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Sonic Frontiers is a true Sonic Adventure sequel, and other insights

Sonic Frontiers' open-world and hints of side quests reflect a game that looks very much like a modern follow-up to the classic Sonic Adventure series

Sonic Frontiers is coming out later this year, and now that we’ve seen our first glimpse of Sonic’s big open-world game debut thanks to a short gameplay teaser, it’s safe to say we’re hyped for the blue hedgehog’s next big-budget outing.

It’s been a long-time coming, as fans haven’t had any mainline outings with the blue blur since 2018’s Sonic Mania Plus expansion, and it’s been even longer since his last 3D appearance in 2017’s Sonic Forces. Since then, gamers have had to satiate themselves with two blockbuster Hollywood movies, a new racing spin-off with 2019’s Team Sonic Racing, and the knowledge that the Sonic Origins release date is coming up soon.

Hollywood success for Sega’s mascot is all well and good, but nothing comes close to the experience of actually playing a brand new mainline Sonic the Hedgehog title. While we wait for more details to come from Sonic Team, it seems clear to us that Sonic Frontiers is a true Sonic Adventure sequel, and we’ve compiled nine other insights into the game that have us pumped for this latest entry.

A true Sonic Adventure sequel

The first Sonic Adventure emerged out of Sonic Team’s desire to create a Sonic the Hedgehog RPG for the Sega Saturn. Elements of this approach still remain in the game today, with its multiple character story paths, its Zelda-like hub worlds, and side activities like the Chao Garden.

14 years on from Sonic Adventure’s initial release and it looks like we’re finally getting a true sequel to Sonic’s original 3D outing with Sonic Frontiers. That Zelda-inspired hub design initiative has gone one step further with Sonic’s latest game set to take massive liberties with the open-world template carved out by 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

We can see in the trailer icons filling the map, suggesting side-quests and exploration on a level Sonic’s never seen before, while also bringing back memories of finding character upgrades dotted around the world of Sonic Adventure. While we’re yet to receive any confirmation of fan-requested features like the return of the Chao Garden, don’t be too surprised if Sonic Team finds a way to pay homage to the series’ forebearer in some shape or form.

It’s a Sonic Adventure OST reunion too

It was confirmed by NME that long-time Sonic composer Jun Senoue would be making a return to scoring on the mainline series of games, his first big spot on the musical roster since 2011’s Sonic Generations. He’s been busy in the meantime, bringing us the banging remix-laden soundtrack to Team Sonic Racing, but it’s been a long time since he’s dabbled in the mainline big-budget Sonic fare.

Senoue most famously led the primary composition of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, so it makes sense in a game that seems to be angling for a return to that Dreamcast-era formula that he would make an appearance here.

The short gameplay trailer also featured music from another classic Sonic composer, Tomoya Ohtani, notable for leading composition on later Sonic games like Sonic Colours and for contributing music to Sonic Adventure 2. While it’s unconfirmed whether Ohtani has composed anything for the main game itself, it’s not a stretch to imagine the trailer piece making its way into the game, meaning we’ve got ourselves a Sonic Adventure soundtrack reunion on the cards.

The story HAS Sonic IDW comics TALENT

After the somewhat scattershot approach to writing in Sonic Forces, fans will be relieved to see Ian Flynn, head story writer for the IDW Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series and veteran of the Archie Comics series, taking up writing duties on this outing.

No real story details confirmed as of yet, but it’s probably a good sign that you haven’t seen a single other Sonic the Hedgehog hero or villain in any of the trailers so far.

Shadow (the Hedgehog) of the colossus

The latest gameplay trailer shows Sonic facing off against a giant foe that he’s forced to scale in order to reach its weak spot. It might not surprise you too much then that Sonic Frontiers seems to be taking a few enemy design ideas from another classic Japanese-developed open-world game: Shadow of the Colossus.

