Sonic Frontiers (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 16.11.2022 3

Review for Sonic Frontiers on Xbox Series X/S

A long time in the making, SEGA's Sonic Team finally unleashes their next flagship Sonic title Frontiers on all current platforms. This somewhat Breath of the Wild inspired game comes right from Sonic's current producer Kishimoto Morio. He recently stated that he envisions the game as a playtest of his vision for Sonic and that this will be the base used to develop the series' next entry. Despite that, it garnered a very high player rating on Metacritic and now it's time for the Cubed3 review.

Sonic's latest adventure drops him into a mysterious set of islands after Tails, Amy and himself are shot out of the sky by a beam of energy. These islands exist in their own world where cyberspace seems to be interacting with it, causing oddities and spawning enemies. These islands have undergone some sort of calamity and it's up to Sonic to unravel the mystery while trying to save everyone. The story has that typical Sonic feeling, with schlocky dialogue that's delivered straight and a fairly expansive set of Sonic characters to interact with. It feels more in line with the older Adventure games than what came after in terms of the setting and story presentation. The way this story is fed to the player is interesting and playing on to see what comes next is exciting.

There is a ton of side content too, some of which has stories. These usually manifest by chatting with various characters across each island. Through this, players discover the stories of what happened on the islands and also help save their companion characters. It's a great way to fill the blanks and it gives players a lot to do as they sink into the world.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on Xbox Series X/S

Gameplay features the typical Sonic affair, but it's been heavily redesigned and updated outside of traditional missions. The main focus of the gameplay this time is exploration and combat. Sonic's move set has a lot going on with various boosts, jumps and climbing methods. A lot of these return from the previous games but the climbing is all new. This is paired with a slightly weightier and slower Sonic who doesn't always feel like he's tied to momentum but does control rather well after tweaking in the settings menu. The cyberspace stages reintroduce some of Sonic's normal 3D speed, but it still feels quite different to play. It's great once adjusted to but odd if players still remember how Generations felt to play.

Combat still relies on the homing attack but now has a complete combo system as well as multiple attack variations. These are complemented by enemy designs that require players to approach fighting them quite differently. Some of these enemies have protection from Sonic's attacks and players have to work out how to avoid the attacks and circumvent the defences using the new move set which is actually very satisfying. The move set itself has quite a lot of options, some of which can be chained together quite creatively. Nothing is weirder than the fact that Sonic now punches and kicks. Combat manoeuvres can be upgraded using the light touch RPG system in the game; this means that players get a sense of progression at least for part of the game while they expand their repertoire.

Bosses are a highlight of this game as well. The battles are multi-phased, complex and visually explosive. The main bosses take the form of titans who all have completely different designs, phases and strategies to overcome. In fact, it's almost like Sonic of the Colossus with the way these fights play out. It's great that they have this weight and presence lending the game a real identity as an entry level character action game.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on Xbox Series X/S

Each island is packed with tasks or missions for the player to interact with. Most of these are using the exploration system to complete challenges; some timed, some puzzle based. These are dotted all over and once beaten offer players collectables to redeem. There are a ton of collectables in the game, most of which have very simple utilisation and almost all of which go towards powering up Sonic. Unlike many things in gaming today Frontiers has some of the collectables redeemable in the world rather than just through a menu. These are done through the Kocos, the small creatures Sonic can interact with. These small rock-looking cuties are mysterious and can be collected before being handed in to the elder in exchange for powerups. They appear all over and are just adorable, very similar to the critters in Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Back on the subject of missions, they vary the content up a lot and offering one-off unique challenges. One of the early ones involves clearing a field using one of Sonic's new abilities: the Cyloop. This mission has hazards that move around, a time limit and a goal number of plants to remove. It's a simple premise but it is difficult for a couple of reasons. The hazards move fast and come from off screen, resulting in a few cheap shots and the Cyloop move isn't as easy to connect up as it should be. However, it is a fun distraction that mixes up the gameplay in a nice way. This is only one example but there are many side activities for players to enjoy throughout the game.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on Xbox Series X/S

Visually, Sonic: Frontiers is a somewhat mixed but overall positive experience. Environment detail is amazing; lots of crisp lifelike textures and materials with loads of little interactive animations. The islands themselves feature different biomes, highlighting the abilities of the new Hedgehog Engine made with current gen in mind. Sonic himself is looking as iconic as ever with his side grin and expressive eyes - this goes for other characters, too, with a lovely high poly look reaching almost movie-like quality. Where the new engine really excels is in lighting; some places achieve some scarily realistic and beautiful landscapes. For example, some of the desert canyon areas are stunning. This is true of water as well which, in this version, has wonderful ripples and reflections. Does a Sonic game need to look this nice? No, but it really nails it.

Musically the game is very reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. The cool Sonic theming is still intact but there is a lot of quieter piano music that permeates the explorative nature of the game. These musical themes are fantastic and there are still plenty of heavier and rockier tracks deployed when needed to pump up the situation. It's great!

However, there is a big bug bear and that is with pop-in. The environmental stuff looks great but platforms and interactive elements for Sonic to use pop in very close to the player. This is quite glaring with slower movement and can be a little distracting. When moving fast it's less of an issue but there are a lot of slower moments throughout the game. The only other important thing to remember is to change the Series X version to the 60 fps graphics mode. For some reason the game boots up in 4k mode which, while lovely and sharp, is juddery, something that might be patchable. The performance mode is amazingly smooth, 60 fps most of the time with only little bits of judder when the game loads in and out of things in quick succession. Unfortunately, the 4k mode judder is present in cutscenes, meaning that they appear lower quality than they are.

What is here is a fantastic Sonic game that makes some meaningful changes in the pursuit of a new angle for the hedgehog going forwards. There is a lot for players to love and boy can they take their time doing it. This is the longest Sonic game by miles; this reviewer spent 6 hours on the first island of which there are 5 and it was a fantastic time spent exploring, fighting and discovering.

Screenshot for Sonic Frontiers on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Sonic: Frontiers is an amazing experience that Sonic fans will eat up. There is so much to do across the title, supported by one of the most interesting Sonic stories in a long time. The new combat and exploration focus opens up Sonic's move set into an almost sandbox environment for players to play with which just feels so right. Obviously, there are a few tiny rough edges as expected with such a game but with a couple of patches this could easily be the best Sonic game out there. Highly recommended!

Developer

Sonic Team

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I really want to get onboard with this iteration on Sonic. It just looks fun and a bit different. Do you think they'll fix the pop-in by the time I get around to it?

mikem52 said:
I really want to get onboard with this iteration on Sonic. It just looks fun and a bit different. Do you think they'll fix the pop-in by the time I get around to it?

I wouldn't bet on it, but it is somewhat less distracting to me. It depends on how much it gets you XD

If they do improve it then the game is closing in on flawless in technical terms. (That and the weird stuttering 30fps mode XD)

looks more like death stranding than breath of the wild.

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