Last year was a huge year for Sonic the Hedgehog as the Blue Blur celebrated his 30th birthday. The year-long celebration brought forth outside collaborations with other games and a slew of anniversary-themed merchandise. Over the past year, fans also got remasters of Sonic classics in both Sonic Colors: Ultimate and, more recently, Origins.
However, the culmination of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 30th anniversary did not stop at re-releases. Instead, during last year’s Sonic Central livestream, fans got their first taste of the Blue Blur’s next evolution. Although SEGA initially kept details under wraps, the brief teaser signaled something huge.
Following the mysterious teaser, however, news surrounding the new Sonic game went silent for the remainder of 2021. Although fans did some digging of their own, such as discovering a trademark for the name Sonic Frontiers last October, neither SEGA nor Sonic Team gave any further info. That is, until December.
After months of silence, SEGA finally debuted the official announcement trailer for Sonic Frontiers during The Game Awards 2021. The cinematic trailer opens up with Sonic dashing through a forest as an ominous dust cloud follows in hot pursuit. However, as the high-speed trailer slows down to reveal the breathtaking landscapes of the Starfall Islands, the game’s main selling point takes center stage: open-zone gameplay.
Although at the time, the term “open-zone” felt vague, it remained evident that Frontiers aimed to become something huge. Since the announcement trailer dropped, news of the game’s scope slowly started to pour in. Now, as we race closer to the November 8 release date, here’s everything we know about Sonic Frontiers!
Racing towards the future
It didn’t take long for fans to get excited about Sonic Frontiers’ massive scale following the announcement trailer. With many people preemptively comparing its open-zone landscapes to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sonic fans ogled at the possibility of running through an open-world at lightspeed. The hype only intensified as Sonic Team USA creative officer Takashi Iizuka hailed the game as “a huge leap forward for the franchise”.
Sonic Frontiers is a huge leap forward for the franchise, delivering an evolved gameplay experience that can be enjoyed by longtime Sonic fans and action-adventure enthusiasts alike. With the effort of the talented developers at Sonic Team Japan, we’ve created an all-new style of gameplay experience for Sonic the Hedgehog, where players will be able to explore lush and expansive landscapes with Sonic’s signature speed and abilities.Takashi Iizuka
Then, in a January interview with GamesRadar, Iizuka continued building hype around the game’s massive innovations. Most notably, Iizuka stated that the ambitious new game completely reworks all of Sonic’s key movements and actions. To take advantage of the large open levels, Sonic Team built the core mechanics from scratch.
With such a massive restructuring of the core mechanics, added that the biggest challenge was making sure Sonic retained his core traits. The goal was developing new gameplay that felt like a natural evolution for Sonic without departing from what fans love. As a result, Sonic’s new adventure will also feature new combat styles and exploration options to accommodate the large environments.
Throughout the interview, Iizuka also continued to loosely throw the term “open zone” around. With no further explanation of the term, some fans grew skeptical. Would Sonic Frontiers really bring a massive open world for people to explore or is the marketing for the game highly misleading? Then, after the first gameplay teaser dropped, the concern around SEGA’s uncertain ambition came to a head.
The first gameplay teaser divides fans
After months of teasing and cinematics, SEGA finally dropped the first look at actual gameplay for Sonic Frontiers in May. As part of IGN First, fans could finally witness Sonic in action. Although the teaser only shows 20 seconds worth of real gameplay, the montage showed a variety of mechanics.
From combat techniques that see the Blue Blur striking with punches and kicks in the air to traversal and exploration, the short teaser is packed with content. Highlights include Sonic running on a hamster wheel contraption, grinding along a rail and battling some robotic enemies. And as our very first glimpse of gameplay, it did not take long for Sonic fans to form an opinion.
Some fans raced right in with praise, admiring the game’s beautiful aesthetic and massive scale. However, others made note of mechanical imperfections like clunky physics and draw distance. Some fans even passed the comments right to SEGA to state their dissatisfaction and ask for them to delay the game.
