Sonic Origins on PC has Denuvo DRM as these non-piratable Mega Drive games need to be protected

Sonic the Hedgehog is in the midst of a kind of renaissance. Sonic Mania was enough to restore confidence in video games starring super-fast mammals, and of course now we have not one, but two different Hollywood movie adaptations that are among the best video game moves ever made. So it’s an ideal time for Sega to capitalize on some Sonic video game action.

The actual new game, Sonic Frontiers, is still a while away – so up Sonic origins, a collection of the really good Sonic games – that is, the 2D games, the first four entries in the series. That’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles from Mega Drive/Genesis, plus Sonic CD from the Sega CD. Yes, that’s five and I said four games – but the last two Mega Drive games are actually two halves of the same game and are presented as one title in this collection, Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

All of these games have previously been re-released on a variety of platforms, but what makes this release particularly exciting is that they are ports. That is, not just the original Mega Drive game files running in an emulator. This sets it apart from most other versions of these games with a few exceptions – Sonic 1 & 2 have been given native ports before, but only on mobile. Sonic CD is the only company to have received this treatment on a larger scale.

So when it was announced I jumped straight to the game’s Steam page to pre-order it and… wait, what’s that? That dreaded brown Box of Doom in the game information area; “Contains 3rd party DRM: Denuvo Anti-Tamper.”

I’m not naive. I realize that anti-piracy measures in this industry are, to some extent, a necessary evil to get companies paid. But… is Sega really adding a layer of this intrusive OS to four games that together are well over 100 years old? The youngest game in the collection is 28.

This honestly feels like some kind of bad joke. When Sonic Mania included Denuvo, I winced, but understood: this was a new game and needed more protection. Sega later dropped Denuvo from Mania, presumably because they didn’t want to keep paying the royalties. I’ll tell you something though: those fees feel like a waste of money here, in a collection of games that are so readily available on the web that slapping DRM on that collection feels like a bad joke.

I just typed “play sonic the hedgehog online” into google, clicked on the second result and found myself on a webpage where you don’t even need to download a rom or emulator. the game is running in the browser! I tried the same with Sonic CD, the most advanced of this collection, and… the same. Which honestly makes me old to remember when Sega CD emulation was a big deal and felt impossible.


I get that these new versions of these Sonic classics are just that; new ports allowing players to experience the games as they were and in a new “Anniversary Mode” with widescreen presentation. But I also think there is a sliding scale of when and where these pesky DRM applications are acceptable, and it feels totally ridiculous to attach them to games that are so old and available online.

Even accounting for the new features, since the dawn of the internet, fans have been working and releasing free ports of these games that achieve the same goals, with the result that fan projects like Sonic the Hedgehog Forever and Sonic 3 AIR – native PC ports . All of this is readily available thanks to the modding and fan game community. Sega has only shied away a little from fully supporting it over the years – and pulling them down would be a bad look. I think these fan creations and the official remasters can co-exist, but that makes the clumsy DRM all the weirder.

I do not get it. In between, the pre-order options fiasco and a version load-out literally a table needs to be explained, it proves one thing: when it comes to Sonic, Sega will still be Sega. It could even be that it’s practically experiencing a renaissance in spite of the people making decisions, not because of them. Sonic Origins on PC has Denuvo DRM as these non-piratable Mega Drive games need to be protected

Fry Electronics Team

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