Sonic Colors: Ultimate feels best when it’s focused on going fast
After a half hour hands-on preview with Sonic Colors: Ultimate, I’m reminded of just how fast the world’s most famous hedgehog really is. If I’m honest, 30 minutes was nowhere near enough time to get a firm grasp on this garden dweller.
Colors: Ultimate is a remaster of a 2010 platformer originally for the Wii, remastered in time for Sonic‘s 30th birthday. It was well recieved by fans at the time, so I suppose HD-ifying it now makes sense. But if I pick through the blue dust left in Sonic Colors Ultimate’s wake, I’m left with the feeling that I just prefer the going-fast hedgehog when he’s focused on going fast.
11 years ago, Sonic travelled to Doctor Eggman‘s evil theme-park and stopped him from enslaving an alien race of wisps in Sonic Colors. You’d expect nothing less from a hedgehog with such large feet.
You go fast; you collect rings. Sonic. Now Sonic Colors returns, and along with the Ultimate label things look nicer, there’s a new mode, and there’s a new wisp power-up. In my blitz with the spiny mammal, I didn’t get to try out Sonic Colors Ultimate’s new mode, or even the new wisp power-up. I did, however, race through a few of the game’s earliest levels, which saw me tear through a tropical resort and a pudding-themed world.
And just like in Sonic Colors of old, these levels shift between a side-scrolling and front-facing perspective.
In the latter, you speed through winding sections that wouldn’t be out of place in Mario Kart – or Team Sonic Racing, I suppose. Occasionally you hop over barricades, or dodge out the way of nasty robots, or grind your sneakers on a long rail. As you barrel through these levels, a boost meter fills up, which lets you go mega-fast and smash through lines of robots.
These bits are pretty fun, as you really get a sense of pace and flow. In the hands on it was rare that I ever stopped to nab a special coin or a canister of trapped wisps, so the momentum was forever pushing forwards. And it all felt wonderfully smooth, chaining together these hops and grinds and boosts as I careered towards the finish line.
Interspersed between these sections are some side-scrolling bits too. You’ll elegantly transition from charging forwards to charging sideways. That is, if you aren’t doing a touch of platforming or backtracking. Side scrolling is of course a classic Sonic style, comparable to what you find in Sonic Mania, where you’re jumping on springs to rocket you upwards, or loop-de-looping back through a hidden tunnel to nab that shiny loot.
The switching in Sonic Colors: Ultimate did change things up fairly nicely, so I wasn’t just whizzing through the equivalent of a race track the entire time, but even in half an hour it got a little jarring. I got the sense that I was lurching between two Sonics: one that wished to go fast, and one that wished to stop and rewind from time to time. One whizzes down a track, building up momentum, and then the other steps in and slows to a bit of a crawl (in Sonic terms, at least).
Debating the form of Sonic isn’t new. There are constant discussions between fans about which eras of Sonic are the best, and the blue blur has been in a load of different 2D and 3D platformers in his time. I suppose getting a preview of Colors: Ultimate has just emphasised that it’s weird for a character who has one of the most simple and iconic statements of intent in all of games can also have such an ongoing indentity crisis.
It’s not that this best of both worlds approach doesn’t work. This seems like a strong HD remaster, it’s one of Sonic’s most universally liked games, and it still has everything that was popular with fans on its original release. If you already know about Sonic Colors, you probably already know if you’ll like Ultimate. But me? After this preview I can’t shake the feeling that Sonic would be better off committing to just one way of going fast.
Sonic Colors Ultimate Seems as Slick as Ever
When it comes to some of the more recent Sonic the Hedgehog adventures, not all of them are considered beloved, meaningful additions to the series. Sonic Colors is something of an outlier, as it’s a modern entry that generally got a lot of things right at the time at best and was competent at worst. Now Sonic Colors Ultimate is on the way and after spending some time at the Tropical Resort, I have a better idea of how things are looking this time around.
For starters, Sonic Colors Ultimate is much more crisp and clear than before. This is a vibrant game on any platform, to be certain. Especially the Tropical Resort area, which is filled with neon lights, colorful enemies, and spaces that look like they wouldn’t be out of place in some high-end hotel. This is further emphasized in this HD remaster. Everything seems more well-defined than before, especially in this first area I explored. Though granted, in most cases I was going too fast to really take everything in. This also carried over to the early story scenes in Tropical Resort. The voice acting is as welcoming and familiar as ever, with all of the characters’ designs looking quite accurate. Though, admittedly, Sonic’s eyes sometimes look a bit too shiny and the textures in this early build led to him appearing unrealistic. (Shocking, I’m sure.)