As a result, this prompted Takashi Iizuka to respond. In an interview with VGC, Iizuka seemingly dismissed all criticisms as fans simply not understanding the game.
It’s not really that surprising. We do realize everyone is just kind of reacting to the videos that they saw, and because they don’t understand what this new gameplay is, they’re kind of comparing it to other games that they already know.Takashi Iizuka
Iizuka went on to add that the biggest misconception is what the term “open zone” really means. Confirming that the term does not translate to a full open world, Iizuka states that the new gameplay style is something wholly original. As a result, Iizuka remains optimistic about the open-zone gameplay. In response to the #DelaySonicFrontiers movement, he also doubled down on Sonic Team and SEGA’s intention to have the new title out by the end of the year.
SEGA’s newest title gets new light shed by… Nintendo
Only about a month apart from the first gameplay teaser, SEGA unveiled even more Sonic Frontiers gameplay at Nintendo Direct Mini. In just one minute, we can see the Blue Blur dash through challenges, take on enemies and explore Cyber Space. You can also check out the short demo for yourself below!
One of the most interesting details in the latest gameplay demo is the Cyber Space area. Up to this point, all the footage we’ve seen shows Sonic running around the gorgeous landscapes of the Starfall Islands. However, the portals that open up to the Cyber Space areas reveal the true variety of environments players can run through.
In Cyber Space, players will need to complete challenges to grab keys needed to progress. The trailer also highlights two distinct areas of Cyber Space. One shows a highway-esque environment, while the other appears as a modernized nod to the Green Hill Zone. Overall, it appears as though Frontiers aims to blend classic Sonic levels with the open landscapes of the Starfall Islands.
Other gameplay shown off sheds new light on the open zone areas of the game. This time, we get an even better look at how players can take advantage of the environment to dash around in high-velocity fun. Running, jumping and grinding along rails all seem to flow nicely together and retain the fluid movement that makes Sonic games so addictive.
We also get a better look at the game’s combat. Two features highlighted are the ability to lock on to enemies and string together a series of unique combo moves. In addition, the trailer alludes to a skill-tree that players can use to upgrade and unlock Sonic’s moves throughout the game.
So, what is an “Open Zone”?
Alongside the gameplay demo, SEGA also unveiled tons of information about Sonic Frontiers through a press release. The release details everything we need to know about the Starfall Islands, Cyber Space and how that ties into the open zone gameplay. Overall, Sonic Frontiers expands the traditional formula by combining linear levels with elements of an open world.
The open zones center around a series of islands called the Starfall Islands. The very first islands Sonic explores is called Kronos. Kronos Island features expansive forests and towering mountains with large waterfalls. In addition, ruins and floating towers lie scattered about the land, which is home to ancient inhabitants the Koco.
While on the islands, Sonic can freely explore his surroundings with fluid traversal that centers on his signature speed. Throughout the game, you’ll discover puzzles and side quests that you can complete in any order you like. You’ll also find portals into Cyber Space, making the islands act as a hub to access the linear levels.
In each Cyber Space level, players will need to complete linear objectives to progress further in the game. As you run through the levels, you’ll have to complete challenges, combat enemies and solve puzzles in fast-paced platforming action. Completing these challenges award you Vault Keys, which you need to move forward in the game.
Gameplay to match everyone’s speed
Sonic Frontiers also promises to feature the most fluid and deep gameplay mechanics of any title in the series to date. In combat encounters, players can strategically combine button combinations to perform stylishly powerful combo moves. Players can utilize a range of offensive attacks, as well as defensive techniques like dodging and countering to show off your battle skills.
These battles skills are new moves and abilities that you can unlock to upgrade Sonic throughout the game. One ability SEGA details is the Cyloop. This allows Sonic to create a band of light that mirror’s the Blue Blurs tracks. You can use the Cyloop to surround enemies, items and areas to uncover various effects and unlock secrets.
