Every legend has a beginning, and Sega’s signature blue blur is no exception. While youngsters' first introduction to Sonic the Hedgehog may be his cinematic debut from 2020, for some of us it was the original release of the Sonic trilogy back in the 1990s where it all began.
Travelling through time takes some getting used to, since you’ll need to maintain speed for an amount of time once you’ve hit one of the Future or Past signs dotted about, but it soon becomes second nature and has you thinking about the best way to go to reach your goal.
Sonic 3: Sonic and Knuckles is, perhaps unsurprisingly, where Knuckles was originally introduced, through an expansion which at the time physically plugged into the original game, though here you can also use him or Tails as a character in any of the games in the collection.
Enemies are still cheap enough to rob you of rings even though you definitely, absolutely, positively jumped on them and they should have died...
As a result it’s the only game which incorporates his abilities – gliding and climbing – into the level design, and even gives him a slightly different path through the game, compared to playing the game as Sonic, where Knuckles is an antagonist.
Enemies are fairly straightforward, since they are theoretically innocent animals cruelly mechanised by the evil Dr Robotnik, generally minding their own business rather than actively seeking you out as you speed through the stage, but still being cheap enough to rob you of rings even though you definitely, absolutely, positively jumped on them and they should have died.
Where the gameplay takes a sharp left turn, and a different one each time, are the bonus stages. Each level has one or multiple, which, at best, grant you a lot of rings and even an emerald for your trouble, or, at worst, just abruptly leave you back where you started. While the variety is welcome, it doesn’t seem to build on the skills you build up by playing the game proper, and so just feels like a distraction a lot of the time.
In terms of the additional material available, the animated shorts from Sonic Mania make a reappearance here, and to get a glimpse of museum items like the concept art are interesting, but for such a celebratory release – coming on the heels of Sonic’s 30th birthday after all – you might expect a little more in terms of the making of the original games or other developer insights.
The highlight is the 2011 arrangements of some of the classic level themes, to varying degrees of success, though it’s a shame not to see the 30th anniversary concert performances available – it’s where the game was first announced after all.
The biggest drawback with this area is that the material is locked behind coins which, though earned in-game, each costing you five at a time, so it could be a while until you’ve managed to unlock everything. There are various, if confusing, downloadable content options to grant access to further material, but nothing to write home about.
As an introduction, Sonic Origins definitely captures the good, and bad, of this era of the franchise, and the reproduction is top quality, running well with only one game-breaking bug during our testing.
However, given this is roughly the eighth time these games have been re-released, going all the way back to the 90s in various compilations and collections, you’d be surprised if the quality was anything other than flawless on a modern system hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful.
The game experience holds up well though, and that’s what really matters at the end of the day. As an opportunity to get new players into these classics, it’s everything you’d expect, but for die-hards looking for something a little more, you could be left wanting.