Recent history has taught me not to get too excited about new Sonic games. But, whatever the quality of the gameplay in Sonic Colors, there's no denying the game's visuals are exceptionally good.
That sentence feels like it should end with 'for a Wii game', but for once, I'm just going to let that stand. And then I'm going to highlight some examples of why this game's visuals are 360-quality. Geek caps on? Good. Here we go...
Granted, it's near-impossible to tell from internet videos exactly how fast a game is running, but looking at the trailers, I'm certain this is going to run at 30 frames per second. Gears of War runs at 30fps, and nobody complains about that being jerky.
Perhaps the closest a Sonic game has looked in terms of this movement to Sonic Colors would be that section was in Sonic Adventure's Red Mountain when you got down inside the volcano:
That gliding sensation is here in spades, just with none of the jittery character movement.
Above: The scenery moves like greased Vaseline as Sonic runs through
When you've got directorial control over where the camera is going to be pointing, you can use some tricks to make things look better than they would in a more free-roaming 3D game. Any kind of overhang over the main route, a layer of flat scenery behind closer, more defined foliage - the sort of thing that's been done in racing games for years.
Above: I'm liking the nod to classic Sonic iconography on the floor tiles
That said, the density of the scenery here is rather special. At the Wii's 480p/576i/480i resolutions, the textures won't need to be immensely detailed, but even there the ridged walls and layered platforms look head and shoulders above most games on the system. Considering all of this will be flying by at about a million miles an hour, there's an incredible attention to detail.
Light blooms, translucent glass, walkways showing glimpses of ground through coloured panes... even the item boxes have sweet glass effects. While the shots here don't show it, the game also features screen-filling distortion and blur effects at top speed, making the scenery look even better than it does at low-speed.
The result is not only a game that finally brings the 2.5D Sonic I always dreamed of to life...
Above: This is exactly what I imagined Sonic would look like in 2010
...it arguably makes even the big versions of Sonic 4 look a little bit pap. Just an observation.
Above: Sonic 4: Episode 1 running on an Xbox 360. Looks less good, no?
The devs could easily have gotten away with some flat sprites for scenery, but it looks like it was a deliberate policy to render as many scenery elements properly as possible. Not only are the carriages on that big wheel individually rendered, but they hang downwards as the thing moves around. That's attention to detail.
Above: Look at the individually-rendered carriages on that big wheel
The reason the overall effect is so lush is the way lighting is used to pick out details in fairly dark stages. The whole theme park concept has clearly been used to make sure the screen is always busy. Sonic seems to pick up the colours of the lights he's passing too. An old trick, but one that makes him look a genuine part of this world, not just something stuck over the top of it.
Above: Who cares if you're 'on rails' when the rails look as good as this?
If Sonic Colors had been shown off and announced as an Xbox 360 or PS3 exclusive, I don't think anybody would have said the visuals were too basic for the systems. The whole point of Sonic Colors is that the game keeps up the intensity of Unleashed's daytime stages throughout the entire game. One look at the trailers will show you it's well on its way to achieving that goal:
If the game can keep up this level of spectacle, detail and overall flair through a ten or 15-hour game, Wii owners will have something really special to shout about.
06 Jul, 2010