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Weatherby completed Sonic Frontiers
I haven't so much been following Sonic Frontiers as I have been suffering it. The algorithms (and popular opinion, it seems) are against me on this one, and have been force feeding me this game on Twitter and YouTube no matter how many times I click on their little drop downs and tell them I'm "not interested." It's a wonder Sonic hasn't shown up at my doorstep to personally shove a copy of this game down my throat. Alas, here we are. Sonic Frontiers is out and like the mark I am, I bought a copy for 35$ on Black Friday. My condolences if you paid full price for this one, but you didn't abide by two of the immutable laws of game collecting: never buy a new game in the months of October and November, and never pay full price for Sonic.
This is going to be a long review. I'm going to cut Sonic open like a frog and teach you how every part of him works. If you don't have the time or the stomach for that, then the short version is this: Sonic Frontiers reinvents the series by trading substance for scope, morphing Sonic into an extremely dry collect-a-thon that is every bit as mechanically confused as it is buggy, and which despite its many callbacks has completely divorced itself from the series' soul. It is the worst major release I've played in 2022 (Although I just started Gungrave G.O.R.E. so... we'll see about that!), and I think it is sad that Sonic fans have been so mistreated they see mediocrity as greatness.
For those still seated in the operating theater, my tools are sterilized, and the patient is on the table. Lets get into them guts.
THE LONG VERSION
Act 1 - The Gameplay Loop is a Mobius Strip from Which There is No Escape
Sonic Frontiers all but abandons the more focused level-based structure of past games for a new "open zone" design, which you could deconstruct to mean "open world," though I would liken it closer to a collect-a-thon. There's no shotage of crap for Sonic to collect, from Chaos Emeralds to memory tokens, defense and power seeds, keys, fishing coins, Koco, gears and egg memos... When you're first dropped onto the Starfall Islands and introduced to these various collectables and their functions, it almost starts to get ridiculous. Those opening hours suffer from a sort of "forest through the trees" problem where the basic rhythm of progression is made unclear by the sheer amount of items you're being asked to manage. This problem sorts itself out in time and you begin to understand what you need to do to push the story forward and what is superfluous, but none of it ever comes together in a way that provides a satisfying sense of flow.
I think this is reflected most prominently in the amount of disparate level elements littering each island. I want to emphasize the word "litter" because they're often strewn about like discarded trash, rarely connecting with one another in a way that feels intentional. Much of your time exploring Starfall will be spent jumping into and out of these short platforming challenges to collect memory tokens, necessary for freeing your friends and progressing the story. They're composed of the same core elements: grey platforms, springs, rails, speed pads, boost rings, balloons... Each one is just another reconfiguration of the same fifteen-or-so pieces, almost like it was assembled in a consumer-friendly level editor. You can see the seams. This sort of cookie cutter design caused them to wear thin for me after the second island, and though I've not run the math to back up this figure, I'd say something like 70% of them just sort of play themselves.
Once you've collected a token, you're (usually) sent flying back onto land. That's it, you got one, time to move on to the next. There are no bespoke gimmicks per island, no quicksand on Ares or snowboarding on Chaos to make use of the unique qualities of the biomes you visit in the way that every other platforming game would. It's just the same combinations of prefab geometry every single time for 20-30 hours.
Breaking up the monotony are Cyberspace levels, which each island has a small number of. These short independent zones play similar to the "boost" style of levels found in previous 3D Sonic games and are probably the best part of Sonic Frontiers as a whole. This starts to make sense though when you realize the level layouts are ripped from other, better Sonic games. "Wait a minute... this is White Jungle! Hold on, this is just City Escape!" Oh Sonic Adventure 2, how I've misjudged you. Sonic Team could not be bothered to come up with more than a pinch of unique layouts for these levels, which are themselves 75% asset flips from Sonic Generation. Enough of this, please. I am so sick of seeing Green Hill. Chemical Plant as lost all of its power, I am no longer nostalgic for Sky Sanctuary. Great investment, that Generations. They've been picking its bones since 2011.
And yet, borne from a lack of effort and a dearth of originality, Cyberspace is Sonic Frontier's greatest strength. "Sonic had a rough transition to 3D," bitch I'm playing good 3D Sonic levels from the last 20+ years in the new 3D Sonic, which otherwise completely fails to be fun. These levels come from games that may have been uneven experiences, but which held tight something Frontiers has let go: the tenet that Sonic games excel when platforming works rhythmically with speed.
