At PAX Aus 2022, I played a 15 minute demo of Sonic Frontiers. With the big three (Nintendo, Sony and Xbox) oddly absent, we dove straight over to the booth that was multifaceted with photos of Sonic, a reaction-based challenge where you pressed buttons when they lit up, and, most importantly, the previously mentioned demo. The first thing to note was that it was running on a PC build of the game, so keep that in mind when you read our first impressions if you’re looking to get Sonic Frontiers on Nintendo Switch.
Not every game should be set in an open world
The first thing I noticed when jumping into the demo was that the world design left pathing to the correct order of towers unclear. While Sonic Frontiers features open world exploration, having a clear line of sight to the key locations you’re meant to approach would help a lot. This issue was also exacerbated by some really bad pop-in throughout the overworld, where some objects would almost just appear directly in front of me while moving at a faster pace.
The best experience I had though was ironically during the traditionally-designed Sonic levels, a la Sonic Adventure. The flow felt fun and speedy, although I did come across a couple of issues when I was trying to jump from one rail to another as I would overshoot really easily. The momentum kept you moving fast (gotta go fast) in these sequences, unlike in the open world portion of the game. In the open world, if you punch while in the air, you literally halt and fall down in place, completely pulling you out of the experience.
Bad tutorials! Bad!
The second issue to come up was that the tutorials simply pulled you out of the game, feeling very unnatural. A bit of ingenuity would’ve been nice where they could’ve been integrated into the world in a way that felt less jarring. My first encounter with the tutorials was with combat training where I just had to press a single button, something I had already worked out prior. Speaking of combat, it requires almost no strategy, you simply just need to mash the attack button against enemies; not once did I feel as though they posed any real threat.
Ultimately, Sonic Frontiers looks as though it would’ve greatly benefited from being delayed for perhaps another year to polish out the loose ends, make the game flow more naturally, and optimise its performance. It’s unfortunately a tale that is continuously told with Sonic games and Sonic Frontiers appears to be no exception. My main recommendation would be to avoid grabbing Sonic Frontiers on the Nintendo Switch considering these issues were prevalent on a high-end PC build of the game.
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