Sonic Frontiers'' new set of capabilities adds a lot of space to exploration and combat, but the balance between unfettered speed and platforming precision is evident. Sonic is a splintering franchise that has never been seen before, but I already know that it is lacking a significant component of Sonics'' DNA.
When I saw the Sonic Frontiers gameplay trailer, something seemed off to me about the design of Starfall Islands. I wish I could say that getting my hands on it sparked discussion. But they proved to be completely established. The result is a world filled with things to see and do, but nothing that truly connects them to one another. Instead of revealing small regions or areas to explore, it then fills in individual modules on the grid-based map in a random, scattershot order.
Sonic Frontiers has a variety of activities to do: boss enemies to kill, puzzles to collect, and obstacles to platform. The problem is that everything is splintered into its own small area every time you finish with one POI. You will then glance at the next level and engage with whatever you find, then move on to the next. Exploring involves constant stops and starts as you move from one location to another.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but this is not what Sonic is about. Sonic games, both in 2D and 3D, have always centered around developing and maintaining momentum as you travel at high speeds through complex, interconnected phases. A loop which launches you into a tube which then pushes you onto grind rail and so on until you reach the end of the stage. However, Frontiers has largely abandoned the identity of a Sonic level in favor of a Ubisoft-style open-world checklist.
Later entries in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series are great open areas with plenty of individual POIs and objectives to complete, but there is a flow that makes them feel cohesive and purposeful. Tony Hawk games explore and master a Tony Hawk map by learning the intersections of each ramp, rail, and halfpipe, and I hope that the few sections of Sonic Frontiers we haven''t seen will be much more connected.