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Sonic Frontiers Has Critics Mixed On The New Direction

In the lead up to its release, "Sonic Frontiers" has been a contentious talking point amongst longtime fans of the "Sonic the Hedgehog" series. Originally presented as a side-scrolling platformer in which players control the titular anthropomorphic hedgehog as he travels through loops and over gaps, the "Sonic" franchise has changed over the years. But the core of what makes each title a "Sonic" game has more or less remained. However, developer Sonic Team has been rather ambitious in regards to "Sonic Frontiers" and how it approached its design.


Prior to release, "Sonic Frontiers" was presented as being a sort of pseudo open-world experience. While early comparisons between Sonic's next adventure and "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" seemed imminent, Sonic Team later clarified that "Sonic Frontiers" wasn't exactly an open-world title, instead branding it an "open zone" game based more upon free-flowing levels rather than a complete open-world agency. It's an ambitious approach to one of gaming's most iconic series and now the question remains: is it a good one? The reviews are in and unfortunately, the end result seems to be quite mixed.

Sonic Frontiers is dividing critics

"Sonic Frontiers" seems to have greatly divided most critics. Writing for VGC, Chris Scullion was mostly positive about "Sonic Frontiers" and praised it for being a refreshing take on the traditional "Sonic" formula despite initial concerns. "It may have had a mixed reception earlier this year, but 'Sonic Frontiers” final form is a brilliantly refreshing adventure that gives the series a much-needed shake-up," Scullion said. While noting that the game isn't flawless, Richard Wakeling of GameSpot also seemed impressed by "Sonic Frontiers" and its presentation. "Running around at the speed of sound might be a mantra of the fleet-footed hedgehog, but 'Sonic Frontiers' is at its best when you're given time to simply explore," Wakeling said of the game.


However, not everyone has been impressed. In what might be the most negative review of the game, Tomas Franzese gave "Sonic Frontiers" a 1 out of 5 score in his review for Digital Trends and called it among the worst "Sonic" games he's played. "It might not be as much of a technical mess as some other Sonic games, but that's not a very high compliment," Franzese said. "Sonic Team tried to do something radically different with 'Sonic Frontiers,' which is a respectable direction for a creative team to go in, but the basic design decisions here just don't feel well thought out." It's possible, some reviewers thought, that Sonic Team took on a bigger project than it could handle.

Was Open Zone a bit too ambitious?

One of the biggest selling points for "Sonic Frontiers" pre-release was its "Open Zone" designation. As opposed to being classified as an open world title, Sonic Team dubbed "Frontiers" an open zone game which the company determined was a more accurate descriptor for its gameplay loop. This approach seems to the source of much of the mixed reception. While Travis Northup of IGN mostly enjoyed this new world design, he did note that it had some problems. "The biggest shortcoming with this new open-world design, though, has nothing to do with the buffet of mostly amusing activities – it's simply that 'Frontiers' is not at all able to keep up with Sonic's godlike speed on a technical level," Northup said.


Tomas Franzese of Digital Trends felt the open-world/open zone approach failed on virtually every level, too. "While people have been calling this Sonic's version of 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,' it's more comparable to a Ubisoft open-world game," Franzese said. Oscar Taylor-Kent of GamesRadar+ was similarly critical of this design choice saying, "'Sonic Frontiers' takes an all-too-ambitious approach to reimaging the 'hog in an open world setting. The result is a Sonic who is far too sluggish to control across a wide range of dull combat, exploration, and platforming challenges."