Sonic Origins Plus is a newly-released version of last year’s Sonic Origins, which I reviewed at the time. As such, I’ve copied across my original thoughts first, and then just below that I’ll be touching on what’s new and how it all fits into the value proposition of the collection. The review score is reflective of the package as a whole and not just the new content.
The Original Review: Few video game franchises have endured as long as Sonic the Hedgehog, but those that have typically haven’t had as rocky an existence as our spiky, blue friend. Where his rivals have gone from strength to strength, Sonic’s catalogue of releases has become more and more mixed over time [Note: Sonic Frontiers came out after this review, and that game slaps]. It makes sense then, that SEGA is keen to continue reviving and re-selling Sonic’s earliest outings. Sonic Origins is the latest example of those efforts, and it’s a surprisingly decent package overall.
Sonic Origins serves up the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis versions of the original three Sonic the Hedgehog games as well as Sonic CD, all recreated in the same “Retro Engine” used to power 2017’s Sonic Mania. On top of the games themselves, there are a handful of extra modes and a museum of unlockables spanning the blue blur’s most historic years. It’s not quite the all-encompassing collection that we’ve seen in the past, omitting games like Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast, but the trade-off is these are faithful and pristine ports. Each game also has its own animated intro and ending sequences, which look fantastic.
There are also multiple new ways to play the four included games, with everything tied into a central ecosystem of collectible coins. You can play the games in their original, 4:3 forms in Classic Mode if you like, but the new Anniversary/Story modes are where it’s at. Playing any of the titles in Anniversary Mode gets you essentially the same game, but with widescreen support and the ability to choose Sonic, Tails or Knuckles as the playable character (no Lock-On technology needed!) as well as the removal of lives. Yep, no game over screens here – with unlimited lives everything instantly becomes a lot more accessible than before.
Story Mode, on the other hand, puts all four games and the new animated sequences in chronological order (Sonic 1, Sonic CD, 2 and then 3) in one long run with Sonic as the only playable character. Then there’s also a Boss Rush option available for each game as well as a Mission Mode that offers up a series of objective-based versions of levels where you’ll need to meet goals in order to unlock harder missions and earn plenty of the all-important coins.
Those coins, which you earn across the extra modes as well as Anniversary/Story in place of life pick-ups and are carried across every game, are useful for two things. Firstly they’re used to unlock everything in the Museum, which is stacked full of a bunch of pretty cool memorabilia from covers to manuals, never-before-seen art and documents and of course a ton of music. More useful though is the ability to cash them in to restart any of the bonus stages across the games, which have always been a bit of a pain point given they’re incredibly easy to fail and crucial to seeing the true endings of each game. If you’re keen to finish all of the titles in Sonic Origins you’ll definitely want to hang onto your coins for that purpose.
All said, this is a decent little package with a few neat wrinkles to make playing these games more enjoyable than ever, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with the way it’s all presented. The games themselves look razor sharp and run impeccably, though it’s a bit disappointing that there aren’t any extra visual options or filters made available given these have been rebuilt from scratch. I also really wish a “rewind” feature not unlike those included with previous emulated Sonic collections was available in at least the Classic mode to further mitigate frustration. The front end menu, which presents each game as a gorgeously-rendered 3D island, is totally unnecessary but looks great, and you can even zoom into and inspect each one – provided you paid for the privilege [Note: This doesn’t apply to Sonic Origins Plus, which includes all of the previous paid content, and so the succeeding paragraph has been omitted].
We’ve had plenty of retro Sonic compilations before, and the cynic in me wants so badly to see this as just another in a long line of nostalgia grabs amid the continued futile attempts at modern franchise entries. The thing is, for the first time in ages this feels like a genuine celebration of the blue blur’s beginnings, made with care and a reverence for the source material.
The Updated Review: A year on, SEGA has seen fit to repackage Sonic Origins with the entire original package, controversial Deluxe Edition features included, along with even more content and some fun new tweaks, as Sonic Origins Plus.
The main content addition in the Plus version of the game comes by way of 12 Sonic titles from SEGA’s Game Gear handheld, all available to play within the Missions menu. While it’s cool to see some arguably more niche Sonic titles being added into the mix, I can’t help but wonder why SEGA chose these over, say, the numerous other series spin-offs that debuted on the Genesis/Mega Drive and could hold up more closely to the core four games in Origins.
When included games like Sonic Spinball and Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine existed on much better hardware it’s odd to be presented with their worst versions here – not to be too blunt about it but Game Gear games do not look or sound nice on a big TV. Still, there are some fun curiosities here including some previously Japan-only releases, and there’s definitely novelty in attempting to enjoy whatever the hell was going on in Tails’ Skypatrol.
Aside from the Game Gear stuff, Origins Plus’ other big back-of-the-box feature is the introduction of Amy Rose as a playable character in all four original games. Armed with her trademark hammer, it’s a delight to be able to replay the updated classics once again with a character that was barely introduced in the original Sonic CD. In all honesty, Amy’s exclusion in the first release of Sonic Origins could probably have been considered a snub, but SEGA’s done right here, at least. Amy’s updated sprite is great and fits in nicely with the rest of the crew, and after playing for even a few minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking she’d always been there.
Not only that, they’ve squared the rest out by also making Knuckles playable in Sonic CD, complete with updated level routes that take his unique controls into account.
I was also excited to see a menu option labelled “Surprise” having been added in, but slightly disappointed that all it encompasses is a new (admittedly very nice) illustration to look at after completing a series of 10 basic objectives within the Sonic Origins package, many designed to encourage experiencing the games again with Amy and Knuckles.
In all, Sonic Origins Plus’ new extras are kind of a mixed bag and might not justify the $10 USD upgrade fee for anyone that bought Origins last year, but at the same price of $60 for newcomers and in its fancy new physical release form it’s a neat little extra celebration of the Blue Blur’s beginnings.
Sonic Origins keeps the focus on the hedgehog's early core entries, polishing them up to a fine sheen and creating an addictive ecosystem around them that breathes new life into each title. The new and improved Plus version is a bit of a mixed bag of additions, but more is still better, especially for anyone picking it up for the first time as a complete package.
All four games look pixel-perfect with added widescreen support
The museum is stacked full of genuinely interesting articles
Mission mode is a great way to experience these games in small chunks
Animated intros and 3D menus are a treat for the eyes
Amy's inclusion in the Plus version is very welcome
Even with coins to spend on retries, bonus stages will never not be aggravating
Adding Game Gear games instead of other Mega Drive titles in Plus is a weird choice