A Prickly Fellow
Oh, Sonic. Once the poster boy of 90’s rude ‘tude, for the last two decades, he’s become the furry equivalent of the Steve Buscemi “hello fellow kids” meme. No longer able to dine out on his early 2D successes, Sonic now squeezes out a terrible 3D platformer every few years, each time promising to be the one that gets it right at last. With Sonic Frontiers poised as his most ambitious adventure yet, does SEGA finally get 3D Sonic right?
In short: nope. There’s an exciting ambition to the game, releasing Sonic into a large environment with enormous enemies to tackle but the whole production has a ramshackle level of quality. Sonic and pals are at odds with the realistic, empty and desaturated environments from a sheer aesthetic perspective. This is instantly jarring though the visuals are much improved in the subspace “classic” Sonic levels. The alien enemies are especially drab, removing visual interest from the already dull and messy combat situations.
He may be the titular character but the game Sonic inhabits doesn’t seem to have been designed for him. His speed is at odds with the physics engine, resulting in bizarre glitches and flubs. Scaling an enormous enemy as quickly as possible is an exciting prospect but the ensuing battles have so many flubs and bugs that they truly showcase the folly of letting Sonic off the rails. Open world design at the expense of platforming precision, the world of Frontiers is a literally massive letdown.
Exploration fares a bit better. Unshackled from platforming precision, running around the sprawling giant landmasses is a much better use of Sonic’s abilities. Though there’s little of interest to see after the first few hours it’s a brief bit of respite from the tedium of combat. The homing attack represents the fundamental failure of Sonic as a fighter, so zippy and manic that precision is simply impossible without the game doing it for you.
Sonic Frontiers represents the best and worst of Sonic across his 30-year career. The dizzying speed may still allure but his ludicrous lack of progress in the 3D space is an utter embarrassment. If SEGA must insist on making Sonic titles then they need to progress past these half-baked concepts. Sonic Frontiers squanders its promising ideas, resulting in perhaps Sonic’s most frustrating adventure to date. Being fast doesn’t matter if you’re just running in circles and until this series finds a new sense of purpose, consider Sonic a fursona non grata.