Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a game that has become VERY important to me. Probably the most important game of this generation, to me. Why? Well, Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis (Megadrive for anyone outside of the U.S.) was one of the very first games that I can remember playing. To some, that may not mean much, but to me, this was Sonic’s last chance at redemption. Over the past decade or so, Sonic has had a remarkably bad track record with console releases. With this installment, however, redemption was definitely achieved.
Visuals – 9/10 – Although the Wii’s graphical output isn’t as strong as its competitors, the visuals are still very impressive. The developers were well aware of the little brick’s graphical limitations, so they made the brave and smart decision of stylizing the graphics in a more artistic, if not cartoony, direction and adding lots of pretty lights, colors and minute details. Visually, there is a lot going on in this game, but never did I have to stop and think “What in the world am I looking at?” Even with its maximum output of 480p, all renderings are well-defined. The only thing I have noticed that suffers is the frame rate, but that isn’t even that big of a deal. It seems to run at a constant rate of roughly 30fps (I can’t really tell the exact rate), but never dips. NEVER. Another thing to note is that when you release the giant flock of wisps (the cute, little alien thingies next to Sonic in the header image) from their ‘prison’ (a.k.a. Auschwisp) upon completing certain levels, they aren’t individual 3D renderings. If they were, the game would most definitely have a violent dip in frame rate. Still, it looks really cool. See for yourself. All-in-all, this game looks fantabulous.
Sound – 8/10 – The sound quality in Sonic Colors is excellent. Everything sounds very expertly-produced and clear. Sega and Sonic Team have had a few run-ins with this in the past (Sonic Adventure probably being the most notorious), but they seem to have obtained a fantastic balance. For starters, the voice-acting this time around is also top-effing-notch. Part of this may be due to the fact that all of the 4Kids cast was replaced (THANK CHRIST), except for Dr. Eggman, who is still voiced by Mike Pollock because he is that good. Also, Sonic now shares the same voice actor as CHRIS REDFIELD. THIS STILL BLOWS MY MIND TO NO END. As far as the soundtrack goes, it ranges from epic orchestra scores to cute-sounding, catchy tunes. My problem with the soundtrack comes from the fact that some songs repeat from one act to the next. They may be SLIGHTLY re-mixed, but it’s hardly noticeable. Lastly, there’s the sound effects. For the most part, they fit when they’re supposed to – when things blow up, they go boom. The developers did add some nice touches here and there, though. When Sonic is under water, the music will sound muffled, as if the player was actually under water. A similar effect also happens when Sonic is boosting. They also added a few sound effects that every 16-bit era gamer like myself can truly enjoy, such as when Sonic gets an air bubble while underwater… or that stressful ‘oh shit you’re gonna drown’ music. You take all of this into account and squeeze it between two pieces of bread and you got yerself a delicious-sounding sandvich.
Story – 6.5/10 – As far as the story is concerned, there’s not too much going on, but just enough to keep the player interested by tying events from one place to another. The story begins with Sonic and Tails visiting Dr. Eggman’s space amusement park because they felt that he’s up to something, primarily because of the fact that his name is attached it. They seriously went there because Eggman is not allowed to have nice things. Our heroes discover that Eggman is harnessing the power of these cute, little aliens so that he can power whogivesashit and eventually take over whateverthefuck. Once again, it’s up to Sonic and Tails to stop him. That about sums it up, and that’s a good thing. The simplicity of this story is actually quite refreshing. Ever since the Dreamcast era, console releases of Sonic games tried far too hard to tell a really good story. There are no twists or turns here – just silly, cartoony characters doing silly, cartoony things, and that is quite okay. Maybe they’ll take a page out of Pixar’s book and bring something emotionally or morally driven but still kid-friendly to the table. For now, this safe route of storytelling will do.
Gameplay – 9/10 – This is easily the strongest part of the game, and it should be so with any game, in my opinion. For starters, Sonic controls very well. His movement starts with a walk and accelerates pretty quickly to a steady running speed. He also has a double jump (for some reason) and the homing attack has a lock-on system SO IT ACTUALLY WORKS 100% OF THE TIME. He also gains new abilities from the Wisps that are obtained from capsules scattered throughout the levels. Each one has a different ability and can take Sonic to different areas, adding an element of exploration in each level. While accommodating for acquiring and using those abilities, the levels are also designed with two different gameplay styles – speed sections in third-person perspective and sidescrolling sections with more emphasis on platforming. There are transitions between these sections within each level, and not once do they interrupt gameplay. The boss fights are also designed around those gameplay styles, but they are sadly not very challenging. Once all of the levels are completed and the bosses are defeated, it will be clear that quite a few of those red star rings that are (sometimes) hidden through each level have been aggregated (unless you suck that bad). Collecting these unlock extra levels, and beating these extra levels reward you chaos emeralds. This aspect adds a bit more replay value and some very welcome challenge. What’s even better is that once all the emeralds were collected, a reward that Sonic veterans have wanted ever since Sonic 3 & Knuckles returns, and the mechanics and designs of certain levels will change to better suit said reward. It’s another breath of fresh air. Well-done, Sonic Team. I never thought I would say that again.
VERDICT: 8.0/10 – Despite disappointing bosses, the recycling of songs and a simple story, Sonic Colors exceeds all expectations. The visuals are exceptional for what the Wii is capable of, the music has both catchy and epic songs, the story is at least fun and comical, and, most importantly, the somewhat familiar gameplay was refined to become something that the series needed. As a bonus, there are great rewards to reap from collecting those red star rings. This game is fantastic. Finally, it took about a decade, we have a great console release of a Sonic the Hedgehog game… but is there a way to make it better?
GAMECHANGER – To really appreciate the greatness of Sonic Colors, play a Sonic game that was released on consoles between the time Sonic Heroes was released to the day just before Sonic Colors was released. Play one or as many as possible – just play to the point of vomiting. Just before the oral eruption, start playing Sonic Colors. It will feel like a religious experience.