Sonic Frontiers takes the franchise in exciting new directions but struggles with familiar issues

Growing up, I always felt Sonic would suit the 3D Gaming space more than Super Mario, but how wrong I was.

Nintendo have put out one hit after another, evolving and iterating Mario in ways I could have never imagined, whereas Sonic has struggled to get into a groove following a few hits on the Dreamcast.

So when Sonic Frontiers got revealed towards the end of last year, there was this modicum of hope that SEGA were finally going to get it right. The franchise has been quiet for several years now as behind the scenes, Morio Kishimoto and his team have been building the future.

Now that it’s here, I see an exciting path forward for the blue hedgehog with a level of creativity the franchise has desperately needed. But it’s also a game that still makes some of the mistakes of its predecessors.

Full disclosure, I adored Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, and really admired what they did with Sonic Colours and Unleashed in recent years. The rest of the 3D adventures I could take or leave. They’ve each tried different approaches, admittedly, though they’ve all latched onto a fairly consistent formula and none of them have done it in a way that truly stood out.

Frontiers is the most ambitious yet, though, with an open zone environment that lets you stumble on battles, collect Chaos Emeralds and gather rings in a series of mini-courses and circuits. It’s like an open-world RPG, then, which is where those Breath of the Wild comparisons originally came from.

To be honest, though, it’s very little like Zelda’s open-world outing and a bit more like Xenoblade or Pokémon with enemies appearing in the overworld and a Metal Gear Rising where the sub-bosses and bosses all feel like grand, epic encounters.

For example, there’s a Sumo boss who contains you in a forcefield arena. He’s invulnerable to your attacks, so you have to bounce off the walls and smack him into the electrified portion of the fence. There’s another where you’re colouring in circles and have to dodge projectiles.

And the Titan battles feel suitably grand. They’re each different in approach, with you often having to climb and scale up a body in some way to reach a weak spot. But this also ultimately leads you into a Super Sonic Form where the theme gets a badass refresh and you’re made to feel invincible and ready to take on the world. It’s a great touch and a lovely homage to Sonic’s final form.

The thing that impressed me most of all, outside of the creativity, is how SEGA have managed to make the boss fights feel like a mini Sonic game in their own right. You often have to rely on momentum, on gathering rings to make sure you’re not insta-killed and on using spin attacks to take down your enemies. It’s a natural, smart evolution from what you’ve come to expect from Sonic boss battles back in the 2D days and where they probably should have been going all this time.

In fact, this whole game is like a dream for Sonic fans, one that offers incredible potential and possibility. You have freedom to explore several massive open zone environments, sprinting across open fields and sands, grinding and bouncing around as you take in the sights. It all feels incredibly satisfying with free-roam sprinting and a natural evolution for the franchise.

You’re also incentivised for taking on the mini activity parks by gathering rings, coins and collectable parts and pieces needed to progress the story.

In Frontiers, Sonic is actually walking the line between the real world and virtual realm, but his friends are stuck in stasis so you need to find ways to interact with them using memory tokens and help free them from their plight. But it all seems to be part of a much grander scheme.

It all works and comes together quite well, with a story that gradually pieces itself together in sub-sections and a zone that’s broken up into smaller levels which take you to the virtual arena. There’s even a good degree of Sonic Boom esque humor here, which will be music to the ears of many Hedgehog fans considered what they’ve been subjected to over the years.

The main open zone maintains a similar theme, whereas these virtual zones will feel a lot more familiar to Sonic fans with one recreated like Green Hill Zone, another similar to Chemical Plant Zone and more.

Completing a virtual zone will provide you with a key. This is then used to unlock small chambers the Chaos Emeralds are locked in and these are scattered across the map.

As I eluded to before, the Chaos Emeralds are the only way Sonic can face off against the Titans that roam and own the lands as he enters Super Sonic form, so you can see how it all naturally ties into progression for the main quest.

It all sounds and plays great, but there are a few things holding the game back from really fulfilling its potential. For one, there are several character quests in the open zone which really pull you out of the experience. These vary quite significantly, from herding critters back to their parents while avoiding bombs, to turning pillars around in the right direction, unlocking a path. They do break the action up a bit but the conditions for victory can be quite frustrating and some of them are actually more annoying than not.

It’s all made worse by the fact these are actually tied to main quest progression, where they probably would have been better off serving as side ventures. It’s a mistake 3D Sonic games have made in the past and unfortunately the tradition does carry on here.

Another is the visual and overall polish. It’s strange because in one glance, you can look at Sonic Frontiers and be quite blown away by the scale and scope of its actions and battles. In another, it all looks quite ropey, particularly in cut-scenes. You do feel like the game could have benefited from further polish before shipping as some of the environments and settings are rough. Again, this isn’t new territory for Sonic.

That said, much of the later game does get quite grindy with token gathering. You’ll find yourself having to do several full circuits of the map gathering what you want and need in order to progress the story and this does slow the game’s momentum down. Some areas of the map also seem to hint at greater exploration than what’s on offer with false corners or places you can’t reach.

For the most part, though, Sonic Frontiers is a bold direction for the Hedgehog. It’s at its best when it plays as a 3D Sonic game but it also offers up some interesting ideas to fill out the rest of the time. The Open Zone concept works brilliantly, the controls and movement are tight and sublime, bosses are one of the game’s best surprises and I can’t get Super Sonic’s theme out of my head!


Sonic Frontiers takes the Hedgehog in an exciting, fulfilling direction. The controls feel cohesive and coherent, the open zone concept is a smart game-changer, with the freedom of exploration coupled with a genuine feeling of enjoyment. It doesn’t always get its choices right, it doesn’t look as crisp as it could and there’s a few things holding it back from being the game it should be. Ultimately, though, the future of the franchise is looking less blurry and more bright!


+ Open Zone playgrounds are a perfect modern-day accompaniment for Sonic the Hedgehog
+ Classic Sonic zones play with perspective and approach in smart, considered ways.
+ Controls feel tight and responsive
+ Boss battles are epic


– Visually rough in some areas
– Mission structure is hit-and-miss, leading to some frustration and grinding

Sonic Frontiers is now available across all formats

Played on Xbox Series X

Code Kindly Provided by SEGA

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