Note: Some of the performance issues discussed in this review have been patched by Sega. Your experience may differ from ours, so please bear that in mind before you read our review. Thank you!
When Sonic Colors debuted in 2010 for the Wii, it was a much needed breath of fresh air for the series. At the time, Sonic was struggling in the console space, with titles that received either a mixed or extremely negative reception. However, the likes of Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations proved that the Blue Blur was capable of something greater. Eleven years later, Sonic Colors Ultimate has released on Nintendo Switch. For the most part, not much has changed, aside from updated visuals and a higher frame rate. The Nintendo Switch version of the game does have some issues compared to on other platforms, but that doesn’t detract from a fantastic journey through the stars.
Speeding through space
Sonic Colors: Ultimate plays exactly like the original version, with a few additions here and there. The story is the same, following Sonic’s attempt to prevent Dr. Eggman from abusing the power of the Wisps to power his Interstellar Amusment Park. Ultimate adds the Jade Wisp, which allows Sonic to transform into a ghost, unlocking hidden areas and secrets in the process. The addition of the Jade Wisp often complements the already fantastic level design, which is set across different worlds with different feels, so expect to revisit stages multiple times to discover these secrets. Other changes include the Tails Save mechanic, a token-like feature that brings you back to safety if you fall off the stage, and cosmetic items that are unlocked using Park Tokens.
Sonic Colors was the second game to use the “boost” gameplay formula. Essentially, you will find yourself running extremely fast, if that wasn’t obvious already. Sonic is able to get a burst of speed by holding the A button, but you also have to react to obstacles and incoming enemies. However, the aforementioned Wisps are what make Sonic Colors stand out from the rest of the series. Throughout the adventure, Sonic is able to collect one of nine different Wisp power-ups, each with their own gameplay alterations. In addition to the new Jade Wisp, you also have Wisps such as the Cyan Wisp, which allows you to transform into a laser, and the Orange Wisp, which turns Sonic into a literal rocket.
That being said, Sonic Colors: Ultimate has a ton of replay value. Each stage has now-staple red rings to collect, but the main draw is beating your score to get a higher rank. For me personally, the most satisfying aspect of Sonic is the ability to improve your score by completing a stage quickly or by getting more rings and destroying enemies. Getting the elusive S Rank is sometimes extremely challenging in Colors: Ultimate, as there is very little room for error. Nevertheless, replaying stages can become addicting, and there are in-game achievements available for completionists like myself.
However, the more noticeable changes revolve around the jump to more powerful hardware. I played Sonic Colors: Ultimate on both Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch, so I was able to compare the performance. Aside from the differences in resolution, there isn’t a huge gap in overall performance. The Xbox version runs at a solid 60 frames per second while the Switch version runs at only 30, but it still feels fluid. Unfortunately, the Switch version has issues that aren’t present in the Xbox version, such as strange visual glitches and minor bugs that could easily be fixed. But during my playthrough, I didn’t experience the “seizure-inducing” glitch reportedly experienced by some on Switch.
Some missed potential
The name Ultimate implies that there would be a substantial amount of new content, and while the new additions are fine enough, I would have loved to have seen more levels. Sometimes I reflect on how Sonic Lost World somehow managed to include DLC zones based on Yoshi’s Island and The Legend of Zelda, for example. Furthermore, the brand new Rival Rush mode allows you to race against Metal Sonic, but it doesn’t feel like there’s much incentive to actually play or try to enjoy it.
Additionally, it isn’t a Sonic game without a fantastic musical score, and the original version of Sonic Colors was no exception. However, Sonic Colors: Ultimate has received a “remixed” soundtrack that is somehow worse than the original. The most recognizable track is the opening theme, “Reach for the Stars,” an upbeat track that fits the themes of the game extremely well. That being said, the remixed version makes it difficult to understand the lyrics, which have become more muffled. Another track, “Tropical Resort,” has received some changes and no longer suits the fast-paced energy of the gameplay.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is still a great game
Despite some issues, Sonic Colors: Ultimate is a fun, replayable, fast-paced Sonic game with a distinct variety of stages. The new additions provide a small extra layer of depth to an already fantastic game, but it would have been nice to see more gameplay additions. If you’re after an excellent journey through space, then Sonic Colors: Ultimate is definitely worth your time. As per usual, don’t go in expecting the Nintendo Switch version to be the definitive version to play, as the game obviously plays better on other platforms. However, being able to play this classic portably is something to be excited about.
A Nintendo Switch review code for Sonic Colors: Ultimate was provided by the publisher.