Fans were pretty excited at the prospect of Headcannon, one of the developers of the best Sonic game of recent years, being involved with the Sonic Origins collection—which contains remastered versions of Sonic The Hedgehog 1, 2, 3 & Knuckles and Sonic CD. Unfortunately since its release last week, forums and social media have seen a wave of videos showing the game's bugs, glitches, and general messiness.
The reception is obviously being reflected in user reviews, though there is some crossover in the negativity towards the game's microtransactions (which to be fair do lock some weird stuff behind a paywall).
'New game has bugs' is not the most stunning story, but it is curious that this has happened with what must be some of the most frequently re-released games ever made. Like, you'd think Sonic Team would have a handle on things after so many years.
Or maybe not. Developer Simon 'Stealth' Thomley, founder of Headcannon and a programmer on Sonic Mania, was responsible for the Sonic 3 & Knuckles portion of Origins. A fair few issues have been spotted with this, including level-skipping glitches, and Thomley took to social media to express his own frustrations at the conditions under which Sonic Origins was developed.
"This is frustrating," writes Thomley. "I won’t lie and say that there weren’t issues in what we gave to Sega, but what is in Origins is also not what we turned in. Integration introduced some wild bugs that conventional logic would have one believe were our responsibility—a lot of them aren’t."
Thomley goes on to say that "We knew going in that there would be a major time crunch and we worked ourselves into the ground to meet it just so this would even be made and released."
This is frustrating. I won't lie and say that there weren't issues in what we gave to Sega, but what is in Origins is also not what we turned in. Integration introduced some wild bugs that conventional logic would have one believe were our responsibility- a lot of them aren't.June 24, 2022
He goes on to acknowledge that Headcannon's submitted build included "Some actual mistakes, some overlooking, some rushjobs, some stuff we noticed but weren't allowed to correct near the end. It's absolutely not perfect and some of it is from us. It's complicated."
However, Thomley claims Sega introduced more bugs that weren't in Headcannon's build, and wouldn't allow Headcannon to make "major fixes" as the game approached launch. It wants to work on fixing the issues people have found, but doesn't yet know whether it will be able to.
"Every one of us is very unhappy about the state of Origins and even the Sonic 3 component," writes Thomley. "We weren't too thrilled about its pre-submission state either but a lot was beyond our control."
The developer goes on to acknowledge that talking about things such as this in public can be "considered 'unprofessional' and can hurt our relationship with Sega, meaning no Origins updates, and no further 2D pixel Sonic games from us [but] there's just too much scrutiny over things that both are and are not related to us, and I don't want to sit in back in silence while people are asking why and how things happened to a product they put so much hope and money into."
The thread ends with a re-iteration of Headcannon's desire to fix that game's issues, and its commitment to Sonic. Thomley also repeatedly stresses what a complicated endeavour developing a game is, and that he's "not fighting with Sega, and no, I have not cut off Sega [...] I'm willing to do more work under the right conditions; whether they want to work with me again is an entirely separate matter."
I'd seen a few of these Sonic Origins bugs floating around over the weekend, and was just vaguely amused by them rather than overly bothered. But clearly this is a fanbase with high expectations and, arguably, a re-release package should have been easily capable of delivering them.
As for Headcannon and Sega, as Thomley says it's probably not the wisest move to be calling out Sega if you ever want to work on Sonic games again. But then, the reason he and others work on these projects with such dedication is that they're clearly big fans themselves. Which is completely cool, and arguably why something like Sonic Mania was as good as it was. But you do wonder whether it also makes molehills sometimes seem like mountains.