I seem to be one of those rarer Sonic the Hedgehog fans who, having grown up with the classic SEGA Genesis games and the old cartoons AoStH and Sat AM, managed to enjoy and embrace the 3D games of the previous decade. Ideologically speaking, I simply had no issues with Sonic slimming down, getting green eyes, getting new friends, getting kissed by a Human, turning into a wolf, holding a sword, or saving extra-galactic floating squids. That is not to say I think all the games were great or even good. Poor execution of a good idea can ruin a game, and I don't think I need to mention the worst examples of the last 10 years. Still, I always give Sonic a chance, and the positive experiences almost always outweigh the bad. I must say the absurdly fractured nature of Sonic's fanbase leaves me scratching my head in confusion, as does the infamous "Sonic Cycle" concept.
But, I digress; onto the proper review!
Compared to previous Sonic titles, the story in Sonic Colors is brutally simple, and that's not exactly a bad thing. (Personally, I like complex stories and plot twists, but that's me) Here, Doctor Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik (I prefer calling the guy by his proper name, OK?) is up to no good, and it's up to you to stop him. Period.
In a nutshell, Robotnik has secretly built a gigantic amusement park in outer space, and it has four other planets chained to it (anyone recall Sonic CD?). Sonic and Tails sneak in to investigate, and proceed to thoroughly trash the place. Soon enough, the duo learn that Robotnik is exploiting a race of aliens called Wisps, and it's up to Sonic and Tails to rescue them all. I'd say more, but that's really all there is to it.
May I add that this game has no sealed-evil-in-a-can?
Remember how Sonic Unleashed ditched most of the cast and left only Sonic, Tails, Amy, Chip, Eggy, and some nigh-useless professor dude? Colors further narrows this down to Sonic, Tails, the Eggster, and his two henchbots. THAT's IT.
Now, personally, I like the extended cast of characters, but I guess SEGA is reacting to all the fan-hate. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it does allow the game to focus more on the core characters.
Robotnik is in all his hammy glory, and he's quite the snarker in this game. He claims his interstellar amusement park is meant as an atonement for all his past crimes, but I wonder how many people actually believe him. Sonic certainly doesn't!
Sonic is, of course, the hero of the story once again. Since Eggman, plus secretly built amusement park equals plot for world domination, Sonic is only too happy to wreck the place once he gets there. Sonic seems a lot more genre savvy than before, and his overall personality seems to suit him better. He's less of a goodie-goodie, and more of the snarky Hedgehog with Attitude western fans have grown up with since the days of AoStH and Sat AM. Not quite, but getting there.
Tails... is still kinda a disappointment in my eyes. I can't recall the last good piece of character development he's gotten since Sonic Adventure 1 & 2, and quite frankly, I don't think the last five or six years have been kind to him at all. You see, I grew up with a Tails who could kick every bit of ass Sonic could, but lately SEGA has insisted on making him a stereotypical, physically inept nerd who can't fight or defend himself worth beans. What happened to the badass bookworm I knew from the 1990s?
More importantly, I felt that our neglected hero fox was rather superfluous to the story of Sonic Colors. Not only is Tails again not playable, but, if you think about it, his complete removal would hardly impact the plot at all. Sure, he converts his handheld into a translator to speak to the Wisps, but most of the time Sonic figures out what's going on without his help. It was really irritating for me. There did come an opportunity for Tails to stand out, even if would have been in a backhanded manner, but it gets thrown out before it can begin. In addition, Tails displays some strange case of arbitrary skepticism in this game: he is first doubtful that Robotnik actually has an evil scheme here, and then finds it "hard to believe" that the Wisps aliens gave Sonic additional powerups. It was really jarring, especially since in Game Time, the whole Dark Gaia/ werehog incident had to have happened only a few weeks ago. Is this the same fuzzy orange fox, here?
Missed Moment of Awesome: At one point, Robotnik turns Tails against Sonic with a mind-control device. He then instigates a fight between the two. Cue the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny between the formerly best buds, right? No. Before the fight even begins, the device fails, and Tails gets his senses back in short order. It was a really cheap tease, in my opinion. I wanted Sonic to actually have real risk of getting his ass whomped by Tails. At least SEGA's current version of Tails could have redeemed himself somewhat by being a challenging Boss. Not only are his namesakes freakin' blades of death (he slew robots and Black Arms with those things!), but Tails has every skill Sonic does, can throw Ring Bombs, and has an arm blaster! (from Sonic Battle, anyway.)
