Sonic Frontiers Looks Great, And That Scares Me
When I look ahead to the upcoming games of this year, Sonic Frontiers hasn't really been on my radar. With Sonic himself such an iconic figure in gaming I was obviously aware of it (plus, you know, it's my job), but even as the biggest titles were delayed into next year thanks to our medium's unsustainable business model, Sonic didn't pique my interest. In recent years, he has become more famous for his movies and his fan art than he has games, which have frequently disappointed. Frontiers' initial reveal didn't excite much either, just showing Sonic running fast – what a twist! – and not much else. Yesterday's gameplay teaser has turned it all around and folks, I think I might just be excited for a Sonic game.
I don't know what has come over me. It feels like by even writing this I am exploring some newfound public humiliation kink. The year is 2022, I am a full grown adult, and I'm looking forward to a Sonic the Hedgehog video game. I suspect I am on the edge of a precipice, about to plummet down into depravity and make my own Sonic OC with pigtails and a nose ring and fishnets for daddy. It's a strange situation – Sonic is one of the most recognisable video game mascots in the world, known by grannies everywhere on a level of fame only enjoyed by the likes of Mario, Pikachu, and Lara Croft. Yet everyone who knows games also knows that Sonic hasn't had a hit in years, and it’s remarkable the way he has clung to life while other '90s mascots faded and perished.
If he has been holding out for a lifeline thrown his way, Frontiers may well be it. The movies might have been the comforting change in current that allowed Sonic to drift into safe waters, but he still needs a great video game to haul him onto terra firma. Despite all expectations, Frontiers may well be it. This is new territory for the Blue Blur. While hardened Sonic fans have had their hopes raised and dashed, most of us could tell from looking that the most recent Sonic games were going to be a bit naff. Frontiers, if nothing else, has bucked that trend.
We know open world Sonic can work – many have Adventure right at the top of the list – but it is mostly a level-based platformer, and these days 'open world' can often mean long, turgid affairs, filled with boring filler quests and over-stuffed with collectibles. Making Sonic bigger in scope didn't feel like a way to fix the series' issues, but the teaser shown off yesterday suggests it's a mash-up of Super Mario Odyssey and Shadow of the Colossus. It's a cocktail that works surprisingly well, or at least appears to, and seems to use the best elements of Sonic while shedding what has held the series back. We don't yet know if the usual cringe-inducing dialogue will feature – actually, let's be honest, we know it will – but even that feels tolerable if the gameplay is as electric as the teaser makes it look. It feels like it has taken lessons from Breath of the Wild too, or at least wants to give that impression, but that's a dangerous prospect. Clearly, it will not be as good as Zelda, it lacks the budget and experience – plus the replica is never as good as the original. As long as it hasn't flown too close to the sun with these influences, this could be a Sonic game for the ages.
We need to see the full trailer – and then, you know, actually play the damn thing – before coming to a conclusion, but all signs point to Frontiers finally being the game to turn things around for Sonic. We'll all be getting measured for fursuits soon enough.
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