It also feels like there’s a greater sense of smoothness and speed. With Sonic the Hedgehog games, a cohesive experience that runs well is essential, since you’ll be using quick reflexes to make decisions and get by. Normally, I’m not a stickler for frame rates. But with Sonic Colors Ultimate, it seemed possible to see and appreciate the upgrade during the Tropical Resort levels I played through. (The full game offers 60 fps and 4k support.) The new sense of consistency especially seemed apparently in the segments where Sonic is racing through loops or the action is shifting from an over-the-shoulder perspective to suddenly seeing everything from the sidelines. Everything was incredibly smooth and kept up the pace when I played.
Of course, given how early my explorations of Eggman’s new tourist trap were, I didn’t get to sample all of the new additions to Sonic Colors Ultimate. But some of them do come up fairly quickly. Tails Save is one. If you’re going through one of the 2.5D-to-3D levels, you’ll sometimes find yourself faced with huge, dangerous gaps. Grind rails, boosting, or using a Wisp’s ability is usually the way to safely mind the gap, but sometimes you have to jump and hope for the best. If you grabbed Tails icons, he will zip in for a quick save when Sonic would normally fall to his doom. And frankly, it works very well. He’s a swift save and the icons are easy to see, so there’s no worry about overlooking one.
The Park Tokens are another element that came up fairly early on. These are new items you can earn by playing, then put toward customization options. Nothing has a direct affect on gameplay, which is a positive. You don’t have to worry about being penalized for not paying attention or earning these extra collectibles. But what’s also assuring is that these items are all rather visible. Once you have them, you can pretty clearly see the color changes for things like Sonic’s gloves, shoes, and boosts.
All together, it feels like Sonic Colors Ultimate is going to be a chance to appreciate one of the more recent Sonic the Hedgehog games that effectively uses the series’ formula. This one seems to both look and run better than before. It also feels like elements like the Tails save system could come in handy for people learning how to use his moveset in the game. And as for the customization items, they could prove to be an incentive for people to keep replaying.
Sonic Colors Ultimate will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Epic Games Store on September 7, 2021. The original Sonic Colors games appeared on the Nintendo DS and Wii.
Zooming Through Sonic Colors: Ultimate And Getting The Switch Lowdown
SEGA has had various events and tie-ins to celebrate 30 years of Sonic the Hedgehog, but the big event from a gaming perspective is the upcoming Sonic Colors: Ultimate, which will see the previous Wii-exclusive come to various platforms including, of course, the Nintendo Switch.
We were invited by SEGA to go hands on (streamed remotely, but our hands were on a controller, so it counts) with the HD remaster, and naturally jumped right at the opportunity. It was the PC version, so of course it was also an optimal build; you can see a bunch of footage and our thoughts in the video below.
We also had the opportunity to pose some questions to Aaron Roseman, a producer on the project. Our first question was on the Switch framerate, of course, after a carefully worded Switch version of a trailer caught our attention, along with some other little questions about what’s new and exciting in the ‘Ultimate’ release.
The trailer for the Switch version didn’t explicitly confirm the framerate; can you clarify if it’s running at 60fps or 30fps?
The Switch version of Sonic Colours: Ultimate will run at 30fps.
Of all the 3D Sonic games released, why did you choose to remaster Colours over any of the others?
The original Sonic Colours was a great title that was only available on the Wii which restricted the number of players that were able to enjoy the title. Additionally, the game has always been a fan favourite for not only the gameplay but also the music composed by Tomoya Ohtani. With Sonic Colours: Ultimate, we’re pleased that we can deliver the title for everyone to enjoy.
Are there any plans to bring other classic 3D Sonic games such as Unleashed, the Adventure series, or 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog to modern consoles in remastered form?
When approaching the remaster of Sonic Colours, we wanted to ensure that the game felt “Ultimate.”
We have nothing to share at this time but do hope fans are looking forward to Sonic Team’s next game, along with Sonic Origins.
Have there been any adjustments to the level design at all, perhaps small tweaks that the developers felt should have been made in the original game?
Visual upgrades aside, the levels for the most part are the exact same today as they were in the original release. However, some updates were made to adapt for the Jade Ghost Wisp; creating new secret locations and opportunities to use the Wisp.
What drove you to include the new features that you did, specifically the new Rival Rush mode with Metal Sonic?
When approaching the remaster of Sonic Colours, we wanted to ensure that the game felt “Ultimate.” From adding in music remixes, customization options for Sonic, to a new playable wisp, and the Rival Rush mode we hope that new and old fans alike find something that they enjoy with Sonic Colours: Ultimate.
