Sonic doesn’t need an open world game, it needs focus

Since its debut in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog has released 31 games on consoles. However, until now, Sega’s famous mascot has never put his iconic sneakers in a fully open-ended game. I was first drawn to the concept of an open world Sonic game and started to fantasize about what it could all mean. The thought of roaming freely in a huge world filled with different types of challenges, enemies, and puzzles sounds great. The series has dabbled in fairly free-roaming hub-based worlds before, but seamless exploration is a whole new territory.

But then I saw the initial gameplay of Sonic Frontiers and uffmy mind went from excitement to serious questioning of whether an open-world Sonic the Hedgehog game was the right choice.


I just couldn’t stop focusing on how empty the world looks. Beneath the island’s floating rails and loops, there is nothing unique or special about the scenery; Instead of a giant playground, it felt like a barren, rocky island off the coast of Scotland. Once you’ve rushed to the top of the tower and defeated the few enemies that seem to be there, what’s left to do? While there are puzzles that unlock more of the island, we still don’t know how numerous those other pieces are, but you would have thought if they were more exciting Sega would have shown them off a bit.

There could be more enemies, but there could also be emptier pastures with green grass. Sonic Frontiers is set in a large open world, of course, but this first look hasn’t channeled the thrills of its fast-paced platforming predecessors. An open world sonic game Sounds nice, but its execution and development has not got off to a good start.

The new attacks available to Sonic seem interesting, but part of me still thinks back to Sonic Unleashed where the combat segments really slowed down the gameplay. As the flagship for blast processing, Sonic is always built on one key thing: speed.

I don’t mind jumping and fighting multiple enemies, but for an open-world Sonic game, the main selling point should be running fast through populated areas and not having to stop. Sonic Frontiers features a skill tree that allows players to level up Sonic’s abilities while getting a sense of progression. It sounds good until I remembered that what I loved about the Sonic Adventure games (when they didn’t have glitches) was collecting items to level up my characters. If all you can look for in the game is Chaos Emeralds, then exploring takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Imagine if you couldn’t collect items in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only abilities. It would take away the wonderful sense of adventure while discovering and pulling the Master Sword from the stone. Skill trees can be great in games if used properly. For example, in the Batman Arkham series, you can increase Batman’s health and gadget selection, but you can still collect gadgets and Riddler trophies to boost your sense of accomplishment.

So far, the recordings of Sonic Frontiers showed none of this. While side quests and gemless items could be shown ahead of release, the lack of features outside of a skill tree and new combat moves was a concern. This aims to be an open world where we can pinball or race through trees and collect trophies in the form of chili dogs to unlock new skins. If we cannot do that, then there is no reason for existence.

An open world means developers should have an open imagination. If you want Sonic to have a skill tree, create one, but show he can run through certain enemies if you max his speed without having to use his Spin Dash. If we were just getting an empty world with a few enemies sprinkled in, the folks at Sonic Team would have been better off focusing on either making a new two-dimensional Sonic game or taking the time to make something a little more sandboxed.

Sonic doesn’t need an open world game, he just needs a nice long development cycle, some tweaking and better glitch protection. There’s nothing wrong with 2D Sonic, especially when they bring us cool new stages, soundtracks, and sweet, frenzied speed. Sonic doesn’t need an open world game, it needs focus

Lindsay Lowe

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