-Shockingly good

Sonic Frontiers is, surprisingly enough, one of the best Sonic games in recent times.

Ever since the first three-dimensional game in the series saw the light of day at the end of the 90s, one could almost toss a coin to find out whether the quality of the blue hedgehog’s latest 3D adventure has been good or downright bad.

I myself have mostly stuck to the good Sonic games, where my childhood Sonic Heroes, the reviled Sonic Unleashed and the phenomenal Sonic Generations remain as personal highlights.

It was therefore with a modest degree of optimism that I volunteered to review the latest game in the series. After a series of half-hearted demos earlier this year, the game has looked better and better in the run-up to launch, and after just over a week I can give Sonic Frontiers a much more than positive review.

Kind of like Zelda

-A new world.

It’s been five years since the last original game in the series, and the developers at Sonic Team have clearly put the time to good use. Sonic Frontiers is nothing less than a completely new direction for the series, and many have drawn parallels to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ahead of the game’s launch. It eventually turns out to be right.

Here, too, you are served a large, open world where puzzles and old ruins are the focus, and along the way you become both more persistent and better equipped to take on hardened enemies.

The area available to you in Sonic Frontiers is called Starfall Islands, and comes in the form of five separate islands that must be explored in turn. The journey goes from the grassy meadows on Kronos Island to barren sand dunes and caves deep under Ares Island, and along the way you stumble upon occasional drops of a completely eel-ridden story.

Wall climbing, check it out!

As usual, it’s up to Sonic to save his friends – Tails, Amy and Knuckles – and don’t you think Eggman has a hand in the game as well. New this year is the strange creature Sage, who is the real highlight of the story. Through her and traces in the surroundings, you pick up clues related to what has happened to the islands’ previous visitors, while the main characters play off simple introspections.

The voice acting for the most part is incredibly flat and stiff, and doesn’t exactly help the otherwise pretty mediocre tension level.

Still, as I said, it’s a completely fine story with some genuinely great moments, but it can be watched with half an eye open without feeling like you’re missing out on too much.

Some of the smaller bosses are fantastically cool!

“Snappy” hedgehog

However, the plot works excellently as a basis for the journey you embark on, and this is where the game’s real strength lies: the sense of flow and progress across the many different locations of Starfall Islands. Common to all areas is that wherever you go you find traces of an old civilization that has left behind mysteries, ruins and a seemingly endless load of traps, enemies and fast means of getting around.

The latter becomes especially important along the way, and is the core of Sonic Frontier’s gameplay. There are typical Sonic gadgets and gizmos just about everywhere on these islands, whether you shoot yourself out of cannons, bounce on springs or slide along endless “grind rails”.

At first, it can all seem a bit overwhelming and arbitrary: Rails, platforms and gold rings seem to float in thin air wherever you turn, and it doesn’t really seem like there’s any connection whatsoever. After a while, however, this turns out not to be the case, because it is precisely the connection between all these components that makes Sonic Frontiers so good.

Everything hangs together thoroughly, so that you are thrown back and forth by the many devices as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes things go smoothly (literally), but there’s no way you can put down the controller and let the game do the work. On the contrary, you often have to keep your tongue straight in your mouth to calculate when to jump over chasms, swing towards the right balloon and switch between which enemy you attack.

In this way, every single “grind rail” and springboard is transformed into a roller coaster ride where you can control how the journey goes, and it tickles the stomach for a large part of the time. Like most lightning-fast hedgehogs, Sonic builds momentum continuously, which can sometimes make it difficult to calculate what to press at what time, but once you press a button, he reacts quickly and precisely!.

The side missions work well, but could have had more variety.

Impeccable flow

And that’s how you move around the Starfall Islands while collecting gold rings, keys and other items that unlock the way forward.

Each of the five islands has its own ecosystem, but the gameplay remains the same from start to finish: smaller boss enemies give you cogs, cogs unlock side quests that give you keys, and keys must be used to activate the chaos emeralds. When you have collected all seven, you transform into Super Sonic and take down a huge boss who in turn opens the way to the next island. Along the way, you solve rudimentary puzzles to see larger parts of the map, while also looking for and exchanging simple dialogue with Sonic’s furry friend

It goes blow after blow, and both speed and flow are mostly impeccable throughout the game’s roughly 16 hours. During these hours I never managed to get bored, although both some side missions and the biggest boss enemies could well use more refinement.

