Sonic Frontiers Review

Matt Lorrigan

Sonic’s voice is deeper in Sonic Frontiers. Even for someone like me, who hasn’t played a whole lot of Sonic games, it’s strangely jarring. For the longest time, SEGA’s depiction of the blue blur has had the attitude of a young teenager, with the voice to match. This deeper-voiced version of Sonic sounds older, and more mature. And it’s a tone that SEGA appears to be targeting for Sonic Frontiers as well; a slightly more mature and serious take on Sonic the Hedgehog, with tinkly piano music scoring your exploration, as you speed around an unusual, realistically rendered open world. However, Roger Craig Smith’s performance as Sonic isn’t as simple as that. It is also frequently inconsistent, occasionally rising to the higher tones of previous games, and by the end, you sort of start to get used to it. And if that isn’t a perfect analogy for Sonic Frontiers, I don’t know what is.

It’s the move to an open world (or, more accurately, five open ‘zones’) that marks the biggest departure from tradition for Sonic Frontiers. Upon first reveal, it was this, along with the piano music, ancient technology, and wide green landscapes, that drew comparisons to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Which is silly, right? Because one is a slow, epic adventure across a huge, living world, while the other sees you sprinting as a blue hedgehog across grind rails and speed boosters. But both games do use similar methods for transferring their series’ traditionally more linear gameplay into an open environment.


Where Breath of the Wild dotted Zelda’s dungeons around the map as shrines, Sonic Frontiers hides its traditional end goal levels in cyberspace portals that you discover across its world. And while Breath of the Wild was full of smaller bite-sized puzzles, Sonic Frontiers scatters little mini levels all over its map, through boosters, rails, and more. It remains an effective way to combine the old and the new, and means every type of Sonic fan should find at least something to enjoy here.

How well does Sonic adapt to this new formula, though? If you stick to running in a straight line across the ground, speeding through the open zones of Starfall Islands, Sonic Frontiers can be surprisingly dull. Sonic’s top speed is pretty low (especially before you get around to upgrading it) and the world is vast and a touch empty. There’s more than one way to skin a hedgehog, however, and the joy of exploration in Sonic Frontiers is found once you get off the ground and take to the skies. Hitting springs, boosters, and rails around the world catapults Sonic into smaller challenges, rewarding you with essential collectibles, but it also serves to boost Sonic’s momentum, allowing you to leap onto the next challenge nearby, speeding your way across the environment. Even for relatively inexperienced Sonic players like me, it was fairly easy and fun to string together combos; jumping off grind rails, into a drop dash, before boosting into a ramp and into the air. I can barely imagine the kind of speedy shenanigans that long-time Sonic fans and speedrunners will be able to pull off.

This is how Sonic Team has transferred that classic Sonic gameplay into Sonic Frontiers. Rather than speed, the game is about momentum, and if you can remain amid the upper levels of the world, you’ll get greater rewards. It’s such a shame, then, that this momentum isn’t maintained through the game’s progression or story. Each of the main zones in Sonic Frontiers houses a whole load of collectibles - hearts, medals, and wrenches are (inexplicably) required to simply talk to Sonic’s friends in specific locations around the map, progressing the story. And while finding them naturally while completing the mini-challenges around each zone is good fun, being forced to collect a couple dozen more before you can progress is a tad infuriating.


Likewise, the keys that you need to unlock Chaos Emeralds are locked behind Portal Levels. These Portals offer access to a more linear classic-style Sonic stage, either in 3D or 2D. Luckily, these are some of the most well crafted stages in a 3D Sonic game in recent years, with both 2D and 3D stages utilising Sonic Frontiers’ moveset well. But you’ll be forced to complete these stages several times to obtain all the keys, with four challenges to complete in each. One of these challenges sees Sonic having to find five Red Rings in each level, and it slows the action down to a crawl, as you attempt to locate them all. These are optional, at least, but it’s a strange inclusion for a Sonic game, nonetheless.

Finding all of the Chaos Emeralds in each zone, and progressing through the story, will see Sonic pitted against a giant mechanical titan boss. Like much of the environment and most of the enemies in Sonic Frontiers, these bosses are impressively designed from an artistic standpoint, unlike anything seen in a Sonic game before, even if Sonic and company look very out of place next to them. Oh, and the fights. Has Sonic ever been this epic before? Where Sonic’s ‘Super Sonic’ transformation is normally saved for the final encounter in most of his games, Sonic Frontiers gives players control of this transformation for each and every boss battle. Given Sonic’s golden Super Saiyan quills, it’s fitting that these fights offer Dragon Ball Z-style action, with giant energy beams and faster-than-light punches. And it doesn’t half help that the soundtrack goes insanely hard during these battles. Even if it isn’t your genre of music (it isn’t mine, anyway), it’s hard not to appreciate just how well it all works.


When the highs are this high, it’s all the more disappointing when Sonic Frontiers doesn’t deliver, and this happens all too frequently. Zones 1, 4, and 5, which all offer a naturalistic green, rocky terrain, are the best in the game, but the sandy desert of Zone 2, and the volcanic environment of Zone 3, are both a bit of a slog to explore. Zone 3 also introduces a huge number of challenges around the world, which all move the camera to a 2D perspective. This offers more 2D-style mini levels, but also locks you into the side-on perspective until you get to the end, which can be extremely jarring when you’re still in the 3D open world.

The visuals, too, are disappointing, especially on current-gen hardware, where you’d expect a bit more graphical fidelity. The amount of pop-in is criminal - normally, this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but in an open world that encourages you to go off and discover what’s over the next hill, the answer is frequently “nothing”, until you get right in close, at which point everything suddenly pops into view.

Sonic Frontiers occasionally reaches some exceptional highs, and it proves that Sonic can work in an open world environment, and work well. But there are too many frustrating elements that conspire to make the game a less than consistently enjoyable experience. If you’re a long time Sonic fan, then Sonic Frontiers is a must-play, purely because it’s the most interesting Sonic game in a long time. It’s frequently good, even occasionally great, but as a whole, it doesn’t always come together.

Sonic Frontiers

Sonic Frontiers is a fascinating move into open world for the Sonic franchise. It's frequently flawed, and doesn't always match the heights of Sonic's best games. But the fact that it occasionally does reach those highs, while offering a totally new experience, is pretty impressive, and leaves Sonic Team with a strong foundation to improve upon.

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Sonic Frontiers has a phenomenal score full of absolute bangers. The only thing letting it down is the voice acting and the slightly strange choice of solemn music for general overworld exploration.


The art style of Sonic Frontiers is solid, but it looks a bit out of place when placed alongside Sonic, Eggman, and the rest of Sonic's cast. Add in some poor pop-in and a couple of uninspired zones, and Sonic Frontiers' visuals end up as a bit of a letdown.


Sonic has a lot of movement options to play with in Sonic Frontiers, and it's enjoyable bouncing from one platforming challenge to the next at high speed. Combat is a bit clunky, however, and occasionally getting locked into a 2D perspective can really slow things down.


Sonic Frontiers might be the longest Sonic game yet, and offers a nice amount of content. However, it also adds a lot of new systems and features into the Sonic franchise, and not all of them work well.


A pretty standard list for an open world game, and doesn't require 100% completion, but it isn't a particularly inspiring list either.

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