Sonic Origins was announced last year as part of the Blue Blur’s 30th anniversary. While we haven’t heard about it since, it remains high on our list of anticipated remasters for the year—and here’s why.
Last May, alongside Sonic Colors: Ultimate and Sonic Frontiers, Sega announced Sonic Origins, a new compilation of the iconic games that put their mascot on the map. This new bundle would include Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic CD in one package across all modern platforms. It was almost a footnote in the presentation, but it’s been one of my most anticipated releases since.
Maybe it’s the anniversary stirring up my nostalgia, or the series’ gradual resurgence driven by the live-action films, but it’s the remaster or port that I’m most anticipating, maybe even more than some brand-new releases. But there’s more at stake here than simply rebundling a few classic games for a cash-in…
[UPDATE 4/19: In the two days since this article went live, Sonic Origins appears to have been rated by the Korean Game Rating and Administration Committee, and potential key art has been discovered in the depths of the PlayStation Network’s data. Hopefully this means more news is inbound!]
Not Just Emulation
The biggest selling point for Sonic Origins may be that it’s not another emulated re-release. Series Producer Takashi Iizuka told 4Gamer last summer that the original games are being “properly ported to the current hardware,” allowing them to be played in full 16:9 resolution. According to Iizuka, they are able to “modify the original” games to make them more accessible to new audiences, like kids who are being introduced to them by the live-action movies, while still faithfully recreating them. Given that these games have been enjoyed for over a quarter of a century, he felt the time was right to revitalize them.
It would be easy to tie a bow around emulated ports of these five games and trot them out to market for a quick payday, but Iizuka’s comments show they intend to do something more meaningful this time. We’ve seen how powerful this approach can be with recent remasters like Mass Effect Legendary Edition or the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series, and even with Sonic Colors: Ultimate, which greatly benefitted from a little TLC in the process (launch woes on Switch aside).
The audio/visual presentation would inherently enjoy a massive improvement. The Genesis boasted a larger resolution in its own time, but now we scoff at its 320×224 boundaries. What’s more, this made Sonic prone to running into enemies or hazards if you didn’t know what was coming, since you could only see so much of the stage in front of him. But redefined in modern resolution, it could be a whole new ball game—all while those iconic soundtracks blare with crystal clarity. (If you’ve never seen the early games zoomed out, check out this fan-made mod from last year to get a sense of their true scale and intricacy.)
One Easy Point of Access
If you want to boot up the classic games, you have a few options: they’re scattered across mobile platforms and previous generation marketplaces, as well as a few miscellaneous places like the 3D rebuilds on 3DS (buy them while you can!) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pass tier. Steam is currently the most cohesive place to replay the franchise (and still will be after Sonic Origins arrives, since it features practically every main entry).
During the aughts, Sega alleviated these access woes with occasional compilation titles, usually alongside some other classics from their platforms, but there was usually a catch. Sonic CD was separated from the “main trilogy,” the lock-on gameplay of Sonic & Knuckles was often implemented awkwardly, the legacy of Sonic 3‘s musical inspirations causes licensing issues, and they were usually accompanied by unrelated Sega titles. Even still, the last collections came out in 2010 on DS and PC, skipping current-gen consoles entirely.
While these compilations can be easily dismissed as a cash grab, they’re also extremely handy for keeping classics close at hand for those who don’t have the original hardware. Sonic Origins will put the quintessential early games on current consoles in one efficient package for the first time in over a decade, and that alone is worth a modest ticket price.
Elevating Sonic CD
While Sonic helped sell many consoles in the early 90s, Sega was inadvertently countering all the momentum he gained them in the hardware race. Between the confusing nomenclature of the Genesis and the Master Drive lines, the Voltron-esque nature of its peripheral add-ons, and the poorly-timed launch of the Sega Saturn, not even an all-time classic Sonic adventure could salvage the Sega CD.
Sonic CD launched in late 1993, a year into the Sega CD peripheral’s lifespan. It was a major hit with critics and the best-selling game for the add-on, though its competition was comparatively meager. It used its incredibly superior storage to include three versions of each of its seven worlds—past, present, and future. Sonic could hop between timelines mid-level, and if the player can find hidden Robotnik machines in the past versions, he can ensure the future is positive, instead of a barren hellscape.
It was equal in every way to its Genesis cousins, even if it featured only Sonic (as well as the first appearances of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose). Unlike Knuckles’ Chaotix on the 32X, it saw a Windows 95 port, and has been kept alive with occasional ports since. But Sonic Origins will mark the first time it receives equal billing with the Genesis trilogy, rightfully recognizing it as a critical piece of Sonic history—and giving new generations the perfect opportunity to experience it.
Potential Quality of Life & Content Updates
Modern remasters have done wonders for older games that have archaic technical limitations. Iizuka’s promises of improved resolution will be a big improvement for Sonic Origins inherently, and without relying on emulation moments that have always been laggy or slowed down should run smoothly. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Save files, save states, and/or quicksaves could have a huge impact on the majority of these titles, and feel like a given.
With the success of Sonic Mania, it should be serving as inspiration—if its director, Christian Whitehead, is not involved, it will be a huge missed opportunity—so it’s also within the realm of possibility that we could see some subtle content additions as well. New moves, new modes, and interesting remixes of familiar gameplay concepts would be welcome, especially if they remain somewhat separate and optional from the “true” experience for those who want a minimally-altered nostalgia trip.
Really, Sonic Origins has a wealth of opportunity in this department, and the possibilities have this childhood fan excited for the next newsdrop. Could we see Knuckles playable in Sonic 1 and Sonic CD?
Just the Beginning?
This set is already the perfect encapsulation of the Blue Blur’s early days—the original trilogy, the “icing on the cake” expansion, and a timeless classic that many people missed out on—but Sonic Origins could include so much more. Sega formerly released Sonic’s earliest games in two separate compilations, Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection; one compiled the main “canon” while the other grouped some more obscure titles with other underdogs from the company. In reality, these games could’ve been combined into one truly “mega” collection, and leaving the concept of Sonic Origins at five games also seems like a disservice.
What about quirkier titles like Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast? Or lost titles like the 32X’s Knuckles’ Chaotix or the Japanese arcade exclusive SegaSonic the Hedgehog? SNK has recently released successful ports of their NeoGeo Pocket Color titles, and Sonic’s excursions from the Game Gear could similarly benefit from being ported to a system like the Switch—even more so if they could be cleaned up and modernized like the other games in this upcoming compilation, expanding beyond the cramped proportions of the ill-designed handheld.
Even if Sonic Origins remains a pure, simple collection, hopefully it will pave the way for others. The Sonic Adventure era, spanning Dreamcast to GameCube, was a promising start to Sonic’s 3D adventures before the unfortunate derailing of Sonic ’06, and could benefit from a similar restoration. And the Sonic Advance games from the GBA are too often overlooked, but a perfect fit for the Switch if nothing else.
Since it’s almost been a year since Sonic Origins was announced, and we’re now upon the precipice of the 31st anniversary, hopefully we’ll get some more information and a release date soon. Until then, I’ll just be warming up my thumb muscles and honing my reflexes in anticipation of reliving both my childhood and Sonic’s finest hours.