Review: Sonic Colors: Ultimate (Switch)

An almost-perfect return of Sonic’s best 3D outing!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/30/2021 18:32 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Great gameplay that introduces a fun, complimentary gimmick, which is a rarity for a 3D Sonic game; lots of replay value; sharper resolution makes this the prettiest version of an already gorgeous game; new cosmetic customization options are a cool addition
Poison Mushroom for...
The soundtrack is a shell of itself due to remixed tracks; blurry cutscenes

Sonic Colors launched on Wii eleven years ago. It’s crazy to think it’s been that long. Time has done nothing to diminish the game’s quality, however, as Sonic Colors: Ultimate retains everything that made the original so good. Well, almost everything, as we’ll discuss. Ultimate is overall a fine remaster of this modern Sonic classic, but it drops the ball in a couple of ways that hold it back from true greatness.

As far as narratives go, Ultimate retains the goofy, fun story line from the original version of the game. Dr. Eggman is up to no good as usual, erecting an enormous intergalactic amusement park for dubious reasons. “Amusement” apparently being in the eye of the beholder, as Eggman’s version of fun involves elaborate death traps and giant, killer robots. Lots of giant, killer robots. The stakes are high despite the whimsical setting as Eggman has enslaved a race of aliens called Wisps as part of his latest scheme. Sonic, naturally, is the only one who can save the day.

The cut scenes are cute but largely optional—you honestly won’t miss much if you skim past them. For those who do want to partake in the story, it’s disappointing that the video sequences look so blurry. While Ultimate is certainly running along at a higher resolution than its Wii counterpart, the cinematics here come across as half-baked and lacking the greater care that went into the gameplay’s restoration. Given the relative frequency of these story elements throughout Ultimate, the lack of polish is a shame.

Gameplay is king, though, and Ultimate is as fun to play as ever on Switch. Although the Wii version could be played with a Wii Remote and Nunchuk, it could also be played using a Pro Controller. That control scheme is what powers Ultimate and it remains the superior way to experience the game. Unlike Super Mario Galaxy’s Switch port, where the motion controls had to be remapped to accommodate traditional button inputs, Ultimate’s button controls were already native and thus feel more natural than those found in the mustachioed one’s own interstellar romp.

Unlike most other 3D Sonic titles, Ultimate’s gimmick doesn’t feel forced or disruptive. The Wisps act as power-ups that give Sonic a range of different abilities to use. These powers transform Sonic into everything from an enormous borrowing drill to a rolling spiked wheel that can climb walls. The variety is delightful but more importantly compliments the running, grinding, and sliding that makes Sonic’s 3D adventures so fun. It’s a shame that SEGA continues to foist any kind of gimmick on its 3D Sonic games, but at least in the case of Sonic Colors they got it right.

Where Ultimate still stumbles is arguably the 2D segments of gameplay. Releasing around the same time as Colors was Sonic Generations, which was able to fuse 2D and 3D Sonic gameplay more elegantly—each sequence felt deliberately designed to accommodate its respective vantage point. It’s clear that in Ultimate the game engine was designed more for the latter than the former. Sonic’s movements in 2D are a tad jerkier and less precise than in the third dimension. While these segments do a solid job of breaking up the blisteringly fast 3D action, it would have been nice to see SEGA take the opportunity to fine tune here.

Visually, it’s hard to peg Ultimate as a major improvement over the Wii version of the game. Admittedly, on Wii Colors lacked true HD, but it was nonetheless a visually impressive game. Ultimate bumps the resolution up and is locked in at 30 FPS, but in some ways it feels like more could have been done to sharpen the graphics and ratchet up the frame rate. At the same time, there is so much brilliant visual design gracing the screen at a given moment that it’s hard to cry too much about the graphics. The enormous donuts of Sweet Mountain, the glittering roadways of the Starlight Carnival, and the verdant paths of Planet Wisp are mesmerizing. Ultimate is still at the top of the heap when it comes to 3D Sonic aesthetics.

The additions to Ultimate primarily revolve around cosmetic customization options for Sonic. The Blue Blur can be outfitted with new shoes and gloves, attained by discovering large coins littered throughout each stage. These coins tend to be in tricky to reach spots, making obtaining them an extra bit of challenge in what is otherwise a fairly easy game. There are some bosses that require strategy to defeat with ease, but generally most players will cut through Eggman’s latest army of nitwits in around four to five hours. That might sound short, but Ultimate is all about going back and perfecting runs through each stage. Figuring out when to jump, when to slide, when to dash, and where to find all of the hidden Red Coins tucked about the park remains a major draw for this game.

Where my heart broke playing Ultimate was in hearing its new remixed soundtrack. I estimate that roughly 80 to 85 percent of the music is the same as it was on Wii, but the remaining tracks have been reworked for no apparent reason other than to say that they were. These new versions of the tunes from Colors are flat and dull compared to the originals. Colors had one of the best Sonic soundtracks in years and to find that SEGA went in and tinkered with it with no way of restoring the original versions was a huge letdown. This is a criticism that will likely boil down to personal choice (some of you might love the new soundtrack, obviously), but I give this change a thumbs down.

Although not a perfect remaster, seeing Sonic Colors get ported to contemporary hardware was a welcome surprise. The Sonic series continues to struggle with finding a way to incorporate gameplay hooks that don’t amount to shallow, pointless gimmicks, but in Colors SEGA discovered the perfect mix. With Ultimate, that balance has been restored for a new generation of players to experience. Hopefully, SEGA takes cues from Ultimate as it works on that mysterious upcoming 3D Sonic sequel. For those who played the original Colors, there’s plenty of reason for a double-dip with Ultimate, and for those who have yet to give it a try, this is the best 3D Sonic game there is. Give it a play.

Note on Updates

As we go to publish this review, note that the game has been updated and many of the graphical glitches chronicled online have been largely mitigated. Our review score reflects these changes.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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