First off, let me say that I am not a major Sonic fan. With this article, I will have written about Sonic twice this week, which I think brings me up to around five times total in the near-18 months I've been here. But god help me, I'm standing here defending Sonic Frontiers. I'm just a girl, standing in front of a hedgehog, asking him to have a good video game for once. A couple of days ago there was a short teaser for Sonic Frontiers, and we all sat upright. To everyone's surprise, including my own, it looked decent. Good, even. However, the day after, a much longer seven-minute clip of gameplay emerged, everyone retreated to their familiar position of scorn and decided the game was, in fact, terrible. At this point though, what do you want?
Sonic Frontiers is an open world Sonic game, and the gameplay clip showed off Sonic in an open world. So far, so solid, right? A lot of people dismissed this from the concept up though, which seems to misunderstand… well, everything. 'Sonic doesn't look like he fits in that world' is a common complaint I've heard, and that's because he doesn't. He's not supposed to fit in there, he was designed as a '90s platform mascot. Sonic looks good, and the world looks good. That's as good as you're going to get. Remember how weird it was when Mario was surrounded by real humans in Super Mario Odyssey? And remember how excellent the game was anyway?
There's no indication that Sonic will be as good as Mario Odyssey, but I don't see any indication that it will be bad, either. The open world doesn't look the most original, but wide grassy spaces with grey and blue monoliths is a winning combination. As for complaints that the world is empty, a) you guys can't cheer on Breath of the Wild as the best thing ever then complain about an empty field, and b) I'm glad it's empty. Sonic's gotta go fast, it's his whole deal. Having these expansive areas for him to sprint around is the best way to lift him out of his linear platformer mould and let him roam free. The only time the game ever gave me reasons to be fearful in the demo came when he climbed to the top of the monoliths and had to walk around at an unusually slow pace to avoid running off the end.
The movement seems extremely fluid – climbing's a little slow but wall-running seems to be an option – letting you switch between running, jumping, and gliding seamlessly. The rail grinding, especially on the floating bars looking down across the map, looks to fit the bill of what you'd want from a Sonic game too. I'll concede – it probably needs some more interaction, some village hubs, more combat scenarios, and some extra characters, but this was very clearly a demonstration of the open world and the traversal. The story and everything connected to what the game is about is being kept exceeding close to Team Sonic's chest. If you need to see more on that front before you're willing to commit, then I understand that. But if you've decided it's trash already, what precisely do you need from a Sonic game right now?
This emptiness has also led to complaints it looks more like a tech demo for Unreal than a game, which is a criticism that I think speaks to how backwards our priorities are as an industry. This was seven minutes of full gameplay. Curated, yes, and it probably could have done with greater clarification that it was showing off the movement in an open world environment, but how many other games come right out of the game with that much gameplay? Would it feel more like a video game if all they showed us was a CGI narrative trailer that explained whatever Chaos bullshit the story will be about that none of us will care about anyway? Would you be more hyped if the entire trailer had 'not actual gameplay footage' stamped across the bottom of it, but it looked exciting?
We are drunk on advertising in gaming, desperate for every game to be a masterpiece, constantly lauding a pointless and unsustainable space race of horse balls and crunch and delays, constantly demanding the shiniest bells and whistles on all of our new toys. Sonic Frontiers looks like an open world Sonic game. What else did you expect?
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