We tried Sonic Frontiers and Sonic’s new adventure improves visibly: will she be able to be perfect in time for her debut?
Incredible but true, the disastrous game played just a few months ago is just a memory. After tested at Gamescom 2022 Sonic Frontiers, we did not believe our eyes: the product has improved practically from every point of view. The latest version that Sega brought to Germany blew us away with a better framerate, a higher resolution, much less pop-in and a much more interesting level design. Is it finally time for Sonic fans to celebrate? The answer is not so obvious, let’s try to find out why …
The idea of a Sonic open worldOn open levels, it’s not bad at all and, in fact, this has never been the problem with Sonic Frontiers. Fans of the Sega mascot know it well: we have always dreamed of running alongside the fastest porcupine in the world without barriers or borders. But transposing the peculiar concept of the Sega platformer, which is also a bit of a racing game, in a similar context, is not an easy operation. It has been difficult for Sonic to even embrace 3D, let alone a level design that can no longer direct you towards the finish line.
To do this, Sonic Frontiers does what many other platformers before him have done in the past to renew itself: it renounces some cornerstones of the series, to turn them into small exciting moments with which to reward the user during exploration. Timed routes? Now they are rides for a few moments between platforms suspended in the sky. The fights? Divided into more or less elaborate battles, with small enemies and those who in some cases will have the dignity of small, but interesting boss fights.
Sonic Frontiers is divided into islands: While in Los Angeles we were able to try the first, here at Gamescom we were allowed to run around on the second. The verdant plains seen in California have been replaced by large orange sandbanks, topped by rugged plateaus and stained with refreshing oases. The goal was always the same: to carry out everything that is commanded to us from the altar, in order to collect the sufficient number of gems to continue. Now it is possible to see important portions of levels even from great distances, whereas previously these did not appear until we were within an inch, making it very difficult even to orient yourself.
Same pop-in phenomenais the name of this annoying effect that makes suddenly appear what should always be visible, are still found among some groups of platforms, and in a more serious form in the numerous rails on which Sonic loves to whiz around to reach otherwise inaccessible places.
Is it serious? Much less than in the past, but it continues to annoy because it affects the user’s ability to choose the direction in which to go. To understand where we could find something new and interesting, we were once again forced to move our eyes to the mini map of the game, where the icons indicate with extreme care what we have already done and what still needs to be done. What the map doesn’t indicate is where they will hide the very sweet Koco, small living beings made of stone that will have to be brought back by Hermit Koco and Elder Koco for some great rewards. Some Koco groups, however, will prefer to transport us around the island, functioning as a sort of fast travel, it works typical and inevitable of every open world. But we have reason to believe that the Koco hide something else, at least that’s what Takashi Iizuka, historical producer of Sega of Japan, with whom we spent several pleasant minutes, chatting mainly about Sonic Frontiers, has let us understand.
Mysteries, meteors and sharks
Iizuka San excludes that the Koco can be raised like the Chao of Sonic Adventure, but admits that Frontiers was born by taking the beloved – but also imperfect – chapters that appeared on Dreamcast to the extreme. One element we have dwelt on is the design of Sonic’s enemies in this new game, which Takashi Iizuka he deliberately defines enigmatic, alien. It is actually the first time that Sonic faces dangers that have nothing to do with his historical enemy: Doctor Ivo Robotnik. This change could only lead to a complete reinterpretation of the graphic style, of the enemies but also of the game world, since Sonic in this adventure will be transported to a different reality from the usual in which he has been running at breakneck speed for decades.
And this second island seems to hide a lot of mysteries. During the test we found and tried to fight a sand shark, to which it was necessary to cling using its sharp tail, and trying to remain attached during its daring escape in the dunes; during the night, we witnessed it a shower of colorful meteorites that once collected they activated a slot machine full of possible power-ups, and we fought another huge boss, much more challenging and fun than the one found on the first island and during our first test with Sonic Frontiers.
Sonic Frontiers is no longer a disaster, but it is also a candidate to be the most classic of the Sonic in 3D: certainly fun, but certainly problematic. Fans are used to it, all the others will have to struggle a bit to enjoy an open world which, net of imperfections, still seems to have a very special charm. The game will be released on November 8 for all platforms, including PC. Two months to file, fix and refine, will that be enough?
- Second island much more interesting
- Graphics problems have been reduced considerably
- The Chokos arrive and it is immediately love
- Will we be able to finish it before it gets too repetitive?
- Still flashy pop-in effects
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