Sonic is back like you’ve never seen him before. Gone are the linear adventures, and make way for an open world in Sonic Frontiers. But is this a good idea? Judge at 200 km/h.
Sonic Frontiers is a science fiction story starring Sonic. By his side stood Tails, Knuckles and Amy, all members of the Sonic Family, who found themselves absorbed into an interdimensional portal. Our hero is even projected into the digital dimension. How, you tell me? The fault lies with Doctor Ivo Robotnik, the villain of the saga, also known as Eggman. This mad scientist is known to have activated an advanced artificial intelligence technology in the ancestor, and is locked in the same dimension. Returning to Kronos Island after escaping from a strange digital space, Sonic finds himself alone, without his friends who have mysteriously disappeared. The island is even occupied by legions of robots under the orders of this AI.
For the first time in its long history, the Sonic saga launched the vast territories of the open world. So the studios made a choice that didn’t please everyone in terms of graphics. It has to be said that the artistic direction of Sonic Frontiers never knew which foot to dance on. We find pell-mell cartoon characters, “realistic” environments and finally enemies as well as techno-futuristic platform elements. Result ? AD is more like an addition of graphic styles than a symbiosis. This makes the whole thing appear confusing, not to say dissonant. In short, the different styles struggle to integrate with each other.
And we’re only talking about the open world part… because YES Sonic Frontiers has linear levels too. And once there, it is strong because a unique style is used, that of the latest generation of Sonic games. We have to think about Sonic Generations which was released in November 2011. What about the technique? Sonic Frontiers is hot and cold here. The gaming experience is fluid, which is a good point because Sonic is valued for a solid framerate at the risk of getting frustrated easily. On the other hand, the blue hedgehog suffers from its openness to the world. Frontiers reports heavy cuts even on PS5. Simply put, it is the unwanted appearance or absence of visual elements in the player’s field of vision. For others, the SEGA game provides the essentials without the spark.
Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. A video game is definitely judged by its visuals, but also by its gameplay. Even in this area, Frontiers never fully convinces. However, Sonic Team managed to make their game an open-world platformer, which didn’t win, but turned out to be a pleasant controller hand. SEGA’s mascot dashes, jumps, and travels through various islands at supersonic speeds. The DNA of the saga, which is speed and platform, is therefore preserved. But, because there is a but, the camera is still always set on difficulty, especially during certain stages of platforming that require precision. With a camera that sometimes loses its bearings, it’s hard to be really accurate. Frustration then reared its ugly head.
This lack of a camera is also noticeable in fights, especially when dealing with enemies looking at the sky. This affects the enjoyment of fighting as Sonic, although in reality, jumping and chaining together devastating combos remains enjoyable. It is with undisguised glee that Sonic faces a different and more insidious bestiary than one might imagine. Mini bosses and their specific patterns appear in the game and in combat system that is both accessible, nervous and technical.
And what to say duels against titanic bosses otherwise “epic”. The Sonic Team does not skimp on the pyrotechnic effects or the epicness to make its playful moments memorable with the star that is Super Sonic in the beautiful nights. Unfortunately, the camera also struggled to follow the action during these sequences that were apparently inspired by Evangelion and Dragon Ball Z to name a few. Finally, these boss fights are a bit unique. Here Sonic only loses when his rings fall to zero because his regeneration is automatically depleted. A word of advice, collect rings before the boss or risk ending up on a bad count.
The camera issues mentioned above are less felt in the digital dimension. this is’a series of linear 2D-3D levels which will inevitably bring to mind Sonic’s past adventures. There are 30 of them and offer a pure chance of 100% mastered gameplay where a Sonic in full possession of his ways twirls around the joy of purists. By completing the Story mode, you will unlock the Arcade mode which includes all these levels. Some may see it as one of the best Sonic games developed in a decade… but Frontiers is above all an open world. We will return to this point later.
To finish the game, we will never forget the Light-RPG overlay that becomes clumsy and yet crucial to the development of Sonic Frontiers. OK, the immersion appears on paper to be increased, but here, it is above all an excuse to collect resources in the hundreds to gain power, defense, speed and the ability to carry rings … which looks like a life bar. In summary, Sonic’s build is boring, and it’s not the only aspect of Frontiers that suffers from it.
The scenario of Sonic Frontiers is inspired by many works of science fiction, which to its credit, does not manage to make it as addictive as its famous models. Actually, the narrative is very predictable. The game is content with a series of effective if unremarkable cutscenes to open up a story that is ultimately anecdotal. Then the interpretation of the dubbing actors, especially in the French version, will never win us over. The childlike tone present throughout the adventure implies the epicness that the scriptwriters were aiming for. Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik and others. recite their lines without making waves, more or less.
It’s time to talk about the open world of Sonic Frontiers or should we say the semi-open world of Sonic Frontiers. And yes, the SEGA game consists of five different islands (Arès, Chaos, Kronos, Ouranos and Rhea) and not one zone. Each island has its own biome, between plains, forests, deserts and volcanoes. Walking around this archipelago is pleasant, at least for the first few hours, before realizing that each map offers a similar challenge. Copy and paste SEGA, say, objectives and missions from one island to another, except for the fourth. Unsurprisingly, a strong sense of repetition is quickly felt.
To better understand the problem, here is the classic area of an island in Sonic Frontiers. Find mechanisms to get keys then get the Chaos Emerald without forgetting to collect important souvenir tokens to progress the story as well as resources to improve Sonic. We choose items that are repetitive and can be fun if and only if exploration is encouraged. The only way to reveal parts of each island is to solve puzzles or complete challenges. It is useless to wander with the wind, because the game rewards curiosity very little. The map will remain blank with any information unless you follow the rules.
Before ending, we must salute the Sonic Frontiers soundtrack with quality. It goes perfectly with the adventure without ever taking precedence over what’s happening on screen. Between its soulful melodies that are ideal for exploration and its electric riffs that sublimate boss battles, SEGA’s musicians had a field day, and it shows. Playing Sonic Frontiers is listening.
Sonic Frontiers attempts a certain boldness, but only partially changes the essay. The game suffers from repetition, a capricious camera and perfect technique, but offers players Titans combat and an open world platformer vision that blows a breath of fresh which wind the saga and the genre.