- Sonic The Hedgehog has been around for at least 30 years and during that time, the franchise has spawned more than 100 games that fans grew up with one way or the other.
- From masterpieces like Sonic Generations to flops like Sonic Boom, the series had its fair share of highs and lows.
- Sonic Frontiers acts as the foundation for the succeeding titles and was the breath of fresh air fans needed. Its overall success in terms of sales and reception brought Sonic back to glory.
Sonic has been around for at least 3 decades and during those times, the Blue Blur has suffered from low-quality games like Sonic 06 and Sonic Boom. Moreover, the lack of consistently high-quality titles led to the franchise falling behind its competitors, like Mario. However, I truly believe that Sonic Frontiers is the game that brought the franchise back to glory, taking a look at the bigger picture. So, let’s see why Sonic’s initial glory faded in the first place and how Frontiers brought it back in the right direction.
The Initial Glory Days
When Sonic The Hedgehog came out in 1991, not only did it revolutionize the gaming industry but even gave Nintendo a run for its money. Its success eventually led to many sequels and spinoffs I fondly grew up with. Sonic 3 was where I believed the 2D gameplay peaked. Additionally, it introduced me to Hyper Sonic and the Blue Sphere special stages were always fun to go back to every once in a while.
As Sonic transitioned to 3D, Sonic Adventure would be the first true 3D experience fans got. Open world, with memorable soundtracks and bosses. Also, let’s not forget the Chao Garden. Those cute little creatures made going back to stages to collect animals for upgrades all worth it. To this day, I wish that this feature would come back because of how much fun it still is.
Similarly, Sonic Adventure 2 was the best sequel to the adventure series the franchise could ask for. The brilliant way hero and dark stories are divided eventually leads to the final story where we live and learn through those memorable experiences. No matter how many times I revisited those games, it was a timeless experience.
The Dark Ages
Alas, the glory days were slowly fading when Sonic Heroes arrived. While the game was good, many fans believed this was where the franchise started showing its missteps. Not only was this the first game released after SEGA left the gaming console market, but it also suffered from unconventional challenge progression, and inexpensive special stages, and struggled to maintain the momentum of the Adventure series.
Things didn’t go as planned when Shadow The Hedgehog was released. Not only was the thought of a Sonic character holding a gun deemed ridiculous but the controls were slippery so the character couldn’t be controlled well. However, the final nail in the coffin was when Sonic The Hedgehog (Sonic 06) was revealed in 2005. Initially, the game showed a lot of promise as it went back to its roots and targeted adventure-style gameplay.
But when the game was released, it was filled with glitches. It was clearly rushed to reach the deadline and the worst part was when Sonic was kissed by a human princess in order to revive him. Not only was it the worst Sonic game of all time, but it also brought the dark side of the Sonic fandom which the community is unfortunately known for today. Sonic fan fiction got really out of hand and overshadowed the good content fans produced.
Obviously, the disastrous reception of Sonic 06 would take time to repair the reputation of the franchise. The next mainline entry succeeding Sonic 06 would be Sonic Unleashed and boy oh boy were the critics harsh on this underrated masterpiece. This was the time critics thought Sonic was irrelevant and the game was poorly received with many pointing out that the werehog stages were the main problem.
A Silver Lining
Nevertheless, the Sonic franchise would see its first ray of hope with Sonic Colors. This game combined all the great elements of previous Sonic games and I had fun with the unique wisp abilities that the game introduced. While it was initially exclusive to Wii and DS, it was later remastered for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. New features like Tails Save and Metal Sonic Race were also added as fun bonuses.
At last, it felt like Sonic was on the right track once again when Sonic Generations was released which brought back Classic Sonic and brilliantly combined 2D and 3D gameplay with stages from the previous games. It was literally a blast from the past with fun bosses, and clever references, and brought back characters that fans haven’t seen for quite some time.
Succeeding Sonic Generations, the next mainline entry would be Sonic Lost World which took inspiration from the notorious canceled game, Sonic X-treme. The levels vary from 2D side-scrolling to 3D spherical worlds which was fun to play around with. However, I wasn’t a fan of the bosses as they weren’t too memorable and faded into obscurity. That being said, what came next, destroyed all the efforts it took to repair Sonic’s reputation.
