REVIEW: ‘Sonic Frontiers’ Needs No Comparisons (XSX)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sonic Frontiers - But Why Tho

I’ve made no secret of my dislike for Breath of the Wild and the ceaseless slew of open-world tower-climbing adventures through empty fields with ambient music it inspired for the past half a decade since. I love an open world. I love an RPG. I love many of the elements within that type of game, like precise combat and puzzle-solving. Sonic Frontiers, the latest 3D adventure of the titular Blue Blur from SEGA and Sonic Team, was instantly placed into this category from the moment the game’s concept was first introduced to the world. Are these comparisons fair? Are they valid today?

Yes, and no. Is it evident that Link and Zelda’s turn into the truly open world was an influence on Sonic Team? Without a doubt. I’d be hard-pressed to believe that it didn’t influence them, at least on some level. But is Sonic Frontiers just a mere “Sonic of the Wild” or “Breath of the Hedgehog?” By no means. Sonic Frontiers, flaws and all, is a unique video game experience that heeds the success of recent open-world games while amalgamating everything Sonic has brought to the table for several decades in a new type of 3D and open-world experience.

The plot is probably as well-thought-out and deep as it’s been since Sonic Adventure 2. Becoming trapped in a digital world, Sonic tries to save himself and his friends Amy, Knuckles, and Tails while Eggman tries to take it over. There are some emotionally resonant moments that lean on not just fans’ emotional attachments to the various characters and the dozens of journies they’ve been on together over the years. Newcomer Sage brings a fairly new dynamic to experience between her and Eggman and her and Sonic as she supports the Doctor’s endeavors and tries to waylay Sonic.

Once you enter the world of Sonic Frontiers, you’re thrown quickly into its completely distinct yet entirely familiar take on the Sonic formula. The everpresent essence of Sonic games has always been speed. Even in his original games, where the movement was actually slow and meticulous, the sensation of speed has always been paramount. In this latest outing, movement and speed are some of the best they’ve ever felt. And that is entirely a result of the perspective only an open-world environment could give. Having a sense of scale and distance means that as you traverse this new kind of Sonic world, you can get an immediate understanding of how quickly you’re moving from one point to another, simulating speed as well as any Sonic experience perhaps could.

The other major trapping of a Sonic experience: How rad does it feel? That’s where Sonic Frontiers struggles. The world isn’t empty in terms of obstacles, enemies, loops, and boosters. You can basically traverse an entire area of the world through constant rail grinds and air boosts into jump pads if you have enough skill. But the game feels like it lacks the heart, the whimsy, or the coolness of every successful Sonic adventure prior.

The graphical fidelity is high, so things look pretty, but the zones the world inhabits are dull. Basic grassy plains and multiple low-color desert-like areas just don’t make things visually interesting. Where are the flaming cities? Or the techno-casino-chemical plant-underwater-opolises? Without colorful or even just interestingly built-up environments, the game falls into a disappointing visual state. This is exacerbated by the fact that the game’s 2D “classic Sonic” levels are entirely based on the same small number of old Sonic levels, namely Green Hill Zone, Sky Sanctuary, and the like. While I had enough fun going through those levels, they not only got repetitive quickly with the same themes over and over again, they just felt trite. It’s time for some newer Sonic levels to get the updated treatment or for new levels to come around altogether.

But even in its repetitive level design and mundane worlds, Sonic Frontiers becomes hard to put down the instant you start nabbing its hundreds of currencies and completing its endless challenges. It nails the “just one more” sensation as you speed through the world solving map challenges that expand your world map, use that map to locate traversal challenges that result in collecting character tokens to help free your friends and progress the plot, defeat mini-boss enemies in unique battles to collect gears which you use to unlock the 2D levels, and complete challenges within those levels (collect five red rings, finish with a certain number of rings, and finish in a certain amount of time) to collect keys which can later be used to collect Chaos Emeralds. Oh, and there are purple coins to find to use at Big The Cat’s fishing holes. There’s a lot to do at all times, and nearly all of it feels satisfying to do.

The boss battles, in particular, feel much more interesting than most Sonic games of the past simply because the combat system is vastly different. We’re not just doing homing attacks ad nauseam anymore. Sonic’s throwing punches and unlocking lots of new combos over the course of the game as you acquire skill points via defeated enemies. Every enemy and boss in the game has a different way that you need to fight them to get some hits in. Sometimes the game feels tedious in the number of times you have to go through a cycle of attacks to pull off a satisfying combo, but that can also be remedied somewhat by upgrading your attack, health, speed, and ring capacity through 99 levels via three additional currencies all game long.

Sonic Frontiers is ultimately a unique and satisfying ride through some of the best Sonic has offered over the years. The sensation of speed is at its best, and the combat feels strong. The levels and environments in the open world leave a good bit to be desired, but the flow of the game through its hundreds of objectives and currencies to obtain is nearly always fun to progress through.

Sonic Frontiers is available now on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and Nintendo Switch.


Sonic Frontiers
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Sonic Frontiers is ultimately a unique and satisfying ride through some of the best Sonic has offered over the years. The sensation of speed is at its best, and the combat feels strong. The levels and environments in the open world leave a good bit to be desired, but the flow of the game through its hundreds of objectives and currencies to obtain is nearly always fun to progress through.

But Why Tho? A Geek Community
%d bloggers like this: