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Journey into New Realms


— Tagline[7]

Sonic Frontiers[2] (ソニック フロンティア Sonikku Furontia?) is an upcoming game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series that is set to be released during the holiday season of 2022 in celebration of the franchise's 30th anniversary. The game is being developed by Sonic Team, and will be published by Sega for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.[1] Sonic Frontiers follows Sonic the Hedgehog as he explores the mysterious Starfall Islands in order to recover the Chaos Emeralds after being separated from Tails and Amy when falling through a wormhole.[8]

The gameplay of Sonic Frontiers will have the players engage in the Sonic series' first open world-inspired gaming experience[9] that integrates platforming and traditional Sonic game elements into an "Open Zone" environment. The player solves puzzles to collect items and fights enemies with an expanded combat system while exploring lush and expansive landscapes using Sonic's signature speed and abilities.[9] Sonic Frontiers began development after the release of Sonic Forces, with the intention by Sonic Team to have Sonic Frontiers set a new template for Sonic games to follow, similar to Sonic Adventure.[10] The game's script is as well helmed by Ian Flynn, a long-time writer for several spin-offs of the Sonic series, with Sonic Frontiers marking his debut within a main series title.[2]

Plot

Spoiler warning: Plot, ending details or any kind of information follow.

In Sonic Frontiers, Dr. Eggman arrives on an isolated island, where he discovers a mysterious artifact. Uploading his AI into the device, Eggman is certain that the Ancient secrets will be his. However, Eggman's intrusion awakens some high-tech program on the island, prompting it to activate its protection protocol and sucks Eggman into Cyber Space.[11][12]

In the meantime, Sonic, Tails and Amy have embarked on a journey in the Tornado[11] to the Starfall Islands where an ancient civilization once existed and untold tragedies have transpired to investigate the disappearance of the Chaos Emeralds.[13][6] However, things take a turn for the dramatic immediately;[13] as they approach the islands, sudden trouble hits their plane, and they are all sucked into a wormhole.[8][6] Sonic soon after finds himself separated from his friends, eventually awakening in a strange, digital world – Cyber Space.[6] This realm has taken the form of Green Hill Zone.[11] Miraculously, he manages to escape Cyber Space and the bewildered hedgehog soon wakes up all alone on Kronos Island, one of the Starfall Islands, which is full of ancient ruins where strange enemies roam.[6][14][8] There, Sonic encounters an AI calling out to him through a flying drone,[14][8] who calls him out for achieving the "impossible" by escaping Cyber Space.[11] This AI proceeds to give Sonic some cryptic direction about how to save his friends[14] collect the Chaos Emeralds,[8] and destroy something called the "Titans".[11] Deciding that this guidance is better than nothing,[11] Sonic sets out on a journey to discover all the mysteries of the Starfall Islands, rescue his friends, and discover how it all ties together,[13] which leads to Sonic becoming locked in a race against time to defeat Dr. Eggman.[15]

Throughout his journey, Sonic's "never say die" attitude will be put to the test as his indomitable spirit carries him along on his journey and allows him to help his friends who are tackling their own personal challenges. Along the way, Sonic will also encounter someone whose very identity will be shaped by their interactions with him.[13] He also meets a mysterious girl named Sage, who cautions Sonic to leave the Starfall Islands despite his mission to find and save his friends.[6]

Characters

Image Character Biography
TheFrontiersSonic.png Sonic the Hedgehog The world's fastest supersonic hedgehog. Sonic's adventure begins on the Starfall Islands in pursuit of the Chaos Emeralds and his lost friends. He is also guided by a strange voice along the way.[6]
Sage.png Sage A mysterious girl that appears across the Starfall Islands. Throughout the story, she cautions Sonic to leave the Starfall Islands despite his mission to find and save his friends.[6]

Gameplay

Sonic on Kronos Island, the first level in the game.

Sonic Frontiers is a video game that utilizes 3D platforming and action-adventure themes.[16][2] The game features an open-world level design, or "Open Zone" as Sega describes it,[9] where the player can run freely in any direction.[8] The game is also said to feature a tutorial, although the exact nature of this is unknown.[17][18] It will take the average player about 20-30 hours to finish the game, and about twice as long for completionists to fully complete it.[19]

