in all their original glory, life system and all, can still play each title the way they were released, however, with the display output reverted to 4:3. There is some sadness at not having the option to play the original versions in widescreen at all, though, with 16:9 only being available in the Anniversary Modes.

Screenshot for Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch

What might be a small shame for some, too, is that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles cannot be played individually. The two clearly have become known for having had to be split up into separate titles in the Mega Drive days, and that trendy game cartridge lock-on functionality to merge the games into a combined meat feast of a title was some awe-inspiring tech at the time, but just having the option to tuck into each game in its own form would have been an additional crowd pleaser.

There is no denying the quality of these fast-paced platformers, but what should have been an easy homerun has been made extra difficult by SEGA's incompetence. After launching with numerous bugs, the developer recently updated Sonic Origins with a patch that has addressed a multitude of them, including the infamous Tails glitch where he'd get stuck, jumping forever, as the annoying sound effect played throughout the rest of the stage in Sonic 1 and 2. This patch goes some way to putting a little more respect on the game, but issues remain - although the casual player may not notice or let it bother them as much as a diehard fan.

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SEGA just had to needlessly push this sure-fire winning package down the gutter more, though, by sectioning off pieces of the compilation behind a paywall. In an act of depressing and gross money-grabbing, everything from other Sonic game music soundtracks, character animations for the music player, character animations for background menus, camera controls for background menu islands, letterbox backgrounds for 4:3 screen output, and even hard difficulty missions for the Mission Mode (which itself is a welcome side mode featuring a multitude of simple and silly challenges that will test any good Sonic player) have been locked away from all purchasers of the game unless they splash out the extra cash for the Digital Deluxe Edition or buy the various download content packs.

This is a celebration of some of Sonic's best games, released at a questionable price of £32.99, and SEGA thought it was a fantastic idea to lock fan-pleasing content, including actual gameplay material, away for separate purchase. It will cost closer to £40 to own the full package, but even with remastered widescreen versions, this is asking way too much for such old games, of which there is far less than in past Sonic compilations.

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Certainly, there is a point to be made by SEGA only wanting to focus on what are widely considered Sonic's greatest hits, but, come on - is there really any reason to not have turned this into the best Sonic collection yet? Game preservation is a massive talking point in the industry, and there is no doubt companies are still failing hard at getting this right, so there was a good chance for SEGA to step up and make as many Sonic titles in its catalogue available here.

The oft-overlooked Game Gear and Master System stuff, rarer titles stuck on Neo Geo Pocket Color and mobile, Knuckles' Chaotix, the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush series, PSP's Sonic Rivals, the numerous racing games - and that's before getting to the 3D library. Even if Sonic's history is full of rocky roads, does it really deserve to be confined to near impossible methods of accessing them? This package is way too limited in what it offers to be worth its price tag.

Screenshot for Sonic Origins on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

A conflicting compilation of Sonic games that does plenty right in remastering some of the blue hedgehog's classic Mega Drive hits, but lets everyone down with unnecessary money-grabbing DLC, while not offering anywhere near the amount of content that really should be here in terms of the Sonic series' vast history. Still with bugs to fix, time will tell if Sonic Origins becomes a respectable overall package, but it will suffice for the more casual fan after a bigger price drop.

Developer

Sonic Team

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

The price is certainly too high to warrant these games, and it is a shame they didn't go one step further to include games as well!

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