Sonic Frontiers (Review)

Howdy hidey ho! I’ve been with the Sonic franchise for a long time, now.  I’ve also been giving every one of their mainline games a chance, and to be blunt: the last three (Lost World, Boom, and Forces) have all been… well… disappointing to say the least.  Supposedly, Sonic Frontiers is all-new, built from the ground up, and an attempt to revolutionize the series for the modern era of open world games.  So, let’s cross our fingers?


GAMEPLAY

When it works, it works like it’s supposed to…

I can’t sugarcoat it, it’s rough.  When it works, it works like it’s supposed to as you race nothing but your skills to the end of the course, requiring some level of challenging reaction and an oddly titillating small ability to see into the future (unless you keep running the level until you memorize it).  But that’s the exception: most of the time it’s janky, unwieldy, and doesn’t exactly have a cohesive language to it.  The combat is much like this as well, trying to give Sonic fighting moves in a combat system that often just devolves into basic attacks anyway.  And I’d know: I unlocked all the skills, and even spent time leveling up.  Sonic is all about “gotta go fast”, but somehow, I’m doing the most random minigames and things that have absolutely no cohesion or continuity with anything else.  I like variety and fun gameplay changeups, but unlike Bayonetta 3’s more cohesive segues into varietal insanity, the variety here is so disjointed that the best word to describe it is “random”.  So random, in fact, that even the map itself is unveiled this way making it mostly useless until you’ve, well, randomly wandered around yourself for some time where you, quite literally, just do randomly-placed mini-courses.  I understand and respect that they tried something new, an open playground, but when the incoherency of it all combines with a severe lack of polish, it’s hard to like it.  I mean, I can easily show the lack of polish by pushing the left analog stick a tad so you can see me walk in place, or the judder of just running over mildly uneven surfaces.  There are even times you’ll simply die or be confused, and it’s absolutely NOT your fault.  This game simply did not bake long enough.


CONTENT

…this all just screams “one and done”.

I watched the credits roll a tad over 14 hours later.  While this is a decent campaign length, I found pretty much little else to do afterwards and little reason to do it (where the hell are my Chao gardens?!).  The maps may be littered with things to do, but I had more than enough resources to beat the game with ease.  And while the arcade mode is a nice touch, this all just screams “one and done”.  I’m willing to bet it’s an easy 100%’er for a Sonic game lover, too.  Oh, did I mention there’s a fishing minigame that was useful in my overstocking on Koco until I could NOT bear to upgrade my speed any longer because I had to do it one level at a time?  Yea, they need to fix that… 


PRESENTATION

Somehow, the movies and TV shows are doing far more justice…

First things first: set the game to the 60fps mode.  Then, something I found out all too late in my gameplay, turn off blur.  Thank me later.  Now that THAT’S out of the way, it’s clear this game was likely built for the Switch and then ported to other systems.  I’m dead serious.  The draw distances are far, FAR too short for current gen hardware, so you’ll have objects, shadows, and basically lots of things just show up in what feels like your face.  To make matters worse, there is this incessant stuttering that really kills that need for “smooth” when you’re going fast, and it is likely due to unoptimized asset streaming given there’s no reason this low amount of world detail would cause an SSD setup to hiccup.  Fortunately, and there is a fortunately, they really did try to create a new aesthetic.  I once again understand and respect that they tried something new, so we have more angular and “technological” art styles here akin to their Phantasy Star Online 2 side of things.  Then we slip back into mediocrity in the story.  Granted, I’m glad they actually tried to generate more world lore and chaos emerald lore, but dialogues and cinematics are just lacking on so many fronts from quality of writing to often unnecessarily stoic voice acting to uneven plot development.  Somehow, the movies and TV shows are doing far more justice in these areas…


CONCLUSION

…they really needed to delay this game to polish it…

I’ve been with Sonic since the Game Gear.  Yet, here I am, headed into yet another modern entry with my fingers crossed that it’ll be good only for it to disappoint me yet again.  And here’s the thing: I give BROWNIE points for effort, for innovation, for trying to do new things.  But they really needed to delay this game to polish it at the minimum.  Perhaps it wasn’t in the budget, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a janky gameplay experience where fleeting moments of genuine enjoyment are muddied by complete randomness.  Adding in that it’s more of a one-and-done and pushes some very low graphical standards on current gen hardware, and I’d say I’m being favorable just trying to appreciate the fact that they attempted fresh world artistry and lore building on seemingly budget storytelling.

I give Sonic Frontiers

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