This past Wednesday, IGN posted the first extended look at Sonic Frontiers’ gameplay. Unsurprisingly, this video has left fans quite polarized. IGN said that it had more Sonic Frontiers information to reveal, however, and it did just that with today’s combat showcase.
Although the basic act of moving around the open world looked fun, that first gameplay footage showed a distracting number of rough edges. Sonic’s animations looked stiff and awkward, objects and environmental assets popped in regularly, and the floating grind rails placed above the realistic environment appeared haphazard and out of place. It didn’t help that the footage removed the game’s HUD elements and consisted entirely of Sonic aimlessly roaming around, leaving fans with little idea as to what the core gameplay loop entails.
On a surface level, Sonic Frontiers‘ combat certainly looks flashy in today’s video, as it involves Sonic zipping towards enemies while dishing out rapid punches and kicks. The combat animations still appear stiff, and the systems at play do not seem especially complex, but it looks like battering enemies will provide some decent dopamine for a little while.
Teaching a hedgehog new tricks
IGN’s demonstration also showcases a few cinematic super attacks that Sonic can pull off, which include a zig-zag dash, a spinning tornado attack, and a series of rapid kicks that produce a flurry of energy blasts. Some of these attacks do look pretty neat, particularly the rapid kicks, but the way the camera jerks around during these moves feels incredibly unnatural. The zig-zagging dash exposes this problem the most, as the camera instantly snaps to focus solely on Sonic, who has warped incredibly far away from the enemy. This jarring shift in perspective almost completely obscures the view of the action. It doesn’t help that you can clearly see a few environmental assets load in as Sonic does this.
As for some of the other combat features, Sonic now has a dedicated dodge roll that can slip right through enemy attacks. Doing so at the right time slows the action down very briefly, but this seems to function mostly as a visual flourish rather than a full-on mechanic like Bayonetta‘s Witch Time. Additionally, the demonstration depicts Sonic’s new spin cycle move and its applications during combat, which seem to mostly amount to launching enemies into the air and temporarily disabling certain enemies’ defenses.
What about the enemies?
The enemy designs stand out as the most interesting aspects of the combat demonstration, particularly the massive Titan miniboss shown at the end. The primary challenge of this encounter, which consists of passing through blue rings and avoiding the red ones, seems to escalate nicely. Using the spin cycle to lift up the Titan’s feet before attacking them is a novel use of this new ability.
So all in all, the new combat demonstration for Sonic Frontiers came off as off-putting — much like Wednesday’s video. It likely won’t change the minds of those who felt worried about the game before. Despite all of the weird jank and the supposed lack of complexity, Sonic Frontiers‘ combat could very well end up enjoyable. Just a few months ago, Kirby and the Forgotten Land proved that 3D platformers don’t need Devil May Cry levels of intricacy to have fun combat. But as of right now, it is difficult to tell if the combat in Sonic Frontiers will be much more than a mindless button-mashing fest. Showing some of the HUD elements could go a long way toward alleviating at least some of these concerns.