Review | Sonic Colors: Ultimate
Very few video game franchises can claim to have a legacy of 30 years. This past June, Sega’s Blue Blur celebrated his 30th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, Blind Squirrel Games have collaborated with Sonic Team to bring back the Wii fan favorite, Sonic Colors. The new version, Sonic Colors: Ultimate, aims to bring the 2010 Wii original to every modern platform. While the core experience is mostly the same, there are some changes that help streamline some of the original’s kinks. Unfortunately, for every step forward, this remaster takes a step back.
Sonic Colors‘ general concept has Sonic and Tails infiltrate Eggman’s interstellar theme park. There are six different planets to traverse, each with their own theme. In addition, there are also the native aliens, the Wisps, which Sonic will encounter. These creatures give Sonic unique abilities like flying up like a rocket or drilling underground. Each planet has six acts with a boss encounter at the end. Colors isn’t a long game, but it also doesn’t overstay its welcome, which makes a breezy and light adventure.
One of the perks of playing the Ultimate edition on PlayStation, Xbox or PC is the resolution boost. The game sports a 4K resolution and it looks absolutely spectacular because of it. In addition, Sonic Colors now runs in 60 frames per second. Considering how Sonic revolves around speed, the smoother frame-rate doesn’t only reduce motion blur, but also helps with input response. The Switch version, however, is incapable of outputting 4K and is locked at 30fps.
Sonic Colors has always been one of the most visually striking games for the Wii, pushing it to its limits. While Sonic Colors: Ultimate does an admirable job upgrading the look, there are some unfortunate issues. A lot of the issues are minor cosmetic ones. Examples include the darker lighting in Tropical Resort or the excessive bloom effect in Starlight Carnival.
The majority of the issues are related to visual effects. Wisps’ trails, background elements like swimming fish or the grind sparks of a roller-coaster tend to flash and flicker repeatedly. While those issues are minor in the grand scheme of things, their frequency becomes irritating fast. Considering how polished the original Wii version is, it’s a shame how this version is fraught with many visual glitches.
Unfortunately, several of the major graphical issues do affect gameplay. The laser Wisp power-up has a dotted trail that shows the trajectory of the laser shot. However in the Ultimate version, the dotted trail is darker and very difficult to see, making aiming harder. This isn’t even the only laser that proves to be problematic. Enemy bosses that shoot lasers often have their beams merge with the background, making them very hard to distinguish.
Another unfortunate graphical deficiency are the cutscenes. The original Wii version ran in 480p, and it seems Sonic Colors: Ultimate uses the original Wii cutscenes, simply upscaling them. This wouldn’t be a major issue if it wasn’t for the visual artifacts that appear on solid colors during motion. In addition, some cutscenes tend to stutter before they end, which shouldn’t occur considering those are full motion videos.
As much as the visuals are spotty in this remaster, the audio department suffers even more. The sound mixing in Sonic Colors: Ultimate is uneven at best. Voice over and music are often very quiet, whereas most sound effects are extremely loud. Their volume peaks so often that it causes a lot of audio distortion. For some reason, the audio options merge both music and SFX volume control on the same slider. I even ran into some situations where music wouldn’t play. It happened most prominently at the level results screen, the main menu, or when Sonic becomes Super Sonic. Stereo mixing is also problematic, as audio channels shift from left to right and vice-versa sporadically.
While there are many problems, there are some changes that help modernize the game for the present day. Lives are no longer an issue, and players can now collect Tails tokens. If Sonic dies anywhere in the level with a token, the two-tailed fox will swoop in to save him. Tails will automatically drop Sonic at the nearest platform, making death less of a hassle. However, it does over-simplify the game. Checkpoints are already plentiful, and this addition seems rather unnecessary, especially since lives are now infinite. In addition, using a Tails Token resets every ring in the level. In theory, players can die after collecting every ring in an area, spawn back nearby, and collect every ring indefinitely, which is an exploit that is easy to pull off.
A less favorable addition is the new Rival Rush mode. After collecting a certain amount of Red Rings per planet, a Rival Rush challenge unlocks in one of the acts. Here the player must race against Metal Sonic without dying once. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to the Rival Rush mode, as Metal Sonic functions similarly to a ghost in a racing game. His path is predetermined and the goal is simply to beat his time.
After living in Wii purgatory for 11 years, it’s nice for other console owners to finally experience Sonic Colors. The Ultimate edition brings some graphical flourishes and a forgiving difficulty curve that would help benefit beginners. However, the myriad of both visual and audio glitches dampen the overall experience. I do hope that Blind Squirrel can polish the game down the line and provide a more consistent experience. Unfortunately, as it stands, Sonic Colors: Ultimate doesn’t quite reach for the stars.
Final Score: 6 out of 10