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Sonic Frontiers Is A Super Speedy Smashing Sensation

Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
Genre: JRPG, Action, Open-World

There’s no disputing that Sonic is one of the most recognizable video game mascots ever, but unlike Mario or Zelda or any of his fellow brethren, his best games are mostly behind him. The running gag is that there hasn’t been a great Sonic game in years and I’m probably not the best person to talk about that because the last Sonic games I played were on the PS2. Still, as someone who’s not a hardcore Sonic fan, I can say that I enjoyed my time with Sonic Frontiers; so read on to find out why.

 

Speed Of Sound

Sonic Frontiers is an open-world action game and it doesn’t waste any time before thrusting players into action. After a brief opening cinematic, I was immediately running on rails and running around at the speed of sound. Before you start playing, you can even adjust and tweak Sonic’s speed so that he’s easier to control. I left it all mostly on the default options and I was fine.

I was also surprised at how unintrusive the motion blur is in Sonic Frontiers. I usually turn that off in most games, but this time I left it on. It helps with visually showing the “speed” when Sonic’s running. So, yeah, if you’re worried that Sonic Frontiers would have a slow prologue that lasts hours like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or Red Dead Redemption 2, I can assure you that it doesn’t.

There are several maps in Sonic Frontiers and each of them will start shrouded. You have to uncover parts of the map by completing the challenges with question marks. They’re usually quick and simple puzzles which don’t take too much effort or time. After that, the core repeating gameplay loop on each map is this; you find a ‘friend’ that’s stuck in cyber limbo and you’ll have to start collecting collectibles called memory tokens by roaming and exploring the maps. This is because the maps are full of rails and obstacle courses which you’re free to engage in at any time. Completing them will net you these memory tokens.

You’ll then use those memory tokens to progress through the story, but wait, the true main objective of each map is to collect the Chaos Emeralds and defeat the respective Titan bosses. To do that, you’ll have to collect another type of collectible simply called gears by defeating enemies and Guardian mini-bosses around the map. I loved fighting these Guardians because defeating them are puzzles in of themselves, since they usually require a specific way to be defeated. These gears are then used to unlock the Portals to the classic 3D/2D Sonic running levels. Completing these Portals will give you vault keys which are needed to access the Chaos Emeralds. Once you get enough Chaos Emeralds, you can then fight the Titan boss of the map (or island). There are five maps in the game, so basically you’ll be repeating the process every time you enter a new map.

The number of collectibles may sound confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty fast. Sonic also gains experience points by defeating enemies, which he can use to unlock powerful new combos and abilities on a skill tree. The skill tree isn’t that extensive but it takes a while before you can unlock each new skill, but trust me when I say that they’re useful in combat, not to mention that they look awesome as well with Sonic shooting energy blasts and spinning around as a ball. It’s important to note that there are also four stats to keep track of, but they can’t be upgraded by using XP.

Instead, to upgrade Speed and Rings (health), you need to find cute little creatures called Koco around the map and bring them back to an individual named Elder Koco. To upgrade Attack and Defence, you need to find two types of seed collectibles by completing puzzles and from random boxes, and bringing them back to an individual named Hermit Koco.

That all sounds like it’s a hassle, but it’s really not that grindy. It does get somewhat repetitive and tedious having to do some of all that stuff, but Sonic himself feels good to control and the action is fun. He does still feel a bit janky and clunky sometimes but I feel like this is a huge improvement from the PS2-era days. Overall, it feels generally great to traverse the world and fight as Sonic.

It also doesn’t get boring because there’s little to no filler in Sonic Frontiers. Most of what you do is to progress the story. There are no traditional side quests, and you can pretty much ignore the fishing minigame if you want to. However, you really shouldn’t if you want to “cheese” the game. You can unlock a lot of things early by fishing, which feels like the developers did that on purpose because the actual fishing minigame is laughably easy and doesn’t offer any challenges at all despite offering big prizes that can fundamentally break the game.

The biggest issues with Sonic Frontiers include being forced to play ridiculous minigames to advance the story. I’m not kidding when I say that these are random as heck, it’s like the developers made a dart game out of it to decide what goes into Sonic Frontiers. Some of the random minigames I had to play were moving Sonic to herd a couple of Koco creatures like sheep, a bullet hell-like Space Invaders minigame, and even a game of pinball. I repeat, a game of pinball out of nowhere, which happens only once in the entire game. The developers must have known this because Sonic himself comments on how weird it is that he suddenly has to play pinball in a cinematic cutscene directly afterwards.

Those random minigames aren’t the only annoying problems with the game. I can accept that Sonic can feel janky and clunky at times, but this gets increasingly worse during boss battles. The climactic Titan battles at the end of each map are usually giant action setpieces, but they’re often clunky as hell. Making one simple mistake brings you back to the beginning of the battle, which almost always involves having to reach or climb the humongous Titans beforehand. The checkpoints during these boss battles are horrible and it’s a frustrating experience when I have to waste my time and restart a drawn-out setpiece from the very beginning.

The story and narrative in Sonic Frontiers really aren’t anything to shout about. The meat of the game, and its highlights, are the gameplay. However, Sonic fans will probably appreciate some of the easter eggs and references to older games in the franchise. The game does end somewhat abruptly, which results in an anti-climactic ending of sorts. Sonic Frontiers only took me around 17 or 18 hours to finish the game (and I spent around an hour or so simply fishing). That tells you a lot; an open-world game that ends in around that duration means that there’s not much unnecessary filler. If you want to achieve 100 percent in everything, it will give you even more hours and that’s good value for a game that Sega isn’t even selling at full AAA price (only RM159 on the PlayStation Store).

 

Speed Heals

I have no way of knowing how good Sonic Frontiers truly stacks up against previous games in the franchise. However, as someone who’s not that familiar with Sonic, I had a good time. Sonic Frontiers is going to be a good first-time experience for many gamers who have never played a Sonic game, and the story/narrative is standalone enough that you don’t need to have played any other Sonic game before playing Sonic Frontiers.

It’s a great game for newbies to the franchise and that’s a good thing, considering how popular the live-action Sonic movies have been in recent years.

 

PROS

  • Feels great to traverse, explore and fight as Sonic.
  • There’s little to no filler despite being an open-world game.
  • You don’t need to play other Sonic games to understand anything, but there are also easter eggs and references for veteran fans.
  • Running around at the speed of sound.

CONS

  • Random and annoying minigames.
  • Janky and frustrating boss battles (which admittedly do look awesome).

 

FINAL SCORE: 80/100

Sonic Frontiers was reviewed on a PS5 based on a review copy provided by Sega. It will launch for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC on 8 November 2022.

 

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