Though Sega have proudly shown off their recently released first look at the gameplay for Sonic Frontiers, fans have in turn asked for the game to receive more polish, even at the cost of a release date delay.
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Originally announced in December 2021, the first look at the game in action was released to the public by IGN, who released a ‘world premiere‘ video on June 1st and a ‘combat gameplay‘ video on June 3rd.
However, as has become typical of the blue blur’s modern outing, the fan reception to Sonic Frontier’s has been far from warm.
As seen in these videos, Sonic Frontiers’ gameplay sees the titular hero rolling through fields in an open-world, fighting various alien-looking robots, and solving environmental puzzles.
In this writer’s personal opinion, it seems to be a by-the-list clone of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but with a wise-cracking blue hedgehog instead of a blonde-haired mute.
While Sonic is able to run up to his typical high speed, he seems to have more than his homing attack in his arsenal.
The trailer finds him producing a flurry of wind-blades from a series of rapid kicks, wildly richocheting mid-air in order to build up momentum in service of slamming into his foes, and using a glowing trail to draw shapes which launch foes skyward if they find themselves caught within said shapes’ borders.
In traversing this open world, Sonic can also build up speed to run up banked slopes or reach special pads that allow him to run straight up to the top of the various towers that litter the world, most of which feature basic platforming challenges, floating platforms, and grind rails dotting the sky.
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The open world also seems to include collectibles.
Aside from the series’ iconic rings, the trailer shows Sonic picking up a heart-like object, which judging by how this scene is slower animated and more emphasized, may extend Sonic’s total health rather than just heal him. We also see some sort of red spiky object, a blue fruit, and a few purple coins.
As for the aforementioned environmental puzzles, they appear to be rather simple. In the footage published by IGN, Sonic is tasked with such objectives as running in a wheel to power a generator, turning a statue, and completing a loop around suspicious objects, in service of opening doors or gaining more collectibles.
However, as is apparent from even a glance at the above footage, the game is in far rougher shape than one would expect at the ‘reveal’ stage of development.
Frustrated with Sonic Frontiers’ less-than-polished state, fans took to YouTube to voice their dissatisfaction. Using third-party plugins to view the Dislikes on YouTube, the above videos have a Like/Dislike ratio of 78,000 to 66,000, and 40,000 to 27,000, respectively.
Users commenting on the video can be seen showing concern about the game feeling ‘soulless’, its open-world feeling clumsily thrown together, and the inability for Sonic to use the environment to build up and preserve momentum.
Numerous critics even denounced Sonic Frontiers as being on par or worse than a fan-game, with others still opining that the title was an industry take on the Hire This Man! meme, a long-running internet phrase used in reference to the typical reaction by some players to amateur video game tech demos whose content places cartoony characters in a hyper-realistic open world with total disregard to the gameplay goals of the respective character’s home game.
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The luke-warm reception to gameplay, performance, and graphics eventually resulted in the spread of #DelaySonicFrontiers, uses of which were coupled with fans leveling even further complaints against the title.
@DaveLuty highlighted how he thought “Sonic Frontiers has problems beyond ‘just delay it,'” as the game lacked real momentum physics.
“I think Sonic Frontiers has problems beyond ‘just delay it,’ said @DaveLuty, highlighting his belief that the game lacked real momentum physics.
I think Sonic Frontiers has problems beyond 'just delay it.' pic.twitter.com/qnuxhJrBYi
— Dave Luty (Badnik Mechanic) (@DaveLuty) June 1, 2022
@Comicnight_ took the developers to task, offering up his own take on a stylized Sonic the Hedgehog open-world and inquiring, “Dear Sonic Team, I implemented extremely basic momentum physics in only a few lines of code in a project I created in only a few hours. (Unity3D) Why can’t you guys do the same for #SonicFrontiers ?”
