Review: Sonic Origins (Switch)

(Almost) the collection of classic Sonic games that fans have been longing for!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/13/2022 04:46 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
A bunch of fun modes that breathe fresh air into all four games; great presentation, especially the expanded aspect ratio in anniversary Mode; museum has a lot fun, interesting content to unlock; four timeless classics in one package
Poison Mushroom for...
Modern retro features like rewind and save states are absent; missing music in Sonic 3; Sonic & Knuckles is a no-show; longtime fans will notice quirks and issues not present in the original versions of each game, most notably Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Oh, Sonic Origins. So close to being perfect, yet also so far.

For many, the original quartet of Sonic games from the SEGA Genesis era remain the best installments in the series. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 have all been compiled here for Sonic Origins. And while these four games are certainly worth a play/replay, and have been adequately ported to Nintendo Switch, there are a handful of quirks and problems that can’t be ignored. Still, for what it is, Sonic Origins brings one game (Sonic CD) to Nintendo fans for the first time ever, and another (Sonic 3) for the first time in years. For newer fans or those who aren’t especially cognizant of specifics about the mechanical minutiae of each game, these ports will be just fine. Conversely, those who are longtime, hardcore Sonic fans might find the blemishes to be overly distracting.

Regardless of the player’s experience with the series, one of the coolest aspects of Sonic Origins is the ability to choose between playing in Anniversary or Classic Mode. Anniversary Mode reimagines each game for modern players. The most obvious change here is that the playing field is stretched to fit modern displays. Beyond that, there’s also the chance to replay bonus stages, play as Knuckles and Tails in games they weren’t originally available in, and the inclusion of Sonic’ s Drop Dash ability in each game (the Spin Dash is added to Sonic 1, as well). Finally, every game has a new animated opening cinematic that helps add a little bit of backstory. Don’t worry, these movies aren’t intrusive and are beautifully done, perfectly complimenting the games (they’re very reminiscent of Sonic CD’s intro video). These features don’t greatly alter the gameplay experience, but they are welcome tweaks that help bring something new to these decades-old games.

Classic Mode, meanwhile, presents the games in their original aspect ratios and without any of the extra frills found in Anniversary Mode. Here, the gameplay and presentation are as authentic as possible. For purists, Classic Mode is going to be the way to go. The games look sharp and are every bit as fun as they were when they first come out. There is one large elephant in the room that can’t be ignored, however, which is the omission of some of the original music tracks in Knuckles in Sonic 3. The removal of these tracks has proven exceptionally controversial in some circles, despite the replacement music being authentic tunes from the original prototype of Sonic 3. Why SEGA hasn’t figured out the issues revolving around these pieces of music is anyone’s guess, but that the company wasn’t able to get them included for this anniversary celebration is a major letdown.

Another oddity in Sonic Origins is the inability to play Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic 3 is a separate game that, when snapped on top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge back in the day, inserted Knuckles into the former. Alas, Sonic & Knuckles itself is inaccessible, making it the only one of the original Genesis-era games to be absent from this collection. While on the subject of “what ifs,” it’s also worth pointing out that, although not proper series installments, the absence of Sonic Spinball, Knuckles’ Chaotix (a 32X game), and heck, even Sonic 3D Blast is a head scratcher. Given the seemingly rushed nature of the four ports already present in Sonic Origins, one might assume that SEGA opted to get the game out the door as fast as possible versus making it a true “origins” collection. Whatever the reason, it feels like SEGA dropped the ball when selecting the software lineup. If Sonic Mega Collection on GameCube 20 years ago could have a more comprehensive lineup of classic Sonic games, honestly, what’s the excuse?

A last couple of nitpicks are the absence of modern retro game options like the ability to rewind gameplay and save states. In fairness, each game, regardless of whether or not Anniversary Mode has been selected, saves whenever the player has passed a save marker. Reopen a game and then Sonic and friends pick up right where they left off. However, the convenience of being able to save at any point is one that many people enjoy and would have been welcome here. And while Sonic’s Genesis outings might not be the hardest platformers ever made, some players would certainly benefit from being able to hit rewind. Given recent Sonic rereleases already have one or both of these features (Sonic 2 in the Switch Online Genesis app leaps to mind), it’s strange to not see that carried over into Sonic Origins.

All is not doom and gloom, despite my vexations. Again, the port quality is solid. There’s also the bonus of being able to play all four games on the go thanks to Switch’s hybrid nature as a handheld. I would be remiss to not mention the other modes available in Sonic Origins, as they truly help to round things out. Mission Mode inserts various challenges into each game. These challenges are small, tasking players to complete sections of stages without losing rings, for instance, or to take down a certain number of enemies within a set segment of gameplay. Completing these missions is in and of itself fun, but there’s also the reward of coins that can be spent in another mode (more on that in a moment).

There are Boss and Mirror Modes to enjoy, too. Boss Mode pits players against foes with limited lives and rings, which can become quite tricky the further one progresses. Mirror Mode is exactly what it sounds like: the stages flipped. Neither mode is especially deep, but they’re good changes of pace from playing the games themselves and completing missions. What’s more, coins can be earned by playing both, and the coins can all be spent in Sonic Origin’s museum. The museum is a wonderful menagerie of videos, art, and music from across the franchise’s history. Admittedly, there could easily be more content to be found, but there is enough to make the collecting of coins worthwhile. It’s rather nice how the game rewards players for investing in partaking in all of its modes without feeling contrived—the modes are fulfilling, the payoff enough to compel continued play. All of this enabled by the backbone of the collection: the four wonderful games themselves.

Is Sonic Origins the definitive version of Sonic’s earliest adventures? No. It’s missing a number of common features that modern retro compilations and rereleases have made standard. Knuckles in Sonic 3 lacks all of its original music. No Sonic & Knuckles as a standalone experience. Sure, SEGA might make some changes down the line via DLC, but as this collection exists now, it’s lacking in a number of ways. Despite these flaws, however, this quartet of software represents some of the best Sonic games ever made; indeed, some of the best platformers ever made. Fans new to the series will get the most from Sonic Origins, but even diehards will find plenty to love if they can get past the shortcomings. Here’s hoping SEGA eventually returns to Sonic Origins and makes it the proper celebration of the Blue Blur that it should have been.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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