Tokyo Game Show 2022 – Sonic Frontiers is a Bit Messy, But Fun

At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, I was able to spend some time with the newest Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Frontiers. I had a mixed experience to say the least.

I suppose I’m what you would call a lapsed Sonic fan. I grew up on the Genesis games and played Sonic Adventure 2 on my Dreamcast religiously until I unlocked the Green Hill Zone bonus level. But after Sonic Heroes, I fell off on the franchise—especially after hearing about the utter mess now commonly known as Sonic ’06. So playing Sonic Frontiers felt to me both like coming home and being beaten over the head by just how much I had missed out on.

The TGS demo of the game seems to be set near the start of the story. Sonic wakes up in a strange world, separated from his friends with only a mysterious disembodied voice to guide him. You’re left in the hub world with various paths all subtly leading you towards your next mission objective—your first mini-boss. From there you gain a power up and are guided to the first traditional 3D Sonic level. Once this is complete, you can circle back to where you came from in the overworld and face the demo’s major boss.

From the start, it feels like Sonic Frontiers expects you to have full knowledge of Sonic and all his power ups through the more recent games—not to mention how to use them. Even in the first part of the open world are paths that require things like the light dash or multiple homing attacks to traverse yet there is nothing to really teach you how to do these things in the moment. The closest the game gets to really guiding you is during loading screen tutorials that may or may not have anything to do with the obstacles in the area you are currently in.

Even while waiting in line for my turn at the game, I watched numerous people stumble at the exact same spot. While there was a ground path ahead, there was also an optional path starting from a nearby bouncy spring. Everyone went for the spring—this is Sonic after all. Yet at the top of the spring jump you need to do a light dash to reach a boost ring that would launch you right to your next objective. Except that no one knew how to do the light dash. They just jumped on the spring over and over, collecting the golden rings one by one but never quite reaching the boost ring. And even I, who knew what to do, had no idea how to perform the light dash—the game didn’t tell me. Honestly, without the controls printed out in front of me, I never would have guessed that clicking the left thumbstick was the answer.

Yet, despite not really understanding what Sonic was capable of and often wandering around at slow speeds instead of breaking the sound barrier, I did have fun with the demo overall. The open world area with its multiple branching paths felt more like a 2D Sonic in design than the 3D ones I am more familiar with. I think I would enjoy spending time exploring all the possible paths. Likewise, the traditional 3D level was a fun one with numerous optional objectives to give it a bit of replay value.

The combat was also much more entertaining than I expected. Things have come a long way from simple jumps or homing attacks. The ability to dodge around behind your enemy in mid-air or mid-combo is great. It made me feel like speed was my greatest weapon—just as a Sonic game should.

All in all, my time with Sonic Frontiers makes me think it would be a frustratingly complicated game to start but incredibly enjoyable to master. That said, this is only for new players or lapsed fans like myself. I suspect that more recent Sonic players will have little trouble picking up this game and zooming around with no trouble at all. Regardless, I will certainly pick up this one when it is released in a few months.

Sonic Frontiers will be released on November 8, 2022 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows.

Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.



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