Here’s a gamer version of “Guess how many gumballs are in the jar”: how many times has Sega re-released the very first Sonic the hedgehog game?
If we’re not ignoring the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive six-in-one carts in the ’90s, the answer is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 launches. 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, multiple plug-and-play TV boxes, and a version that can only be played in Tesla cars. Many of these releases also came with other 16-bit Sonic games.
Over the years, have you missed any of the over 30 other ways to play the series, or have kids who want to? sonic content possible after seeing the live-action movies of the series†Sonic Origins launches later this week on PC and all console families. Unfortunately, I’m reviewing this $40 (or, frankly, up to $48) compilation of 16-bit Sonic games, not because it’s great, but because it’s weird.
Let’s start with the price-to-content ratio, as $40 suggests an amount 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: sonic 1† Sonic CD† sonic 2and the “complete” version of sonic 3 (meaning, “and Knuckles” as a locked combination of two cartridges). Other compilations have done their best by adding other 16-bit Sonic-themed games, along with 8-bit games from the Master System and Game Gear, but those are missing this time around. Sega doesn’t make up for their absence with things like sonicDreamcast’s 3D games or the series’ edutainment craze on the Sega Pico.
Sonic Origins’ four included games are at least simulated fairly well. This is largely thanks to Headcannon, a development team that has expertise in updating the code of Sonic games to maintain 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 transfer) Sonic CD to iOS many years ago.) Every game’s “birthday” mode in Sonic Origins natively supports a 16:9 screen ratio, making the fast-paced exploration of the series a lot 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 to a “classic” mode with 4:3 ratios, the original “life” system and other things from the Genesis era intact. (This mode has one caveat, which I’ll get into.)
Genesis’ unique FM synthesizer sound system has been 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 in sonic 2‘s bonus stages. The color calibration of all four games looks fantastic for a series that has always favored bright, happy palettes. Also, this compilation’s input lag is as low as I’ve measured on a PlayStation 5 game, which is good news, although I’ve yet to test the collection on another platform.