One way you can unlock items and abilities is through completing puzzles. Within the ancient ruins of Starfall Islands, players will encounter various puzzles that require wit and agility to solve. Completing the puzzles grants items that increase Sonic’s abilities, reveal hidden areas and unlock new means of navigating.
You can also get an even deeper look at the new gameplay for yourself in IGN’s hands-on preview below.
In addition, the game offers a variety of styles that players can choose from to personally tailor gameplay. For combat, players who aren’t a fan of learning combos can utilize Auto Mode to assign moves to a single button.
Players can also choose between two distinct gameplay styles—Action Style and High Speed Style. Action Style is great for players new to Sonic games by allowing more accurate platforming. On the other hand, High Speed Style targets the veterans who just… gotta go fast.
The enemies and bosses of Sonic Frontiers
Another feature SEGA unveiled about the upcoming title is the variety of enemies the Blue Blur will encounter across the Starfall Islands. From common enemies to imposing bosses, Sonic will need to use every tool in his arsenal to defeat his foes.
One common enemy type is the soldier. These enemies usually spawn in large groups and attack by jabbing with both hands. Cyclones will also attempt to thwart Sonic. These floating enemies can cause a lot of damage with attacks that appear like electric tornadoes.
Another enemy is the Banger, a wheel-like enemy with speed to rival the Blur himself. There’s also the all-powerful shell, whose armor shields it from normal attacks and the Bubble that forms as a group of electric spheres.
Alongside the common enemies, however, are the bosses. The Ninja is a fast and fierce foe who can block incoming attacks and strike using its own shadows. In addition, Sonic will have to knock down Tower, whose body is comprised of various stacked parts. However, most intimidating may be Asura. Seen in the demo, Asura looms overhead just as if it were a tall skyscraper. Our favorite blue hedgehog will need to run up its arm to find its weakness from the top.
Sonic enters a bold new frontier
Last December, SEGA confirmed that Ian Flynn is responsible for the storyline of Sonic Frontiers. Flynn previously wrote for Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog series and the Sonic Boom television show. Along with confirming Flynn’s involvement on the latest game, SEGA also revealed the overall synopsis.
In Sonic Frontiers, Sonic’s long-time nemesis Dr. Eggman discovers an ancient technology on the Starfall Islands and installs his AI program SAGE to hack in and take over. But there is more to this technology than he realizes, and unintended consequences immediately come to bear. Sonic must race against time to discover the truth, save his friends, and maybe even save himself at the same time.SEGA
The press release also gives us additional information on the story of Sonic Frontiers. Sonic’s adventure begins when he, Amy and Tails head to the Starfall Islands in search of Chaos Emeralds. However, things go wrong when they get sucked into a dimensional portal. Separated from his friends, Sonic awakens in a digital world known as Cyber Space.
After escaping Cyber Space, the Blue Blur finds himself on Kronos Island, one of many Starfall Islands. From this point on, it’s up to Sonic to find his lost friends and uncover the mysteries of the land.
However, throughout his journey, Sonic receives warnings from a mysterious girl named Sage. In their encounters, Sage warns Sonic that he should leave the Starfall Islands regardless of his mission to save his friends.
Even more story details race out of Gamescom 2022!
During Gamescom 2022, fans received even more exciting news about Sonic Frontiers! In a new story trailer, we learn a little bit more about SAGE, and how she stands in Sonic’s way from saving his friends. You can check it out for yourself below!
Aside from showing us our mysterious new villain SAGE, a young woman with immense power, we also get a look at Sonic’s longtime ally Amy who appears imprisoned in a crimson sphere. In addition to story details, the trailer also shows off even more high-speed action through a unique breadth of locations. Finally, the trailer reveals the official release date of November 8, as well as pre-order information.
Sonic Frontiers races out this November!
Sonic Frontiers dashes out to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC on November 8. You can pre-order the game below. You can also pre-purchase the game now on Steam!
Is Sonic Frontiers on your Christmas list? As always, let us know your thoughts down in the comments!