If there is one thing out there that has become sort of a famous saying in the gaming world is that there hasn’t been a good Sonic 3D game in years. We want to say that Sonic Frontiers is the exception, and it almost is. The team behind the new Sonic Frontiers game has taken a lot of risks in crafting a big open world for our blue hedgehog to run around without hitting the brakes. However, in the process, you will find that your speed-fueled experience is hindered by horrible technical issues and a boring open world at times. The game tries to be ambitious in many areas, and while it shines in some of them, it falls flat in many others. So, let’s dive into our Sonic Frontiers review to see what SEGA has crafted for us.
Story: Simple, yet all over the place
People are commonly used to having fast-paced stories in Sonic games. And why shouldn’t they? After all, all our protagonist does is run from one place to the other—not complaining, though. However, that is the staple in many Sonic games, and people have gotten used to that. Here, the story has taken a different turn, opting for something slower and locked behind various activities. If there is something that open-world games have done lately is make you explore the map to unlock main story missions.
The story begins with Sonic on a plane with Amy and Tails. Suddenly, something happens that makes them disappear into the Cyberspace. Sonic wakes up being the only one who wasn’t affected. After that, he starts looking for their friends and some answers on the way. While the premise isn’t bad at all, the implementation can become a bit tedious. You go around the map at a somewhat average speed, and you need to collect your friends’ tokens.
They all vary depending on the character, and you’ll find specific tokens for each depending on the Island. Amy’s tokens are on the first, Knuckles on the second, Tails on the third, and so on. However, while some parts of the story are narrated well, the game hits the breaks when it sends you to find these tokens. What shines through the story, though, are the interactions between Sonic and his friends. There are a lot of callbacks and easter eggs that make the grinding worth it. The story’s slow pace also allows for more serious and deeper conversations with the characters. This is the story’s high point and made our Sonic Frontiers review more enjoyable.
Gameplay: Addictive with some technical nuisances
The gameplay is a step up from other Sonic 3D games in the right direction. You have this vast open world where Sonic can go crazy and fast at all times, provided you are not affected by the horrible pop-in of the game. Playing on a PS5 for our Sonic Frontiers review, we noticed that there was a lot of pop-in on the first Island. It was noticeable, especially when running fast. By the way, you can only do it by holding the boost button. Other than that, you’ll be going at a very slow speed.
Yet, it all feels amazing when you hit that right spot and the momentum of going fast on the map, grinding through rails, and jumping between walls. But the pop-in is something that can really affect your gameplay. In a game that relies on a character going fast around the map, pop-in is something that shouldn’t happen. Especially in areas where you need to see where you’re going, and the platform or rails have not been rendered yet.
The combat, on the other hand, is simple, but it shines in some specific situations. You will be spamming the square or X button a lot. This is your primary button for combos. You also have a skill tree with some cool-looking abilities, but in the end, you might use one or two during combat. Besides that, there is the cyloop ability. This one has a lot of functions, from solving puzzles to getting rid of enemies’ shields. While all that sounds good, it is not that fun for small enemies.
However, once you hit the big bosses, that’s where combat shines. This is the most fun we had during our Sonic Frontiers review. These set pieces were crafted in a way where scripted events happen, and they are amazing. Yes, you can do the usual combos and use the abilities you unlock, but the combat becomes more fun due to what is happening rather than what you are doing.
Graphics/Audio: A hit on one, a miss on the other
When you jump into the game, you’ll start at a classic level from Sonic. One that has you go from start to finish, collecting rings at a very fast speed and jumping from rail to rail to reach the goal. These levels or vaults are crafted to perfection. Every detail, every asset, every single thing is beautiful. Then, you jump to the open world, and it is nothing like that. Given the game’s tone, we can understand that the graphics need to be gloomy. However, that doesn’t mean textures should be bad.
We think that the fact that the new Sonic Frontiers game came out for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch might have affected this area. The title feels like it was the baseline for those platforms, and then the developers slapped a 60fps mode for next-gen consoles. While we can understand that, playing the game on next-gen is not beautiful at all.
The platforms you see on levels for Sonic to jump and climb on feel like they are just a big stack of random things. While it works and it takes you from point A to point B, we can’t help to think that they just stacked everything randomly and not caring about the landscape. Take the first level, for example. You have parts of a forest, but instead of making Sonic climb trees or branches, the level has this sci-fi platforms all over the place. While the story justifies it, it would’ve been nice to see variety in the assets of the open world of this new Sonic Frontiers game.
The audio, though, what a delight. While the music might not be as good as previous titles, it is still fantastic. The classical levels have some of the best pieces of music in the game. Also, when you get to fight the Titans, that’s where the music kicks in. From running around to reaching the head of a Titan, you get a piece of normal action-adventure music. However, once the fight starts, it all changes to some punk-rock song that makes you excited about playing the game and goes well with the action. It will definitely pump you up if you’ve felt tired of the open-world activities.
Conclusion: A good formula that needs more work
If this is how Sonic games will be in the future, we’re up for that. It has a great formula that works in some areas and falls flat in others. The open-world idea isn’t bad, but the implementation of some things is terrible. Map challenges to open the map can be mind-numbing or frustrating, with no middle ground. The graphics can be great in contained levels but bad in the open world. Combat is fun in big set pieces but boring in regular encounters. Traversal is excellent, but the camera and technical issues put a full stop to the experience. The storytelling shines because of its characters, but the plot is weird and all over the place. Overall, this Sonic Frontiers game formula works, but it still needs tweaking before becoming the ideal title. Sonic Frontiers is available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
- Amazing soundtrack
- Great boss fights
- Fun classic Sonic stages
- Terrible performance on Next-gen consoles
- Tedious main story
- Bad graphics for a 2022 game