Reviews - Updated on November 16, 2022

Sonic fans haven’t been getting good 3D games for a long time, and many didn’t hope for Sonic Frontiers. Even the confidence with which the head of the Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka (Takashi Iizuka) spoke about the project did not help – according to him, the testers were satisfied with the game, so it is incorrect to judge its quality from trailers and screenshots. He was right – even if the novelty does not get into the lists of the best games of the year, this is really a good attempt to reinvent Sonic in 3D and give fans hope for a brighter future for the series.

Need for Speed

The main appearance is an open world. More specifically, open areas. The islands that Sonic enters are large territories, practically unlimited. The game tells you with markers where to run in the story, but along the way you come across so many entertainments that you are constantly distracted. And the more actively you interact with objects in the open world, the more opportunities you open up. One of them is the so-called “ancient rails”, which make it easier to travel from one point to another.

This is the success of Sonic Frontiers – although from the side of the island they may seem empty and lifeless, you always find ways to entertain yourself on them. Either you will notice the rails hanging in the air and try to ride on them, then you will stumble upon trampolines and use a homing strike on them, or you will not be able to overcome the desire to jump into a large ring, which will surely lead somewhere. They don’t require much from the player – sometimes Sonic himself runs along the wall or jumps on accelerators, and you just need to either hit or dash in time. But it’s still fun, especially when the viewing angle changes and the character is shown from different angles.

Found something to grab on to and went on an adventure.

Due to this, the very state of the flow, which we recently wrote about, is achieved. The game can be compared to classic 3D platform games like Spyro the Dragon and their imitators like Yooka-Laylee – running and collecting is so addicting that you lose track of time.

Moreover, this collection is not meaningless – coins, as in any Sonics, serve as health points and save from death, and for the passage of each mini-attraction they are presented with collectible items. They are necessary to progress through the story, and I was so engrossed in exploring the worlds that I did not even know how many items were needed at any given moment – there were always more than needed. They are scattered at every step, so you don’t even have to open the map where they are marked.

But this, of course, is far from all that open areas can offer. From time to time you come across tests, the rules of which do not explain – you need to look around yourself and figure out what is required. Sometimes this is obvious – for example, in front of you is a field with luminous cells, and you need to sequentially go through each of them. Or you play like Tetris and build a certain figure.

The only thing missing is some arkanoid.

The only thing missing is some arkanoid.

In some cases, there is nothing to interact with and you start experimenting. Basically, the solution is easy to find with the help of a circular dash, when using which Sonic leaves a trail. When you return to the starting point and close the drawn circle, something happens – then the opponents take damage, then the hidden secrets appear. For completing these challenges, fragments of the world map are opened to make it easier to track where not everything has been collected yet.

Another entertainment is portals that transfer Sonic to cyberspace. These are short levels designed not only to diversify Sonic Frontiers, but also to please fans of the classic Sonic. Many of them are even based on familiar locations like the Green Hill Zone.

On some levels in cyberspace, the camera is located on the side, in others - behind Sonic.

On some levels in cyberspace, the camera is located on the side, in others – behind Sonic.

High speed, collection of rings, opponents, all sorts of trampolines and boosters, non-obvious shortcuts – everything is in place. There are also bonus tests, one of which always requires you to complete the level within a specified time. In most cases, it turns out on the second try, but some episodes are quite difficult. You have to memorize the sequence of actions, ignore the enemies and use a dash instead of a homing strike, since it does not happen so fast.

Strongest of all

Well, another reason to explore open areas is to look for opportunities for pumping Sonic. This is one of the strangest elements of Sonic Frontiers for two reasons. Firstly, for some reason, the pumping levels are constantly shown on the screen, although they do not provide any valuable information, and there is no time to look there. Secondly, the skill tree in the game is one of the tiniest I’ve ever seen, and by the end of the second island, you’ll probably buy all the abilities.

It is advisable to pump strength and defense so that battles with mini-bosses and titans do not drag out.

It is advisable to pump strength and defense so that battles with mini-bosses and titans do not drag out.

Four parameters are improved here, including attack and defense indicators. You can also increase the speed (not so important) and increase the maximum number of rings that the hero can carry with him (also not very necessary). In the skill tree, you mainly buy fighting moves, and some of them can be devastating. If you, like me, do not remember combinations well, the Auto Combo perk is sold in the same tree, which activates tricks for you at the right moments – however, the damage from them is reduced, but this is not scary. If desired, “Autocombo” can be disabled in the settings.

