Accompanying the release of its Wii counterpart, SEGA has enlisted the developmental talents of Japanese based studio Dimps to produce a Sonic Colors title for Nintendo’s ever popular array of DS systems.
With the studio having been previously responsible for the critically acclaimed Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush, titles released across the history of both the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, expectations may already be undoubtedly high, yet the good news here is that Sonic fans certainly won’t be disappointed.
Following exactly the same storyline as the version released for Nintendo Wii, Sonic, and his trusty pal Tails, find themselves in space aboard Dr. Eggman’s Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park. With such a creation, Eggman claims to have realised the error of his ways and is now seeking atonement through bringing joy to earth’s inhabitants through his Amusement Park rather than his usual ploy of striking fear instead.
As always, all is not as it seems and Dr. Eggman is indeed up to his old tricks. Having captured an alien species known as ‘Wisps,’ he plans to utilise their powers for his evil schemes and it is therefore once again up to Sonic to save the day and luckily help is once again at hand. As he begins to free the Wisps from captivity, Sonic learns that they are able to grant him access to powers, allowing him with access to new methods of tackling his foes and environments on his never-ending quest to stop his arch rival.
Whilst it can be said that the history of the Sonic franchise isn’t recognised as being filled with particularly memorable or noteworthy narrative, the storyline here, presented through numerous text-based cutscenes, is perhaps the best amongst them. Easy to follow and adding plenty of humour and depth, it is surprising to find that it seems to have been far more thoroughly thought out and addressed in comparison to that witnessed within the Wii version.
As can be expected, the core gameplay of this latest Nintendo DS outing sees Sonic race with blistering speed across a variety of levels whilst utilising the usual array of grind rails, springs, dash rings and all manner of gimmicks to assist you as you traverse obstacles in your path. Most of your time will be spent zipping along in 2D, yet transitional moments in 3D serve to provide variation in both visuals and gameplay style – such instances early on in the game involve you taking flight with a Hang Glider, whereas later on, you’ll find even further visual treats in store.
This is further enhanced by a selection of six ‘Color Powers,’ encompassing the unique abilities granted to you by the variety of Wisps that are regularly scattered throughout your travels. Merely bashing their capsules will free them, yet you will have to fill your boost bar before being able to utilise their specific power. These include Boost, Yellow Drill and the Cyan Laser, each providing necessary differentiation within the gameplay.
Whilst fundamentally serving to enhance the experience, it is hard not to feel as if the powers aren’t quite as well implemented as they perhaps should be. The Cyan Laser, for instance, pings you off in a direction you specify, but with the close-camera nature of the title it is a little too unpredictable in terms of being able to direct your trajectory in the most beneficial way possible. Seemingly designed for specific situations, the powers don’t seem suited to sporadic use across the entirety of the level – something that I would presume that most players are going to be done on impulse.
Such inconsistency is also made even more confusing as the game frequently switches between both upper and lower DS screens at such a fast pace that it can feel a little disorientating as to what is going on at times.
Special Stages also make a joyous return and are reminiscent of those seen within Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – tasking the player to collect a specific number of colored balls within a section of a course, whilst dodging incoming obstacles. Further to this, breaking away from the central story levels are a number of optional ‘Missions,’ for which you will have the opportunity of meeting other characters from the Sonic universe as they pit you against a variety of challenges.
These include killing a number of enemies or collecting a certain number of rings within a time limit, for example, and prove to be the most difficult aspect of Sonic Colors. Easily incorporated for the hardcore fans of the series, these provide the opportunity to unlock a number of bonuses to view in the gallery, including sounds and illustrations.
Regardless of its minor flaws, Sonic Colors not only proves that SEGA’s beloved icon is safe in the hands of developer Dimps, but is also able to silence even the most critical of fans. Sonic is back in style and brings with him what is easily one of the finest additions to the series.
Version Tested: Nintendo DS
Review copy provided by SEGA