Gaming

Sonic Frontiers First Impressions: Oh No – Okibata

Sonic Frontiers is the great return of the 3D platformer for the much-loved blue the hedgehog, following a surge in popularity after years of development. But after we tried part of the free roam section and the line level, we were left with a lot of fear.

An open-world game featuring this mascot has been an almost pipe dream for years, with only Sonic Heroes standing out from the regular Sonic Adventure games, and the 2006 Xbox 360 iteration of Sonic all but killed the franchise.

But still, Sega still believes the formula can work, and we were all equally excited when Frontiers was announced. This is good? Not really.

Disclaimer: First Impressions

I call this “first hands-on impression” because that’s exactly what it is. I played 15 minutes of the game at EGX this year.

Of course, this may change when I play the full version of the product. But in this demo, I got the experience of both exploring one of the Starfall Islands and teleporting to one of the more standard linear levels you’d expect from a Sonic game.

(Image credit: Sega)

Gotta go (not so) fast

So my adventure began with the goal of collecting two teleport coins, which meant exploring part of the island and finding my way. If these sections make up the vast majority of the game, then we have some problems.

To get there, you race across an open world using some classic Sonic moves like bumpers and grinder rails. On the face of it, Sega did its best to fix a lot of what was wrong with the 2006 version of Sonic, ditching the walking and talking elements in favor of a playground with lots of toys to interact with.

But, if anything, they further emphasize that this formula does not really work in three-dimensional open space. Lacking a sense of speed, the gameplay of attacking repeated waves of enemies while searching for a standard set of items quickly became repetitive for me for several minutes, and the (most annoying) camera doesn’t really help the situation.

I was crossing my fingers because Sega had the answer to this question from the latest attempts, whether it was smoother manual camera controls or a smarter auto option that always gave you a better view. In fact, the company doesn’t seem to have any, as depth perception for platform strikes is still problematic.

Sound boundaries

(Image credit: Sega)

Puff of the classic formula

But then I went through the teleportation throne to the next part of the level, and, well, that was a glimpse of Sonic’s greatness that I really wanted to see.

Like Sonic Heroes, it was a fast paced 3D linear race with lots of interesting obstacles and multiple routes. Simply put, I wanted the whole game to be just that – a frantic race where you need your reaction time to get through the different parts of this vertically stacked level in order to maximize the value of the golden rings and power-ups.

This moment was nice, but it came after 75% of the demo was focused on the free roaming section, which seemed downright boring. If this is the speed we can expect, then my concern for this hedgehog’s health is increasing.

Sound boundaries

(Image credit: Sega)

Finally

Blue the Hedgehog almost got killed when it was released in 2006 on the Xbox 360. Sonic Frontiers improves upon this formula, but this formula is constantly flawed. Maybe it’s time to give up the pursuit of free 3D roaming.

But it’s all held back by a repetitive open-world structure and a boring camera that, unless things change, will make this a hard-to-recommend game.

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