REVIEW: ‘Sonic Colors: Ultimate’ – Pretty Good, But Ultimate’s a Stretch (XSX)

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Sonic Colors Ultimate - But Why Tho

Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a remaster of 2010’s Nintendo Wii exclusive from Sonic Team, Dimps, and Blind Squirrel Entertainment. This entry in the Sonic franchise marked a new era in 3D Sonic gameplay still inhabited by new entries. Unfortunately, since it came right off the heels of some more infamous titles in the series and only arrived on a single console, it hasn’t been experienced by as many gamers who may have enjoyed it. But now you can play as Sonic as he saves the Whisps on any console you like.

Many 2D Sonic players or those who dropped off after the Sega Dreamcast era 3D games may not be familiar with the modern gameplay elements of 3D Sonic games. Sonic Colors originated the main element: the boost mechanic. I know we all think that Sonic is known for being super fast, given the marketing and all. But in actuality, his games have never been about moving quickly through levels. Instead, they’ve always possessed meticulous platforming moments and reasons to slow down. What Sonic games are actually all about is the feeling of going fast rather than actually physically moving quickly. That’s what Sonic Colors really began to master via the boost mechanic. And it holds up very well over 10 years later.

Whisps are an alien species that Dr. Eggman is attempting to subjugate for his own classically nefarious purposes. When they team up with Sonic, though, they give him all different kinds of powers, including Boost. Boosting lets you sprint straight through enemies, collect swaths of rings from around you, and traverse obstacles otherwise impassable. Plus, it makes you feel like you’re going so much faster as the air appears to whip by you. This mechanic keeps levels fresh as they branch into multiple paths in classic Sonic style. You can always just barely see a different path you somehow missed and have to ask yourself, “Was there someplace I could have boosted to get myself there?”

Either that or use one of the other Whisp transformations. They range from turning you into a rocket, a ghost, a spike ball, and beyond. They’re clever ways to not only make the traversal varied but showing you how if you replay levels, you’ll uncover more pathways, get higher scores, and find more red rings. The game is actually built perfectly to encourage you to 100% complete it in this way.

Red rings, a collectible with five per non-boss level, are essential to unlocking Super Sonic, and everybody wants to unlock Super Sonic. Meanwhile, the Xbox and PlayStation versions of the game have achievements/trophies tied to S ranks and red rings. Making you work for those high scores via achievements is always appreciated, especially in a remaster that didn’t originally include them.

Where this remaster flounders is the total lack of update to the cutscenes. The game itself looks very sharp. It’s a clear update over the original. However, the cutscenes are evidently just cut straight from the original with slightly higher resolution and, frankly, look terrible. They’re barely watchable compared to the rest of the game; it’s that jarring. The story itself isn’t particularly interesting as it is, though there’s certainly plenty of corny jokes throughout. It’s certainly not as emotionally deep as Sonic Adventure 2, but a bit more convoluted than Sonic Mania, so you’re possibly better of just skipping the cutscenes anyway. But the fact that they’re this resoundingly un-updated is just a shame.

Fortunately, the game’s only real blunder doesn’t much impact its value or enjoyment. The game’s six main worlds are broken into six levels, most of which are rather short and alternate between 3D and 2D perspectives. Which really is to say that this was the first Sonic game to try to marry its two styles together. In the 3D sections, you run either towards or away from the screen, mostly going side to side, maximizing that feeling of going fast but never actually having 3D platforming nearly as complex as previous 3D Sonic games. It’s more just the feeling of 3D, but with platforming that still only happens in two dimensions. The 2D sections are side-scrolling and actually feel more liberated than the 3D ones since you have more branching paths in these sections. They’re both fun gameplay styles, though, and lend themselves well to different sides of what makes Sonic games fun: feeling like you’re going fast and slowing down to do some tight platforming, respectively.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate may not be truly ultimate, but it’s a worthwhile return to an oft-missed game.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate is available now on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Sonic Colors: Ultimate may not be truly ultimate, but it’s a well worthwhile return to an oft-missed game.