We are at a new turning point in Sonic’s 30-year history. Cult-favorite gaming mascot is once again a main attraction, beating Sony Unexplored at the box office and spawn a new netflix series. And after making the leap from side-scrolling platformer to 3D soap opera, the series now opens up to the world in its most ambitious entry yet. with sonic frontiers. But recent trailers have fans worried, and after a 30-minute hands-on demo of the game, I wasn’t impressed.
I played the game while attending Summer Game Fest last week in Los Angeles and while I’m not ready to write it off just yet, I’m still incredibly skeptical of what Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka and his team say. they are trying. The demo began with Sonic, separated from his furry comrades Tails and Amy Rose, emerging from a wormhole in a bucolic archipelago called the Starfall Islands and being recruited by a mysterious AI to go find the Chaos Emeralds. From there, I was off to explore puzzles, grind on rails, and fight the occasional boss. The time I spent was occasionally fun, often messy, and usually pretty rough.
I’ve postponed writing these impressions in part because there wasn’t much going on in the demo. We toured recently revealed images of sonic frontiers What looking like a bland Unreal Engine project. The game looked better in person, especially as the skies cleared and the sun began to set (the islands follow their standard open-world shortened day/night cycle), but it was still mostly empty.
Enemy pockets here and there could be demolished through a new combat system that includes a flurry of automatic punches and kicks, defensive dodges, and even a timed parry mechanic. Solve light space puzzles like stepping on pressure plates or navigating launch pads to unlock collectibles. And occasionally, an open track with speed boosts allows me to collect rings while running through a small obstacle course on a mountain path. I quickly got bored.
I wasn’t immediately drawn to how Sonic feels to control either. Something felt wrong. It never seemed like it was building up momentum in a satisfactory way, and the complex and uneven topography made it difficult to go very fast for long periods of time (all sonic frontiers seems to be Cradle of breath of the wild, the green stamina ring icon that depletes while increasing is almost one by one). Combat and air traversal rely on a meticulous targeting system to ensure Sonic points his spin attacks in the right direction.
Towards the end of the demo I faced a giant boss called The Tower and for a moment I felt like I was in shadow of the colossus. It was a brief great moment interrupted by fighting the camera and Sonic’s twitchy move set as he struggled to hit enemy weak spots without continually falling off the side. When the camera, the lens and the movement align, sonic frontiers comes close to nailing down an esoteric yet rewarding way to navigate a sprawling map. The rest of the time it felt like a hassle to navigate.
If I’m sounding harsh it’s because the demo didn’t do a great job of showing how sonic frontiersThe open world elements will unlock new potential for the long-running series. He felt crude and incomplete, and didn’t nail anything small that he could later point to and say “That it was fun let me do that for a whole game!In fact, the graphics and lackluster art direction felt like the least of the 2022 holiday game’s problems. To be clear, I think there’s a version of sonic frontiers, based on what they showed me, all of that can come together and be great. I’m just not sure, based on my limited time with the demo, that Sonic Team is coming any time soon.
Despite some fans rallying around the #DelaySonicFrontiers hashtag, Takashi Iizuka saying CVG that there were no plans to do so at this time, and that the team is very happy with the results and internal feedback so far. It’s also unclear how old the version that I and other journalists played was, with IGN reporting that its initial preview was based on a much earlier one. Otherwise, Iizuka and the rest of Team Sonic still have their work cut out for them. sonic frontiers It will be released on Xbox, PlayStation, PC and Switch before the end of the year.