The player takes control of Sonic the Hedgehog, who must use his signature speed and abilities to explore the lush and expansive Open Zone biomes of the Starfall Islands,[9] such as scaling towers.[20] The world itself is dotted with platforming challenges, combat encounters, puzzles, side quests and more.[6][14] However, the player has to option to chose which challenges to complete in the order that fits their own playstyle.[6] Sonic himself retains his core abilities from previous titles; he can run at high speed, collect objects, grind, and perform moves like the Spin Jump, Homing Attack, Double Jump, Stomp, Quick Step, Jump Dash, Trick Actions, and a "limited" form of the Boost that gives a short burst of speed if the player has enough energy.[17][18][21][14] In addition, he is able to run along walls in certain areas and climb specifically-marked vertical walls by hand or by running. He can also move around at notable walking speeds, giving the player better control when exploring small surfaces.[22][15][21]

When starting the game, the player can choose between two player control styles: Action Style and High Speed Style. Action Style helps with more accurate platforming, which is great for players new to Sonic games. High Speed Style on the other hand offers more speed, which is great for players used to Sonic titles.[6] The player can as well customize the controls and adjust Sonic's speed, turning, acceleration, and resistance among other things.[14] Players are also given a speedometer, which can be upgraded, to indicate how fast Sonic is running.[19] Meanwhile, the HUD graphic contains a permanent waypoint and directional navigation system, in addition to the game's map.[23]

The main element of the game is the exploration of the levels and their vast areas, but there are also platform challenges, fights with enemies and puzzles. Several large 3D playgrounds are present, taking place across multiple islands.[24] The environment also incorporates many signature gimmicks and gameplay elements known from past installments in the Sonic series, such as Springs, Grind Rails, Dash Panels, Dash Rings, etc., but transposed to an open-world environment to help explore the player's surroundings better.[25][20][26] In addition, new gimmicks will gradually populate the areas as the power unlocks new ones.[12] Returning gameplay elements also include Rings, Super Rings, and Containers. Rings in particular lie scattered about, which Sonic can pick up by simply touching them. If Sonic takes damage, the player will drop their Rings, though some can be recollected before they disappear.[25] Notably, various spots around the Starfall Islands are as well given markers at points of interest. The Open Zone features as well changing weather effects and different times of day with certain events, which will affect gameplay, but not Sonic's speed.[19]

Sonic fighting a Bubble on Kronos Island.

Over the course of the game, the player will battle wandering robots and mini-bosses throughout the islands.[8][27] Combat in Sonic Frontiers however is more extensive than in the previous installments of the series and is one of the key elements in the game. Unlike previous games where Sonic can defeat lesser enemies in one hit, the enemies in Sonic Frontiers are more resilient and the player must use Sonic's speed and skills to outsmart and outmaneuver enemies using different strategies and tactics, with the different enemies requiring certain strategies to be defeated, which can be carried out in multiple ways.[25][8] Furthermore, the gameplay blends Sonic's traditional abilities with an all-new array of incredibly flashy and close-up, high-speed combat techniques when battling enemies, thus allowing Sonic to for example attack enemies with Homing Attacks and then follow them up with a series of quick hand-to-hand combat blows.[8][4][15][25] One ability in particular is Sonic's new Cyloop move, which lets him create an updraft for launching opponents into the air and leaving them vulnerable by running in a circle around his target.[25][8][22] That said, the Cyloop has many other applications, and displays a different effect every time it is used on something new.[19] Sonic is also able to quickly dodge and counter attacks and can even parry attacks with the right timing.[8][6] The Homing Attack's combat mechanics have also been modified, keeping Sonic stuck to his enemy and allowing for a flurry of follow-up strikes.[8] If the payer prefers more straightforward gameplay however, the game also has an Auto Mode where various attack combos can be executed with a single button.[6] Defeating enemies will reward the player with collectable Experience Points that they can use to purchase new skills from a skill tree.[8][25] Some abilities in particular are unlocked through story progression while others are unlocked through the skill tree.[12] A "level up" system is also present, which allows Sonic to gradually become stronger and faster over the course of the game by improving the following four parameters: speed, attack, defense and Ring capacity.[17][18][14] These parameters can be improved by finding hidden collectibles.[14] Sonic's speed, ring count, or strength in particular can be upgraded by collecting lost creatures named "Kocos".[14][23] By finding these Kocos, the player can also use them as fast travel points.[12]

Sonic in a Cyber Space level.

