‘Sonic Frontiers’ a breath of fresh air

JD Smith Nelson, Arts Editor

“Sonic Frontiers” feels like the ultimate breath of fresh air for the blue blur’s mainline gaming history. After a decade of nearly the same thing, Sonic Team stepped out of their comfort zone and delivered a game that breaks the franchise’s mold and brings the hedgehog into a whole new format. 

After crashing in the Star Fall Islands and being separated from his friends, Sonic must collect the Chaos Emeralds, defeat the titans that roam the islands and recover his friends from the mysterious realm of Cyberspace. Across five main regions sonic must run, jump, roll and fight his way through extremely open-yet-feature-packed landscapes. This feels better than ever as Sonic’s physics have been reworked by the development team off the bones of former titles such as “Sonic Forces.” 

One of the most refreshing new changes that “Sonic Frontiers” brings to the table is a fresh writing team. Truly a veteran to the series, writer Ian Flynn finally gets his chance to write a mainline game. Flynn had formerly staked his claim in the franchise writing for the comic series published by Archie and proved not only his writing skills, but also his deep knowledge and understanding of these characters and their world. This results in a much tighter relationship to previous continuity which is satisfying for old fans, yet unintrusive enough to not alienate new fans. Contrasting the previous goofier tones of former games, “Frontiers” takes a much more mature yet tonally balanced approach. Characters develop new and changing relationships that feel as though they will leave a permanent mark on the series going forward. 

Gameplay is fresh as ever with the new open-zone level design and a larger focus on combat. In previous titles utilizing the “Boost Formula,” levels were thin yet extremely long corridors with reflex-based obstacles to keep players replaying for a better score. In “Sonic Frontiers” these levels still exist in Cyberspace. Sonic can enter these levels through certain Cyberspace gates and the reward for completing them is keys to help you unlock the Chaos Emeralds. This creates a fun and satisfying gameplay loop to keep the plot moving and encourage exploration of the islands. These islands are also filled with enemies that are fun and satisfying to fight. The combat system is surprisingly deep for a franchise that rarely dips its toes in fighting mechanics. What used to be jumping on enemies is now turned into a full battle with kicks, punches and combo chains that allows for player creativity.  

One last thing worth noting is the game’s soundtrack. Matching the more atmospheric yet somber tone of the story and environment, the main island music is very lowkey. Using primarily acoustic sounds and soft melodies, the music feels adventurous yet unobtrusive and really immerses the player in the world surrounding the speedy blue hedgehog. The Cyberspace levels go for a completely different sound. Fast paced, loud and synth heavy, these tracks rev the player up and get them ready for adrenaline pumping sprints through action packed levels. Lastly there are the boss themes. Heavy rock instruments and powerful vocals set the stage for high stakes battles against ginormous enemies yet empower the player with the ability to take the task head on.  

Though lacking in a little polish, Sonic Team took a massive step in a bold new direction with “Sonic Frontiers.” The new level design strengthened writing and varied soundtrack help this feel like a truly triple-A experience worth the price of admission.