Give Us More Sonic, Sega

Games Features Sonic the Hedgehog
Give Us More Sonic, Sega

Sonic Origins launched in 2022 with all kinds of problems, to the point that a modder decided to just… not mod it, opting out of spending all the energy and time it would take to fix what ailed the game. Roughly a year after that collection’s release, Sega will put an updated version on digital shops as well as physical retail locations, called Sonic Origins Plus. Now, for $40, you get everything that was in the first game—including the controversial DLC that forced you to pay more to have certain options that probably should have just been available—and another 12 games besides. That’s Sonic’s four Genesis outings—Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (& Knuckles), and Sonic CD—plus all 12 of the Game Gear titles that featured Sonic and friends back in the days of Sega’s handheld.

Plus is also releasing as $10 DLC for those who already bought Sonic Origins, will make Knuckles playable in Sonic CD, and is adding Amy as a playable character for the Genesis outings, as well. You would think it would be hard to find something to complain about, given all of that, but don’t worry. I found a way. Two ways, actually, but the point of this piece is not to complain about how the Master System versions of these games are being left out even though they run at a superior resolution to their Game Gear cousins, given they were designed to be played on a TV and all.

The more significant problem is about what’s not part of Sonic Origins Plus in any form. There are some solid titles in Sonic’s Game Gear library, but those games have been made available before, on multiple occasions, long after their release date. Making them available once again after the closure of Nintendo’s 3DS eShop is a positive and there’s no denying that as a member of the Make Every Game Available Always club, but Sega seems to always forget that they have other portable Sonic games that merit a re-release as well. The Game Gear outings got the aforementioned 3DS Virtual Console releases, and most of them were included in 2005’s Sonic Gems Collection, which was released for the GameCube and Playstation 2, as well. But what about the trilogy of releases on the Game Boy Advance? Or the pair of Nintendo DS games? Or the Neo Geo Pocket Color title that was actually developed by a pre-Dimps studio at SNK? Nothing! Just the initial release. Where are the rest of the Sonic handheld games, Sega? Why are you withholding these gems from us?

While the series was struggling to find its footing on consoles in the aughts, there were no such problems in the handheld space. Sonic’s Wii outings were bad enough that Sega delisted them in time for the legitimately great Sonic Colors so parents wouldn’t accidentally buy, say, Sonic and the Black Knight for their kids and turn them off of the blue hedgehog forever. Sonic the Hedgehog on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360? Let’s just pretend it never happened. They gave up on even finishing Sonic the Hedgehog 4 after releasing the first two parts! In the portable space over the same time frame, however, came Sonic Advance and a pair of sequels developed by Dimps, a studio made up of former SNK and Capcom employees who had worked on series like Fatal Fury, Street Fighter, and King of Fighters, and were financed out of the gate by Bandai, Sammy, Sony, and Sega. Many of those same developers had worked on Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure on the Neo Geo Pocket Color, which was like a portable take on the Genesis’ Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and was an enjoyable enough adventure that it made all kinds of sense for Sega to turn to them to help Sonic Team transition their mascot into a platforming success on Nintendo’s handhelds once Sega had left the console business behind.

You wouldn’t know that, though, unless you played Pocket Adventure back in 1999 when Sega was trying to help SNK’s handheld cut into Nintendo’s market share, or if you’ve emulated it to see what it was all about, since Sega has failed to provide any other method to experience the game in the 24 years since it released. Not only is it a good game in its own right, but it’s got a bit of history to it, considering who developed it and what those developers ended up going on to do in the future. It’s a piece of the larger puzzle, and it’s been missing. Of course, with five of the other major puzzle pieces also developed by Dimps also missing from the table, that just seems to be how things go.

Sonic Advance is a fine outing for the speedy hedgehog, and it’s also the first game in the series to be released on a Nintendo platform. It was released during Sonic’s 10th anniversary, and encapsulates so much of what worked for those games during those 10 years: it’s a great blend of speed and platforming, with plenty of spaces to run free and even more secrets to unearth. You don’t just play as Sonic, but can choose Tails, Knuckles, or Amy, too, and they all play in their own little way that makes the game feel fresh each time out. And yet, it’s been forgotten about by Sega for over two decades now.

And Sonic Advance 2? If you’re into speed, well, this is the Sonic for you. It’s absurdly fast, but in a way that still requires you to be in total control, lest you go flying off a platform to your doom. That gives it a leg up on some of the 3D outings, where the game feels like it’s sometimes playing itself and you’re just there to watch. No, in Sonic Advance 2, it’s fast, and you have to be in the driver’s seat. It’s a beautiful game, and if Sonic Advance was a fitting tribute to all that came before, Sonic Advance 2 was about the possibility of what Sonic could be next. Sure, Sega didn’t truly deliver on that promise in the future, but that doesn’t discount the accomplishments of Sonic Advance 2.

Sonic Advance 3 managed to include a team-up mechanic, translating some of what was happening with Sonic in the 3D space with Sonic Heroes to his 2D platforming. While it was a little bit of a letdown after the first two games in the series, that has more to do with how great they were than anything truly wrong with the conclusion of the trilogy. And yet, only Japan got to see a re-release of these three games on a non-GBA platform.

The switch to Sonic Rush was exciting, as it showed Dimps experimenting with some extreme verticality in level design, owing to the dual-screen design of the Nintendo DS, though it’d take some work to get it and its sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, working on non-DS hardware given the setup. That being said, DS games were possible on the Wii U, not because it allowed for a dual-screen setup of its own with the GamePad and a television, but because it was possible to fit both screens of the virtual DS across the whole GamePad, a feat DS emulators are also capable of doing. The Steam Deck has a touch screen, as does the Switch, and hell, this could even create an opportunity to release a Sonic game that can be played in TATE mode. Hey, if it works for home conversions of arcade shoot ‘em ups, why not Sonic Rush? 

Sega had opportunities to release all of these games on other platforms in the past, and they still do in the present. The Wii U had Game Boy Advance and DS games on it, but none of those Sonic titles showed up for sale on that system’s Virtual Console—at least, not in North America. There are plenty of Sonic games on Windows, but none of them are from the GBA or DS days, never mind those of the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Listen, I’m not even asking for Sega to figure out how to retool Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood—a Sonic RPG developed by BioWare for the DS that required heavy stylus usage—for present-day platforms. All I’m asking is to put some damn fine Sonic games that hold up next to the classics on sale again somewhere. Let people discover the sheer speed of Sonic Advance 2, or the dizzying platforming of Sonic Rush, or the origins of Dimps and the reason why they were entrusted with the handling of Sonic for so many years after the Neo Geo Pocket Color left the market. Ensuring that the Game Gear titles are never left behind is undoubtedly a win, and they should keep making sure all of this history remains part of the present, too, but they need to stop forgetting about the rest of their handheld Sonic offerings. Even if it means announcing Sonic Origins Plus Ultra for release in 2024.

Marc Normandin covers retro videogames at Retro XP, which you can read for free but support through his Patreon, and can be found on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin.

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