180 Reviews liked by MVK
No Straight Roads
Amazing visual design and good music but unfortunately has unbearable boring combat, a sort of music based (but not really) brawling gameplay that doesn't resonate with what it tries to do, the over abundance of questionable tier dialogue also brings its cutscenes down, the hub world is completely dead/empty and lastly the protagonists are lacking in charm despite their well done design, they just don't feel that likeable as they are probably supposed to be.
FYI I also played the Encore Edition hoping that the game would have some of its gameplay mechanics remade/rebalanced, but literally nothing changed.
This game has a lot of criticism online and most of them are warranted, but no one can deny, it's a great Black Panther adaptation.
11 SHIELDS!?!?!??!?!?!?!?1111. Hogwarts has fallen.
High on Life
Backloggd reviewers somehow have better material than this
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 stats 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 draw distance 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 like Necron, 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.) 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 a 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. Early in the game, Amy Rose makes an observation about the Starfall Islands that really puts it best:
"The land feels sad and empty."
Virus: It is Aware
I couldn't think that I would ever find something worse than Daemon summoner on PS2 (Chronicles of a vampire hunter for you PC people) but holy fuck did I find something infinitely worse in every category.
graphics look like absolute dog shit and no it's not because it's on PS1 at the time of this shit's release Resident Evil 3 , Tekken 3 , Legacy of Kain : soul reaver were already out but that's not a deal breaker I've looked at worse before so I can stomach that.
Now as for gameplay and controls holy fucking shit this is the lowest of the low you know that feeling when you press a button harder out of frustration wanting the action to happen or happen faster? that's all over this game it barely functions. and if that's enough it's also extremely difficult expect to clear every single section with a sliver of health after repeating the entire level each time you die. you name it this game got it : bullshit enemy configurations , cheap shots , insane damage or no damage at all , escort missions that happen back to back with no healing or any help whatsoever , insta kills , an infernal final boss that bugged out for me and refused to die even after I emptied it's life bar 3 times in a row it kept refiling and on the third time it decided to have infinite health as a final fuck you and much more shit that I'm too lazy to type out.
Level 5 in particular was the worst with tiny fucking gremlin things that charge you and do AOE damage that kills you in 2 seconds and the game spawns 50 of them in a small ass corridor that section alone took 40 minutes of retries because this whole game was developed by lobotomized French monkeys.
I would talk about the story but there's barely any of it you see a FMV of people dying at the start and then you get text with shit grammar telling you to find and kill "THE EVIL"tm. zero voice acting as well because who needs that shit to explain anything.
Thankfully the entire ordeal lasts an hour and 30 minutes but those last few levels will test your patience , resolve and the will to put the gun away from your mouth. Cryo interactive is the absolute worst publisher I've ever seen and thank god they are fucking dead. Fuck this game and fuck whoever made it.
动态网自由门 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 sonic omens 六四天安門事件 tails tornado 天安門大屠殺 chris sonic x 反右派鬥爭 The Anti-Rightist Struggle 大躍進政策 exiled that was your bad omen 文化大革命 The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution 人權 Human Rights 民運 Democratization 自由 Freedom 獨立 Independence 多黨制 Multi-party system 台灣 臺灣 the devs sexualised a 12 year old girl in the internal files 中華民國 Republic of China 西藏 土伯特 唐古特 Tibet 達賴喇嘛 tails voice 法輪功 Falun Dafa 新疆維吾爾自治區 The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region 諾貝爾和平獎 Nobel Peace Prize 劉暁波 christopher tombstone 民主 言論 思想 反共 反革命 抗議 運動 騷亂 暴亂 騷擾 擾亂 抗暴 平反 維權 示威游行 李洪志 法輪大法 大法弟子 強制斷種 強制堕胎 民族淨化 人體實驗 肅清 胡耀邦 趙紫陽 魏京生 王丹 還政於民 和平演變 激流中國 北京之春 大紀元時報 九評論共産黨 獨裁 專制 壓制 統一 監視 鎮壓 迫害 侵略 掠奪 破壞 拷問 屠殺 活摘器官 誘拐 買賣人口 遊進 走私 毒品 賣淫 春畫 賭博 六合彩 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 Winnie the Pooh 劉曉波动态网自由门
Decent racing game if all you wanna do is drift a bit, since it's piss easy and broken, giving you an insane speed boost. However you can stay ahead of your opponent right away since somehow Takumi gets the lead at the start of almost every race lmao, i wish it had a bit of more strategy and catching up to your opponents like the series. also the order of the races are pretty random, they don't follow the manga or series at all.
The most dissapointing thing was the soundtrack, not that I was expecting some high quality production eurobeat on the ps1 or something, but it's just really dull and not catchy at all. Other than that, the driving is kinda satisfying but you don't have to put much thought into it since it doesn't have any physics and messing up mostly goes unpunished.
Maybe I should have started with The Dark Project...
In my journey of going through the stealth titans that isn't MGS or Tenchu, this felt more like a stealth sim out of the genre in 1998.
The way levels are laid out remind me a lot of Tenchu as in: go where ever when ever you can if you know the levels enough. I'd say Thief is even more open ended compare to Tenchu 1. You can lose yourself pretty easily for most levels. Can I just say, more stealth games need pickpocketing?
Of course, there's some pretty crappy levels, some added by Gold. Seriously, you just got done with a good couple of come & go missions then BOOM you get shit like Down In The Bonehoard and Thieves' Guild. But the good outweigh the bad easily. Though, the game didn't really need more levels added with Gold.
Other criticisms parallel my Tenchu 1 ones which is basically: "stealth good, combat bad" which isn't as bad in Thief 1 cuz there aren't bosses to force the bad combat down your throat every level.
Pretty good! Just needs more thieving in my Thief.
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