Launched back out of Cyberspace and into the dire landscapes of Sonic Frontier's open zones, there's a few more things you can do, like collecting Koco and red and blue seeds to upgrade Sonic's stats, a feature I'm convinced exists to pad out the experience and trick players into thinking they're making meaningful progress.
Rings and speed can only be upgraded by visiting the Elder Koco, the currency for which are young Koco you find throughout the island or in Big's finishing minigame. The formula for how much Koco equates to one skill point is unclear, and when you're turning them over you don't actually see how many are leaving your possession or how many points you're gaining in turn. You then bank these points into your desired stat, one... at a time. Very slowly. In this clip, I am mashing the buttons to get through this as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, you can visit the Hermit Koco to upgrade your defense and strength, except this Koco will just consume all the red and blue seeds you've collected and automatically upgrade the corresponding stats accordingly. So, what the hell? There's one guy over here who lets me upgrade my shit instantly, but he only lets me upgrade two of my four stats, and then I got this bozo over here who makes me slog through his menus for the other two? Why isn't there just one NPC who handles my stats? Why are there three upgrade currencies instead of four? Or better yet, why isn't there one currency that I can allocate however I wish? These characters are not voiced and when you talk to them it doesn't denote who is speaking so there was multiple times where I didn't know if the Koco was talking or Sonic. Who designed this! Give me a name!!
in sonci fromtiers you can fight ginormous bosses and its just like shadow of the collosos and its so cool it's like vrooom i'm running up his arm, oh whoops okay byeee
Ask me about the unquenchable thirst I have to put a gun in my mouth.
Act 2 - You Make Your Own Fun (No Fun Allowed)
It takes a very boring man to admit he doesn't like Breath of the Wild. Similar to Frontiers, it's a series reinvention that cares more about the scope of its world than filling that space with anything meaningful, which hinges too much of its gameplay on frequently reused elements that overstay their welcome. However, the real appeal of Breath of the Wild is not lost on me. You really can go anywhere, you can do anything. The tools Link is given not only become necessary for exploring Hyrule, but let you break the game in fun and interesting ways. If you want, you can go straight for Hyrule Castle, or totally break out of the more restrictive tutorial area from the start to begin exploring the overworld proper. Breath of the Wild can be what you want it to be, it gives you toys and a box to play with them in and sets you loose.
Ideally, an open world Sonic game would give you an unparalleled sense of freedom, allowing you to unleash Sonic's speed and explore his world on your terms. Unfortunately, the way Sonic Frontiers is structured comes with it the expectation that the player will experience its platforming challenges from their point of origin to completion. To ensure a curated experience, Sonic's controls are made more restrictive. I'd describe the overall feel of Sonic as being a hybrid of Lost World and Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
Sonic's speed is downright sluggish coming off the heels of the "boost formula" games. Though this can be upgraded, it (along with all your other stats) have such incremental gains that they're imperceptible. Suffice it to say, you're probably going to be holding down the boost button to go anywhere, as it effectively becomes Sonic's sprint. If you stop holding the directional stick during a run or boosted jump, he'll come to a halt, meaning you have to always be directing Sonic where you want him to go rather than letting momentum take control. This makes speed feel especially artificial, there's no real weight to Sonic, no physicality to exploit. It's also a bit inconsistent too. Jump from one platform to another and use a boost to gain forward momentum, then try the same jump but instead boost off the edge of the platform and jump mid-descent. You'll gain exponentially more forward and vertical momentum than taking the more calculated jump. This doesn't feel like a feature, more like a quirk. That above clip of me flying off of the boss? I was hitting buttons to try to recover from that, the game just decided I couldn't make anymore inputs despite the fact that it doesn't really make sense that I couldn't. This happens regularly, as launching yourself high into the air off of platforms or through boost rings causes Sonic to seize up, as if to prevent him from using his newly gained verticality to get to places he's not supposed to be.
This gets especially bad when you reach Chaos Island, the third island in the game. Most of the platforming challenges in that map are locked to a 2D perspective, which about ten hours in already flies in the face of what the game has conditioned you to expect. However, it also means you're trapped. If you accidentally ran onto a boost pad that sent you careening into one of these 2D segments, you now either have to jump around while rolling the right analog stick hoping you can wrest yourself free and carry on, or complete the platforming sequence as designed. This is really annoying when you're trying to go to a specific location, or when you've already collected the associated memory token, but is also emblematic of a greater problem with Sonic Frontiers. It provides a space to play in, but you can only play on its terms.
