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Sonic Origins review for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Switch


Platform: PS5
Also on:PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No
ESRB: E

While I was pretty firmly on the Nintendo side way back when the Nintendo vs Sega wars were in full bloom, I nonetheless have some small bits of nostalgia for Sonic the Hedgehog back in his glory days. I’ll always remember going to my local Kmart, running to the electronics section, and playing a few levels of the first (and possibly second, given the years we’re talking about) Sonic game on the in-store Sega Genesis kiosk.

(And I fully realize just how much that paragraph dates me.)

Sonic Origins feels like it’s made for everyone who has that same memory from their past. In fact, I’d take that one step further and say that – the upcoming Sonic Frontiers notwithstanding – Sonic Origins feels like the subtext of every new Sonic game from the past decade plus made into the explicit text. Rather than trying to remind people of why they loved the series in the first place, Sonic Origins throws away any pretense of originality, and just repackages the first couple of games – Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Sonic CD – in one convenient location.

I’m definitely oversimplifying things a little. After all, while Sonic Origins includes the original games in all their 16-bit glory, it also features remastered versions of the games that allows you to experience it in substantially more detail. The remastered version also does away with the life counter (which is a godsend for those stupid water levels), and throws in a few new modes, including a boss rush mode, a mirror mode, and a mission mode. Most intriguingly, it also offers a story mode, bridging together those four games into one overarching narrative, complete with cutscenes.

Of course, the problem with putting all these games into one package is that they really start bleeding together into one. Unlike the first three Super Mario Bros. games, which could never have been mistaken for each other, if we’re being honest, the core Sonic games basically reinvented the wheel over and over again (which, given what happened when the series did try to experiment, may not entirely have been a bad thing). The character roster may grow a little with each game, but the core gameplay is generally always the same: run as fast as you can to the exit, and beat up Dr. Robotnik at the end of each boss level. You could play any of these levels at random, and – apart from those accursed water levels – you probably wouldn’t see much in the way of variation.

Admittedly, that completely ignores the way the levels look – but honestly, that’s occasionally for the best. While some of these zones became justifiably iconic, at the same time, several of them look gaudy and dated. There are some levels that are so drenched in brightly coloured neon and flashing lights that you can’t help but wish they’d stayed back in the early ‘90s.

All that said, however, it’s hard not to feel the rush of nostalgia as Sonic and friends race through the Green Hill Zone – and I mean that in a good way. If you can ignore everything that came after these games – some good, lots of bad – and just focus on what’s here, it’s not hard to understand how these games became so iconic, and why Sega has spent so many years chasing after these same highs. The four games in Sonic Origins are clearly some of the best platformers the early ‘90s have to offer, and there are just enough tweaks and additions that even if you’ve given up on the series ever reaching these highs again, there’s still ample reason to revisit them one more time.

SEGA provided us with a Sonic Origins PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: B+