Dear Sonic Team, I implemented extremely basic momentum physics in only a few lines of code in a project I created in only a few hours. (Unity3D)
Why can't you guys do the same for #SonicFrontiers ? pic.twitter.com/KOf1NnV5HK
— comicnight (@Comicnight_) June 3, 2022
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Sharing a clip showing how despite building up speed Sonic’s momentum all but dies when running up hill, @daregularsauce winced, “Watching this physically hurt.”
Watching this physically hurt pic.twitter.com/7vcEaIs5J6
— Sauce (@daregularsauce) June 3, 2022
@JMotion0 took note of how rough the game’s animation quality seemed, realizing, “There are no aerial combat animations in #SonicFrontiers. It’s just his ground animations. He stands in the air.”
“Fans want to enjoy an increase in polished game offerings, like you enjoyed increased business offers and sales,” @Mardiculous explained, citing Sega Sammy’s own fiscal report.
“It was a FAN that lead the movie redesign that helped you achieve that success. It’s time to raise OUR bar. Not SEGA’s. #DelaySonicFrontiers #SonicFrontiers”
“If you really want proper fan feedback for Sonic Frontiers @SEGA, then there is only one real way to do it. #ReleaseFrontiersDemo,” proposed YouTuber Sam Procrastinates. “Then delay to implement the feedback. Do what is best for Sonic. Do what the movie studio did for the movie. Do what is necessary for success.”
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“It’s so weird to me how Sonic Team seems to be married to the idea of losing your rings when you get hit,” underlined @ChrisVoiceman. “Every enemy in this is so slow and defensive because Sonic effectively dies in 2 hits and they don’t want to make it too hard. Give him a health bar if you wanna do combat.”
Amidst this ongoing criticism, on June 7th, IGN published a preview for Sonic Frontiers and offered a caveat to the quality of the game as seen in their videos.
“Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that this gameplay and the version I played were from an early build, but this is definitely an area that I’d hope to see improvement in the final version,” wrote IGN reporter Mitchell Saltzman.
He also noted the game’s early build status in the closing to his preview, asserting “There’s a lot of distracting pop-in, there’s a fair amount of bugs still left to be squashed, and the big boss fights could do with some tweaking, but ultimately my time with this early build answered the one question that I had on my mind: Will Sonic’s one-of-a-kind gameplay translate into an open world? The answer is a resounding ‘Absolutely’.”
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The Sega Sammy Management Meeting 2021 Q&A, released this past January, revealed that “Originally [Sonic Frontiers] was planned to be released on this year, the 30th anniversary of Sonic, but we have postponed the release for a year in order to further brush up the quality.”
“Not only for this title, but during the development phase, we have been steadily conducting analysis to improve the quality of the title before release, such as introducing game testing based on external evaluations, and I have a feeling that it will become a good game and have high expectations for it.”
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Fan hopes for a delay and reworking of Sonic Frontiers, or even calling on fans to help the official development team, aren’t unfounded. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie was initially reviled for its realistic Sonic before outcry resulted in the film’s lead getting a more game-accurate redesign from Sonic Archie comic artist Tyson Hesse.
Prior to that, after pitching the concept of Sonic Mania to Sega, fan-game creator and classic Sonic game port developer Christian Whitehead was given near-free reign to develop what would go on to be the best-rated Sonic game in 15 years. This was only surpassed by Sonic Mania Plus becoming the best rated Sonic game in 25 years.
The development of 3D Sonic games has also been a tricky subject for Sega in general, the various ups and downs of which have resulted in the oft-meme’d “Sonic Cycle“.
The circular progression of this concepts begins with fans growing excited at the reveal of each new Sonic game, proceeds to find them ultimately be betrayed by their excitement when the game turns out to be lackluster and subsequently swearing off the franchise, and finally beginning the cycle anew when the next game is announced.
Established in earnest thanks to the notorious Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), recent titles such as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Colors Ultimate, while not developed by Sonic Team, have only continued to damage the brand’s 3D reputation.
Do you think Sonic Frontiers should be delayed? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments down below!
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