Sonic Frontiers: What Sonic Team Should Learn

    Sonic games can be masterpieces.

    If you have read my recent Sonic Frontiers review, you know that I had a blast with the game. I consider it to be a huge step in the right direction for the franchise, but it’s not without its caveats. There’s a lot Sega and Sonic Team can do to improve in a sequel, and there are several things I’d personally like to see going forward. While I’m not expecting Sonic Adventure 3 with open world Chao Gardens anytime soon, I believe there are some reasonable requests I can make for a follow-up game.

    Varied Frontiers

    Sonic Frontiers

    I enjoy the divisive art direction of Sonic Frontiers, but I will not deny that the game could have benefitted from more diverse locales. I don’t think many will disagree when I say that locations like an ancient city or a snow biome would’ve been very welcome additions to the game. That’s why Sonic Team needs to step up their game when it comes to location variety in future titles.

    Imagine running up and down skyscrapers in a huge city or hopping across huge tree branches in a rainforest! The possibilities are endless. Some locations may be too ambitious for the time being and might require mega budgets to realize, but I believe that Sonic Team can introduce a more interesting variety of locations in the next game.

    Combo Blues

    Sonic Frontiers combat trailer

    Combat is quite fun and doesn’t feel out of place in Sonic Frontiers. However, there is much room to grow in future titles. Combos are flashy but easy to execute, with some moves looking too similar to each other. I’d like to see Sonic Team implement a higher skill ceiling for combos in the next mainline title. It’s nice that the combat system is accessible so younger gamers can play with ease, but I think there’s a way to include both those who want a challenge and those who want to look flashy without the hassle.

    Combos in Frontiers are simple enough to make the auto combo option feel somewhat unnecessary. What’s even more confusing is the fact that the auto combo toggle is locked behind the skill tree. I believe it makes more sense to make this available right out of the gate for players who aren’t as interested in labbing combos. That way, the combat would be more inclusive to both people who want to put in the time and those who may need a bit more assistance.

    Combat would also benefit from the addition of a standard health bar. I understand the desire to use rings as Sonic’s form of health, but I believe that they suit linear stages much better. Rings remove a lot of tension from combat encounters when the player can endlessly generate them and pick them up. A health bar would give encounters higher stakes and make them more thrilling.

    Super Sonic Resources

    Sonic hasn’t really been a AAA franchise for years now. Frontiers is the highest-budget Sonic game in a long time, but there’s still a ways to go before Sonic can match up with some of the other big franchises in the industry. I do not believe that big-budget polish makes a game good on its own, but it can go a long way to convince customers that you care about your product. People noticed the lack of AAA production quality in Sonic Frontiers, and it lead many to wonder if Sonic Team was even trying.

    This shouldn’t have to be a problem the next time around. Sega has historically rushed and understaffed Sonic Team, but hopefully they now realize the potential value of their IP when they invest in it properly thanks to the success of the Sonic movies. Sonic Team needs to be given the proper time and staff for the next game to be a huge success. They now have a formula to make great Sonic games, but they need to refine it.

    Animations, character models, geometry, and other assets could use an uplift. Several cutscenes in Sonic Frontiers look dull and lifeless in how they’re animated, despite the dialogue being an improvement over previous titles. Good presentation quality can be important in grabbing attention to your story. Especially since the series seems to be headed in a direction that values narrative, improving the quality of cutscenes is a must.

    Seamless Platforming

    Sonic Frontiers

    This is expanding on what I said about polish, but I believe this deserves its own section. Platforms and level elements need to be better integrated within the open zone. While playing Frontiers, it becomes obvious that Sonic Team were constantly tweaking the game’s environments thanks to repeated playtests they conducted. The result is that platforms, rails, loops, and more stick out like a sore thumb. Now that they have a fun formula to work with, I expect more from the open zone assets.

    It doesn’t help that these generic level assets pop into existence within a short range of the player. I’m assuming this is an engine issue, considering that there hasn’t been any fix up until now. While the pop-in issue of Frontiers may never see an end, future titles need to avoid it. Whether Sonic Team needs to tweak their engine or use a completely new one, it would help to address this early on in development.

    Traversal Excellence

    Sonic has great 3D controls in Frontiers, but there’s still room for improvement. As it stands, the drop dash is the only way to make Sonic roll in a ball. While adding a spindash may be unnecessary, I wouldn’t mind an option to curl up instantaneously while running (you can do this in the 2D Cyberspace stages, but it’s quite janky). It would be an amazing way to take advantage of slopes in the open zone and would make traversal even more fun than it already is.

    The physics in Frontiers could also use some tweaks. Most people will agree that the physics in Cyberspace stages are underwhelming, but even the open zone physics could see some improvement. Sonic can often find himself magnetized to terrain, sometimes making slopes difficult to utilize for adding jump height. It’s still great fun to make Sonic fly around when you can, but improved slope jumping would be a welcome addition.

    A Bright Future Ahead

    Sonic Frontiers is my favorite Sonic game in years, and it made me believe that 3D Sonic games have the potential to be truly outstanding again. My main concern is whether or not Sega and Sonic Team decide to build off of the foundation this game introduces. A masterpiece 3D Sonic game could be well within the realms of possibility now, but Sega needs to invest. It would be a shame if all the hard work to get this far went to waste.

    I’m not expecting the next Sonic game to be a perfect product, but I think it can get close to one. I’m sold on the “open zone” concept and believe that Sonic Team should refine it for many years to come. Sonic Frontiers may not have been the Sonic game that everyone dreamed of, but it’s what the franchise desperately needed. As long as future Sonic games continue to improve on what Frontiers brought to the table, the road ahead is bright and clear.

    Itch has a strong passion for PC gaming and retro consoles (especially the Dreamcast). From Melty Blood: Actress Again to Forza Horizon, he will play just about anything that catches his eye. Ever since playing Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit as a young child, he has been in love with the medium of video games and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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