We played Sonic Frontiers: 5 reasons to crack (or not) for the return of SEGA's hedgehog
It's finally available, Sonic Frontiers was as feared as it was expected, and after long hours of play, the results are mixed, without however being catastrophic… Our test !
First appearing on Mega Drive in the very early summer of 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog is SEGA's eternal mascot. In addition to three impeccable episodes on the 16-bit console of the time, Sonic will offer some good experiences with very successful Game Gear and Master System adaptations, an exclusive opus on the Mega CD or even Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast, but the blue hedgehog will especially be the source of many disappointments… Indeed, unlike his great rival Super Mario, Sonic has never really succeeded in his transition to 3D. With Sonic Frontiers, the Sonic Team is taking the bet on the open-world, and if, over the months, the project aroused the greatest fears in us, the end result is certainly not very good, but does not doesn't reveal that it's chaotic… Here are five reasons to crack (or not) for this Sonic Frontiers.
Buy Sonic Frontiers on PS5
💚 What we liked
The “classic” levels (but not all)
It's a fact, Sonic Frontiers remained very mysterious during its development, and if we were expecting an open world, the reality is a tad different. Yes, the game propels us into one (and even several) open worlds, in which various challenges and enemies await us. However, each world also has various altars to activate, which invite the player to participate in “classic” levels.
From then on, it will be a question of crossing a level in 3D while trying to accomplish the requested objectives, to recover keys which will allow to open other levels and unlock new parts of the world. Rather varied levels, which are played in the same way as recent 3D Sonics, with a fast and nervous side, but also this slightly remote-controlled aspect to which some fans of the license still won't hang on.
— Stéphane Ficca (@StephaneFicca) November 10, 2022
Note the presence also of 2D levels (see video above), in the form of a tribute to the horizontal scrolling levels of the beautiful Sonic era. A nice initiative, which for once will make the fans of the first hour smile, even if here again, the maneuverability turns out to be a little sluggish, the fault of an ugly inertia and a real heaviness. The intention remains nevertheless laudable, and the game even reserves some good surprises. So nice.
Exploration, and a “boy's dream” Sonic style
Mixing exploration phases in the open world, with more conventional levels, this Sonic Frontiers ultimately represents a certain form of… childhood dream. Indeed, younger, who has not dreamed of embodying a Sonic wandering freely in huge sets? This is the promise of this Sonic Frontiers, and it is clear that we sometimes find ourselves “admiring ” the sets, with a Sonic sometimes immersed in a green plain, sometimes in an arid desert.
It's not so much the exploration side that seduces, but rather this huge play area, and this feeling of freedom. At first, Sonic is relatively slow and weak, but it will be possible to evolve the hedgehog, to allow him to collect more rings, run faster, hit harder… An RPG side that remains quite basic, however. , but that's not the point.
The set is accessible, with some very good speed phases via accelerators scattered on the playing field, loops, springboards… So yes, we have this impression of seeing emblematic sets from the Sonic saga placed randomly ( and so clumsy) on a vast decor, but despite obvious flaws, we take a certain pleasure in exploring the world(s), bouncing around and playing on instinct.
🔴 What we liked less (even hated)
A pick-up technique…
It is inevitable, if Sonic Frontiers has various qualities, with a real desire to renew the saga on the part of the Sonic Team, the game is a Maxi Best Of of the horror of a strict technical point of view. Indeed, not only is the open world relatively empty, but it is above all stuffed with clipping, with here entire elements of the scenery which generally appear a few meters in front of the hero. Shocking!
Also, it's hard not to wink at a fairly basic design of enemies, with certainly some good ideas here and there, but the whole thing lacks so much charm, with sanitized robots without the slightest interest. Admittedly, there are the Titans, these metallic giants to fight in Super Sonic mode, Dragon Ball Z style, but again, it's as messy to play as it is ugly to watch… And even when it's “ ;beautiful“, we have more the impression of being faced with a technical demo under Unreal Engine all that is more generic, not necessarily unpleasant to the eye therefore, but which is sorely lacking in coherence, life and authenticity.
Moreover, on a game like Sonic Frontiers, and unlike a God of War Ragnarök to name only him, do not hesitate to favor the 60 fps option over the 4K option. You won't lose any of the “quality ” visual, but you will gain a lot in fluidity. Too bad, however, that the game also accumulates collision bugs, with the added bonus of a camera that sometimes (often) struggles to position itself correctly.
The staging, the VF and a side (very ) very repetitive
If strolling through the different open worlds of this Sonic Frontiers sometimes gives real pleasure, with this side of curiosity that always pushes you to succeed in a final challenge or to go and see this or that portion of the map, the game does not shine by its staging . In addition to an ultra-conventional scenario, the narration is absolutely soft, with the added bonus of an atrocious VF unfortunately, so much so that we come (at least me) to shorten the suffering by directly skipping certain dialogues…
Obviously, like any good open world, Sonic Frontiers is full of challenges to meet, fights and other bonuses to recover. Most of the game will therefore consist of wandering around the map, looking for new “things to do”. The progression is always the same, namely gradually deciphering the map, interacting regularly with the companion to be saved, recovering chaos emeralds and finally facing the titan. The whole lacks binding and readability, but pushes you to play in an “instinctive“ way, searching the various corners.
Challenges of abysmal nullity…
On this subject, if certain phases of the game turn out to be quite successful, what a shame to have stuffed this Sonic Frontiers with many challenges devoid of the slightest interest…
For example, it will be necessary to turn off light tiles by taking a certain path, to perform right/left movements in a limited time (yes, yes…), to go from point A to point B in a given time, or even to throw a ball in a circle to complete the mission.
Challenges without interest therefore, and which tend to be repeated over the levels, moreover. To stay in the Sonic/Mario squabble, we are very far here from the ingenuity of a Super Mario Odyssey for example. Too bad therefore not to have shown a little more inspiration, and to have yielded to such an easy filling, so bland, even sometimes downright indigestible. But as for the rest, we will ignore (more or less according to each) the majority of the wanderings of this Sonic Frontiers, for a very simple reason: “because it’s Sonic >“.
Our opinion on Sonic Frontiers
Sonic Frontiers has bet on taking a new direction for the saga. Technically unworthy, the game can nevertheless manage to capture the player's attention (provided it is at least conciliatory), thanks to an exploration aspect which inexorably pushes you to search the premises, despite the bugs, despite this appalling clipping, despite this agonizing staging, despite zero challenges, despite a terrible inertia on the gameplay side (in 2D and 3D levels), despite a soulless VF… As surprising as it may seem, despite a ton of flaws and terribly poorly exploited ideas , Sonic Frontiers is a game that is sometimes difficult to win, while constantly cursing the countless weaknesses. Not the game of the year therefore (far from it), but possibly enough to spend a little time not totally unpleasant, with what ultimately constitutes, not one of the best, but rather one of the least worst Sonic 3D of the story (and overall an average game).