I have been Sonic the Hedgehog fan since November 2003 after my cousin Nicholas re-introduced me to Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, the GameCube port of the Dreamcast game. Around that time, Sonic Team was gearing up for the release of Sonic Heroeswhich the nine year old excited me, despite barely playing the story mode before Sonic Adventure 2†
While I eventually learned the history behind the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise from every gaming magazine I could get my hands on, my strong obsession with the 3D Sonic games – not to mention Sonic’s modern boy band-esque charm – was such that I couldn’t find myself getting into the classic Sonic games of the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive to my dear international readers). Even when my ex-boyfriend gave me his old Genesis along with… sonic 1 and sonic 2 during my freshman year in college I couldn’t play any of them without my screen fluttering simply because my TV wouldn’t work with the outdated console, cartridge port and all.
Sonic Mania made me appreciate the classic Sonic games, despite being a compilation of the best levels of the era, but the newly released Sonic Origins collection (featuring the original Sonic Sega Genesis trilogy and Sonic CD) has given me a newfound appreciation for them thanks to a gameplay mode called Anniversary Mode. It’s a mode where you don’t lose lives; you can collect coins to redo the special stages as many times as you want so you can get the Chaos Emeralds. Most modern games have the ability to play them without getting a single “Game Over” after dying so many times, such as: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s about timebut the Anniversary Mode made my experience playing the classic Sonic games a lot easier than playing them on the Genesis.
That cool feature is something more retro games should use if they’re ever re-released and adapted for current-generation modern consoles.
When I tried to play on sonic 1 in college, almost ten years ago, my experience was terrible. I struggled to see what I was doing because of the static flickering across my TV screen (that’s the result of plugging the old Genesis into my modern TV). To make matters worse, every time I turn on the game, I always have to start from Green Hill Zone.
My ex told me about a cheat code that I had to enter in the title screen to get to the Level Select menu to choose the zone I left off, like Marble Zone or Labyrinth Zone, but I couldn’t press those buttons in time. Even a YouTube video wouldn’t help me get out of the endless loop of rebooting the game from Green Hill Zone, as iconic as that stage is.
With Anniversary Mode enabled Sonic OriginsI didn’t have to worry about losing all my progress and having to start over in every game. If I was stuck in Labyrinth Zone in sonic 1 and I left the game for whatever reason, I could jump back hours later and still continue playing from Labyrinth Zone whether I started with Act 1 or finished things off in Act 3. There’s still no way to get the levels up natural way, but at least I have the option to start over from Green Hill Zone if I wanted to.
Of course, that would only happen if I didn’t get all the Chaos Emeralds.
In the Genesis Sonic games it was hard enough going through all the stages without getting a single “Game Over”. Trying to get the Chaos Emeralds into the special stages was an even bigger hassle. While playing sonic 1For example, the iridescent labyrinth leading to the Chaos Emerald slowly tilted back and forth, using its cosmic powers to decide whether to get the Chaos Emerald or fall into a dead end before moving on to the next stage. More often than not, it would lead me to the latter no matter how hard I try to break through the barriers protecting the emerald.
Anniversary mode saved me the pain of getting everything right for once with the introduction of coins. I found that once you acquire them somewhere in a stage or as a bonus if you get a high enough score you can’t just spend coins on unlocking the sketches, pictures, music and other bonus content you’ve probably already seen on the web , but they can also be spent repeating the special stages repeatedly until you get the Chaos Emeralds.
And the best of coins? Just like you don’t lose lives, you don’t lose coins after you die and respawn either. In other words, death and resurrection don’t break the bank. You can take it with you.
It may be my younger millennial brain talking, but I have to emphasize how much better the experience has been: Anniversary mode allows me to enjoy those classic Sonic games in a way the Genesis never did. When creating ports like this, developers should take: Sonic Origins’ guide and give older gamers the option they never had as kids to finally conquer their childhood favorites.
retro games got us through hell in the 80s well into the 2000s, but Sonic Origins serves as an example of how game design philosophy has evolved beyond suffering. Retro console games are designed to mimic arcade games, giving players the same challenges as the arcade game they sunk their allowance into and making it difficult for them to save their progress due to system limitations. Over time, video games shifted towards the experience, the fun of it. It’s still important for games to be challenging, but the challenge doesn’t have to be the end of a game. That’s why we now have the technology to recreate retro games in ways that welcome new players and make them more accessible, inclusive and enjoyable.
It’s not just an important consideration for older players. If those retro games are remastered for modern consoles, those players can introduce their kids to the classics in a much friendlier way. Let them learn with a low-stakes mode and switch to a gameplay mode with a life count system once they’re ready. Just because I had to struggle when I was younger doesn’t mean everyone has to now.
Sonic Origins is now available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC and Nintendo Switch.