Occasionally, the player will also fight bosses that are near Shadow of the Colossus-esque in their scale in the open environments. As with regular opponents, there are many ways to defeat the bosses, but their strategies are more elaborate.. The player must hunt down and defeat these bosses in order to collect Portal Gears.[8] Alternatively, the player can solve puzzles and complete other challenges to get Portal Gears as well.[28] Regardless, Portal Gears are needed to open up portals into Cyber Space, which can be accessed by presenting the Portal Gears at stone landmarks resembling a throne which can be found all throughout the maps.[28][6] These locations contain bite-sized and fast-paced linear stages, done in the style of previous 3D Sonic games and inspired by location from the Sonic series,[28][23] which shift between third-person and side-scrolling perspectives.[29] These levels, which are labeled 1-1, 1-2, etc.,[23] each come with a handful of optional goals, like Time Attack, collecting all the red rings, etc., with each goal rewarding the player with a Vault Key, which are needed to unlock a Chaos Emerald.[8][25][28][6] Some Cyber Space levels feature as well unique challenges, like a fishing minigame hosted by Big the Cat. Participating in these minigames with Big grants tokens that the player can use to buy items like Amy's heart collectibles, Portal Gear fragments, Voice Diaries, or Vault Keys.[23][30]

Sonic Frontiers also introduces different kinds of objects that Sonic can collect from around the Starfall Islands, along with new gimmicks that include hamster-like wheels that Sonic can run on to trigger reactions in the environment.[31][32] Some of the former include heart-shaped items which the player can give to Amy Rose in exchange for a reward.[17][18] Another type of collectable featured are Memory Tokens, which are used to free Sonic's friends.[14] Other collectable pieces and seeds can be traded with Kocos.[23] Beyond that, there are also a wide variety of puzzles and platforming challenges that are littered throughout the levels. Completing them is how the player can uncover sections of their game map, which lie in a scattered, checkerboard order.[14][20] Most of these are very simple: some require Sonic to orient a statue the correct way, quickly cartwheel back and forth between colored tiles, walk on a specific number of tiles without touching others, or use Sonic's Cyloop ability to draw circles around certain objects in the environment to interact with them.[8] Solving them will unlock new paths, hidden parts of the map, trigger reactions in the environment, unveil new items that can increase Sonic's power and defense, or unlock new ways to navigate the island at fast speeds.[32][8][31][6] Additionally, there are races against the clock where the player has to speedrun from point A to point B in a limited amount of time in the open levels.[8] Some puzzles are designed as brainteasers, while others will test the player's actions or be more akin to minigames.[19] However, the puzzles are not necessarily mandatory to the progression with the game. Instead, the player might find other ways to progress with the game.[33]

Controls

Button formation Movement
Switch PC PS4/PS5 Xbox One/Xbox Series X/S
Spin Jump[32]
Double Jump[32]
Jump Dash[32]
Homing Attack[32]
Stomp[32]
Quick Step[32]
Grind Step[4]
Lightspeed Dash[23]
Drop Dash[34]
Cyloop[8]
Sonic Boom[23]
Speed Burst[35]
Air Tricks[32][35]
Wild Crash[23]
Auto Combo[35]
Quick Cyloop[35]
Homing Shot[35]
Spin Slash[35]
Loop Kick[35]
Recovery Smash[35]

Objects

Items

Gimmicks and obstacles

Characters

Playable characters

Non-playable characters

Enemies

Bosses

Sonic fighting Asura, one of the game's bosses.

Levels

  1. Kronos Island

Other modes

  • Voiced languages: Set the language for voices. The player can choose between English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.[43][44]
  • Subtitled languages: Set the language for subtitles. The player can choose between English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. However, the availability of languages differs between regions for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch versions:
    • Asian versions only support Japanese, English, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.[44]
    • Western versions support all languages listed above except Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.[43]
    • The Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S and PC versions do not have this difference.

Development

With Sonic Forces, the team set out to create a compilation of high-speed Sonic action games that flipped the usual Sonic storyline on its head, taking place in a world where the evil Dr. Eggman had prevailed. Within this new storyline and world, we created new Sonic environments and characters like the villain Infinite. With Sonic Frontiers, we are challenging ourselves to deliver an all-new style of Sonic action adventure. We're once again expanding the Sonic Universe, bringing in new environments and additional features, to create a totally new type of open-zone experience.

Takashi Iizuka[15]

For the development of Sonic Frontiers, Morio Kishimoto, who served as director for Sonic Colors, Sonic Lost World, and Sonic Forces, returned to the series to direct the game.[45][2] Serving as producer would be Sachiko Kawamura, who served as art director for Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Generations and Sonic Forces.[15][2] Lastly, Ian Flynn, a contributing writer of various Sonic media, wrote the script.[2][16][33]