Obviously, it remains to be seen whether Sonic goes one step further and fights a five-story version of Shadow the Hedgehog in order to really drive that reference home.

unlike tears in the rain

The trailers thus far have shown us that Sonic Frontiers will be getting a day-night cycle, as well as weather conditions, just like Breath of the Wild. The difference this time, however, is that when it rains, it’s not likely to flat-out ruin your day as it does in Link’s open-world adventure.

While we’ve yet to see if these cycles affect the gameplay in any specific way, surely enough people have complained about failing to climb cliff edges slickened by a single drop of rain for even Sonic Team to have got the message.

Combat is really trying, guys

Sonic games have not had a good track record for combat systems, unfortunately. Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 showcased Shadow’s limp three-hit punch cycle; Sonic Unleashed gave us the Werehog’s combo system, aka God of War for babies; even concerted combat-heavy efforts like the Game Boy Advance title Sonic Battle failed to impress how Sonic fights with his meagre array of punches and kicks.

It looks like this time Sonic Team is taking a wider design berth to the issue of making Sonic as a character feel fun in combat, by at least assessing in closer detail what makes the character unique as a fighter – namely, his speed. Moves showcased so far rely heavily on flashy finisher-like moves and being able to circle around enemies in order to launch them, which adds some much-needed variety to previous Sonic combat systems at the very least.

We still see an awful lot of lock-on button-mashing combos in the gameplay trailer, but hopefully there’s enough variety in Sonic’s other abilities to keep combat from feeling like a chore.

ride a treadmill to apease your betters

The recent trailer showed off Sonic’s idea of a Korok seed puzzle – where Link might get to use his magic gadgets to manoeuvre blocks around and freeze objects, Sonic instead must degrade himself by getting into a big hamster wheel and running for the delight of some strange vegetable people.

The results are the same for both heroes, however; Sonic gets a doodad, Link gets golden poop, each in exchange for a little of their dignity. It’s not clear yet how these trinkets affect gameplay in Frontiers – perhaps they lean into an upgrade system just like in Breath of the Wild – but the map is dotted with question mark activities just like this one, and we’ll be surprised if Sonic can hold his head up in polite society after this game is through.

This is still his world

God help you if you got that one. Anyway, don’t let that realistic grass-laden world fool you – this is still a Sonic game. Sure, there are a lot more richly-detailed rocks and ancient architecture than we’re used to in Sonic’s world, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing any of the classic series elements we know and love.

The world will still have rings scattered about it and big red springs to bounce into the air from. There will be more modern elements too, like grind rails lingering in the sky and big red hoops that shoot you forward when you enter them. No loop-de-loops or star posts yet, but still plenty to be revealed, we’re sure.

grassland, desertland, boss

So far, we’ve seen plenty of grassy plains in the Sonic Frontiers trailers, but given that the game is called ‘Frontiers’ plural, one would presume there are more biomes yet to be shown. In fact, one need not presume at all, because it was confirmed on the Sonic Frontiers Steam page: “Battle powerful enemies as you speed through the Starfall Islands – landscapes brimming with dense forests, overflowing waterfalls, sizzling deserts and more!”

Forests – check. Waterfalls – check. “Sizzling deserts and more”? No check so far. The game already seems to have plenty to explore as it is, so we’re excited to see what other landmasses we might be speeding over.

and we still know nothing

Trailers so far have shown us elements that we have yet to figure out. Sonic’s new boost power, for example – what is that? Why is it all flashy and techno-looking? What about those little hopping vegetable guys next to the treadmill; what are those? Are those this game’s version of Chao?

There’s also the perpetual mystery of the ‘zao’ imagery, as fans have dubbed it. Teased in the first trailer before the game’s name was officially revealed, the symbol at the end of each trailer that fills with blue light seems to be teasing something to do with the lore of the game, but we have yet to unravel what exactly that might entail.

For the first time in a long time, it seems like a Sonic game has an element of mystery behind it – a perfect tone-setting for an adventure, one might add. We’re not sure yet when to expect an answer to all these lingering questions, but with Sega being listed on the Summer Game Fest schedule, maybe we won’t have to wait too long to find out.