Act 3 - Windows Login Screen Zone
Sonic's adventure on the Starfall islands takes place over three different biomes spread across five islands (yes, one biome is reused three times) and falls into the same aesthetic problem I have with the Sonic movies, in that you're sacrificing too much of the series unique visual design by plopping Sonic and his friends down in like, Nebraska. Placing Sonic into a "real" space is anathema to what I want from the series, but I also respect that this is very subjective. I'm sure someone looks at these biomes and thinks "oh yes, no more psychedelic levels for me please!"
Setting aside my preference and being critical of the presentation of Sonic Frontiers for what it is, I still think it's pretty bad. The design of the main cast of characters has not changed to suitably fit this world, with the various Titans and robots Sonic battles feeling as if they belong from a different game entirely. This visual inconsistency is made even more apparent when you jump out of a Cyberspace level. Vibrant colors transition to dull greys, washed out blues, muddy browns... Textures are soupy and low-res when they're not flickering or glitching out.
Speaking of glitches, when not busy falling through the world, you get to put up with all sorts of fun technical and performance problems. The framerate is inconsistent, sometimes fixed cameras totally fail to activate, sometimes Sonic just dies while still holding rings, and every single piece of geometry pops in about twenty feet in front of your face. In fact, the pop in is so bad that it's practically a baked-in part of the gameplay loop. I spent hours staring at the sky looking for an objective, then walking along trying to get the rest of the level to pop in so I could figure out how to get up there. On more than one occasion I was unable to actually figure out how to get a stray memory token, only to stumble hours later on the route to it a mile away. I don't know who needs to hear this, but the sense of reward a player experiences for completing a goal should not be punctuated by them saying "oh that's how I get it." Frontiers has the same shitty object parameters as a Pokemon game but is even more problematic given how much more crucial speed and exploration is to Sonic.
Act 4 - I Miss My Wife, Sonic
The one thing that I remained hopeful for with Sonic Frontiers was the promise of Ian Flynn's writing. Without getting too into the weeds on this, Flynn is the head writer for IDW's Sonic the Hedgehog comic, and previously took over for Ken Penders on the Archie series following his tumultuous departure. While I haven't kept up with the Sonic comic since the license changed hands, I've enjoyed what I've read of Ian's work. It's clear he understands the characters and has a fondness for the property, and everyone seems to be in agreement that he's Good and we like what he does here.
Still, out of the loop as I may be, I think Frontiers is his weakest work. I suspect a lot of people may like it if only for its sharp tonal shift, which pushes the series away from the more comedic nature of Colors and Lost World towards something that takes itself more seriously. However, Flynn's attempt at telling a more heartfelt and introspective story comes with quite a few stumbles, resulting in a game that is often sullen, and a bit dull. I'm going to get into spoilers here, so this is your warning to bail or skip ahead.
A lot of the game's story plays out in these little heart-to-hearts with your friends, who all have their own self-doubts and fears that they've kept bottled up. They start to express these as they help the remaining Koco on Starfall island, who themselves are vessels for the memories (perhaps souls) of the island's former inhabitants. The game enters into this very predictable formula wherein each of your friends meets a Koco who very conveniently shares character traits with them, allowing them to better understand themselves and their own motivations. It's touching at first, but quickly becomes rote, ultimately muddling its sincerity. While all of this is going on, Sonic also has to deal with Sage, an AI construct created by Robotnik who is initially antagonistic towards Sonic but begins to learn about herself by observing his actions.
This is where things kinda tipped from genuine and sweet to unintentionally funny to me. The concept of Eggman developing a fatherly affection for his computer daughter is pretty silly conceptually, but in practice is meant to make you feel sympathy for this egg-shaped goober who likes putting tiny animals into robots. It doesn't really work. It's been three decades of this Teddy Roosevelt looking freak slapping "EGG" onto all his inventions and I've just kinda hit the point where I think it's impossible for me to feel like he's relatable. Maybe someone less inundated with Sonic could get into this in a way I can't, but every time Eggman is like "oh my dear sweet daughter, please don't leave me" I just think "this motherfucker went to Bean Town and put all the beans in his machine to make them mean."
