Sonic Origins Plus Review – Bells & Whistles (& Knuckles)

Sonic Origins Plus Expansion Pack

Sonic Origins Plus for Nintendo Switch

Indulge me for a moment, to give you a brief viewpoint into my origins as a gamer. Though my beginnings were firmly rooted in the treasured catalog of the Super Nintendo, my very identity was shaped by the notion that Genesis Does.

Sonic the Hedgehog and his ilk embodied everything that a radical 90s kid would cling to immediately, defined by his sleek visage and devil-may-care attitude. Of course, without the actual portfolio to back it up, you could only get so much mileage out of biting wit (hello, Bubsy).

In his earliest offerings, Sonic was a can’t-miss prospect, providing thrilling, unique gameplay at a breakneck speed. The compelling level design and fast-twitch reactions have become ingrained within a generation, and over 30 years later, many of us are still viewing these games with absolute reverence. So when Sonic Origins first launched across all platforms last year, we giddily gobbled up this latest rerelease of the hedgehog’s golden years in a compilation of Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Sonic CD.

Admittedly, a “Sonic’s greatest hits” package is nothing new, between Sonic Jam, Sonic Mega Collection, Sonic Gems Collection, and any number of Sega Genesis anthologies we’ve seen over the years. This is where its newest DLC additions look to ramp up the stakes, delivering the eponymous “Plus” in Sonic Origins Plus. Have they done enough to shake the cobwebs from these classics of yesteryear? Let’s take a trip down those loops once more to decide…

The immediate drawing card for me was undoubtedly the addition of more playable characters in new roles. Amy Rose is introduced as a fully realized protagonist across all titles, while Knuckles is now included in the Sonic CD lineup (the one game from which he was previously absent).

Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic CD in Sonic Origins Plus
Image Source: Sega via Twinfinite

Obviously, this is nice to have and a curious exclusion in the first place, though there are some caveats that become apparent quite soon. Whereas Tails’ vaunted abilities of flight make him a natural fit in any environment — especially so with the verticality and exploration aspects of Sonic CD — Knuckles is a somewhat more awkward proposition. Yes, he can still glide and scale walls like a dreadlocked Spider-Man, however the latter is hampered by stage design that preceded his existence; to wit, you will often find yourself ambitiously climbing upwards into dead ends or awkward curves, simply because these areas were never intended to be traversed when the game first came out in 1993.

Sometimes it works, and it works well, with his glide proving a more versatile option — even if it is fundamentally at odds with the investigative nature of Sonic CD — but he ultimately becomes more of a welcome gimmick than a game-changer. You’ll definitely want to try it out for the initial novelty, just be aware that the sheer scope of his bombastic moveset will be queened in, to a degree.

But how about the new kid on the block, Amy Rose? As indicated, her is an entirely bespoke character created for Sonic Origins Plus, and for my money, she ends up fitting these games like a glove. With her pico-pico hammer in-hand, Amy is able to hit the ground running after an aerial spin in a manner not dissimilar to Sonic’s drop dash. It has less pop than that ability, though it does increase her attack range, while also offering temporary defense upon landing as she flails her hammer in front of her for a moment. The efficacy of this is limited, but it is unquestionably charming.

Amy Rose in Sonic 3 & Knuckles in Sonic Origins Plus
Image Source: Sega via Twinfinite

Again, while it’s nothing earth-shattering, for someone like myself, playing through these beloved games with a fresh character is far too enticing to downplay. Functionally, she operates largely like Sonic, so you’ll have to pardon me if I’m overselling it a touch. She just feels right at home, adding a minor wrinkle to a familiar formula that bolsters replayability.

Even if more Knuckles and new Amy were all that was on offer, I would personally be pretty pleased. Beyond this, Sonic Origins Plus also throws in 12 Game Gear titles — a great bounty that comes with its own limitations.

Impressive though they may have been on the original handheld (and its ravenous consumption of battery power), they are very much products of their time that are not nearly as timeless as their home console contemporaries. They are presented, warts and all, in their original form, where they could have really benefited from the quality-of-life features massaged into the Genesis entries.

As neat as it sounds returning to 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog for Game Gear, it is plagued by poor momentum and performance issues true to the hardware it was originally running on. The jarring, digitized “SEGA” shout at the beginning, for that matter, does not sound neat.

Your engagement will likely depend on how much you enjoyed these games back in the day. Sonic Triple Trouble is competent enough, Sonic 2 takes no prisoners, and Tails Adventure gets bonus points for trying something different, to varying degrees of success. In the case of Sonic Spinball, I would have much preferred its Genesis equivalent be inserted in its place.

Sonic Spinball in Sonic Origins Plus
Image Source: Sega via Twinfinite

Purchasing the Plus Expansion Pack will also equip you with the previously released Classic Music Pack and Premium Fun Pack, which is a nice bonus, albeit one that early adopters may have already invested in.

Trying to pinpoint how good Sonic Origins Plus is, comes down to separating doe-eyed fandom from objective value. If you currently own the base package, I would very much recommend this DLC, as it makes Sonic’s best adventures even better, while also throwing in a dozen of his smaller-scaled games.

More broadly speaking, however, Sonic Origins Plus still falls short of being definitive. There are a smattering of Genesis titles still missing, which range in quality from passable to mediocre, and are a relevant part of the character’s fledgling chapters. 2002’s Mega Collection included these — as well as, if you want to be nitpicky, the untarnished soundtrack for Sonic 3 — where Origins seeks instead to refine the mascot at his peak.

If you hadn’t previously been enticed by the quartet of Genesis classics, you are unlikely to be swayed now. In a vacuum, this is fun and gratifying DLC ​​for a certain breed of loyal hedgehog fan, whereas the remainder of consumers may be decidedly non-plussed.

Sonic Origins Plus Critic Review

Reviewer: Tony Cocking | Copy provided by Publisher.

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