According to Kishimoto, the team carried a lot of lessons from Sonic Forces and other previous 3D Sonic games into Sonic Frontiers.[30] Development on Sonic Frontiers began in 2017 at Tokyo, with a team consisting of 60 people.[24] In an interview with Game Informer in 2021, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka said that after the release of Sonic Forces, Sonic Team in Japan was trying many different approaches with the goal of creating a next-gen Sonic experience. In addition to celebrating the series' 30th anniversary, the team had been thinking about what modern Sonic gameplay should be like. Since Sonic Team would not deny high-speed action elements of games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Forces, they opted to make a game for both current fans and new gamers to enjoy. Iizuka also stated that the game would probably solidify the direction for the Sonic series to be taken for the next decade.[46] Kishimoto noted in particular that when speaking about the learnings from Sonic Forces, which was criticized for its level designs and short length, he concluded that the method that originated from Sonic Unleashed about designing stages with specific game mechanics where they have shorter stages, pull back on Sonic’s speed a bit, and implement new actions for Sonic in the title was no longer going to satisfy the expectations of either Sonic fans or those who like stage-clear action games.[30]

As Sonic Team brainstormed about what to do next, they realized that traditional 3D Sonic games had "little room for evolution".[47] This prompted them to discuss about how to change the series' linear style of gameplay as a team to give players a Sonic gaming experience that allowed for more freedom,[47] as they felt it could not progress in this direction.[24] In an interview, Iizuka was asked if the game could be considered an anniversary title. However, he stated that he would not call it one due to its release being planned for 2022.[10] Iizuka also felt that the series needed to take an innovative direction that would inform future games, comparing this direction to the way Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit) and Sonic Adventure respectively influenced subsequent games in the Sonic series and hoping that their next game would have a similar effect for future games in the Sonic series.[48][33][49] According to Iizuka, "To evolve the linear, stage-clearing 3D action that began with Sonic Adventure in 1998 and create a game that would be the cornerstone of future Sonic games – that was the goal when we started [Sonic Frontiers]."[30]

With Iizuka always visiting Sonic's roots for inspiration for a new 3D Sonic game, the team revisited the starting point of the series and "made an evolutionary jump from there to come up with a new play style that suits Sonic." The idea for Sonic Frontiers's open world-based layout came from Kishimoto, who had enjoyed watching the evolution of the platform genre's world map concept since it was popularized by Super Mario Bros. 3, whose hub world connects multiple linear-style stages. While games like Sonic Adventure previously used the playable world maps, Sonic Team wanted to evolve that concept with Sonic Frontiers further by combining them with gameplay. According to Iizuka, this format would also let both developer and player take advantage of the "two most important elements of Sonic games": running through areas and finding new discoveries and surprises. This level format would also remove the restrictions for traversal of both 2D and 3D Sonic games.[30] As such, Sonic Team ultimately decided to depart from the series' traditional linear level design by setting the game in an open environment.[47] This would give as much freedom to a 3D Sonic game as possible,[47] and Kishimoto thought that it would allow for more diverse gameplay.[19]

According to Ian Flynn, the game's story will have a serious tone, but it will not be as grim as the Metal Virus saga that he worked on before for the IDW Publishing Sonic the Hedgehog comic series.[50] Unlike prior Sonic media Flynn had written however, for which he pitched stories himself, Sega dictated the premise of Sonic Frontiers and which characters Flynn was allowed to use. Nonetheless, Flynn considered it "a dream come true" to write a major Sonic game.[13] Iizuka would also note that the story would differ from previous Sonic games in that it is less humorous and does not make the player's goal obvious, instead challenging them to figure out how solve the problems themselves.[47][33] Given the nonlinear approach, Flynn found pacing the story as "the biggest question" and "had to be massaged and revised as the game's structure took shape."[13] Flynn would further emphasize that "melancholy" sums up the game's mood.[13]

The development of Sonic Frontiers ended up lasting five years, much longer than previous Sonic games' development cycles. Iizuka attributed the lengthy development in part to Sonic Frontiers not building on previous Sonic games' gameplay. Determining the direction required trial-and-error refinement, and the development restarted from scratch at one point.[49] The COVID-19 pandemic began halfway during production, necessitating Sonic Team to shift to remote work for the first time in its history. Iizuka noted that this made it difficult for individual developers to "get a sense of the big picture", but the benefit of digital communication "accelerated" other aspects of the development.[24] Their Tokyo studio in particular was very good at getting everyone set up to continue work at home early on, which allowed Sonic Team to keep their scheduled release on track.[51] By the time of June 2022, Sonic Team was in the finalization of the game where they would work on debugging it.[51]

