Sonic Frontiers was announced a while ago and while I love the universe, I don’t want to get excited about this one. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a huge Sonic fan but something feels off about this entry, especially considering how early it is to announce it and how everyone will just forget about it by its release in late 2022! The game’s premise seems to be that it’s an Open World Sonic game but will that truly work?
Before we get into the implications, though, I’d like to discuss the Announcement Trailer on YouTube as it shows essentially… nothing? An unknown enemy is chasing Sonic through the woods. Three black and purple flying projectiles are shot off from it getting closer to Sonic before an unknown voice calls to him. When the projectiles explode, Sonic seems to get warped to another realm of sorts known as Starfall Islands! According to the Steam Page, these lands are brimming with powerful enemies, dense forests, overflowing waterfalls and sizzling deserts. That’s about it. The trailer looks stunning, don’t get me wrong, but I find it sketchy that the rest of the trailer isn’t showcasing new characters, parts of the story, or potentially new enemies…
Instead, it’s all about the landscapes. The steam page can be found here btw but while I find the screenshots incredibly beautiful, I can’t help but be confused by this marketing campaign. Instead of focusing on the characters, we’re presented with a beautiful world. The official announcement said that it’s an all-new type of Sonic game set in open-zone realms… but I’m not sure how Sonic works in an open world, considering how previous games always felt like carefully-crafted courses rather than actual living worlds.
I believe there have been attempts of making Sonic’s worlds a bit more open before. For instance, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, as well as Sonic Adventure DX, had systems in place that are similar to Open World games with a bit of an overworld that you can traverse, but then again combat/bosses or the typical racing were set in your typical courses or instances again, which was a bit of a bummer, especially with the turn-based combat in Sonic Chronicles. I’d argue that it’d be hard to add a true open world to the game without upsetting people that love the franchise for what it is. At the same time, I doubt that they can just copy mechanics from games like Breath of the Wild without causing other issues – like this game not feeling like a Sonic game.
While different, the idea of “Open World” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” sounds incredibly good though! Imagine the implications of freedom in your tracks, potentially unlimited speed or just the option of traversing large distances as a really fast blue mammal. Imagine the new innovations that could come with it like potential secrets that are not as obvious as in other games, puzzles that may reward you with shortcuts or powerful gear, or maybe there will be a crafting system in place that you can use to buff yourself up before diving into battle. Combat in itself could feature huge swarms of enemies or random foes roaming the realm. Maybe you’re liberating Starfall Islands from an oppressive regime – or you’re exploring the ruins seen in those screenshots to discover ancient powers and gain stronger before saving Amy (who btw is now voiced by someone new).
On top of that, a bit of realism might not harm the Sonic franchise. I’d love to see a world that you can traverse without the loop-de-loops and boosting platforms. I’d love to see a world that is filled with all sorts of lifeforms instead of the usually scripted whales (etc.) that pop up in the background or whatnot that you know from other entries in the franchise. If they introduce open realms, I’d imagine that large-scale bosses could look incredibly interesting, and heck, combat might evolve into more than just the ol’ jump attack.
Sonic Generations and Sonic Heroes might have been the last releases that I truly enjoyed. I loved Sonic Colours, Sonic Adventure DX, and Sonic Rush Adventure to bits when I played them back in the day… and the original games are obviously still great even with some minor issues here and there. I’d love to get back into the franchise but the way Sega and the Sonic Team treat the IP, it could very much flop and turn into another Sonic Unleashed with them taking Sonic Frontiers off the shelves after it’s below certain review scores. While I’m excited about “Breath of the Hedgehog” and everything that it could potentially entail, I’ll keep my expectations incredibly low until I see the actual game for myself. After all, Sonic Forces looked incredible as well before it flopped.