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We Finally Understand What Sonic Frontiers' Open Zone Means

After being synonymous with the platformer genre since its debut in 1991, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is going open-world. Well, sort of. The marketing for "Sonic Frontiers" — the first game in the series since 2017's "Sonic Forces" — has suggested that the next "Sonic" title will be set in an open-world environment that players are free to peruse at their leisure. The language expressed by developer Sonic Team and Sega, however, has branded the new entry as "Open Zone," a term gamers are likely unfamiliar with.


When first looks at "Sonic Frontiers" and how it will function were disseminated across the web, many fans compared it to "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" due to its forest-like setting and apparent open-world gameplay elements. Gone were the loops and ramps that longtime players had grown accustomed to, and in their place came open fields. But the makers behind "Sonic Frontiers" have been conscious to not embrace this description and have instead doubled down on its "Open Zone" designation. But what exactly does this term mean and how does it differ from the open-world genre?

Open Zone vs. Open-World

As you have probably picked up on by now, "Sonic" fans aren't too sure what an "Open Zone" game is, or how it differs from the more traditional and oversaturated open-world category. In an interview with IGN, game director Morio Kishimoto clarified why Sega has been adamant in this new kind of description. "Level-based platformers often have a world map," Kishimoto told IGN. "Our Open Zone is a world map, only we've made it entirely playable. A playable world map that includes stage-like elements is something that hasn't really been done before, so we had to come up with a new name."


Given Kishimoto's statement, it seems that "Sonic Frontiers" will retain a lot of the classic gameplay elements that fans have come to love the franchise for, but it will be translated into levels that are less restrictive than they've been in past installments. "Sonic Frontiers" isn't so much an open-world title due to the fact that it's not one giant map that players can roam. This will allow the flow of gameplay to "carry players in any direction without the limitations of a stage or course" according to Kishimoto.

"Sonic Frontiers" is scheduled to release in late 2022 on all major platforms.