This is the part of the review in which I spend my entire opening graf recalling the ups and downs of “modern” Sonic the Hedgehog games, right? Nah, that’s boring and largely untrue by my estimation.
I mean, just look at Sonic Colors! That game was pretty dope back then as far as I know (I never played it), and I can personally verify it’s pretty dope now! Also since I haven’t had an opportunity before in my professional space, Sonic Forces is Good, Actually.
Anyway, I’m here to spit some opinion juice on Sonic Colors Ultimate.
Sonic Colors Ultimate Review
One of the things people like about Sonic Colors is its “no nonsense” approach, with minimal cutscenes, no big hub to explore, no huge gameplay gimmicks, and the story is a classic Sonic ‘n’ Tails versus the Eggman adventure.
The extra characters and AAA-adjacent fluff is largely absent in Sonic Colors, and it’s definitely noticeable. And in an era in which Sonic Mania is lauded by everyone, it even kinda reads the room coming out in 2021. But there’s a lot more to Sonic Colors than just trimming the fat, so to speak.
Back in the 8 and 16-bit days, a common theme with so many classics is how developers had to work around limitations. Ultimately, the general mythology there is that this challenge resulted in such amazing games. True or not, it’s important to note Sonic Colors was a Wii exclusive.
This is a game that was stuck with a sub-HD resolution, with a fraction of the hardware juice that generation’s other Sonic games had. So, a lot of work had to be done to make the game stand out visually while remaining punchy and weaker hardware-friendly.
There was a lot of success here! Even the most jaded Sonic detractors thought Colors was pretty cool, from its smart pace and clever gimmicks to its over the top and dazzling visual style. With Sonic Colors Ultimate, both of those key factors are punched up to today’s extremes.
On the ideal platforms this game hits 4K and 60 frames per second, and the results are seriously incredible. This isn’t a remake, and yet I can’t believe this game was on the Wii at one point.
The visuals that were made so bright and elaborate to fight that 480p barrier explode at 1080 and higher, making nearly every second of the game (but especially the more on rails sections) gorgeous. Except for, well, the cutscenes.
Sonic Colors, like many remasters, suffer from cutscenes that were recorded rather than rendered in real time. So you do occasionally get blasted back to the literal past, warts and all. It isn’t the worst offender of things like this, but it’s pretty jarring.
But hey, cutscenes are the least present aspect of this game so it really isn’t a big deal. The star of the show, of course, are the Wisps, the sources of all the, well, color in Sonic Colors. These little guys were such a hit they showed up in later games, because that’s how well-received they were.
That’s because Sonic Colors uses its gimmicks wisely. These critters are essentially temporary power-ups, typically only relevant to whatever small slice of level you find them in. And for the most part you’re using them for a bespoke obstacle or to search for hidden treasure.
Also, in Super Mario World-like fashion, the first time you go through most levels you’ll see Wisp capsules you can’t touch and puzzles you can’t even begin to attempt.
The game teases you right in your face about it, and when you find a new Wisp the world map shows a group of that type float over to the other levels. It’s an in your face promise of “replay value,” but one that’s a lot of fun to go back for.
My biggest problem, ironically enough, is Sonic Colors’ platforming. Usually the 2.5D sections are what folks love, but they aren’t as great here. The physics just feel weird, and make things like jumps or anything precision-oriented a pain in the ass.
This issue is at its worst when you have to jump, as Sonic has this bizarre transition between weightlessness and momentum that makes landing an endeavor.
I constantly found myself overshooting jumps or having to use the double jump to hastily correct my trajectory, even for very simple matters like going up a set of empty platforms. Sonic also clings to walls like Mega Man X, which can get in the way too, especially when you’re trying to correct a mistake.
That said, as I spent more time with Sonic Colors Ultimate I got more used to it, but I can’t think of another Sonic game I’ve played that has such bizarre-feeling jump physics.
Despite some awkwardness, I really enjoyed my time with Sonic Colors Ultimate. It helps that I never played the original, so the game’s brilliant art direction is washing over me like a weird anime tidal wave.
That’s on top of things like the exciting Wisp power-ups, the smooth performance and nonsensical but cool (Skies of Arcadia???) cosmetic unlocks. The game has its snags, but as one of the most well-received Sonic games of its time, having it resurface with such a drastic technological upgrade makes Sonic Colors Ultimate an easy recommendation.
- What a great candidate for a remaster!
- The Wisp thing really works
- Lots of well-presented replay value
- Sonic jumps weird tho
- Wii cutscenes
A copy of this game was provided by the pubisher for review