The decision to include both the new Open Zone concept and traditional linear levels from 3D Sonic games in the form of the Cyber Space levels in Sonic Frontiers came about because the team wanted game aspects for fans of the 3D Sonic games to enjoy, as well as enjoy a broader variety of 3D action than before.[47][33][30] With the Cyber Space levels, Kishimoto wanted Sonic to "once again... stand amongst the other 'stage-clear' action games" that he enjoyed, like the Sega Genesis-era Sonic games and the Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and Kirby series.[30] However, while the Open Zone areas would remain the focus point of Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Team wanted to focus on the quality of the Cyber Space levels as well over the course of development. As for the inclusion of puzzles in the game that can expand the maps, they were added as different elements and quirks for the different islands so players would have more to do for fun and could both find enjoyment in gradually opening up new areas or rewards, and use their brains and action game techniques to solve puzzles in order to unlock said areas.[47][33]

One of the primary challenges Sonic Team had when development the Open Zone concept was making sure it "felt true to the Sonic franchise".[30] When it came to designing the world of Sonic Frontiers, Iizuka would state that open world games such as The Legend of Zelda series or other adventure games fundamentally have RPG elements or adventure worlds, and that for Sonic, the core of the gameplay is a "3D action game", with their basic idea being to have the 3D action platforming take place in an open space; this approach is meant to set Sonic Frontiers apart from the traditional open world trope, with the core appeal of every Sonic level having multiple paths and 3D action platforming with gimmicks for the players to enjoy that eventually loop back around to the main one applied to giant, non-linear open levels.[8][47][33] What would also set the open levels in Sonic Frontiers apart from others would be how it incorporated Sonic's traditional speed and how it could carry the players around without the limitations of a stage.[19] As a playable world map with stage-like elements had not been done before,[19] Sonic Team came up with the term "Open Zone" over the colloquially used "open world" for Sonic Frontiers;[47][19] Sonic Team came up with the term by combining "Zone", which is what a playable World in level-based platformers is called in the Sonic series with the word "Open", which refers to a freely explorable field.[19]

Sonic Team also applied the lessons learned from developing the Adventure Fields in Sonic Adventure when designing Sonic Frontiers[47] and repeatedly tested how fast Sonic could race through the Open Zones to determine how large they needed to be.[33] However, the biggest challenge, according to Iizuka, was breaking free of the gameplay molds of past games and making sure the world of Sonic Frontiers was fun to explore at high speeds.[30] In order to keep the high-speed freedom fun, the team would in the early stages of the project keep creating the island terrain where the game would be set over and over in search of the ideal Open Zone.[30] Eventually, through a lot of experimentation and iteration, Sonic Team found "the perfect Open Zone"; the map did not feel small despite Sonic's speed, and the world did not feel empty due to its enemy encounters, and collectibles, puzzles and discoveries.[52] Kishimoto also felt Sonic Frontiers evolved the platform genre concept of a world map by combining it with the Sonic gameplay, declaring that the Open Zone was "Sonic Frontiers's secret weapon" and central in the gameplay of Sonic Frontiers. [19]

One of the responses to their various lesson was, according to Iizuka, to create big, open areas in which players spend hours exploring, solving puzzles, fighting bosses, and collecting items, as this approach not only shook up the pacing of the traditional Sonic formula, but it also extended the playtime, something which was another criticism of Sonic Forces and previous 3D Sonic games.[30] With such content aplenty in the Open Zones, Sonic Team decided not to raise the difficulty level as the game progressed. In addition, it would not carry on the problems the Sonic series had in traditional platforming games with maintaining the sense of speed as the levels got more difficult in order to increase playtime, as the Open Zone already had so much content to offer.[19] Sonic Team also added weather and time dynamics in order to give the Open Zone a more emotional impact, but without it affecting Sonic's high-speed momentum.[19]

It was decided that Sonic Team would develop Sonic Frontiers from scratch, with the team focusing on transitioning Sonic's speed and abilities to the open world while remaining true to previous games.[15] In addition, the developers put a lot of focus on the story and its presentation in the game's setting.[33] Notably, one of the things that would set Sonic Frontiers apart from past Sonic games is its somber and serene mood. This plays into the game's open fields and its minimalistic soundtrack. According to Iizuka, the different tone in Sonic Frontiers is due to its story and themes: past games in the Sonic series have taken different tones depending on their story and theme, with the traditional message stating clearly that something has gone wrong and it must be fixed.[8][47][33] With the mysterious Starfall Islands being the game's major setting this time, the artists thus worked to create a mysterious tone to reflect Sonic exploring an unfamiliar landscape.[8][47][33] Furthermore, because the Sonic series, in Kishimoto's eyes, has the potential to differentiate itself from the typical simple and stylistic tropes associated with the typical storytelling for platform games, Sonic Team went for a more serious story and photorealistic visuals for Sonic Frontiers.[19]

