Sonic Frontiers is nothing short of a marvel in how it blends together beloved elements from previous games with exciting new twists and turns to create something wholly unique. Racing around in Sonic Frontiers never ceases to feel like a joy thanks to the plentiful array of activities on offer to help keep you busy, in addition to traditional elements one would expect from a Sonic title.
The story that unfolds in the background can at times feel bland and unimportant, and there are a few other minor issues that detract from the fast-paced, addictive gameplay experience of Sonic Frontiers. However, none of Sonic Frontiers’ flaws are enough to hold it back from feeling like one of the most refreshing, enjoyable Sonic offerings the series has seen in quite some time.
Sonic Frontiers introduces open-world elements to the series for the first time and does so in a fantastically clever way. Similar to games like Mario Odyssey, the open zones you’re able to explore in Sonic Frontiers are broken up into five separate islands known as the Starfall Islands.
Sonic Frontiers complements each island’s distinct scenery with a day and night cycle and bonus content like collectible falling stars that let you spin for rewards, along with dynamic weather where it can be sunny one moment and rainy the next. This helps make island exploration feel consistently fresh and engaging, in addition to the fact that each island is a large, raceable Sonic map in and of itself. You can zoom around, interact with obstacles and standalone puzzles, grind rails, collect Rings and other key items like Memory Tokens, and battle foes like Guardians in whichever order your heart desires.
As open as the islands of Sonic Frontiers are, they’re not wholly without structure for the player to follow. More specifically, each island’s setup is essentially the same where you work to rescue Sonic’s friends like Amy, Knuckles, and Tails by collecting items like Memory Tokens on their respective islands. At times, this process can feel a bit repetitive, but it’s not exactly an unpleasant sort of repetition. If anything, Sonic Frontiers is a game where you can sit back, relax, and take things at your own pace.
To help island exploration avoid feeling dull, the game gives the player the opportunity to run through traditional Sonic levels via “Portals” that take Sonic into Cyber Space. I often found myself enjoying these Cyber Space levels more than the game’s island activities because of how they’re structured. They’re self-contained, quick to complete, and have only a handful of objectives attached such as beating the level with a set amount of Rings, or racing through it quickly enough to earn yourself an S Rank. Rather than make these levels optional, they’re required to progress in Sonic Frontiers as completing them rewards you with Vault Keys needed to unlock Chaos Emeralds. Once you’ve collected all of the Emeralds on an island, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in a large "final boss" battle.
You spin me right round
I had some strange issues with the camera in Sonic Frontiers including the camera spinning around and re-orienting for no apparent reason, even as I worked to try and keep it steady. I played around in the Settings menu with things like turning the auto reset camera and auto camera correction options on or off. No matter what I adjusted, the camera in Sonic Frontiers continued to be a nuisance, particularly during the game’s bigger boss battles. I actually found myself clipping into the boss at the end of Kronos Island while wrestling with the camera, which made the fight far more difficult than it should’ve been. I also experienced some minor issues with the game's graphics such as instances of pop-in, particularly on Ares Island.
Quick and easy to double back
In the event you’ve forgotten to tackle something on a previous island, you’re free to move between the islands you’ve unlocked, with each island boasting its own percentage meter for how much of the island you’ve mapped or completed. With mapping, this is largely done through island Challenges which feel like time trials and are all tied to different aspects of the game. Some have you dodging left and right, others have you parrying, while some simply task you with walking over illuminated tiles in a specific order. The more you map and reveal on an island, the more rails will pop up that make island exploration a quicker process.
In addition, there are optional Fishing Spots on each map where you can sync up with Big the Cat and reel in fish and other collectibles including Scrolls for Elder and Hermit Koco. With these, you can unlock a form of fast travel for that particular island as well. Chatting with Elder and Hermit Koco is necessary in "leveling up" so to speak, where you can increase Sonic's speed and Ring capacity. Outside of this, Sonic also has a Skill Tree where you can unlock new moves and abilities. Some standouts among these include Cyloop, which creates a light trail that encircles foes and can help Sonic unearth items, and Wild Rush, a fast-paced zigzagging attack.
The gameplay in Sonic Frontiers is so strong and addictive that it often overshadows its story, which feels like much of what you’d expect to find in a Sonic game. It’s neither groundbreaking nor terrible, instead falling somewhere in the middle. Sonic Frontiers follows everyone’s favorite blue blur after he gets sucked into a wormhole with his friends, gets separated from them, and then needs to rescue them through the aforementioned collection of items like Memory Tokens and Chaos Emeralds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Eggman is busy attempting to figure out how to use the mysterious technology found across the Starfall Islands for his own personal gain, recruiting the help of an AI named Sage for various aspects of this process. For example, helping keep him safe in Cyber Space, and attempting to keep Sonic and friends from interfering.
The story works well where it needs to, gives the game a decent foundation, and features plenty of fun moments particularly within the game’s cutscenes such as those that come during and after Sonic beats one of the island’s bigger bosses. These fights are further complemented by the game’s phenomenal soundtrack.
The second I heard the sweeping rock music played during the first big boss battle on Kronos, I was immediately sold in that I will absolutely be buying this soundtrack separately if given the opportunity. Thanks to the music and grand performances by Sonic during those cutscenes, those moments feel thrilling and bombastic.
Others feel a bit less important and, at times, lacking, such as when you’re chatting with Sonic’s friends like Amy on Kronos. With the story in Sonic Frontiers, I can’t help but wish I’d been pulled in more and given more to think about, rather than merely being placated by its adequacy as a functional backdrop for everything else taking place in the game.
Sonic Frontiers does a wonderful job in giving Sonic fans a dynamic, open zone experience that’ll keep them busy for upwards of 20 hours or more. Whether you’re exploring the beautiful Starfall Islands, dabbling with side activities, or simply working to progress through the story, Sonic Frontiers never ceases to feel like a joy. Is it perfect? Not quite, with its strange camera issues and adequate (yet not exactly compelling or memorable) narrative. That said, none of the game’s issues are enough to detract from the core experience.
Even if you’ve set high expectations for Sonic Frontiers, I feel like the game should have no trouble meeting them. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that Sonic Frontiers serves as one of the most refreshing entries the franchise has seen in years. If you’re on the fence, let this serve as an encouragement to check out the game. It’s well worth it, and then some.
This review is based on a PlayStation 5 code provided by the publisher. Sonic Frontiers is available on November 8, 2022 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.
- Succeeds in delivering a solid open zone Sonic experience
- Addictive gameplay loop that'll keep you coming back for more
- Stunning visuals with several unique islands to explore
- Phenomenal soundtrack, boss battle music is a standout
- Plenty of activities to keep you busy
- Satisfying combat combos and abilities
- Story can feel bland and unimportant at times
- Minor camera issues, graphics issues like pop-in
Morgan Shaver posted a new article, Sonic Frontiers review: A Sonic blast
These are among the nicest words I have seen used regarding this game. I think a lot of us made up our minds from that very first gameplay reveal trailer, and there is a lot of ground to make up, but this review is quite glowing!
We could all use more bright and colorful and fun games in our lives! I'll have to check it out after God Of War Ragnarok I guess.
Yea this video paints a different picture. It looks horrible.
It's really wild how different the responses have been between reviewers. I didn't experience issues with the game in the way SkillUp did. I actually found Arlo's review on YouTube to be the one I resonated with the most...
Awesome review, I 100% agree + https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-BkrwO_Dck & I never thought I see such a comeback and total redefinition of a Sonic 3D Platformer.
What a time to be alive :)