The disappointing return of the blue hedgehog

Our review by Sonic Frontiers for PlayStation5.

The three-dimensional adventures of the iconic hedgehog from SAW they never reached glorious heights. In some cases, enthusiasts have found products far below decency in their hands, such as the 2006 chapter. So the expectations towards a new Sonic in 3D, which the marketing department had not shown in particularly good shape, were accompanied by concerns and perplexities.

He will succeed Sonic Frontiers to gather the extreme enthusiasm of the public? We projected ourselves at full speed into the open world created by the Japanese development studio Sonic Team precisely to partially answer this question, because in the end it will be the players who decide whether this open world will be able to score baskets.

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The story opens with the entrance of the treacherous and moustached Dr. Eggman who, having arrived at the Starfall Islands, discovers the secrets of an ancient civilization and the existence of an area called Cyber ​​Space. The bitter enemy will send the legendary Sonic the Hedgehog to this very place of exile, from which he will be able to get out and then find himself on the island of Kronos. From now on we will have access to the long-awaited free exploration since the first announcement of the game.

Abandoning the classic linear paths (however present as levels in the Cyber ​​Space accessible in various points of the open map), is certainly a breath of fresh air for the series, which absolutely felt the need for a leap in quality, as well as renewal . Moving with the extreme speed of the blue SEGA mascot across the expanses of Kronos proves quite pleasantespecially if you choose the graphics option that favors 60 fps, which we highly recommend compared to the default mode that favors resolution, at least in the PlayStation 5 version we tested.

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Unfortunately, although the sensation of speed and freedom of movement can be a satisfying combination, the glance does not give the same satisfaction. In fact, the technical sector shows its side to elements of the scenario plagued by a very strong pop-in phenomenon, with rails and platforms appearing a few tens of meters away. Nothing that creates problems in the execution of the gameplay, but that certainly doesn’t help a general visual level that is already far from being exceptional. In all of this, not even animations so rigid that they almost give the idea of ​​an amateur job have a positive effect.

Exploration in the islands is, of course, very fast thanks to Sonic’s movement speed. Jumping on platforms, running on rails and running vertically on towers to climb to collect rings, collectibles and other items is pleasant and immediate, although perhaps too automated. The atmosphere that reigns is particularly melancholic and almost generates an unnatural contrast between the frenetic exploration and the setting.

The points of interest are indicated on the map, initially incomplete but expandable by completing puzzles that are perhaps a little too simple. The environmental puzzles will in fact be part of the activity proposed by the open zone, but we believe they could have been more elaborate. We will also be able to find portals to access the fishing minigame, in addition to the much more important access points to the Cyber ​​Space. The latter are blocked, and it will be necessary to find key objects to enter them, obtainable mainly by defeating mini bosses.

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Sonic Frontiers it’s not just jumps and pushes in the air, and it’s not limited to just the platform phases, also offering a simple and effective combat system. In fact, the lightning-fast protagonist will have to face various enemies through the chaining of combos with kicks and punches, dodges, parries and special skills expandable through a small skill branch.

The latter adds to the experience a slight role-playing component that is all in all valid, despite the fact that greater richness and more possibilities would have been welcome. In fact, the skills obtainable are not many, and very few justify the inclusion of a level of progression. The clashes are fun thanks to a good variety of enemies, and push you to have to think a little about the attack approach.

The epic nature of the battles, with a good visual spectacularization, is reached with the Titans, which we could define as the final boss of each island. These imposing creatures will have to be scaled by Sonic, almost bringing to mind Shadow of the Colossus. The rhythm of these clashes is partly ruined by the possible failure of the quick time event sequences, the absence of which would have benefited the choreographic intent of these titanic battles.

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With all these novelties for the nostalgic series, who could be confused by a structure so unfamiliar to the hedgehog, they will be able to feel at home thanks to the timed courses in the Cyber ​​Space. It seemed to us that the team included them just to have a safety parachute, in case the wandering and fighting in the Starfall Islands did not satisfy the historical fans.

These more classic and linear levels, which represent real time trials, they have that crackling frenzy that the rest of the adventure lacks, thanks above all to music decidedly more in line with the rapid electricity transmitted by the character. By the way, reaching S-rank requires remarkable precision and timing.

We don’t mind this more conventional aspect, but we would have liked it to be exploited better. In fact, the internships are not always of a constant quality and are less varied than one might have expected. However, we appreciate its presence, above all for a visual and musical factor, which almost would have made us prefer that the Cyber ​​Space settings were the setting of the open world component.

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As for the open areas, there are five in total, diversify just enough so as not to end up in artistic monotony. In general though, the absence of detail makes the maps devoid of personality, while variegating the habitats would have been vital in order not to asphyxiate the player. Unfortunately only for the first three islands the work of aesthetic variation was convincing, while the remaining two lose in this respect.

In general, looking for enemies to fight for items and reaching the next platform or tower to jump and run on remains the core of the exploration offered by the open world. The attempt by the developers to propose more activities to avoid repetitiveness exists and is appreciable, but there is a lack of real substance. The platforming sequences require more effort in finding the beginning of their path than in the execution itself, while the mini-games present are too basic.

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In short, Sonic Frontiers it proved to be much better than how it was presented in the promotional videoswhich presaged a real disaster.

Instead, we were faced with a title that can be fun for many players, even newcomers to the series, with a non-invasive story that leaves room for the pleasure of simply playing. Unfortunately, there are defects and shortcomings and they do not allow him to reach who knows what excellence. A richer and artistically inspired game world, with a technical finish that made the overall impact less raw, would certainly have been appreciable.

An open world bare in appearance, which tries to compensate with too basic environmental activities and puzzles, together with linear levels not at the best of what has been seen in the past, certainly did not help the overall evaluation. However, this is a good starting point and we hope that the Sonic Team re-proposes this formula with greater care, because cruising around a large area with a character as fast and dashing as Sonic can be a blast. At this round, however, we can say that we have only had a timid hint.