Worlds are colliding in Sonics newest super speedy adventure! While searching for the missing chaos emeralds, Sonic become stranded on a mysterious and ancient island filled with unusual creatures. Battling hordes of powerful enemies as you explore the breathtaking world. Accelerate to new heights, and experience the thrill of being a speed in the open zone platforming

Publisher: SEGA
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Also available for:
PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Developer: Sonic Team
Lead Credits: Ian Flynn, Morio Kishimoto, Jyunpei Oostu, Hiroki Tokunaga, Yoshitaka Miura

Cast: Roger Craig Smith, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Dave B. Mitchell, Cindy Robinson, Mike Pollock, Ryan Bartley, Kyle Hebert

The latest game from Sonic Team sees Sonic and his pals on the Star fall islands, but they are not alone. The introduction video sees that the team has been beaten to the island by non-other than Dr Eggman. We are shown Dr Eggman talking with his A.I. while standing in front of a strange pillar. The pillar is covered in weird symbols and a hole for a cog; the A.I. voice explains that the pillars are portals. Dr Eggman proceeds to place the A.I disk in the slot, and soon the disk begins to merge with the pillar, and as Dr Eggman tries to grasp the disk, he is pulled into the pillar and seemingly disappears.

We jump to Sonic, Tales, Amy and Knuckles riding in their biplane when a weird pulse knocks the engines out, and they plummet towards Starfall Island. Instead of a crash landing, however, Sonic is dragged into a cyber world that has recreated one of the 2D platforms of his past. Beating the level gives you a score, rank and a list of challenges to complete. Sonic is then allowed to depart from Cyberspace. Once freed, Sonic is introduced to the first of five islands that make up the Starfall Islands. Each is unique, and the first one is set up as a tutorial. Sonic is now free to begin grinding rails, battling robots and mini-bosses while discovering heart-shaped gems. These tasks eventually lead to finding Amy, who is, for an unexplained reason, trapped between Cyberspace and the real world. She can only interact with the world with her digitalised image and speech. She assists Sonic in finding out more about the previous and long-dead inhabitants of this island. The Ancients, who are now just shadows of their former selves and take the form of small rock-like creatures, begin to work with Amy and Sonic to restore the island. 

Amy in her non coporial form

It isn’t all easygoing, with a weird cyber girl following Sonic around and criticising his plans, as well as restoring the ancient’s defences in the form of a giant robot. You are sent flying on your first attempt to attack the giant robot. In doing so, Sonic feels the call of the Chaos emeralds and a new task and plan are hatched. Collection of the emeralds allows Sonic to unlock his ultimate form, “Super Sonic” The glowing yellow Hedgehog stands more of a chance of defeating these giant robots in this form. 

As a fan of the 2D versions of Sonic, this was a whole new experience for me. The open-style world brought memories of other open-world style maps like ‘Legend of Zelda’; it was an odd experience at first. Sonics blue hair stood out from the island’s natural beauty; fortunately, the longer I played, the more the two worlds seemed perfect for each other. The game’s overall design is quite fun, and as Sonic is upgraded, the game’s pace ignites into some wildly fast scenarios. I started with the game in 4K mode, and the image was pretty; unfortunately, the game didn’t feel right, so I changed the settings to performance mode and increased the frames to 60FPS. The resolution might have been lower at the 60FPS mode, but the game felt ten times better, and you gained the feel of the speedster, and I could not see the difference in the visual quality with this adjustment.

A GIANT PINBALL MACHINE this was one of my favourite scenes

Sonic Frontiers also nails the music; blasting through the islands, the player will hear the unique sounds for each domain and the battle music when facing a foe. The music also changes tempo for the mini-bosses; to top it off, the music is fabulous when fighting the main bosses. There is something to be said about blasting into battle while wild techno, punk or rock music is played as you hammer away at a boss’s health. The other sounds in-game brought me back to playing older games. The springs, rails, canons etc, all retain the sounds associated with the franchise. Bouncing on a spring sounds exactly like I remember from the early Sonic games on the MegaDrive, as does smashing a bee or an Eggman Robot. The creators have put love into developing the sounds to have similar nostalgic effects while also moving them to the 3D realm.

