Going fast is still fun
Re-releasing Sonic Colors is a genius idea. I mean looking at the trajectory of mainline Sonic games, it really came at the perfect time. A lot of the goodwill of Sonic Adventure 1+2 was dried up, squandered by Sonic 2006 and Unleashed (the latter of which wasn’t that bad!), and Colors swooped in and reminded people that yes, Sonic games could be good. Given that we’re still fairly fresh off of Sonic Forces, Sonic fans collectively need Sonic Colors Ultimate right about now.
We had the chance to play a remote edition of the game via PC, and came away pretty impressed. Here’s how our hands-on session went.
The first thing I visited as soon as I connected to the build? The extras menu! So to get to the bottom of just what is going to influence people to keep playing beyond the five-ish hour story mode, I poked around a bit. One of the big draws for Sonic Colors Ultimate is the customization portion of the game, which lets you alter Sonic’s gloves, shoes, aura, boost, and icons (many of which are Sega IP-related) with in-game gold (which you pick up during missions). There’s also old-school unlocks for videos and music.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s a gigantic endgame goal of eventually unlocking Super Sonic. To do that you’ll need to collect red rings (collectibles, some of which as cleverly hidden), then finish every level in the Game Land Sonic Simulator minigame. Then complete the final act with all seven Chaos Emeralds. Old-school fans of Sonic Colors will find a lot of this to be very familiar. Oh, and in terms of general options, there’s basic video/control remapping settings, as well as the chance to swap around audio (including spoken language, and Japanese acting).
Since I had 30 minutes to play, I hopped out of the menus after a quick look around and jumped right into Act 1: Tropical Resort. But before I did that, I had the option to toggle the “Tails Navigator” (read: tutorials strewn about maps) on or off. Erring on the side of caution and wanting to test out the feature, I turned it on. As usual, there are question-mark rings that can be completely skipped that facilitate hints and intros to new power-ups, mostly for first-time players.
Before I get to the gameplay, I just have to point out how much fun everyone is having in the game’s numerous fully voiced cutscenes. This is the first appearance from Roger Craig Smith, the modern voice of Sonic, in a mainline game, and he’s still doing the voice a decade later. It also introduces the characters of Orbot and Cubot, who went on to make appearances throughout the series. While the writing for Sonic Colors (which is mostly unchanged) isn’t nearly as strong as say, the Sonic Boom TV show (what a surprise!), the cast has amazing chemistry together and it’s very cute to watch, even if the dialogue isn’t laugh-out-loud funny or witty.
Okay, so gameplay! Sonic Colors Ultimate greatly benefits from the tried and true formula of a mix of 2D and 3D sections, a staple of a few of the fan-favorite “3D Sonics.” You can rush the goal or try and explore some of the optional paths, of which there are many depending on the level. The 2D sections are especially labyrinthine at times (just like the Genesis games), with several paths to victory, a few of which house juicy extras. Everything is connected via a world map, which you can easily navigate to find levels to return to, to best prior scores or locate all of the collectibles within. It’s convenient and easy to get sucked into, as I turned a few “B” scores into “As” even in my brief test session. I couldn’t stand looking at anything less than excellence!
Sonic Colors Ultimate‘s bosses (including the one I encountered at the Tropical Resort) are still on the easy side, but the levels themselves can get really tricky. There were several times that I ended up speeding into a pit or getting tripped up by a hazard, reminding some people that 3D Sonic games aren’t always just about holding forward and running. Adventure foundational mechanics like grinding are in too, on top of the Wisps, which are basically power-ups that tend to be on the wackier side; akin to Yoshi’s Island transformations. They might seem a little over-the-top, but they pop in at the right time and help break down some of the monotony of the lack of enemy variety or hazards of each zone.
Sonic Colors Ultimate is as lovely as the original was back in 2010, and I’m stoked to try out the full version in September and go for a 100% rating. Colors is short, but it’s also sweet; as far as the Sonic series is concerned, not overstaying your welcome is a virtue.