I’ve been playing Sonic games from the start, I’ve played most of the series, master system ports of one and two, game gear oddities, earned all endings on Shadow the hedgehog, sat through the excruciating load times of Sonic 2006, only consciously quitting and giving up on Sonic and the black knight with its motion controls. 

The point is, I’ve been there. I’ve been with this series at its darkest hours and this isn’t it. 

This is something a bit worse than that, those had the audacity to be interestingly bad. 

Sonic Frontiers isn’t terrible, it’s just disappointing and not in a way like Sonic Forces where fan mods can do wonders to fix the mechanical issues, Frontiers suffers from a lack of imagination. 


I’ve heard much talk over the years about Sonics need to reinvent himself and have to ask, when hasn’t he? I’ve seen this series swing wildly in tone and setting, even genre now and then, but an open world was always a wanted direction for some, a fan made offering trying boldly to do just that, but I doubt we’d have gotten this offering without the wild success of Breath of the wild, a game that Frontiers probably owes a bunch too. 


This game is a waste of a promising premise that almost delivers but keeps tripping itself up right to the very end.  


I’ll go into detail shortly, but first and in summary, while I enjoyed the new free exploration of the world, issues with frustrating controls, hampered by extraneous systems dragged me down into making this game not one I could recommend. 


Lets start with what I liked, and there are things to like in this game which makes what comes all the more disappointing. 


The open world is pretty neat, it is a strong moment when you exit the tutorial area and are presented with Kronos island, a rainy and lonely expanse of flowered fields and sparse woodlands, dotted with the ancient ruins of a long gone civilization, but also filled with a host of playground objects, springs, boost pads and grind rails connecting floating platforms, each a small fast puzzle that rewards you with a glittering collection token at the end. 

Hostile ancient robots around the world ranging from simple encounters to full mini bosses, each presenting a puzzle to be figured out and be rewarded with the games various collectibles. 

The puzzle and encounters constantly scaling up and iterating on themselves did a great deal to keep the game feeling fresh and satisfying, the map exploration puzzles leaving you to figure things out, the black rings in particular making me feel like an idiot for not realising sooner how to solve them. 

It’s a good feeling speeding between these mini set pieces, Sonic moves fast and free in any direction you feel, right until you clip against an object and control is ripped from you, putting Sonic into a set piece that sometimes you don’t want to be on, locking the camera and frustrating your efforts to get off the ride, inversely sometimes you’ll access one of these set pieces midway and the game won’t know what to do with you, expecting you to be locked into a side on 2D view making it difficult to do the section you wanted to try. 


The world is crammed with collectibles and objectives. 

I ran from map point to map point, uncovering the world and summoning in the quick travel grind rail between locations, revealing and collecting the music nots to add to my in game jukebox of sonic music. 

Your primary focus in Frontiers being the acquisition of portal gears, vault keys and memory tokens. 

The portal gears needed to open the portal gates and enter cyber space, the sections of the game where you play through brief the brief levels in the usual Sonic way, the results from these determining how many vault keys you will exit the stage with. 

Vault keys being needed to unlock the chaos emeralds on each island, essentials in progressing the main story along with the story tokens. 

Each island carrying a unique set of it’s story token used to talk to your friends, the part I think is strongest in the game and where I see the recent need for Sonic to hire a ‘lore master’ 


A series that’s over time has stuffed itself with new cast members strips things back to the core four, Sonic, Tail, Knuckles, Amy and Robotnik, the only new comer being Sage who makes a good first step into franchise 

The story, presented with solidly delivered dialogue does an effort to fix the characterisations of them all, directly addressing some wildly changing in personalities over the years, a moment of self reflection that has Tails summarising his own personality as having been, quote “wildly inconsistent’
So Frontiers see a conscious effort to set themselves on a newly focused direction in the future, if they remember to keep that is yet to be seen. 

Overall I enjoyed listening to the conversations, in both main and the plethora of side stories, sonic occasionally making aside comments about things he passes in the world. Names, places and events are dropped left right and centre from all over the franchise, worth the time to listen to. 


However, things now start to slide down hill. 

Out of control, into the sea. 

I have to address the control issues first. 

Whilst the direct forward motion is great and the aforementioned hitting scenery set pieces and getting locked into sections is annoying, there is the island based nature of the game, meaning big open spaces around and under the islands.
Occasional glitches in physics causing Sonic to catapult wildly into space, out to see to a ‘try again’ screen, several occasions Sonic being snapped onto to the ground meant my effort to jump out of a speed boost near a ledge saw the blue blur now angled downwards so I short forward at a shallow angle rather then up. 

Worse being the controls in Cyberspace which want you to be going forward, so when you not sonic feels terrible to manoeuvre, and in air from a jump has almost no direction control leaving him feeling like steering a boat. 

This while trying to get rings, red stars, and time challenges makes you have to repeat the cyberspace zones. 


And be prepared for repetition in general.. 

Small things that bugged me are the constant repetitious cut scenes, skippable as they are only the one that plays when Sonic maxes his rings can be toggled off in the menu. Other than that you will have to watch an identical cut scene every time sonic puts a portal gear in a gate, another cut scene when he activates the gate to enter cyberspace, another when he leaves the gate, a separate cut scene for receiving the keys he got in that cyberspace mission. 