The story is where I was most surprised, and the writers deserve a huge amount of praise for this. I was expecting the game’s story to be just a stopover between the fantastical battles, and how I was wrong, each character in the game has a story arc. Each arc is different — Amy’s love, Knuckles’ lone soldier, and Tale’s underachiever’s lack of confidence. As players, we get to see them all grow and become more, with more surprises coming later in the game. The games have come a long way from freeing trapped woodland creatures from Dr Eggman’s robots. Each character has a new tale that the player has the chance to experience, and I strongly suggest as a player that they should. Sonic shows some fantastic depth, and we see his friends and former enemies benefitting greatly from this.

Super Soinc, feeling unbeatable

The gameplay loops in both the open world and the trips through the portals to Cyberspace can sometimes get a bit overplayed, but for the most part, each portal is a different experience lifted from the long history of Sonic titles, riding skateboards, rolling through Greenhill zone, climbing never-ending towers. There are too many to list here. Most are unique or have a spin placed on a previous level that keeps the player guessing and made me want to aim to get S rank and complete all the tasks associated with the portals. The overworld has its challenges following the story will unlock most parts of the island, but finding challenge areas reveals the map, each island has a varying amount of these areas, and they are not shown on the map to assist the player, unlocking the map also reveals rails to assist with speeding around the islands. There is a second type of portal, known as the fishing portal, and the mini-game hidden inside is charming to no end. The fishing portion is a loop of its own; if used correctly, you can unlock many of Sonic’s abilities early in the game.

One of the chests that allow tokens to be discoverd and purchased

Moreover, there is also the aim of the levels collecting the required items, be it hearts, wrenches or other items, to help save Amy, Knuckles and Tales. This is completed in a variety of ways. You can uncover most of these by hitting a ramp, leaping to a platform or other items that will either rocket Sonic towards these levels within the level or have the adventurer complete a platforming level with a forced perspective. Most of the views make the overworld work like a 2D platformer, and they are rather fun, if not sometimes frustrating, to complete.

Boinking the tower on the head

Battling in the game feels good; unfortunately, I had fully upgraded the attacks by the third level. There are two modes to combat: one is an automated mode that sets up and completes combos while you mash the button. The other method is slightly more complex and requires you to remember the attack buttons for each type. I attempted both modes and preferred the mashing of the attack button. Although it auto-completes the combos, you still have the choice to attack using the other buttons to force the attack you want. The combat is as fast-paced as the main game. The smaller enemies had different attack requirements, and remembering what they were was simple. If you forget, accessing the menu to find them was only a few button presses away. There was also enough variation in the enemies to keep the battles interesting. Unfortunately, once I had finished upgrading my skills, I chose to skip the smaller battles in favour of exploring the story and battling the mini and main bosses. The stage bosses are a different story, while in Super Sonic mode, you are flying around the boss, with each boss having three stages, making the battle more difficult. Completing the required parry, damage or dodge requirement allows sonic to get in close and cause damage, and this cycle repeats through levels until the final boss is beaten.

My experience with the game has been positive, but a few things took away from my total enjoyment of the game. The main one is levelling your coin retention or speed level, requiring the player to speak to one of the two upgrade NPCs. The problem is that you can only upgrade one level at a time. Each coin and speed upgrade has ninety-nine upgradable levels. So, when I decided to upgrade from level thirty to max, it took me over 45 minutes to complete the task. This seemed ridiculous for a game about speed, especially when upgrading attack and defence was as easy as talking to the other upgrade NPC who automatically checked the heart and defence items and moved you to the appropriate level, whether one level or forty. Another issue I had was around control. Unfortunately, once Sonic begins to move, there is little to stop him, and although he is not penalised for falling off the cliff’s edge, it isn’t as fun as it sounds. There are also items dropped during battles that are randomised between cogs for portals, exp gems, and attack or defence items, this is fine, but often these items are lost when completing the platforming areas in the level, making them impossible to retrieve at a later stage.

Sonic Frontiers is great, but it could have used some polish in some areas. In saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Sonic Frontiers. The game feels like almost anyone could enjoy it. Even as a lapsed fan, I could follow the story and feel for each of the characters, and most of their plights were relatable. The feel of the battle, level design and the story were a decent enough combination to have me wanting to come back to the game, and even though I have finished the main story, there is still a pull to try and one hundred per cent each island and fully experience everyone’s side stories.