As of this writing, I had just wrapped up the prologue, so, roughly about an hour and a change of what's going to be many hours put into this game I'm sure. Sonic Frontiers was always going to be a polarizing game ever since its announcement. An open-world Sonic game exists in 2022, where our last Sonic title was Sonic Forces. The latter was also swept in controversy as some considered it a good Sonic game while others compared it to the sinking Titanic as the band played while they drowned.
This is also immediately coming from the praises I've given Lunistice, a love letter to various 90s-era platformers including Sonic Adventure. If you're looking for that "classic 3D Sonic," I wholeheartedly recommend Lunistice as you're not going to get that by playing Frontiers. This isn't a bad thing! It's the first time I can comfortably say that Sonic finally has a different identity to take on its own! Unfortunately, this means I'll have to compare it to another "open-world action game," but for now let's highlight what's different.
From the opening cutscene in hearing Eggman, Sonic, Amy, and Tails, everyone speaks... normally. The voice acting delivers a certain cadence that is less energetic and cartoony but more low and serious. I had to double-check the voice actors and sure enough, the gang is all there. Roger Craig Smith is still Sonic but he comes off more like Chris Redfield than Sonic the Hedgehog. It's something to experience firsthand, but it sets the tone for Frontiers.
Eggman is messing around with ancient cursed artifacts (again), can't control his gadgetry (again), and somehow Sonic and the gang are also warped into this universe that Eggman finds himself in (again). What I appreciate is the world-building Sonic Frontiers gives the player as you're in this barren landscape. The only voice you hear is an AI telling you to enter cyberspace and with the voice acting, it really gives off a mysterious vibe. Here, Sonic is not fighting with "freedom fighters" or "entering amusement parks," he's just as lost as we are.
So what makes Sonic Frontiers different than other Sonic titles? From the first level, he moves similarly to past games with a bit of heaviness that eases up as he builds up speed. That is until you double jump and realize that you missed an airborne enemy at close range. Turns out, the homing attack we have all grown to love for twenty years is now the Square button. You have to press the button manually rather than tapping the Cross button as fast as you go.
I'm playing Sonic Frontiers on the PC with a DualSense so the notations will be as if I'm playing on the PS5. Once you get the hang of how homing attacks work, you'll realize that the homing attack button is Sonic's attack button in this game. He punches, kicks, and does cool combos almost as if it was a legit action game! Then it dawns on you. Sonic Frontiers is an action game first, and a platformer second. If you could call it an action-platformer, the action would be in bold.
In between levels you're in this giant "HUB world," where you can collect rings and other important items, complete challenges, and fight guardians. Guardians are mini-bosses where upon defeat they drop gears which are used to enter levels. This gives players an incentive to explore every inch of the map as Guardians lead into levels that lead to collecting chaos emeralds. The entire engine received an overhaul, even the famous light-speed dash used to travel across a bridge of rings. In previous games, you press Triangle. In this game, you press...the left stick button?
I would not have realized any of this if it wasn't for the tutorials in-between loading screens. Pay special attention to these as you're going to need them. Sonic can also learn new skills, some from previous games like the fast fall (or Stomp in this game) and some absolutely cool like the Sonic Boom. This attack allows Sonic to kick out bursts of sonic booms (obviously) but does so in a way that would make Guile with V-Trigger 1 proud.
With that being said, this is a game where everyone is on an even footing. Whether you're a Sonic veteran or a newbie, this is the giant reset button fans asked for and Sonic Team delivers.
I'll come back to Sonic Frontiers as I play more of it, but first impressions leave me hopefully. I'm enjoying the Phantasy Star Online 2 vibes with its enemies, aesthetic, and music. Speaking of music, as it comes to no surprise, Sonic Team knocks it out of the park once again with both its in-house and curated soundtrack. It's too early to tell if this is a must-own. It's certainly not an immediate "toss this in the bin," however.
Sonic Frontiers is now available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S