Has anyone missed the memo that everyone except Eggman has a new voice actor now? I really like Roger Craig Smith as the new Sonic, and Kate Higgins does a much better job at making Tails sound like a boy. Speaking of the dialogue itself, it's really juvenile at times, which you'll either find hilarious or obnoxious. And it's not narmy like in Sonic Heroes, either. Personally, I think it's awesome, and add quite a bit of campy charm to the game.
Again, the script seems hilariously self-aware, though a few of the jokes could have been better delivered.
Crowning Moment of Funny: there are actually multiple contenders for this, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is after beating one of the Bosses, Sonic actually starts gloating over its smoldering carcass, and Tails catches him in the act. After a pitiful attempt to change the subject, Sonic asks, "So... we can forget about the whole talking-to-dead-robots thing, right?"
To which, Tails triumphantly replies, "NOPE!" with a wide grin. I busted up so hard. It was one of Tails' few redeeming moments.
"Baldy McNosehair" was exceptionally giggle-worthy, as well.
"NO COPYRIGHT LAW IN THE UNIVERSE IS GONNA STOP ME!!" XD
Trust me, you HAVE to play this game with your Wii connected, with component cables, to an HDTV. Sonic Colors is the most gorgeous game I've seen for the Wii, and you need to see it in 480p widescreen mode. Forget for a moment the hardware limitations of the Wii: I'd swear this looks like an Xbox 360 game, just at 480p instead of 720p. Remember what Sonic Unleashed looked like on the 360? This game matches it, even at a lower resolution. On a Wii.
All other things aside, the graphics department is not something Sonic games typically have trouble with, and this game does not disappoint.
Aesthetically speaking however, something has begun to bug me, though. Why, after all these years, does Sonic still talk out of the side of his face? In "ye olde days" of 2D sprites, it was necessary to draw a character's mouth on the side of his/her face. Back in Sonic Adventure, the side-of-face talking was preserved for nostalgia, but it looked weird, and it still does today. Everyone else has natural jaw movement while talking, but Sonic still looks like he's doing a creepy impression of Sylvester Stallone. (YOUBETRAYEDtehLAWL!) Please, SEGA, stop that!
Second, I think the 11-year-old Sonic Adventure character designs are beginning to show their age. As the games get more and more detailed, looking at the plain, furless, excessively shiny character models is getting distracting. Even in the cartoony world of Sonic Colors, something felt amiss looking at Sonic and Tails. Suggesting that the designs get overhauled again will likely get me punched across a room, but can we at least have some pseudo-realistic fur over their bodies so they don't look so... "naked"? Even way back in 2002, Fox McCloud got realistic fur effects in Starfox Adventures, and that was an early Gamecube title!
While Sonic games of the last decade have become known for some (deliciously) cheesy rock lyrics, music is something Sonic games don't fail at (unless you count Sonic Chronicles' horrid screeching).
All of Colors' background melodies are pleasant to listen to, and many of them are quite catchy. The orchestra is quite varied, too, and the level themes emphasize different instruments. Reach For The Stars is itself quite the ear worm, and will embed itself in your brain in short order. Needs a better singer, though.
Crowning Music of Awesome: the Final Boss, phase 1 & 2. Words cannot describe how well it fits with the end game, and my official epic-o-meter exploded from the sheer awesome, especially in phase 2, which itself is an instrumental orchestration of Reach For The Stars. The Solaris and Dark Gaia boss themes come to mind, and I'd say it say it surpasses the Dark Gaia themes in the Sheer Awesomeness department.
Don't believe me?
[FINAL BOSS, Phase 1]
[FINAL BOSS, Phase 2]
Consider your socks officially knocked off.
While it's often over-exaggerated, the control and camera systems for the console Sonic games of the last decade have been a critical weakness and a source of frustration, stomach ulcers, and premature hair loss. If the camera's case of Attention Deficit... OOH SHINY!! didn't kill you, then errant homing attacks would.
After the disaster that was Sonic '06, SEGA started making better controls a priority for its console games, and the 3D running stages of Sonic Colors are a joy. No, I'm being serious here.