When developing Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Team built the game with new-gen consoles in mind – leveraging the power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to support the ambitions to deliver a true Open Zone experience with the visual and technical gameplay elements elevated on the newest platforms. However, bringing Sonic's signature speed and combat abilities to life in larger areas were among Sonic Team's greatest challenges, as the team focused on "bringing Sonic to the next level and ensuring that he's fully represented as the character that fans know and love while still making his new form exciting." Furthermore, since Sonic Team has paid extremely close attention to getting all the little Sonic details right to make sure that Sonic's signature speed and characteristics remained consistent across every gaming iteration, they sought with Sonic Frontiers to introduce new combat styles to bring Sonic's signature dexterity onto the battlefield, with the new exploration options playing into Sonic's iconic speedy nature.[15] At the same time, Sonic Team also tried making the combat feel like a true Sonic experience.[53] They ultimately decided to prioritize combat to a greater extent because they wanted more to do in the Open Zone,[53] which led to the incorporation of a battle system that made engaging enemies entertaining.[33] Notably, whereas in previous games, where combat were ascents that gave the high-speed actions a sense of rhythm, combat were given a greater sense of "tension" and "tactics" in Sonic Frontiers, with the new enemies being based around tactics.[12] All this resulted in combat being implemented as one of the three key pillars in the game.[33] The Sonic the Hedgehog feature film also influenced the development; Kishimoto requested that Sonic Team incorporate Easter eggs referencing it and based the combat on the film's depiction of Sonic.[53] Sonic's growth system was as well designed to appeal to the different players' styles, encouraging them to adjust Sonic's parameters to their own style, as well as letting them enjoy the battle system with their own skillset or just giving them better chances.[33] In addition, it would serve to keep players motivated in order to accompany the game's longer playtime.[19]

Despite the shift to open-world design, Sonic Team determined that Sonic Frontiers did not feel like a Sonic game without platforming elements. This presented the challenge of balancing platforming with exploration; Sonic Team's solution was to have the world open up as a reward for completing challenges.[49] The developers also wanted to ensure that players could choose between combat and platforming and would not be forced to fight enemies, so the game design was built to ensure that players could choose between them. As such, Sonic Team included various methods to collect items outside platforming and combat, such as puzzles.[33] However, puzzles would remain optional, as the focus of Sonic Frontiers would be on Sonic's exhilarating sense of speed.[19]

During the official panel discussion at the 2019 South by Southwest Sonic panel in March 2019, Iizuka confirmed that the studio had "begun production" on the next major Sonic the Hedgehog game, but that it would be a while before they were ready to reveal it.[54][55][56] Later that month, Sega began a fan survey to determine the "next steps" for the Sonic series.[57] In a Sega Sammy Holdings's Investor Q&A for 14 December 2021, it was stated that Sonic Frontiers was originally planned to be released in 2021 for the Sonic series' 30th anniversary, but was delayed to further polish the game.[58] It was noted that not only for this title, but also during the development phase, the developers had been steadily conducting analysis to improve the quality of Sonic Frontiers before it release, such as introducing game testing based on external evaluations. As such, Sonic Team would regularly be holding external playtesting during the game's development. For the pricing strategy, Sega had as well decided they were at a point where they needed to rethink. This led to Sega to focus on quality and spending a certain amount of money on the development on Sonic Frontiers, having concluded that it was important to maintain the price by maintaining the value of the Sonic IP at high level instead of "simply lowering the price at early stage to increase the number of unit sales".[59][58]

The symbols associated with the announcement of the game were designed to not have a meaning that can be understood by common reasoning.[60]

Promotional

The game's teaser was briefly foreshadowed in the trailer "Unstoppable", celebrating the Sonic franchise's 30th anniversary. The teaser was revealed the next day during the Sonic Central livestream video presentation on 27 May 2021 that showcased news regarding the series' anniversary celebration. Among these announcements were also the teaser trailer for this game.[61] According to Sonic Team Creative Officer Takashi Iizuka, the announcement for the game was premature, but was released nonetheless out of worry for the fans, who had not been given a proper announcement of a new mainline Sonic title since Sonic Forces.[60]

The title trademark of the game was filed by Sega on 22 October 2021, then published on 9 November 2021, a month before the official title reveal.[62] Later, during December 2021, Sega registered and set up the subdomain, "frontiers.sonicthehedgehog.com".[63]

