Heading into Summer Game Fest I was really excited to check out Sonic Frontiers from SEGA. I grew up with the franchise, but somehow lost touch with all things Sonic as an adult. Sonic Frontiers looked like the grown-up version of the blue hedgehog I was looking for, but now that I’ve sat down with it for a while, I really can’t grasp just who this game is for.
When Sonic Frontiers first showed off game play, many fans were left with worries. Some were with the graphic capabilities, like the game looking choppy. Others were with the game style itself. I think it is safe to say that players were right to worry. After playing Sonic Frontiers…it isn’t great, but we need to dive into why it isn’t great.
Personally, I didn’t have any game-breaking issues like chugging or visual mishaps, so I cannot speak to those complaints. The beginning cutscenes were a little choppy, but I cannot narrow down if that was the game itself, or factors outside SEGA’s control at Summer Game Fest. What I can talk about is how this is no longer the Sonic we know and love. SEGA seems to be trying to let Sonic grow up with the fans from the 90s, who are all well into their 30s and 40s now, but that isn’t always the way to go.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild went this route, bringing Link to a more grown-up space with a more expansive world, better graphics, and an overall amping up of the story. Though Sonic Frontiers is trying to do the same here, it misses the mark in far too many ways to be ready for release. I will preface this by saying that I only spent 30 minutes hands-on with the game and spent the better part of my two days at Summer Game Fest watching others play as well.
“…now that I’ve sat down with it for a while, I really can’t grasp just who this game is for.”
Plain and simple, some games just shouldn’t be open world. The environment in Sonic Frontiers could be beautiful with a little more time in development, but even if it’s pretty, there isn’t enough going on to fill the space. This giant expansive universe left with only a few secrets, battles, and parkour opportunities left me thinking I had to be missing something, but I wasn’t.
Sonic Frontiers tries to keep players engaged with various opportunities to collect rings high and low but getting to them can be tricky. In a normal Sonic game, players can enjoy a challenge by replaying levels and really mastering each scenario. In Sonic Frontiers, on more than one occasion, I would lock on and launch onto a ball to head to the next one, with them disappearing after I touched them.
When this happens in the open world, there is no respawning of the launch pads. This means if you aren’t perfect on your first try, you don’t get another chance. If you’re just learning how to play (which everyone will need to do, more on that later), Sonic Frontiers is pretty unforgiving, especially when there are many coins and objects to collect.
“Sonic Frontiers tries to keep players engaged with various opportunities to collect rings high and low but getting to them can be tricky.”
Any Sonic title is filled with combos to master, but Sonic Frontiers feels like overkill. Dashing involves clicking your stick while pressing a button with the same hand, and there are too many combos for many movements that seem very similar to each other. During my 30 minutes of game time, it felt like I was stopped every few steps to learn a new combination of buttons. Sonic Frontiers throws way too much at players too quickly, meaning a lot of special moves will go underutilized simply because they were all dumped on players at the same time.
To that end, combat in the game appears to be the exact opposite at this time. If you ever loved a good button masher, Sonic Frontiers is the game for you. If your goal is just to destroy whatever comes at you, mashing buttons is by far the best way to go. If you do put in the time to master the game’s many, many controls, they may come in handy for defensive purposes, but to do damage, start smashing.
Even getting past the gameplay mechanics being horribly unbalanced, Sonic Frontiers left me confused with the overall audience SEGA is targeting. The Sonic brand has long been a family friendly title, one parents have been able to pass on to their children. Sonic Frontiers seems to be going in a completely different direction with its seemingly empty open world and over-complication action combos. Sonic Frontiers is not a game my seven-year-old could pick up and play in any depth but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of story or challenge for any of the adult Sonic fans out there.
Sonic Frontiers seems to leave me asking, “though they could do it, should they have?” In its current state, I don’t believe the game is anywhere near where it needs to be for serious gamers to get anything out of the experience. It is unbalanced, unfulfilling and underwhelming. I suggest waiting for players to get a hold of the completed version before you consider pre-ordering or purchasing Sonic Frontiers for yourself.