First, a disclaimer: I'm a 23 year old fogey, and I can't say I like motion controls much. I like REAL controllers, and I used my trusty 10-year-old Gamecube controller (I swear Nintendo builds its stuff out of indestructium or something) throughout my entire time here.
Starting with the very first level, Sonic's controls were very simple to learn, and it didn't take me very long to master most of the quirks. Steering was very tight, although I think the "drifting around corners" thing still needs refinement. Also, Sonic does not run so fast that you can't see what's going on, even while boosting. You still get a sense of speed without (significant) risk of flying off the track or crashing into an enemy or other hazard.
Pitfall traps abound, and death-by-falling is probably your most significant threat while in 3D mode. But really, it's not that big of a deal so long as you're paying attention. Mind, there's a massive jump in difficulty near the end of the game, and the final level doesn't even have any checkpoints. Ouch. (However, it's not nearly as painful as Eggmanland was in Unleashed.)
Crowning Moment of Awesome: Doctor Robotnik is the Final Boss in a 3D console Sonic game in... EVER! After years of getting upstaged by gods of destruction, penultimate life forms, his own creations, space fleas from nowhere, DAN GREEN, eraser chins, earth spirits, and backstabbing sorceresses, the Eggman is finally the man of the show again and the true Big Bad. And it is glorious.
Here in Sonic Colors, most of your game will be played in 2D mode. And... this is where I often fell into trouble. Since you can't see far in front of you, hazards can be difficult to avoid. Jumping feels floaty and imprecise, and platforming seemed unnecessarily difficult. I've nearly mastered it now, but a few of the early levels had frustratingly un-fun sections as I had to re-learn how to Jump Good. Maybe I got spoiled by Super Smash Brothers. If you have Brawl, play as Sonic for a while, then play Colors. There's a night-and-day difference in how Sonic handles in 2D. I'm not saying SSBB made Sonic perfect, but his platforming feels much tighter and more natural.
Maybe Robotnik slicked the 2D stages with butter or something, but there are also times when Sonic's feet fail to stick to the platform you're trying to jump on. Maybe this is pure fan wank on my part, but I would think that control over friction would be one of the hedgehog's Required Secondary Powers or something. But there are times that I slipped off a platform into a bottomless pit just because Sonic's shoes had a friction failure.
Second disclaimer: I'm really not that great at platforming games. It doesn't matter if it's Sonic, Mario, or Smash Brothers, I'm really a lower-tiered player (I get creamed in multiplayer Smash Brothers really quick). As such, my frustrations may not be your frustrations. I'm simply being honest with the troubles I experienced. Now that I'm on my second play-through already, I've learned how to handle Sonic's jumps, and I'm getting A and B ranks fairly easily now (previously getting D and C ranks).
Dethroning Moment of Suck: DIRTY DAMN YELLOW FLOATING SPRING BENCH!!! You'll know what I'm referring to when you see it. Fortunately, it's only required a few times during the game. Of all the times I died in this game, this object was responsible for at least 25% of them. You see, it's always floating over spikes or a bottomless pit. You're always bouncing on it... and it moves. Curiously, I seem to be the only reviewer to mention the blasted thing. I was always bouncing or slipping off of it to my gruesome demise. AAAAAAUUGH!
The powerups you get from the Wisp aliens is where this game really shines. While the Laser, Hover, and Frenzy powerups are usable in 3D mode, all of them come to play in 2D mode, including the Drill, Cube, Spikes, and Rocket. Often they are not required to complete a stage, but the game encourages their use, and they allow you to explore otherwise unreachable areas of the level.
