Minor spoilers ahead.
A few months ago I reviewed Sonic Frontiers, Sega's most ambitious Sonic the Hedgehog title to date since probably Sonic Adventure or Sonic Unleashed. I called the game back in November 22 "the breath of fresh air that Sega desperately needed". You can check out my previous take on the game here. While I still stand by this remark, I do believe Sega did a good job with Frontiers, but this game isn't perfect. It has many flaws. From here I am now currently up to Rhea Island (Island 4/5). It's been an enjoyable, suffering and painstaking several months for me to get this far. But i'm very impressed with how much play time Sonic Frontiers holds.
While i'm impressed by some things, I don't think that this is the greatest Sonic game ever made. But it's a great improvement to what we have had in the past. However, I missed the era in the mid 2000s and 2010's where Sega kept on releasing wacky Sonic games every year. Some of them weren't very good, but at least that gave us something to play. But Frontiers gives us something to play for a long time.
Recently there was an update which added in a musical jukebox feature, where you can play 53 tracks from Sonic's past games in the open zone areas. This is a really awesome feature. I have Mystic Ruins on loop sometimes reminding me of the good old days of Sonic Adventure.
This game itself is based on RPG elements. There is a lot of button-mashy combo moves that get really annoying. Not like Sonic Unleashed's battle combo moves which actually made sense. Honestly some of the combat in here is absolutely wacky especially during Super Sonic boss fights. And things get really repetitive over time. Sure the Cyloop is cool but I think it would have been great if that was one of the only new features in Sonic's moveset. I don't think a massive combat and fighting system like the one Sonic has works for Sonic. I'm just fine with homing attack, maybe one or two new moves, spin dash and light dash or whatever else. I feel like there is just too much going on here.
The story isn't the series' greatest or most inventive one. Sonic must save his friends from being trapped in Cyberspace. The elements of Sonic's friends are absolutely useless throughout the game. The Open Zone islands are really large and most of the general missions are something like "Find Tails". You have to run across one part of the island to speak to Tails, only for him to disappear after you speak to him and he will reappear on the very opposite side of the island just so you can "Find Tails" again. This constant backtracking does get annoying.
While the graphics are good and the music is nice, there is a issue with pop ins. Background objects can pop in from time to time which I find mostly annoying but it's a Sega game so I didn't expect much anyway.
And then there''s the game's voice cast. UGH. I really dislike Roger's take on Sonic especially in this game, where he sounds bored and completely uninterested in any of his surroundings during the entire game. He sounds like he recorded these lines while sitting down, and the other voice cast feel the same. The new guy who voices Knuckles is not very good as well. At least Mike Pollock who's been voicing Eggman for the last 20 years or so helps keep it all together to make this game at least tolerable. But Sonic's personality here is really annoying. He doesn't even pretend to care that he's in some kind of unknown world. We need to replace these guys with the Sonic Prime cast, stat! Ian Flynn's writing for this game is incredibly poor. I really wish Sega would find different people to write for Sonic games sometimes. Why does it always have to be Ian Flynn?
However there are several things I like about this game as well. For example, my favourite things about it is the Cyberspace stages. They are mostly short but provide a great rush of adrenaline and sense. But the more I play this game, the more I am starting to miss linear Sonic games. The open zone concept though is cool, but feels a bit too repetitive at times. Maybe it even feels like the game is too big for itself. The story just doesn't flow very well at all. You run around the open zones for ages, too long - and you forget what you're actually supposed to be doing. Only sometimes you get an indication.
There are these mystical creature things called Kocos that sometimes help you on your adventure but often times they end up dying for no reason and you are left with more questions than answers.
Oftentimes during this game you encounter various random challenges. They are scattered throughout different parts of each world. These challenges sometimes and sometimes don't provide a general sense of purpose and satisfaction upon completing them. One challenge involved me having to help hoard a bunch of lost Kocos to Amy for whatever reason. They would poop bombs at you and if you'd get hit by them 3 times you 'd die. I started questioning my sanity while playing these challenges. Later on in the game you have to complete a seemingly impossible pinball challenge on Chaos Island for no reason. You have to get 5 million points to open a door inside a volcano just by playing pinball. I started asking myself, why am I doing this. Why does this need to happen. Is this even a Sonic game anymore? I completed this pinball challenge after finding a great trick a Youtuber showed where you lift the pins up at the same time and the ball doesn't fall through the middle and you get extra combos. WHY AM I DOING THIS? THIS IS A SONIC GAME. There was another one where I had to complete some random task as a Space Invaders like game, why I duno. But it was there. After completing the pinball challenge even Sonic himself asked Tails "why did I do that" and Tails just simply responded "I don't know why that was there." What did I get at the end of completing that task ? Besides an opened door to a volcano that Sonic and friends could have just opened themselves by physical force, nothing. No emerald. No achievement. You then progress to the next Titan boss , after completing a painstaking pinball match for no apparent reason. Sonic isn't even the ball. Who thought this was OK?
Sonic's random ally for this game is a character called Sage, who is probably one of the most boring allies / villains / whatever in a Sonic game since Lyric from Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric.
While I do appreciate the extra amount of effort in this game I think that there was a little bit too much, but thankfully in the upcoming year, more updates are expected such as playable characters Amy, Knuckles and Tails. Let's hope they provide more sense to this game once you beat the story.
While I find a lot of things about this game to be bizarre and questionable, it is still a fun experience and I enjoy the Open zone areas and cyberspace stages.
Sonic Frontiers may have tried a bit too hard, it may be too big, and it may be questionable at times, but I think it's a solid effort still for Sonic the Hedgehog and much better than whatever we got these last couple of years of questionable attempts. Going back to the Adventure era type gameplay is a good idea. However, I hope the next Sonic game sees something different than Open Zones. I would not want new RPG elements and wish for Sonic's Frontiers combat to be removed for the next adventure.
However, don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining 100% about this game. I think Sega did a great job of trying something new and ambitious. And with new free DLC coming later this year, it's a good time to be a Sonic fan.
- Sonic returning to his Adventure-era open world stages
- Great music soundtrack by Tomoya Ohtani
- Cyberspace stages are fun and exciting, making you want more
- Big's Fishing Game is addictive but you rarely encounter it
- Gameplay feels easily repetitive and too overly ambitious
- Really poor dialogue from the current voice cast makes them sound bored and uninteresting. Sonic needs a voice actor change stat!
- Annoying "button mashy" combo system
- Pointless in game challenges that make little to no sense
- Overall poor progression & story pacing