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Preview: Sonic Colors (Nintendo Wii)

During my visit to SEGA Germany, not only did I get the opportunity to try my hand at the (now released) first episode of the aptly titled Sonic The Hedgehog 4. I also had an opportunity to have a glance at the upcoming Sonic games for the Nintendo Wii and the DS handheld. While Sonic 4 marks a throwback into the classic retro era, Sonic Colors is more in line with the current generation of gaming. So far, however, Sonic’s 3D endeavors had netted him mostly mediocre ratings, the main reason why many fans of old had called for a return to the old ways. With Sonic Colors, SEGA aims to break the trend, determined to finally bring the fast-paced Sonic experience into a proper, quality 3D Adventure. Set for release on November 12th 2010, the question is, will it finally succeed, or are fans set up for another disappointment?

A Sonic for the New Generation

At first glance, it seems that Sega made a step into the right direction: No more convoluted storylines with reliance on an ever growing cast of new characters or weird gimmicks (like a talking sword, or – shudder – werehog!), but rather a comparatively simple, straightforward plot: Dr. Eggman is setting out capturing strange creatures called wisps. Once more, Sonic sets out to ruin his plans. That’s basically all there is to it, and it seems as if SEGA finally realized that gamers don’t need more backstory than that for its Sonic games.

I don’t care what purists may remark on Sega adapting Sonic’s design to be more appealing to Nintendo fans, the Wii version of Sonic Colors is simply beautiful. The stages look lush and vibrant, at least the parts I was able to have a closer look at. The game felt a lot like the platforming style introduced in Sonic Heroes. Rather than exploring an open world, Sonic moves on more or less fixed paths. However the camera is pretty tight and doesn’t get as much into the way of the player as it did in other Sonic titles in 3D environments, a giant step up when compared to the later games in the series.

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It seems like the game will best be controlled using the Wiimote/Nunchuck combo. This method worked pretty well and seemed simpler to handle than previous adventures on the Wii. Jumping, Dashing and sliding can be accomplished by simple button presses. What’s new are the Wisp abilities: When freeing one of these strange creatures, Sonic may gain a new ability for a short amount of time, the type depending on the color of the critter (hence the name of the game). This ability can be activated by shaking the Wiimote. In some cases, the analog stick on the Nunchuck has to be used for aiming. That’s all there is to it really; the controls are very intuitive and easily accessible. In the short amount of time I had trying the game, I had a blast. If I had to find a downside to the game, it might be the main theme and menu music. It somehow didn’t quite sit right. Other than that though, this looked like a very promising and enjoyable game.

Those who have played the Sonic Rush games will feel right at home with the installment of Sonic Colors for the Nintendo DS, as it is a 2D platform title, with boss battles taking place in a faux 3D environment. Blaze the Cat, a character who was introduced in the Rush series, also makes an appearance here. Gameplay-wise, the handheld game feels pretty much like it could just as well be called Sonic Rush 3. It plays uncannily similar and utilizes many of the features established in the DS series (like the switch of screens at certain points of the levels). The wisps make an appearance here as well, granting their abilities to Sonic for a certain amount of time once collected, depending on the creature. At first glance, these specialties seem to blend in fairly well with the established platforming elements.

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The Sonic Rush installments have all been fairly decent so far, and the DS version of Sonic Colors seems to continue the tradition fairly well. If you’ve liked Sonic’s adventures on Nintendo’s handheld so far, then you may hope for a proper sequel in that area. The game looks promising so far. However, whether the enjoyment lasts all the way through the game necessitates a more in-depth review once the title is released.

Prospects are good, for the Wii as well as for the Nintendo DS. If the games hold up for the entire time as they did in the short period I was able to skim them, fans might just find what they’ve been waiting for in years: A quality Sonic title for the newest generation!

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