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December 2023

Sonic Colors: Ultimate

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
Release Date: Sept. 7, 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Sonic Colors: Ultimate'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 5, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Sonic Colors: Ultimate is an adrenaline-pumping upgrade to the 2010 platformer, Sonic Colors, bringing a fresh hue with stunning visuals, additional features, a new mode, and improved gameplay enhancements, providing players the ultimate Sonic experience.

Pre-order Sonic Colors: Ultimate

The Sonic franchise has seen many different evolutions: 2D to 3D, platformer to RPG, speedy blue hedgehog to sword-wielding knight … and a werewolf. Sometimes the variety can be frustrating because all you really want is a spikey blue cartoon animal hopping on robots. That was part of the appeal of Sonic Mania, which went back to basics and did it well. Before that was Sonic Colors, a Nintendo Wii-exclusive title that was released between Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations. It's probably the best Sonic game that's often overlooked, so Sonic Colors: Ultimate brings one of the best 3D Sonic games to a wider audience at long last.

The easiest way to describe Sonic Colors is Sonic Unleashed — without the inexplicable werewolf segments. In most ways, the Wii version was a predecessor to the 3D segments of Sonic Generations, and it features nearly identical gameplay. This means that it is a heavily speed-focused platformer, and the focus isn't only on finishing levels but also chaining together long strings of boosts, bounces, jumps and slides to get through the stage as quickly and stylishly as possible. Colors has the advantage of being the one game like this that focuses on the very specific style of gameplay, rather than having a second play style, like the Werehog or Classic Sonic.

Scattered throughout the stages like animals in the older Sonic games are Wisps, adorable little alien creatures who have been kidnapped by Eggman. Some are in big, end-of-stage containers, but many others can be found in smaller bubbles throughout the levels. The default plain Wisp gives Sonic boost energy, but things get more interesting with the other Wisps available. Each Wisp has its own distinct color, and when Sonic collects one, he can temporarily use its distinct power to amplify his own abilities.

There are a variety of Wisps, each with their own powers. Laser allows Sonic to blast forward at super speed and bounce off crystals and enemies. Drill turns Sonic into an unstoppable drill that can pierce the ground to find hidden items and paths. Cube lets him transform special rings into cubes to access new powers. There are even new options available compared to the original Wii release. The Jade Wisp from the racing spin-off games is now in Colors and activates the Ghost power, which lets Sonic instantly jump to special orbs or enemies, even if there is a wall between them. This Wisp even appears early in the game, so you'll get to access its newer and cooler powers right away.

The Wisps are fun because they work well with the core idea of finishing stages as quickly as possible. Each Wisp power functions as a temporary mobility boost, which in turn means you can use them as part of the overriding "chain" style of gameplay. This means they don't detract from the basic idea of Sonic: going as fast as possible and looking neat while doing it.

There are a lot of small but significant changes to the core gameplay of Colors, usually taken from later games in the series. The lives system has been replaced with unlimited retries. Lives have been replaced by Tails icons, which cause Tails to appear and rescue Sonic. It's a nice twist on the concept that does away with the outdated idea of grinding lives while still having a safety mechanic in place. The Homing Attack mechanic has been slightly rebalanced and now features a "sweet spot" mechanic where perfect timing awards more points and Boost gauge. This is a small but nice change that adds more timing and flow to the core gameplay.

There are a lot of neat little bonus features, too. Players can customize Sonic with different gloves, shoes, and auras, which surround Sonic with various glows that range from Fire to a special "Sonic Movie" aura that makes the blue hedgehog look like his live-action movie counterpart. These are entirely cosmetic but offer a nice way to switch up things. I wish you could change Sonic's colors entirely, but sometimes you've just got to be blue. There will also be rival races against Metal Sonic, which offer rewards of their own.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate looks like a solid remaster/remake of a darn fun game. At its heart, Sonic the Hedgehog is about going fast and bouncing around, and Colors captures that atmosphere almost perfectly. Barring any sudden shocks, Sonic Colors: Ultimate will maintain the same high-quality gameplay with modern graphics, and sometimes, that's all you can ask for. We'll see when Sonic Colors: Ultimate comes to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Sept. 7, 2021.

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