“Sonic Frontiers”: A Review

On November 8, 2022, the latest installment of the long-running “Sonic the Hedgehog” series saw release with “Sonic Frontiers.” While the 3D installments of the franchise have often varied in quality compared to their 2D counterparts, the game easily makes for the best 3D entry in the series in over a decade.

Set on an enigmatic archipelago known as the Starfall Islands, the game is the first fully-open world entry in the franchise (with the concept described as an “Open Zone” level design). As Sonic traverses the five islands to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds, he encounters both familiar allies and new adversaries. One standout character is the mysterious being known as “Sage,” who treads the line between friend and foe over the course of the story.

While the 3D “Sonic” games have varied more significantly in quality than their 2D counterparts; this game takes all the best elements from the series’ 30-year-plus legacy and adds a variety of new ideas to the mix. The redesigned combat system has an admitted learning curve with its special moves, but once you get the hang of it, it’s as engaging as it is vital for taking on larger bosses. The visual presentation has a combination of lush natural environments, ancient structures and mechanized robots. The robots in this game have less in common with the colorful enemies of past games and pull more from titles such as “Nier: Automata” alongside the highly-acclaimed “Shadow of the Colossus.” Stages from the previous titles in the franchise are also a highlight; reimagined in the in-game sections of “Cyber Space.” 

Though the camera can often be busy and hard to follow (especially in later sections of the game), the game’s progression is equal parts fresh and rewarding for longtime fans. Finding hidden beings known as “Koco” on the islands can allow players to upgrade their speed, attacks, defense and even the amount of gold rings one can carry in their inventory. A fishing minigame with Big the Cat also makes for a surprisingly relaxing bonus activity.

As the fastest-selling entry in the franchise since 2001’s “Sonic Adventure 2,” it’s a strong template for future 3D installments in the series (talk persists of a third entry in the fan-favorite “Sonic Adventure” games). Overall, “Sonic Frontiers” is recommended for fans of all ages as the series runs towards a new horizon.

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Sonic Team

Platform: PS4 (Also available on PC, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series and Nintendo Switch)

ESRB Rating: E10+

My Rating: ****/5

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