There's a point where Sonic and Tails are having a bro talk. You know, like a talk between bros? And she realizes that Sonic and Tails have a connection that is distinctly human, one that she wants to experience with Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik, and this hits her so hard she starts to cry and hum a sorrowful song while a montage of scenes between her and Robotnik plays in sepia tone. Except this game didn't have much of a budget for things like character animation, so all these flashbacks are just them like, standing around and flapping their mouths, and all of this is happening while she continues to hum out of key and it broke me. I laughed hysterically. Until my body hurt.
The weakest part of the whole narrative is probably its main villain. The story itself is very predictable, from the outset you'll likely come to the conclusion that the disembodied voice urging Sonic to destroy the titans is actually the bad guy, and obviously you'd be right. However, despite the fact that Sonic is clearly sharing some kind of psychic link with the big bad, you never really hear much from them. In fact, their motivation is unclear through much of the game, kept just as vague as its final form, which is perceived differently by all those who see it. What form it takes for Sonic and Sage is unknown to us, but for the player it appears as a purple moon, chosen for its symbolic connection to death. Another way of looking at it is that a sphere is very easy to render, and any asshole can slap a moon texture on one and turn that craterous bitch purple. During the final confrontation with this entity, The End, it laments how it's eternal, how it's a god unlike anything you've faced before. At least I think so, I'm not 100% sure because the reverb they put on the voice makes it a real pain to understand what it's saying. In any case, it's a really flaccid way to end the game. I don't know what exactly The End wants besides destruction, and I don't know why it wants it. It's some Necron shit, except - and I must stress I am not being hyperbolic about this - it feels less earned.
The stuff I did like were the bits that tried to establish some sense of narrative continuity with the rest of the series. They do just enough to make it clear that all the games (including Team Sonic Racing and Sonic Riders) have canonically taken place, though they don't try to untangle all the inconsistencies this brings. It's clear Flynn is taking the stance that everything happened, but also you probably shouldn't think about it and try to just relax (la la la la.) There will maybe be some changes to Sonic lore that people as mentally stunted as I might take exception to, like Chaos being a space alien and the chaos emeralds coming from his home planet. I don't mind that they've given the emeralds a little more context without over-explaining them, and the Master Emerald is established to be of terrestrial origin, which almost feels like a bit of an out. Like maybe the Chaos Emeralds aren't from space but just ended up there for a bit through like, a warp zone or something. I don't know. They're doing that kinda shit all the time.
I don't have any friends because I talk at great length about Sonic the Hedgehog lore. Playing Sonic 2 is the single worst thing to happen to the development of my brain.
Act 5 - The Future's Gonna be Great (Because I'll Be Dead!)
Takashi Iizuka made a pretty bold statement about Frontiers back in June of this year, making it clear that this game would chart the course Sonic would take for the next decade. I suppose I'll be playing Sonic again when I'm 45.
The common consensus appears to be that Frontiers is an imperfect game that lays an promising foundation, one that is perhaps setting Sonic up for true greatness. I mean, imagine what they could do in the next game! I really wonder where that level of trust is coming from. Every time Sonic Team puts out a 3D Sonic that's well-received, they do a marginally better job in the sequel and then almost immediately thereafter blow the whole thing up. "Well, Sega has finally learned that they need to let them take their time developing a Sonic game!" My brother in Christ, for as long as this game was in development it's still riddled with problems, and if there's one group I trust less than Sonic Team, it's Sega. I'm like 35 or 38? I've been doing this my whole life, I know what they're capable of.
Look, I'll hedge my bets, maybe Frontiers 2 will be incredible; but even if it is relative to this game, it's not for me. I don't like open zone Sonic, I think it's conceptually rotten. Say what you will about Lost World, but at least it had unique levels with their own gimmicks to keep gameplay fresh. Talk all the crap you want about Forces, I'll be right there with you, but at least you could bust that game open in ways that makes even the most amateur speedrunner feel like a pro.
Sonic has been a lot of things over the years. It was never in the series DNA to remain static, and long running franchises are often expected to evolve or die, so I certainly accept that experimentation is not only good, but necessary. Frontiers is not the first time Sonic has been reinvented. It's not even the second or the third. But this time Sonic has lost something important, that ethos that has always beat at the heart of every game, helping the series endure through good times and bad. The spark is gone, it's not here. Early in the game, Amy Rose makes an observation about the Starfall Islands that really puts it best:
"The land feels sad and empty."