Sonic Boom is the only Sonic game I don’t have any redeeming factors for. From the moment it was teased in 2014, it was bound to be a catastrophic failure. Not only were the redesigns of Sonic and his friends bad but there were rumors circulating around the internet that the redesigns would end up replacing the iconic look for the character. Despite clearing up the rumors that it’s only a standalone title, the damage was already done.
Not only did the game have development issues, it was so bad that the review copies weren’t even distributed. Once the game was released in 2014, it became a bigger bomb than Sonic 06 in every possible way. The game was terrible due to framerate issues, awful writing, and lots of bugs which include the infamous Knuckles infinite jump glitch. At least the TV show was good but that wasn’t enough to save Sonic from this terrible failure.
When Fans Surpass The Creators
After the disaster that was Sonic Boom, the next mainline Sonic game was revealed in 2016. One was Sonic Mania and the other was Sonic Forces. It was also revealed that Sonic Mania was being developed by a fan called Christian Whitehead who worked on the early Sonic fan games and collaborated with Headcannon for the project. This was a very special moment as Sonic fans are known for making creative fan games.
Initially, both games showed promise but it was Sonic Mania that stood out the most instead of Sonic Forces and it was for all the right reasons. Not only did Sonic Mania overhaul the classic 2D gameplay, but it even brought back characters like Mighty and Ray who have been absent since their appearance in the arcade game. The game was made with plenty of love for the franchise and brought everyone back to their childhood days.
As for Sonic Forces, the game wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. Every aspect of the 2D and 3D gameplay felt worse than the previous games and it was too linear, to say the least. The major enemies that were shown in the trailer were only present in the cutscenes. Moreover, boss battles were too easy and Eggman’s robots didn’t even attack you and just stood still as decorations. At least the soundtrack was good so that’s something, I guess.
What’s even worse is that it is the shortest mainline Sonic game ever, ranging about 4 hours in length. Therefore, some fans were clever enough to take advantage of Steam’s refund policy and complete the game in less than 4 hours in order to get their money back. Reception-wise, the game was mediocre at best and what’s embarrassing is that the reception of Sonic Mania was much better than the reception of Sonic Forces.
Sonic Frontiers: The Breath Of Fresh Air Fans Needed
After Sonic Forces’ disappointment, it was up to Sonic Frontiers to set things right. Initially, its poor marketing didn’t help generate a lot of hype the developers had hoped. From its poor gameplay reveal to pop-ins, concerns regarding the game were coming whether or not it’s even complete. However, later reveals generated significant buzz from a lot of fans and it felt like this could be the game that would set things right for the Blue Blur.
And what do you know? It did. Despite being aware that the game was rushed, fans including myself loved everything the game had to offer. From spectacular giant boss battles to adrenaline-rushing soundtrack and balanced gameplay, not only was Sonic badass, but every single character was well-written in the story. It finally brought back a mature tone that’s suitable for fans of all ages.
Exploring the islands, performing tricks, and learning new abilities made Sonic Frontiers one of the greatest Sonic games of all time. Additionally, it did so well that it sold over 2.5 million copies in just a month after release. This critically acclaimed reception allowed the game to be finally complete via free DLC expansions. These DLCs not only added new side missions but even brought back the spin dash which was absent in past 3D Sonic games.
Last but not least, the final update overhauled the game in every possible way. Not only did Sonic get a new form after a long time, but the game even got a lot more challenging and we finally got the chance to play as Tails, Knuckles, and Amy. The final update allowed Sonic Frontiers to be fully complete and this was when I felt like Sonic was truly back and better than ever.
Words cannot describe how special Sonic Frontiers is for me. Not only did it unite the divided fanbase but it also gave us an experience we as fans will never forget. Moreover, it was nominated for The Game Awards Players’ Voice but unfortunately lost to Genshin Impact. Nevertheless, Sonic Frontiers is the foundation that the franchise should expand upon, and do its best to maintain that pace as well.
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