Review: Sonic Origins is a tragic example of good classics ruined by greed

<em>Sonic Origins</em> contains some brand new beautifully animated sequences.  But are they tipping the scales to make this compilation worth $40?  (Spoilers: no.)”/><figcaption class=

Enlarge / Sonic origins comes with some brand new beautifully animated sequences. But are they tipping the scales to make this compilation worth $40? (Spoilers: no.)

Sega

Here’s a gamer version of Guess How Many Gumballs In The Jar: How many times has Sega re-released the very first one Sonic the Hedgehog Game?

If we’re not ignoring Sega Genesis and Mega Drive six-in-one cars in the ’90s, the answer lies somewhere near 30 starts. This count includes a port of the home arcade version of the early 90’s which Sonic Jam Compilation for the Sonic hungry Saturn, versions on different mobile platforms, several plug and play TV boxes and a version exclusively playable in Tesla cars. Many of these releases came with other 16-bit Sonic games as well.

Jedes Spiel erhält einen eigenen Eintrag in der Menüoberfläche von <em>Sonic Origins</em>.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/sonic-map-980×551.jpg” width=”980″ height=”551″/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / Each game gets its own entry in the Sonic origins menu interface.

Sega

If you’ve missed any of the other 30+ ways to play the series over the years – or have kids who want to, too sound content as possible after watching the live-action films of the series—Sonic origins launches later this week on PC and all console families. Unfortunately, I’m reviewing this $40 (or up to $48, to be honest) compilation of 16-bit Sonic games not because it’s great, but because it’s weird.

… and ankles

Let’s start with value for money, as $40 suggests a lot of Sonic content that would make series fans swoon. I don’t think they will.

The biggest problem is that Sonic origins contains only four games: sound 1, Sound CD, sound 2and the “full” version of sound 3 (meaning “and knuckles” as a locked combination of two cartridges). Other compilations have gone above and beyond by adding other 16-bit Sonic-themed games, along with 8-bit games from Master System and Game Gear, but those are missing this time. Sega doesn’t compensate for their absence with stuff like sound‘s 3D games from Dreamcast or the edutainment madness of the series on the Sega Pico.

<em>sonic 2</em> in anniversary mode.  The biggest difference is a hack that renders the game correctly in 16:9 ratio.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Sonic-Origins_20220619212323-980×551.jpg” width=”980″ height=”551″/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / sound 2 in anniversary mode. The biggest difference is a hack that properly renders the game in 16:9 ratio.
Derselbe Moment in <em>sonic 2</em> “classic” Mode.  Once you’ve experienced classic Sonic games with more left and right viewing distance, it’s hard to go back to anything less.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Sonic -Origins_20220619212242-980×551.jpg” width=”980″ height=”551″/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / The same sound 2 Moment in “classic” mode. Once you’ve experienced classic Sonic games with more left and right viewing distance, it’s hard to go back to anything less.

Sega

Sonic origins‘ Four included games are at least emulated quite well. This is largely thanks to Headcannon, a development team experienced in improving the code of Sonic games to preserve the look and feel of the original games while adding modern perks. (Not surprisingly, they were assisted by Christian Whitehead, a developer who helped Sega make the official port Sound CD to iOS many years ago.) The “anniversary” mode of each game in Sonic origins natively supports 16:9 screen ratio, making the high-speed exploration of the series much easier to follow visually. This mode also includes perks ranging from the obvious (infinite lives) to the subtle (adding the “Drop Dash” maneuver to older games, or supporting a “Knuckles and Tails” mode).

If you want to play the games as they were originally designed, you can fall back on a “classic” mode with 4:3 ratios, the original “life” system, and other things from the Genesis era intact. (This mode has one limitation, which I will discuss later.)

Der Widescreen-Modus verändert definitiv das Gefühl von 3D-Effekten in den Bonusrunden verschiedener Sonic-Spiele.  Hier ist <em>SonicCD</em>which looks particularly funky.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/ORIGINS_SCREENSHOT_9_addl-980×551.png” width=”980″ height=”551″/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / Widescreen mode definitely changes the feel of 3D effects in the bonus rounds of various Sonic games. Here is Sound CD looks extra trippy.

The Genesis’ unique FM synthesizer sound system is faithfully recreated for the most part, although I’ve noticed two strange issues in pre-release time so far: Sound CD sometimes skips certain sound effects, and certain sound effects suffer from aggressive clipping sound 2Bonus levels from . The color calibration of all four games looks fantastic for a series that has always favored bright, happy palettes. Also, the input lag on this compilation is as low as I’ve measured on a PlayStation 5 game, which is good news, although I haven’t yet tested the collection on any other platform.