Sonic Frontiers Review
I love Sonic games. They’re cheesy, over the top, crammed with heart, and tons of fun. That being said, they’re not always… good? But I love them anyway. Sonic Frontiers is a perfect Sonic game. It tugs at your heart strings, it’s a blast to play, and it’s peppered with moments of intense frustration and grief. Whether Frontiers is a good game, as well as a good Sonic game, is a more complicated matter.
The devs have come out and said that Frontiers is nothing like Breath of The Wild. Technically this is correct! But you’ll find yourself making the comparison a lot. Sonic spends a lot of time exploring a vast, lonely world. There’s a host of tiny puzzles to solve, collectibles to scoop up, and traditional stages to master. Your allies are stuck in a liminal state, unable to do anything but talk and offer advice. There are countless bits of ancient tech waiting to be explored and used on your quest. You’d be forgiven for making the Breath of the Wild comparison, is what I’m saying.
Every island feels somewhat lonely. There’s so much to do, so many places to explore, so many secrets to uncover. And yet, Sonic is usually the only sentient creature for miles around. It makes sense, kind of. The old Sonic games were the same way. Just a single hedgehog ripping through a complex carnival of rails, bumpers, and spikes. But that loneliness is magnified in a fully realized 3D space like this.
Just You And The Bounce Pads
Not that I didn’t have fun! I love exploring this place. Every bumper or launch pad leads you to a carefully curated mini stage. They’re all exhilarating, precise little challenges. Each one offers up rewards, albeit small ones. The islands are designed such that you’re rewarded for your curiosity. And since there are no lives to run out of, you’re free to try anything you can imagine. You’re also free to fail, which will happen frequently.
Tough challenges take many forms in Sonic Frontiers. You’ve got giant bosses, isolated stages, and story missions. The bosses are a blast. Each battle forces you to think about your moveset in new ways. I would get rocked repeatedly, but I didn’t care. I was having so much fun!
Traditional Sonic levels offer a different type of toughness. The better you do, the more keys you unlock to progress the story. I found myself tackling every stage dozens of times, just to get every key. I didn’t even need them! It was just deeply satisfying to completely clear the stage. Of course, you have to actually find the stages first. There are whole stages I haven’t even seen yet, since I was so focused on progression. And then there are the story missions.
I mentioned intense frustration before. It seemed like every time I was having too much fun, the game would swoop in and kill the vibe with a horrible mission. Real ‘flaming dumpster down a ski hill’ stuff. Highlights include a near-impossible light puzzle, an exhausting pinball game, and a set of towers that sucked. Somehow, you cannot have a Sonic game without a couple of sections like this.
Pinball, Of All Things
But, take heart, my friends. Most of the gameplay is a blast. Combat escalates quickly, but Sonic’s power also gets pretty ridiculous. You have a host of sweet moves to unleash on your foes, and they’re all simple to execute. A couple of skills are locked behind story progression, but most of them only require skill points. And those don’t take long to unlock. In fact, most of the light RPG elements feel appropriately breezy.
This is Sonic the Hedgehog, after all. You don’t want to be bogged down with stats, gear, and grinding. You can get faster, stronger, and tougher, but that’s more or less it. Speed is one of the most important stats you can improve. Actually, the speed stat represents a tricky balancing act that takes place in Frontiers. Sonic moves pretty fast, but you can improve that. You can even get too fast, which the game thankfully lets you modify after the fact. Some of those platforming challenges require finesse, you see.
While the supporting cast is mostly immaterial, they still bring emotional weight to the story. I found myself touched by some of the plot beats. There were serious conversations between characters, moments of self-doubt, and reflections on the horrors of war. To be fair, all of this is being filtered through a Sonic lens. But still! I was caught off guard by a few scenes.
That Essential Sonic Vibe
Sonic games have developed a finely tuned aesthetic over the years. Frontiers is a natural extension of this idea. The music is excellent, hopping between somber scores and frantic beats with dexterity and ease. I’m especially impressed with the overworld music on each island. These songs perfectly capture that lonely, ancient vibe. Meanwhile, the graphics are extremely Sonic. I appreciate that you can switch between performance and graphics-heavy modes in the menu. 60 FPS is totally worth losing that hideous blur effect. The raw visuals don’t break new ground, but the overworld design is at least a half-step forward for the Sonic franchise.
It seems like every major franchise is getting the open-world treatment. At first, you’d assume that Sonic is a terrible fit for this system. But it works surprisingly well. Every island is broken down into a nested series of combat and platforming challenges. No matter the scale, you’re still getting that essential Sonic the Hedgehog experience. Unfortunately, this also means you’re getting deeply frustrated at times. Exhausting story missions, impossible puzzles, and brutal acrobatics await. But most of the game is incredibly fun. This is what Sonic games are all about. A rollercoaster ride full of dizzying highs and crushing lows. As a game, Sonic Frontiers has some definite flaws to be wary of. But as a Sonic game, this is some truly top-shelf stuff.
***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***
- Overworld portions are awesome
- Story caught me off guard
- Bosses are super fun
- Feels lonely at times
- Deeply frustrating sections
- The dreaded motion blur