Sonic Frontiers would later be formally revealed at The Game Awards 2021 with a trailer, which showcased a portion of an FMV, and several small clips of in-game scenery. This was also where the game's production title was officially confirmed.[9][2] Later, on 31 May 2022, a new teaser of the gameplay for Sonic Frontiers was released on the official Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube channel, showcasing Sonic combating the game's enemies. It was also announced that Sega would collaborate with the video game news website IGN to promote Sonic Frontiers throughout June 2022, which would include world-exclusive gameplay reveals, the first ever hands-on impressions, interviews with the game's creators and more.[4][32][64]

On 1 June 2022, the first IGN First coverage of Sonic Frontiers released a seven minutes showcase of clips featuring uninterrupted Sonic Frontiers gameplay on Starfall Islands.[32] On 3 June 2022, the second coverage of Sonic Frontiers from IGN First released a video showcasing and elaborating on the combat system in the game and the enemies and bosses encountered around the Starfall Islands.[25] Next, on 7 June 2022, Mitchell Saltzman of IGN gave a hands-on preview of an early built of Sonic Frontiers based on his own experiences when playing said game, revealing previously revealed materials and new ones from the exploration and combat gameplay, along with pieces of the story, new gameplay elements, and his own impressions of Sonic Frontiers.[8] Then, on 10 June 2022, IGN presented an interview with Takashi Iizuka about what led to Sonic Frontiers becoming an Open Zone game.[47] Later, on 14 June 2022, IGN presented an interview with Morio Kishimoto, who told of the inspiration for the game's combat system,[53] and on 15 June 2022, IGN published another interview with Kishimoto, who elaborated on the "Open Zone" concept.[19] Soon after, on 22 June 2022, IGN had an interview with Ian Flynn about his work on Sonic Frontiers.[13] IGN later capped off their coverage in June with a Q&A on 29 June 2022 about Sonic Frontiers using fan questions gathered from Twitter.[34]

On 7 June 2022, Sonic Frontiers was featured on the Sonic Central livestream presentation again. There, a sneak peak at the animated short for Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Frontiers Prologue, was given, along with a few snippets of a boss fight from the game.[65] A demo of Sonic Frontiers was also featured at the Summer Game Fest 2022 that featured two modes with different speed settings.[42] On 28 June 2022, a new trailer for Sonic Frontiers was presented on the Nintendo Direct Mini, which revealed the Cyber Space levels. A few seconds of a CGI cutscene for the game was also shown.[41] Later on the same day, Sega PR published information about the game's plot, the new character, Sage, and new screenshots from the Cyber Space levels revealed in the earlier screening.[6]

Some fans of the Sonic series demanded that the game was delayed, and the hashtag #DelaySonicFrontiers briefly trended on Twitter.[66] Iizuka said that Sonic Team expected early reactions to be polarized, as he felt the early footage was simple and thus would not give fans a good idea of what to expect.[49][24] However, Iizuka hoped that as closer they get to the release date, they will be able to explain the game better.[51]

To celebrate GamingWorld, TikTok will cover the whole event from August 24 to 28, giving an exclusive look of the gameplay of several titles, including Sonic Frontiers will be shown.[67] A new look and news about the game will be show at August 23.[68]

Another demo of Sonic Frontiers will be playable for attendees at EGX London in September 22 to 25.[69]

TheGamer gave another preview of core gameplay mechanics that are a major part of the game on 29 June 2022.[14]

Cast

Role English voice actor Japanese voice actor[43] French voice actor[43] German voice actor[43] Italian voice actor[43] Spanish voice actor[43]
Sonic the Hedgehog Roger Craig Smith[37] Jun'ichi Kanemaru TBA TBA TBA Ángel de Gracia [70]
Dr. Eggman Mike Pollock[39] TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA
Miles "Tails" Prower Colleen O'Shaughnessey[37][40] TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA
Amy Rose Cindy Robinson[37] TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA

Soundtrack

The music for the announcement trailer of Sonic Frontiers was composed by Tomoya Ohtani and Tee Lopes.[71]

In an article on New Musical Express, Jun Senoue revealed that he has been working on the game's soundtrack.[3] It would later be revealed that Ohtani would be composing the soundtrack as well.[4] In accordance to the tone of the game, the soundtrack of Sonic Frontiers has less focus on upbeat tracks that match a given stage and is "focused more on helping to create a mysterious feeling surrounding the islands".[8][47] As such, the soundtrack has been noted to be "uniquely somber and serene" right from the outset, as well as melancholic with beautiful yet minimalist piano melodies.[8]

Promotion

The logo for Sonic Frontiers Prologue.