The developers managed to make the battles fun. First of all, we should thank the designers who created dozens of unique opponents, each of which requires a special approach. Someone is covered with armor if you hit him, someone is strewn with balls that must be knocked down one by one. Even with ordinary enemies, it is sometimes interesting to fight, not to mention the mini-bosses found on each island. There is a sand shark, to defeat which you cling to its tail and drive several kilometers, moving the stick in the indicated direction so as not to fall. There is a flying squid that leaves a trail, and you ride on it, dodging projectiles. I don’t want to spoil the rest – it’s better to see them for yourself.

That big red structure is also an enemy.

That big red structure is also an enemy.

The main goal on each island is to collect the Chaos Emeralds, after which you have to fight one of the titans, the most dangerous opponents. These episodes are some of the best in Sonic Frontiers. In them, the game seems to turn into an action game from PlatinumGames for several minutes – with running over the body of a titan, flying, obstacle courses and parrying projectiles. The games in the series have been compared to the anime Dragon Ball Z more than once, and in fights with the titans, the similarities are obvious.

Basically, I want to say only good things about Sonic Frontiers. Even the music, which I rarely pay attention to in games, is on top here. When you explore open areas, you hear melancholic melodies – either the violin is played, or the piano. Electronic music is playing in cyberspace, and trance tracks that are easy to imagine on old Tiësto albums are here. And the battles with the titans take place under metalcore. All this, it seems, should not be combined in any way, but in general it turns out a varied and high-quality soundtrack – the music here is already eight hours long.

Just listen!

Lost rings

However, it was not without flaws – this is still a three-dimensional game about Sonic. For example, the plot here is normal, but accelerates terribly long. In the first half of the game, many videos are shown, but the value of most of them tends to zero. Sonic is trying to save friends who have turned into holograms, the new character Sage, as if coming from some Scarlet Nexus, communicates with Sonic, then with Eggman, trying to better understand their relationship. Plus, we learn more about the ancient coco creatures that inhabit the islands and look like living pebbles. At first, everything is presented too dosed, and then much more plot details are dumped on the player.

Attempts by developers to diversify the gameplay are also not always successful. Some of the mini-games feel out of place, like the one where Sonic becomes a shepherd and has to lead groups of coco to a designated spot. Yes, and some puzzles are rather annoying – for example, a puzzle with rays on the first island can ruffle your nerves. Well, the quality of the islands varies – the third one is tiring with a large number of mini-attractions with a side view.

Although the graphics are not outstanding, there are beautiful views here.

Although the graphics are not outstanding, there are beautiful views here.

Sometimes it seems that people who called Sonic Frontiers “techno-demo” are actually not so far from the truth. The creators were clearly trying to implement as many ideas as possible and look at the reaction of the players in order to focus on what the audience liked the most in the next part of the series. The game still remains complete, it just has something to improve. In this regard, it is comparable to Pokémon Legends: Arceus – this is also a completely new experience for developers, for the most part successful, but far from perfect.

Most of the problems for the authors, apparently, caused graphics. Sonic needs to move fast, and the idea of ​​open areas does not go well together, especially on past generation consoles. So get ready for the fact that you will constantly stumble upon rails and platforms appearing in the air, even on PS5 and Xbox Series. You won’t crash into walls that didn’t load in time and you won’t fall through the textures – there are surprisingly few bugs here. It’s just that this flaw causes bewilderment every time.

Fortunately, loading objects are not always so conspicuous.

Sonic Frontiers is reminiscent of a teenager who was bullied at school, and then he went out and proved to everyone that the bullies were wrong. Reviews on Steam are extremely positive, the user rating on Metacritic is high – and it’s not just that 3D Sonic fans who have suffered for years have finally received an adequate game. Even far from the series of people who love 3D platformers with gathering, the novelty can drag on for a couple of dozen hours. Of course, it could be better, and for sure the next part will surprise you much more, but the first pancake definitely didn’t turn out lumpy.

Pros: large areas with a ton of entertainment at every turn; a variety of opponents, fighting with which is a pleasure; levels in cyberspace perfectly dilute the gameplay and are replayable due to their short duration; great soundtrack that combines different styles.

Cons: the plot takes too long to accelerate; not all mini-games and entertainment were successful; objects loading in the air look shameful on modern consoles.

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