Sonic Frontiers‘ marketing has turned out quite bizarre so far, and yesterday served as no exception. Not only did Sega host a Sonic Central stream that revealed a small snippet of new Sonic Frontiers gameplay and other bits of Sonic news, but IGN also published a hands-on preview for the game that occurred at the exact same time. Most fans likely tuned in to the Sonic Central event first, which showed off a new boss fight that. The battle was undeniably dynamic and cool, but the clip did not address the core concerns that people have with Sonic Frontiers. Interestingly, though, the IGN preview ended up sharing much more substantial information, ranging from a skill tree reveal and combat details, that gave fans a bit more hope for the game. At least so far.
In this new video, paired with a written preview, IGN Editorial Producer Mitchell Saltzman briefly explained the game’s premise. Frontiers sees Sonic, alongside Tails and Amy, getting transported to a mysterious island after ending up in a wormhole. Sonic begins his new adventure completely isolated from his friends, guided only by an AI voice requesting him to find the Chaos Emeralds.
Sonic Team’s goals with Sonic Frontiers
Saltzman goes on to explain Sonic Team’s vision for the game. According to Sonic Team Creative Officer Takashi Iizuka, Sonic Frontiers sets itself apart from other open-world games by prioritizing “3D action” gameplay over RPG and adventure elements. Iizuka also explains that the artists at Sonic Team aimed to give the game a mysterious vibe, as evidenced by the piano music and stone architecture scattered throughout the world.
The straightforward puzzles shown off in the June 1 gameplay demonstration reveal various sections of the map once completed. Some of these puzzles ask players to race from one section of the map to another before a timer runs out, taking advantage of the open terrain to find interesting shortcuts.
You can parry in a Sonic game now
The preview also goes into more detail on Sonic Frontiers‘ combat, which boasts a few other mechanics than last week’s combat demonstration let on. Arguably the most exciting of these comes in the form of a parry that players can perform by pressing both bumpers on the controller. The Sonic Frontiers preview also provides some details on a skill tree that will naturally unlock more abilities for Sonic to use over time.
One aspect of the combat reveal that players took issue with was the shielded enemy showcased midway through, which seemed to only become vulnerable after performing the spin cycle technique. Thankfully, Saltzman revealed that players have multiple ways to defeat this enemy type after all, with one of them involving the aforementioned parry mechanic.
Beating overworld bosses serves a major purpose, as they reward players with portal gears used to access a variety of “bite-sized, linear stages.” These levels play more or less like more traditional Sonic stages, and they come with extra objectives that reward vault keys. These items are critical for gaining access to the Chaos Emeralds, so players should ideally complete as many of these objectives as they can.
An honest assessment
Saltzman did not refrain from criticizing some of Sonic Frontiers‘ more questionable aspects, such as the distracting pop-in and the non-diegetic stage elements. He specifically stated that the gigantic overworld bosses need some polishing up, as climbing up them does not always work how it should. On the plus side, he did confirm that he played an early build of Sonic Frontiers, so Sonic Team could theoretically fix at least some of the issues brought up by him and others before release. But realistically, many of the issues shown so far may remain in the final game even with a delay.
With all that said, IGN’s preview of Sonic Frontiers ended on a refreshingly positive note, as Saltzman felt the game really did show that Sonic’s gameplay could work in an open-world format. After more than a week of mediocre gameplay reveals and concerned reactions, hearing Saltzman commend the game while remaining honest about its flaws is exactly what fans needed. In the end, Sonic Frontiers could still end up as a disappointment, but the chances of it being good in spite of its problems have thankfully gone up a bit.