"Laser" works in both 3D and 2D, and allows Sonic to bolt through a line of enemies instantly, bounce through diamond-shaped lenses, and teleport through electrical conduits; it's simple enough to use, but aiming it can be tricky at times. "Drill" is only available in 2D, and allows you to burrow though soft ground and swim through water at high speed; exploring the terrain and waterways with this one is really fun, but Sonic will lose a life if the gauge runs out while in solid ground. "Rocket" blasts you up in a linear fashion, destroying enemies and breakable impediments in its path; this one is again 2D-only, and really, its only purpose is to get you to a higher platform in a hurry. "Cube" turns Sonic into a heavy blue block, and impact with the ground will destroy the enemies and some obstacles on-screen, and will morph blue rings into ring blocks, and vice-versa; this one is useful for Sonic to get through blue ring blocks and for some platforming, but not much else. "Hover" turns Sonic into a floating green hovercraft (duh) and you can boost through chains of gold rings much like the Light Dash from Sonic Adventure 2; this one also works in both 3D and 2D modes, and it's neat, but its limited timer can make reaching faraway platforms tricky. "Spikes" is 2D only, and turns Sonic into a big spiky ball that put his own spines to shame; you can climb walls with it with ease and even spin-dash through junk, but changing directions can be a pain because going up/down confuses you with going left/right (seriously). And lastly, there's "Frenzy", the psychotic purple powerup that turns you into a rampaging SHARK-phantom-thing, and allows Sonic to chomp through enemies and obstacles going OMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!! It's one of the most fun to use, but can be the most difficult to control at first; it grows bigger as it eats, and at the larger sizes it's actually easier to control then.
You'll need all of the Wisp powerups to get all the special red rings in the game, which unlocks the Sonic Simulator side-game. The side-game itself is kinda bland, but completing it unlocks SUPAH SAWNIK for use in the main game. That's right, Super Sonic is now available to use in the individual levels again, just like in the Genesis games! Of course... I haven't actually unlocked it yet, 'cause... I only got 85 of the 150 red rings. D'oh!
Oh, and speaking of water, this is the first console game since the Sonic Adventure titles that Sonic doesn't exhibit his Super Drowning Skills upon getting wet! Not only can you run on the surface of the water with the Boost, but if you sink, you can run on the bottom! Of course, Sonic can't stay underwater forever, so you know what that means, right?
De de De de, De de De de! De de De de, De de De de!
De de De de, De de De de! De de De de, De de De de!
De de De de, De de De de! De de De de, De de De de!
De de De de, De de De de! De de De de, De de De de!
DEE DE DEE DE, DEE DE DEE DE! DEE DE DEE DE, DEE DE DEE DE!
DEE DE DEE DE, DEE DE DEE DE! DEE DE DEE DE, DEE DE DEEET!!
Yes, the infamous Drowning Theme that has haunted the nightmares of veteran Sonic fans worldwide has returned... ORCHESTRATED!
*cries in a corner*
Oh, and did I mention there's a Boss Battle... UNDERWATER?!
*sobs some more*
One last thing: the Bosses in this game leave something to be desired. There are six main bosses, but really only three, with two of each type. Yeah, the Bosses get recycled, and it feels cheap and lazy. Two "ferris wheel" Bosses, two "pirate ship" Bosses, and two "gunship" Bosses. Not only that, but they're really not that difficult, especially compared to the level you just burned though (or got burned through). Well, the underwater boss was kinda nightmarish. *shudders*
The Final Boss, though, against the Doctor himself, is alone worth the price of this game. Not only is the music Made of Awesome, learning how to beat him was half the fun. I used no spoilers or fan-guides, and I got several Game Overs just trying to beat his sorry ass. But it wasn't the kind of frustration that makes you want throw your controller through the TV screen. It was the sort of challenge that compels you to try over and over until you achieve sweet victory. And I did. And it was glorious. Even after the credits roll, you can come back and fight him over and over as much as you want. And it's still awesome.
Despite a few flaws, this game is truly great, and is easily the best Sonic game in existence since Sonic Adventure. I had a blast, despite moments of frustration. It sucks you in, and I never wanted to put it down.
My rating scale:
So Cool it's Awesome: 10
So OK it's Average: 05
So Bad it's Horrible: 00
It's simple and too the point. 'Nuff said.
Sonic and Eggman are the stars of the show here. Tails was disappointing, but he had a few moments.
Campy and fun. I was giggling all the way through, and the new VAs really stand out.
The visuals are just outstanding. Maybe too pretty, I wasn't always paying attention!
Pure ear candy all the way through, and the Final Boss themes put everything else to shame.
3D Play: 09
Tight and responsive, at least using a GC controller. Can't comment on using the Wiimote.
2D Play: 06
Unintuitive jumping make platforming harder than it needs to be, but it's still good.
Beware the yellow floating spring bench of doom.
Final Score: 8.0 RECOMMENDED!