Classic Green Hill Zone!

The former, the side quests, throw you into what the game calls “cyberspace”, where you get to explore more traditional Sonic levels based on typical areas from other games in the series. Here you run through interpretations of, among other things, the Green Hill and Chemical Plant zones. The game clearly shifts focus along these side tracks, and the lack of the open areas from the world map makes it even more obvious that this is a game that works best when you have plenty of room to run around. The more linear tracks work by all means, but lack variety, and the slightly odd momentum just doesn’t work as well here.

The combat in the game is a chapter unto itself, and has been radically changed from the previous games in the series. You still have the typical “homing” attack that automatically launches you in the direction of enemies, but regularly unlock new attacks that allow you to catch up with the many different machines that patrol the islands. Later in the game, for example, you can shoot laser beams and run in circles around opponents to damage them, and Sonic is also equipped with the ability to parry and dodge blows.

All in all, this constitutes a flexible, albeit not particularly challenging combat system. The best enemies are the ones that take advantage of the game’s other mechanics, such as how an overgrown mechanical beetle lets you ride on “grind rails” in a ring around it to send off energy balls, or a huge spider that lets you circle its legs before it throws you high into the air.

Unfortunately, the whole thing somewhat falls apart in the face of the game’s biggest enemies, where repetitive super attacks and clumsy flying lead to a lot of fumbling and babble.

The fighting is simple but cool!

Unproblematic “pop-in

No matter what you do, it quickly goes away, and this is also reflected in the technical execution. On the PlayStation 5, you can, as expected, choose between resolution and performance, and the game is clearly best served with the latter – in return, it maintains a solid 60 frames per second for a large part of the time.

Beyond this, Sonic Frontiers isn’t a technically impressive game by any means: it suffers from everything from stiff animations to flat textures, but perhaps most striking is the massive amount of “pop-in”. Here, obstacles and enemies appear along the horizon continuously while you run around, but this strangely never became a big problem during the gameplay.

For that, there are simply too many things happening around you all the time – I have enough of reacting to which rail to jump to here and now in order to see what appears 400 meters further on.

This also applies to the universe and the visuals. Like, for example, car games, it is clear that the world has a somewhat flat appearance, but this usually only becomes apparent if you stop and look closely at the details. You usually have such a high pace that this rarely poses any problem.

What A universe!.

For that, there are simply too many things happening around you all the time – I have enough of reacting to which rail to jump to here and now in order to see what appears 400 meters further on.

This also applies to the universe and the visuals. Like, for example, car games, it is clear that the world has a somewhat flat appearance, but this usually only becomes apparent if you stop and look closely at the details. You usually have such a high pace that this rarely poses any problem

Otherwise, Starfall Islands is a colorful and beautiful world, where weather and an active day-night cycle help keep the experience fresh.

I must also mention the soundtrack, which besides having elements of archetypal and delightfully “cheesy” “Sonic-rock” baked into the biggest battles, offers genuinely beautiful piano music while you run around. This also reminds me of Breath of the Wild, albeit a bit more present. It’s simply just incredibly pleasant to listen to, and puts a nice line under the overall feeling of exploring a mysterious, abandoned fantasy universe.

  • Conclusion

The fact that, despite all these points of appeal, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself through large parts of the game is because Sonic Frontiers is simply a lot of fun to play. The placement of obstacles, rails and springboards seems almost arbitrary when you watch the dog on the hair, but in action this forms a wealth of tightly intertwined roller coasters that masterfully lead you from A to B to C to D and so on further.

This is a game that is constantly surprising and trying new things, and it’s simply shocking that the many different components work as well as they do.

There are definitely sequences where things don’t work optimally, and certain moments come off as both clumsy and bland, but for the most part, it’s simply just awful fun to play Sonic Frontiers. And you can’t possibly ask for much more from a modern Sonic game.

The game is like a single big roller coaster!.

Sonic Frontiers is available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (tested by me), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Windows.

So if 10 is the very BEST guys, i would give SONIC FRONTIERS…. drumroll…… 8/10 !!!.

What a game, and it was a pleasure for me trying it, and it got my vote .. by a longshot! :).

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