Sonic Frontiers – Review

Journey through an open world in mind-numbing speeds.

Sonic Frontiers review
Release Date
November 8, 2022
Sonic Team
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on
Review copy provided by

Sonic Frontiers is the newest game to come out in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise where our titular character has been whisked into a mysterious world and is put to the task of saving his friends while trying to solve the mysteries surrounding the islands’ previous inhabitants. Other than that premise, this game has been gaining a lot of buzz as it steps into the open-world genre, or “open-zone” as it is referred to in this game. It is quite a change of style considering that the previous Sonic games have been known for having the linear platforming action in both 2D and more recently in 3D.

We’ve been privileged to get to play the game early thanks to a copy provided by the publishers, and here are my thoughts about the game and assessment as to how the open-zone style fared with the fast-paced platforming gameplay.

As always, we’ll start off with the story.

Sonic finds himself in a strange island after going on a quest to look for the Chaos Emeralds. The island is just part of several islands collectively known as the Starfall Islands and is inhabited by hostile robots and small statue-like creatures known as the Koco. As Sonic explores the island, he encounters an AI being named Sage, a product of Dr. Eggman’s invention merged with the ancient technology. Sonic also finds out that his friends are trapped in cyberspace for an unknown reason. This motivates him to further figure out the secrets of the island’s ancient inhabitants in order to bring his friends back from the cyberspace.

The team behind Sonic Frontiers have provided two different prologues outside of the game that provide a bit more info as to how our heroes got into their predicament. One is with the Convergence comic with Sonic, Amy, Tails, and Dr. Eggman, while the other with the Divergence video with Knuckles. To be honest, I started the game without going through these media, but I still got through the first part of the story just fine.

The story is divided into five chapters among the Starfall Islands. It felt like the story only began to pick up right around the end of the first chapter when it was revealed what the Koco really were. It was then followed up by Sage’s slow development into a less cold-hearted AI, and Sonic’s degrading condition that gets worse every time he saves one of his friends. The downtime in the first part didn’t really detract much overall, but rather it adds a sense of being lost that goes well with the atmosphere that the game is going for.

Now, for the gameplay. The game has two “modes” which are the cyber zones that are the traditional platformer levels, and the open zone which is focused more on the exploration and puzzle-solving side of the game. I’ll go briefly through the cyber zone and focus more on the open zone as the latter has a larger impact towards gameplay.

The cyber zone is basically what the Sonic games are known for, where Sonic goes from the starting point to the finish point through a course full of twisted rails and crazy loops. The main purpose of these cyber zones is to reward players with vault coins whenever a course objective is met, such as finishing the course within the fastest time, or finding all the red coins. These vault keys are then used to unlock the Chaos Emeralds from the pedestals that they’re kept on. The cyber zones can be replayed endlessly and can give quite a challenge for those who are eager to get one.

As for the open zone, we’re going with the low points first. The camera work when playing in the open zone can sometimes get quite hard to deal with at first and at certain points. When you’re freely exploring, the camera can also be controlled freely. When you’re going through tracks, the camera is more or less fixed on a certain angle as if you’re playing in a cyber zone level.

In those two situations, the camera controls (or the lack of) serve their purpose well. However, it starts to become a hassle during combat as it feels like it shifts between fixed and free camera and that you’re fighting against it. This comparison is coming from my experience with other games that have third-person combat like Monster Hunter where you still pretty much have control over how you want to your camera angling goes mid-fight. There have definitely been some combat encounters that felt like it could have been much smoother if only I was allowed to move the camera where I needed it to be.

Moving on to the open zone puzzles and activities, their range is quite wide, starting from just the simple parrying activity, all the way to the parkour-esque traditional platforming. It’s because of the number of variety in these activities that doing them does not feel that repetitive. Also, the area where these activities happen are local, so there’s pretty much no travelling between long distances just to complete a single puzzle. This is a plus especially that the islands are very expansive and that it can be quite a chore to travel between points if that wasn’t the case.

We’ll take a detour first and talk about the replayability of this game. Rushing through the story alone can take around 25-30 hours of gameplay. But for completionists, gameplay hours can be double or triple than that because of the plethora of things that can be done on the side. Not to mention that speedrunning will definitely be something that enthusiasts can and will do, both in the cyber zone levels and in the open zone.

Now, for combat, which is a relatively new thing for the franchise. I’d say that if it weren’t for the camera controls, it would have been absolutely perfect. Starting with the minor enemies, there’s a good pacing for the ramping of difficulty. You get to learn how the enemies act, you’ll know how to counter them, even clear them right away. Another new thing that got added was the skill tree feature, which allows Sonic to perform certain devastating attacks when the right button sequences are done.

Some of the skills can become quite OP, and that’s okay in this case, because doing otherwise will go against the speedy nature of the game. I found myself spamming the Cross Slash attack because not only is it strong, but it’s quite a flashy move that’s fun to watch. There are also the larger guardians that have their own mechanics that have to be tackled on first before they can even take damage, and taking them down is just so satisfying for the most part.

Now for the part that, what I can say, is the biggest winning point of the game, and that is the fight against the huge titans. They usually have different phases which start with Sonic just trying to get to the top of the titans’ heads to get the final Chaos Emerald. Once that’s done, Sonic then turns into Super Sonic which ramps up the fun level even more.

The fast-paced fights and impactful hits can really get you in the mood to kick titan butts. There’s also the banger background music that plays during these fights; each boss fight even has their own BGM. Every epic boss fight is basically just “what if Shadow of the Colossus, but with Son Goku?” and it’s exhilaratingly fun to experience.

Some other minor things to point out during these fights are the awkward pauses and transitions to black whenever Super Sonic completes a QTE for a counterattack. It kind of messes the momentum of the fight for a bit, though this might be due to the hardware; I played the game through the PS4, so those transitions may not be present in the newer and more powerful consoles. Nevertheless, I did not experience any noticeable performance issues that affected my gameplay.

Overall, Sonic Frontiers was a great experience that was only held back by the minor, but workable camera control jank. Almost every aspect in the game, from the story, the complexity of the gameplay, and even the difficulty curve have reasonable levels of momentum in them, highlighting the sense of “gotta go fast” throughout the game. I can say that both speedsters and casual gamers who like to take things slow can have a fun experience playing this game.

Sonic Frontiers – Review
Score Definition
Super fast gameplay that translated pretty well in an open-zone environment.
Vast open worlds
Plenty of puzzles and challenges
Real-time combat against overworld enemies
Fight against towering titans
Janky camera
Voice acting takes time to get used to