On 7 June 2022, during the Sonic Central livestream presentation, it was revealed that Sonic Frontiers would receive an animated special, named Sonic Frontiers Prologue, featuring Knuckles the Echidna that takes place before the events of the game, and that it would be released prior to the release of Sonic Frontiers.[72]

Reception

Pre-release

Nintendo Life characterized early Sonic Frontiers gameplay footage as divisive.[73] Kotaku felt the game looked fine but derivative and bland, lacking the series' unique identity,[31] and Polygon and Nintendo Life found the open world desolate.[22][74] Conversely, Game Informer praised the speedy gameplay and visuals.[20]

After trying out a playable preview an early built of Sonic Frontiers by Sonic Team, IGN's Mitchell Saltzman emphasized in response to the concerns about how the Sonic series would fare in an open-world setting by stating that he thinks "Crush 40 put it best:: 'Open your heart, it's gonna be alright.'" Saltzman would go on to praise the mysterious mood of the game and how well it played into the game's soundtrack. He would also note that the Open Zone design of Sonic Frontiers "is very different from any other open world [he's] ever played, comparing the levels to "giant playground" due to its many gimmicks and objects. While he pointed out that the random appearances of gimmicks are not out of place in a Sonic game, he criticized that their design was not implemented to match the natural world presented. He also noted that the best part of Sonic Frontiers were the occasional races between points, praising the Open Zone nature of the levels for forcing the player to improvise paths. When it came the combat gameplay, Saltzman praised it for being more than just "style and no substance", the improvements made to the Homing Attack, and the multiple ways to take down different enemies. He also praised the game for the nice feeling of power progression as Sonic gets stronger and how Sonic Team has experimented with Sonic's way of battling enemies. While he also praised the boss battles for being ambitious, Saltzman noted that they needed the most work due to certain glitches or the reliance on momentum. Saltzman concluded that Sonic Frontiers is an "exciting step forward" for the Sonic series into a new genre, and that Sonic Team may have hit a "winning formula". However, he also criticized it for its distracting pop-in, bugs, and tweaks needed for the big boss fights. Regardless, Saltzman remained positive about the game and noted that the gameplay of the Sonic series translated well into the open-world formula in Sonic Frontiers.[8]

The GameSpot representatives, Johan Ramee and Dave Klein, who got to try out the Sonic Frontiers demos at the Summer Game Fest 2022 were unsure of whether Sonic Frontiers worked as intended or not, as the game had both attractive and unattractive qualities. Klein noted that Sonic's controls felt "off", as the open world worked with Sonic' speed, but lacked controls. However, they both praised the game's combat system and how well it worked with the bosses, although they would criticize the fights with the smaller bosses, like the Ninja. They also found the plot of the story "curious" and were interested to see how it played out. When it came to the Open Zone concept, Ramee was "cautiously optimistic" about it while Klein claimed it was a "step in the right direction" for the Sonic franchise.[42] Eric Switzer from TheGamer would criticize the game for its incoherent settings between the game's points of interest, but praised Sonic's controls and robust progression, as well as its "fairly impressive" battle system. He would also favorably compare it to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, feeling that both "attempt to reimagine a stagnating series in a modern way, and while there's some questionable design decisions and plenty of frustrations to be found, they're both a huge step in the right direction."[14]

Trivia

  • Sonic Frontiers will be the first game to be localized in Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, though this will be as subtitles only.[43][44]
  • In the teaser trailer there is metadata referencing files used in production of the video, including multiple mentions of "Sonic Rangers", suggesting this was the working title or a code name for Sonic Frontiers.[75]
    • The metadata also mentions "marza," suggesting that Marza Animation Planet is involved in the production.
    • The same name is also mentioned in a press release by Sega, although they have claimed this is due to the press release being an older version.[76]
  • The Xbox version of the announcement trailer contains subtitles that attribute the unknown voice to "Amy", possibly meaning Amy Rose.[77] However, later in "This Week on Xbox" it is called "Ghostly Voice."[78] Shortly after the trailer, Sonic's Japanese voice actor, Jun'ichi Kanemaru, confirmed on Twitter that the mysterious voice belonged to Amy before quickly deleting the tweet.[79][80] It was further revealed that the voice was, indeed, Amy Rose.[37][38]
  • Sonic Frontiers contains the following references and Easter eggs:
  • Classic Sonic will not appear in Sonic Frontiers.[81]
  • If one does count the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors, this game marks the first appearance of Big the Cat in a mainline Sonic game since Sonic Heroes.

Videos

Trailers and advertisements

Official clips


References

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External links

Sonic the Hedgehog console mainline games
Sonic the Hedgehog handheld games
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