Sonic Origins: A Sonic Lemon

Probably okay for casual fans, unfortunately aimed at enthusiasts

Okay, yeah, the word's out. The fans are not happy. I'm a fan, I'm not really that happy. But I am nothing if not fair. And I will now proceed to be reasonable about Sonic Origins. Yes, I know - there are no limits to my magnaminity. So here it is - defiance, in the face of a firing squad. If you are a casual Sonic fan, Sonic Origins is fine. It's... fine, you know? It will do. If you don't have any real vested interest in accuracy to the originals, then this is a perfectly serviceable way to play the classic Sonic games. If every niggling little difference isn't going to feel like a knitting needle sliding between your ribs, then you could probably do worse than Sonic Origins. This seems like a backhanded recommendation; it genuinely isn't. If you want to play Sonic now, and you don't want to arse around getting the best possible experience, Sonic Origins offers entirely playable versions of the Mega Drive titles along with an array of entertaining extras.

(Visibly shudders) Right, okay, that's the kids tucked off to bed. Can we talk about how badly they beefed this one? Okay, alright, okay, alright, here's the thing - again, I cannot stress enough that only series fans will care about this stuff, but who else is a compilation like this one aimed at, really? We knew the Sonic 3 Michael Jackson/Brad Buxer music was gonna be missing, but we'd made peace with the prototype music, you know? All they had to do was clean that up a little bit, and when it was announced that Jun Senoue was reworking the tracks, I got excited for a nice, fresh take on them. And then we got muted-sounding, barely-tolerable shit. I genuinely hate using invective on here or in my writing - I really do - but sometimes it's necessary to get across the severity of an issue. The replacement music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 as presented in Sonic Origins is shit.

Thank god that's the only thing wrong with Origins, eh? Right? How I wish, dear Nauties, that were the case. First and most prominently, the changes. The pointless changes that make the games worse. The first one I noticed was the Green Hill Zone boss has been modified in a way that utterly baffles me. You know, the iconic wrecking ball fight? Initially, you could leap up onto the rightmost of the platforms and land a good few hits before Dr Robotnik got into position. You'd still need to land the last few bops properly, but you could skip about two-thirds of the fight each time. Now, Robotnik is invulnerable until he is fully settled in the centre of the screen and his wrecking ball is fully extended (oo-er). This means that every time you fight him in Sonic Origins, you'll need to land the full eight hits properly, thank you very much. Here's the problem, and I'm sorry if this seems sacreligious: the fight is dull. Boss fights in Sonic games aren't supposed to last a long time; you're rarely at any significant risk of losing anyway, thanks to the extremely friendly ring system. Jumping up on that platform and getting a head start wasn't cheating, it was... you know, fun! It was a fun thing to do! For goodness' sake, it's the first boss in the game, let the player wreck it if they want to!

I know, I know, that's quite a minor-seeming thing to have written 238 words about. But it isn't, not really - the game's new widescreen format adds many such little tweaks to the gameplay, none of which are for the better. The Spring Yard boss is now flanked by bizarre, ugly walls that weren't there before, almost as if the game isn't supposed to display at 16:9. Sonic 2's Metropolis Zone now, thanks to physics changes, has a springboard that propels you directly into a spike pit where it never did before. Sonic 3 & Knuckles now has secrets that simply cannot be accessed. The addition of the drop dash to every game makes Sonic CD's careful, considered time travel gameplay into slapdash whatever-that'll-do-who-cares nonsense. This is supposed to be a celebration of the classic Sonic games, not a mockery of them.

And that, all of that, and the many hundreds of other things I haven't noted here for reasons of wordcount, would all be absolutely forgivable. It would! If only the included "Classic Mode" were, in fact, what it is advertised as. But it isn't. The supposed "original" versions of the games are nothing of the sort, instead being the same crappy, wrong versions as presented in the Anniversary Mode, except squished into 4:3, with the drop dash removed and the lives system restored (oh yeah, I forgot, even Sonic is now considered too hard for you). Hilariously, this Classic Mode doesn't even remove the spindash move from Sonic 1. Spot on, folks, ya nailed it.

To end on something of a high note, the included Museum of unlockable content is okay - that is to say, the content itself isn't bad, though a lot of it is completely mislabelled, because of course it is. The new Mission Mode is admittedly good fun, too, presenting some interesting spins on the gameplay of the classic Sonics, though outside of the harder DLC (?!?) missions, it's incredibly simple to get "S" ranks on all of them.

So, no, Sonic fans are going to be driven a bit mad by this one, I'm afraid - there are constant errors and inaccuracies and the outright lie that is Classic Mode was just a little too much for this writer. Of course, if the game is patched to remove these issues - most prominently the physics problems - I'll be sure to come back and say so. Until then, I must advise you stay away.