11 mins ago



Reddish finished Fate/Extra

1 hr ago


Reddish backloggd The Bouncer

1 hr ago






Reddish finished The King of Fighters '98
A true classic in SNK's vast library of stellar fighting games. KOF '98 used to be my favorite entry in the series, and while it isn't anymore, it's so hard to resist loving this game. It's the first of the franchise to be of the "Dream Match" flavor, giving a perfect excuse to crossover all these characters we've met and loved throughout the Orochi Saga arc. The pure abundance of special character intros adds so much personality, and this is tied with the variety of new remixes present for multiple different team setups. You can't NOT get hyped when whatever music track currently playing completely stops for Kyo and Iori to have their meetup followed up by Esaka Forever or Arashi No Saxophone 3 settling in.
Yeah it's a Dream Match, sure, there's no canon consequences to any of this. But it still feels so in character and has it's value to the series as a whole, representing what the Orochi arc was and is. After this, it was time for the NESTS Saga arc, a continuation with it's entirely own mood and gameplay mechanics. The game visually is also a big improvement over KOF '97, reshading the character sprites to be more colorful alongside the lush, varied backgrounds. The train station and boat dock in particular have such comfort and style to them, and make me think of SNK's golden days of background art. Mechanically the game still has that old fashioned KOF clunk, but it's endearing and still super entertaining. The Advanced Gauge will never NOT be awesome. The roster is also great, and about every character has two entirely different movesets if you hold start when selecting them. Yeah, this entry was the introduction of EX Characters! Cute little reprises of characters in previous entries, finally giving me that goofy triple Kyo kick action again.
This is certainly a special game, and it's earned it's iconic legacy in both SNK's history and the FGC. While I can't exactly recommend KOF as a series to everyone, if you had to start with one "classic" style entry, this is a great starting point.
ROUND 1
"The flames are calling you!"
"Then let it burn, as it demands."
READY.... GO!

4 hrs ago


4 hrs ago




Reddish commented on cloudkastel's review of Super Smash Bros. Brawl
I'd have to agree with you and your friend about Brawl feeling like the most complete roster, there aren't really any questionable picks or overabundance of clone characters (Toon Link I feel is different enough from normal Link to earn his spot imo), it's got a great balance of representatives while also introducing those third party characters.
Btw, have you played Project M at all? I actually still have it on my unmodded Wii somewhere and from the few times I played it I had a good time, I'd say the better battle pace and reintegration of Roy/Mewtwo makes it my fav Smash game if I had to pick one. Idk if there's a competitive scene for it because I'm in for casual play but you should check it out if you haven't already.
Anyway, I'm glad to see a review like this from you! Brawl is truly the definitive Smash game in terms of it's content and ideals for gameplay, and it deserves the praise it gets over the (quite frankly imo overrated) Ultimate.

4 hrs ago



Reddish commented on SoraMC's review of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Paramore: San Andreas

4 hrs ago


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