I think I’ve put this review off for at long as humanly possible. I was one of the many Sonic fans incredibly hyper for this when it was first announced, excited at the possibility of replaying one of the fastest, generally all-round great 3D Sonic games again on modern consoles. The day came to play it and you’d think feeling that level of disappointment would be something Sonic fans should be used to but it still stung. It has been nearly a half a year now and things have improved with patches and updates fixing a lot of the issues but it’s still a far cry from anything ultimate. Given it narrowly avoided ‘biggest disappointment of 2021’ in the awards last year, it’s time to see what all the fuss is about.
The warning bells about Sonic Colours Ultimate being a rushed port started to go off pretty early when early reviews of the Switch port had a worrying list of issues. Sonic Colours was a Wii game originally so I figured getting the Series X version would be easiest way to negate any problems as the Series X should easily be able to emulate a Wii without a problem and for the most part I was right. Sonic Colours Ultimate is a great example of an attempt at porting older software to new hardware and instead of trying to like for like the software to current standards trying to patch in changes to cover any hardware failings the original game had.
There have been patches made since launch but these are features such as ‘turn the Blur off’ rather than any attempt to tweak and fix or just dial changes back. Rather than looking into improving the controls or ironing out issues with Sonic Colours, new features have been added and it all feels like the features are there to hide the ports failings. Tails now acts as an extra life creating smaller checkpoints to make some of the frustrating platforming of the game easier to navigate but this feels like an extra feature that wouldn’t be necessary if there was an attempt to update the jumping. Customisation features were added to Sonic’s gloves and shoes as a way of giving value to the game and potentially to distract from the low resolution cutscenes and strangely low polish feeling presentation throughout.
As nice as it is to slap in a disc into the Xbox and play without having to plug in a HD adapter, sort out the receiver and setup the Wii it’s not worth the drop in quality Sonic Colour Ultimate provides. The new music at launch was there regardless of choice and the controls haven’t been updated to Sonic Unleashed/Generations. Despite Sonic Colours using the Wii remote to snap between lanes when dashing and the previously mentioned games using the now-standard shoulder buttons or directions to add in aerial poses, Sonic Colours Ultimate uses the analogue stick and a single button for everything and is like trying to play a racing game only using the analogue stick.
Sonic Colours was packed with content and everything is here, including the bizarre multiplayer mode used to unlock chaos emeralds. Sonic Colours is a big game as each area has multiple stages and each of those has multiple red coins to find. You’ll need plenty of them to unlock Super Sonic mode and even if you’re just blasting through to get a high rank on each level, you’ll still find plenty of fast action and enjoyable 2D platforming moments. The new Jade wisp is completely forgettable and unfortunately Sonic Colours Ultimate makes no changes to the progression. You’ll slowly unlock the wisps with no option to simply have them unlocked from the go despite knowing they are in early levels.
Sonic Colours itself still holds up for me as one of the best Sonic 3D games (Planet Wisp has one of the best Sonic music tracks ever made) with a fantastic soundtrack, goofy storyline that fits the game, great voice acting and great levels but Sonic Colours Ultimate feels like a half baked port. Rather than simply focusing on making the experience a little tighter and more polished it’s a version of Sonic Colours that feels more slapdash than welcoming. If anything Sonic Colours Ultimate has me more curious to see how Sonic Frontiers fairs as there’s a clear passion to make something new rather than improving on what’s already there.
5/10 – Still a colourful Sonic but a far cry from Ultimate