How far does Sonic’s customisation go? Can we expect callbacks to classic Sonic characters, tropes, or themes?
In Sonic Colours: Ultimate, players will be able to customize Sonic’s in-game gloves, shoes, aura, boosts and access special player icons which feature classic Sonic characters, and SEGA games.
With Sonic Colours: Ultimate, we wanted to provide fans with even more of their favourite music from by tapping into the likes of Jun Senoue, Tomoya Ohtani and others to create an unforgettable experience.
What about the soundtrack have you remastered/remixed specifically, and why?
Music has always played such an important role within Sonic games and for the brand. Just last month, we saw an overwhelmingly positive response to the 30th Anniversary symphony and the music that has helped shape Sonic these past thirty years. With Sonic Colours: Ultimate, we wanted to provide fans with even more of their favourite music from by tapping into the likes of Jun Senoue, Tomoya Ohtani and others to create an unforgettable experience.
When using the Jade Ghost Wisp it seemed to act in part as an accessibility addition, allowing players to reach secret areas that are otherwise locked behind other Wisp powers or are simply only accessible through longer, more obtuse paths. Is that its only function?
The Jade Ghost wisp allows for players to explore stages in a unique way and access some new hidden areas. We look forward to seeing how our players utilize the wisp, but don’t want to give too much away before fans are able to test it out on their own.
And lastly, not a question, just a thank you for maintaining the British English spelling of ‘Colours’ in the European version of the release of Ultimate, as you did with the Wii original.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate Hands-On Preview – The Wii Exclusive Finally Goes HD
Sonic the Hedgehog is without question one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, but that hasn’t stopped him from struggling in the 3D game world over the years at times. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some great games along the way like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Generations, but one of the least talked about outside of the Sonic fanbase has been the exclusive Sonic Colors that did quite well near the end of the Wii’s life back in 2010. Now more than a decade after the game released, Sega has brought it back as Sonic Colors: Ultimate and we got a chance to try the game out in a recent hands-on preview.
SONIC COLORS: ULTIMATE PREVIEW — A PROMISING REMASTER
We had the chance to preview Sonic Colors: Ultimate from Sega and Blind Squirrel Games, a remaster of the foundational Wii gem and part of the series’ 30th anniversary festivities.
It’s been over a decade since Sonic Colors debuted on the Wii and heralded a return to form for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Now Sonic is headed back to Dr. Eggman’s Amazing Interstellar Amusement Park in a new remaster for Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
I recently had the opportunity to demo the game and participate in a roundtable Q&A with associate producers Aaron Roseman and Calvin Vu, at Sega of America. Admittedly, I missed the boat on the original—despite being a fan since childhood and adoring Sonic Generations, which followed Sonic Colors‘ Wii release—so I was pleasantly surprised with my half-hour demo.
Beyond its popularity and impact on the series, Roseman and Vu also see it as a great entry point for new fans. The series’ 30th anniversary and the success of the feature film have turned gamers’ minds back to Sonic, so Sonic Colors was chosen for a remaster because of its contemporary popularity, its obscurity on an older system, and its innate appeal for newcomers.
To increase the game’s accessiblity, Sega has removed the traditional concept of lives and game overs, opting instead to keep the player in the game as much as possible. Players can collect “Tails Save” icons throughout stages, which will be automatically spent to have Tails recover Sonic from disaster and reset him safely. Should the player encounter mortal harm without a token handy, they’ll be sent back to the last checkpoint.
This is a Sonic game, after all, and our favourite blue hedgehog has gotta go fast. Running out of lives no longer kills the momentum, nor punishes players with a trip back to the main menu and the rest of the level. Having played this in action, I’m a believer—your momentum is more-or-less sustained when Tails pulls you out of the fire, and not having the “game over” punishment looming overhead made it easier to learn from my mistakes.
In terms of updating a Wii game for modern systems, the transition was relatively smooth. Blind Squirrel Games and Sega were in constant communication, while working remotely due to the pandemic, and were able to lift the original code, remove the bespoke elements unique to the Wii, and upgrade the experience to full 4K presentation standards.
However the team wanted to avoid drastically changing the levels themselves or straying too far off the beaten path, so as not to disrupt any devout fans who loved the original. Wall-jumping was one mechanic that was explicitly tuned up., but overall they focused on enhancing what was already there by adding character, definition, and flair via textures and lighting.
Indeed, Sonic looked better than ever while darting through the game’s first area, the Tropical Resort Zone. The Switch version will, of course, not accommodate 4K graphics, and will run at 30FPS in docked and handheld modes, but will otherwise be the same experience.