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

Sonic Origins comes with some nicely animated new footage. But are they tipping the scales to make this compilation worth $40? (Spoiler: no.)”/>

Enlarge / Sound origins comes with some nicely animated new footage. But are they tipping the scales to make this compilation worth $40? (Spoiler: no.)


Here’s a gamer version of “guess how many gumballs are in the jar”: how many times has Sega reissued the very first sonic the hedgehog Game?

If we don’t ignore Sega Genesis and Mega Drive’s six-in-one carts in the 90s, the answer is somewhere near 30. That count includes a port of the early 90s arcade home version, the Sonic Jam compilation for the Sonic-starved Saturn, versions on various mobile platforms, several plug-and-play TV boxes, and a version exclusively playable in Tesla automobiles. Many of these releases also came with other 16-bit Sonic games.

Chaque jeu a sa propre entrée dans l'interface du menu <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 into the Sound origins the menu interface.


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

…and joins

Let’s start with the price to content ratio, as $40 suggests an amount of Sonic content that would make fans of the series swoon. I don’t think they will.

The biggest problem is that Sound origins includes only four games: Sonic 1, sonic cd, Sonic 2and the “full” version of Sonic 3 (meaning “and Knuckles” as a locked combination of two rounds). Other compilations have gone above and beyond by adding other 16-bit Sonic-themed games, as well as 8-bit games from Master System and Game Gear, but those are missing this time. Sega doesn’t make up for it with stuff like Sonicthe 3D games of the Dreamcast or the edutainment strangeness of the series on the Sega Pico.

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


Sound origins‘ four included games are fairly well emulated, at least. This is largely thanks to Headcannon, a development team that has expertise in tweaking the code of Sonic games to preserve the look and feel of the original games while adding modern benefits. (Unsurprisingly, they were assisted by Christian Whitehead, a developer who helped Sega officially port sonic cd to iOS many years ago.) The “birthday” mode of each game in Sound origins natively supports a 16:9 screen ratio, making the high-speed exploration of the series much easier to follow visually. This mode also includes advantages ranging from obvious (infinite lives) to subtle (addition of the “drop dash” maneuver to older games or support for a “Knuckles and Tails” mode).

If you want to play the games as they were originally designed, you can revert to a “classic” mode with 4:3 aspect ratios, the original “lives” system, and other Genesis-era elements intact. (This mode has a caveat, to which I will return.)

Le mode écran large change définitivement la sensation de tous les effets 3D dans les tours bonus de divers jeux Sonic.  Voici <em>sonic cd</em> which looks extra hovering.” 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 all 3D effects in the bonus rounds of various Sonic games. Here is sonic cd looks extra trippy.

Genesis’ unique FM synthesizer sound system is faithfully recreated for the most part, although I’ve noticed two odd issues in the pre-release period so far: sonic cd will sometimes skip some sound effects, and some sound effects suffer from aggressive clipping Sonic 2bonus stages. The color grading of all four games is fantastic for a series that has always favored bright and cheerful palettes. Also, this build’s input lag is as low as I’ve measured on a PlayStation 5 game, which is good news, although I haven’t tested the collection on any other platform yet. form.

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