Sonic Origins should’ve been a home run. A slam dunk. A punt return for touchdown. A midfield bicycle kick that shears the keeper’s body in two to slam into the back of the net. Four of the greatest games of all time. How could you possibly go wrong? “Hold my chilli dog,” said Sega. It was a mess.
I wrote about it at the time, calling the game a “masterclass in messing up a classic”. The problems were numerous. A lot of people decided to focus on the unfortunate but legally necessary removal of the iconic Sonic 3 music associated with Michael Jackson, but there were other problems.
Bugs. Resource-hogging on PC. Bizarre oversights, like the inability to play the games with their original lives structure. A blurry presentation thanks to poor, pixel-suffocating image scaling. In some instances, even Tails’ player 2 AI was messed up – something that is meant to follow you through every level of over half of the experience.
Even Sonic 3’s replacement music had problems, with that game’s soundtrack suffering from a weird low quality that doesn’t even match the other two games in the collection. Then there are the audio level issues, where stage music in Sonic CD is bizarrely low, but cutscene volume is ear-piercingly high. Rest in Peace to those headphone users who turned up Sonic CD only to have their eardrum blown inside out when the credits rolled.
Sega has, in fairness, issued some patches. Fans jumped in, too – if you want to restore the Jackson music or at the very least restore a decent quality to the Sonic 3 & Knuckles score, PC mods have you covered. But much of the game remains messy, and most egregiously the versions of Sonic 1, 2, and CD in Origins are arguably inferior to the versions that’d been available on mobile for years before its release.
Anyway. I’m rehashing my arguments from last summer. But my point is simple: Sega can throw all it likes into Sonic Origins Plus – unless the collection addresses these issues and actually delivers best-in-class versions of these games, I ain’t interested. Even if the idea of playing as classic Amy in the classic games is exciting.
In fairness, we can see that some of the features catching up and even surpassing those mobile versions that remain the high watermark. Knuckles being playable in Sonic CD is a feature that actually wasn’t even in that excellent mobile port, for instance. Amy is new too, of course. Sonic Origins also has all that interesting mission mode stuff, at least when the missions aren’t bugging out.
It’d be nice to see more upgrades similar to this. It’d be nice to be able to play the games with their original lives structure in a 16:9 presentation, which is currently impossible. It’d also be great if there were a way to play Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles as individual games as well as one locked-on behemoth – for historical preservation if nothing else. These are the sorts of things that fans have delivered in fan-made ports or mods like Sonic 3 A.I.R. or Sonic 3 Complete – so that Sega is missing such toggles in its official offering is a huge disappointment.
But I’m most interested in if the rest of the game has been tightened up to a more acceptable standard. The official Japanese website talks of “bugs and action behaviors” being fixed, and notes that “some specifications have been improved based on users’ play reports”. Hopefully this means that things like the music and game-breaking bugs that have remained for the last year are fixed in the upgrade.
The addition of the 12 Sonic franchise Game Gear games is nice, but it remains baffling that Sega keeps reissuing these versions of these titles rather than the Master System releases. The MS versions feature a larger screen presentation and field of view than the GG equivalents, so it remains bizarre to me that it’s always GG that gets reissued. These games are emulated rather than actively ported, too, so they’re not equivalent to the rest of the Origins collection. They’re a nice enough bonus, mind.
The true ‘Plus’ here probably would’ve been to include Sonic 3D, Sonic the Fighters, and Sonic R (as previous Sonic collections did), but I digress. The collection was decent value before, I reckon, and so is even better value now. Though Sega is kidding itself if it thinks I’ll pay for a ‘Gems Collection’ as a separate game that includes those early 3D games; they’d be better suited as DLC for Origins or absorbed into some sort of 3D collection anchored by the Sonic Adventure games, like Mario’s 3D All-Stars package. But that’s a debate for another time.
As far as Sonic Origins goes – like I said, I’m more interested in seeing Origins live up to its promise of providing definitive versions of Sonic, 1, CD, 2, and 3K. That was the great disappointment of last year’s original release, that between Christian Whitehead’s Sega-sanctioned mobile ports and fan-made mods, there were better versions of all four games available. All Sega has to do is follow the lead of these projects and bundle those features together. In that, Origins was a swing and a miss.
That’s what’ll make this a package to live up to Sonic Mania Plus, which is genuinely one of the greatest games of all time. Here’s hoping Sega is just making a splash with the addition of Amy – and when we boot this come June, there’ll be plenty more to talk about.