REVIEW – The new installment in the Sonic franchise tried to innovate primarily with success. However, it did it in the same divisive way as it did with the 2008/2009 Sonic Unleashed, which was released in three versions. This time, however, there’s one release for the five consoles and PC. Of these, it’s worth immediately forgetting the Switch and PC versions: the former is not recommended to buy due to technological limitations, the latter due to the constantly calling-home Denuvo.
Experience Sonic like never before!
Three decades in the making, Sonic keeps coming up with games of this and that. There have been more successful spin-offs (Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed) and failures (Sonic Free Riders on the Kinect), and there have also been excellent main episodes (Sonic Generations) and outrageously lousy titles (2006’s Sonic The Hedgehog, for example). Still, Sonic Frontiers falls into neither category. Admittedly, they looked back towards the more open-world style of Sonic Adventure, but in the process, the art style became more life-like, perhaps due to the two successful film adaptations. The open world is divided into several zones with different themes (which are clichéd, so no examples are mentioned here). These have more puzzles, challenges to complete, and bigger opponents, where the battles (if you become Super Sonic) are somewhat different from those seen in older episodes (Sonic Adventure 1-2, Sonic 2006…) and more reminiscent of Dragon Ball: Kakarot, for example, or maybe Xenoverse 2. So there are several larger areas, and you can expand the map by completing challenges, but there are also sliding segments and time races (after all, you have to use your speed).
This is coupled with a storyline typical of the franchise, and the voice acting has become divisive: not everyone may like Sonic’s voice. This idea also applies to the fact that Sonic doesn’t just have two or three moves but has a complete move library (which can be unlocked in a skill tree-like manner). The tutorial/practice option, perhaps seen too often in modern games, is worthwhile because these moves will be helpful, even if we don’t drop all our rings at once if we get hit (chances are the port running on Nintendo Switch would freak out if 400 rings fell out of the blue hedgehog at once). Sonic’s speed or strength can also be increased per level, and the open-world effect can remind you of two games at once. On the one hand, the interface felt more like an Assassin’s Creed title’s, and on the other, the gameplay leaned more towards Super Mario Odyssey (and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of visuals). Then, if you collect enough keys, the second area of the gameplay opens up (which you’ll first see rather abruptly at the beginning of the game, after the intro scene).
The Cyber Space maps are in the classic style, but instead of a side view, you get to see Sonic from the back, so it’s more of a Sonic 06, possibly Sonic Heroes (sans the team element), or Sonic Lost World style that Frontiers has taken on. These maps are short (you’ll spend more time in the open world), but you have to perform adequately, as reaching the right time will give you key(s) that you’ll need to get the Chaos Emeralds. If you get them together, you can defeat the Titan of the region as Super Sonic (where the fight becomes DBZ), and then you can move on to the next area.
Breaking up the monotony is, for example, the fishing mini-game (and here’s that stupid Big from the first Sonic Adventure, and now the perpetrator of this bunch of characters is laughing at his sound effects in that game; Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem, hasn’t reprised his role, though…), which has an excellent musical backdrop, but we’ve seen better-developed fishing from SEGA. In the water, at least you can forget that the environment doesn’t seem as vivid as in the older episodes. There are often vast empty areas unused. (Not so much like in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric.) The combat on them (because it’s not just a matter of jumping on them once) is good because it’s somewhat varied, and at least there’s a point to going around everything because it’s still a perfectionist’s delight. There are multiple difficulty levels for them, so you can easily spend double-digit hours in Sonic Frontiers.
Sonic Frontiers gets a six-and-a-half out of ten because you can spend time with it once you get used to how different it is from Sonic Forces (no character creation, though), how it’s not retro like Sonic Mania, and how it’s not frivolous like, say, Sonic Heroes was here and there. The game is a must-buy for fans regardless, but it’s worth going for the frame rate option on the current-gen consoles because 4K doesn’t seem like a sensible choice in this case. It’s all about speed here. And we’ve got that. It’s not an average product, but it could have been better, as the open segments didn’t seem as concentrated as the speed-based Cyber Space parts. Eggman gets his due this time too.
+ The feeling of speed
+ The Cyber Space tracks
+ Something about the mood
– The open world looks neglected
– Battles are slowly spilling over into Dragon Ball Z
– Why is it similar to other games…?
Developer: Sonic Team
Style: open world action-adventure
Release: November 8, 2022.