Every time you pour keys into an Emerald vault to receive a chaos emerald, and every time you want to talk to a side story you’ll watch identical animation. Over and over skipping the same repeating animations. 

That’s not getting into Sonics ‘I found an Emerald’ dance. 

Extending to the cut and paste Ancients architecture that dot the games maps. 


The games open spaces start strong but soon reveal that they have nothing special to show you, with the new enemy aesthetic contributing to the overall feeling that this wasn’t made for Sonic. 

The games five wide maps actually being four and really feeling closer to three. 

Kronos Island, the smallest of the islands, a grassland with grey rocks. 

Ares Island a sandy desert with brown rocks. 

Chaos island the emptiest, being an ash covered volcanic wasteland with black rocks. 

Rhea island is just the northern half of Kronos island dotted with ruins but no reason to explore them. 

Finishing with Ouranos island which is just back to the same grass land and its grey rocks of Kronos and Rhea Islands again, and the memory tokens to gather here are just Amy’s heart token again. 

The few areas of interest in the maps are small, far between and nothing of note is going on in them so they are lost in the open nothingness of it all.

This reuse continues into Cyberspace, where you had better like Green Hill, Chemical plant and Sky sanctuary zones with some Radical highway, as that’s all your getting, those four themes comprising the entirety of the games cyberspace sections, allot being chunks lifted wholesale out of Sonic generations. 

I could forgive the reuse of generations sections if rest of the open world wasn’t so plain. 

Couldn’t we have got a bit more visual style into these places, the Sonic world has always been a varied place, with this part of the series so starkly missing here the game feels lesser despite its markedly wider play area.

A play area it needs you to be running around gathering the many collectible currencies it expects you to spend. 


Sonic acquires new combat skills by a limited upgrade tree, enemies dropping the shards you pour into that tree, but if you are running and engaging the world as it begs you to do these points will come very fast, I was done by mid-way through the second island, all skills unlocked and the points still dropping with nothing to spend them on until the counter maxed out. 

Along side this are Sonics 4 stat levels, yes, stat levels. 

Speed, ring cap, attack and defence. 

Collecting the Koco’s that wander the world and returning them to the round Elder Koco will reward you with a choice, to improve Sonics speed or his ring capacity by one step, or, pour them all into one stat jumping it by a large number. 

The release version of the game restricted you to only being able to ask the elder for an upgrade to one stat, one percent at a time, I can only imagine the pain of manually having to crawl your way up the progress ladder like that. 

Counterpart to them is the tall elder Koco, they take the blue and red fruits that drop from enemies and the map puzzles, red fruits upping sonics attack and blue his defence. 


Blue and red fruits found completing the map challenges are by also dropped sometimes by enemies along with emerald vault keys, sometimes you’ll run in a circle to do the games new feature attack and these picks up will just pop up out of the ground. 

So there is no short supply of these, just a large amount needed to increase those stats. 


Also around you’ll find floating purple coins, these being the currency for Big’s fishing lake, accessed through his own portal on each island. 

Having completed Sonic Adventure I know the pain of fishing with Big and was pleasantly surprised by this simple and relaxing mini-game, each object you fish up giving you a bounty of fishing tokens. 

All the pick ups mentioned previously? Fishing tokens can be used to buy them all. 


On the last island, I had maxed out Big’s coins, did a load of fishing and bought everything, returning to their relevant hand in points I bought my way from low 30’s to 100% in all stats negating the need to engage with enemies or the world any-more and suddenly trivialising many of the harder fights. 


The ending caught me off guard, literally, I was gathering objectives, getting side stories, then all of a sudden, no warning or intro, BAM! the final boss is coming out the ground from nowhere, due to my now ramped up power in under two minutes it was down, and following the same quick time prompt three times in a row and the game was over. 

I’ve still no idea what the game was building too, through out you see the ancients were fighting something, but you never see it or learn what it was, it was always off screen. You best another titan then a dark moon appears, you punch it as super Sonic, and the games is over. 

After the build up, I was invested in the mystery, what was so dangerous the ancient had an anime escape space battle and sacrifice to contain it? I never found out, it was over, the story ending with a wet fart of nothingness, apt for the nothing that was the last island of the recycled content. 

Not even being Super Sonic was impressive at that point, traditionally the end of most sonic games the super form of Sonic closes out the game, but here, you do Supersonic fights four times. 

The game loop has you arrive on an island, soon meet the final Titan for the island, gather the seven chaos emeralds, turn into supersonic, fight the titans, fly to the next island, lose all the emeralds, repeat.  


There are some other smaller gripes that detract from the overall experience, like the juke box.  

Added in after launch it is a very cool feature on its own, but it keeps playing when you enter story scenes meant to have the games ambience music playing, more than one occasion I found a sombre moment somewhat undermined by ‘Live and learn’ blasting out in the background. I feel a solution to that would have been the soundtrack fading out and switching to default when entering story sections. 

Digital deluxe is not worth it at all, it offers you handful of in game tokens for the first island that you will be tripping over making them redundant, the art book and soundtrack are a separate .exe file rather than image or music files so you can’t look at separately or export to a media player. 

The only usable bit is the pair of boots and gloves for sonic. 


The overall lack of imagination, frustrating controls and time wasting on poorly implemented skills makes Sonic Frontiers open world premise not just a disappointment, that waste makes this game in many ways, so much worse.