Despite what you may have heard, Sonic Frontiers is not “open world.” But that’s not to say the game won’t be expansive as developers have recently clarified it would take the average player about 20-30 hours or longer to complete.
It’s an unfortunate fact that publicity surrounding any hype for Sonic Frontiers has arguably been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its clumsy marketing thus far, to the point that some fans have called for the game to be delayed based on underwhelming initial previews.
The odd choice of Sega doing several major reveals for Sonic Frontiers exclusively through IGN has seemingly only exacerbated the issue. For instance, an IGN exclusive preview called the game “open world,” despite that moniker apparently being incorrect, developers are now clarifying.
Though Sega has stuck with the phrase “open zone” since the initial announcement for the game last year, news outlets like IGN and others have accidentally used that interchangeably with “open world,” even though Sonic Frontiers’ lead producer, Takashi Iizuka, has now clarified — once and for all — such a label isn’t quite right.
“He says it’s not quite open world, as it initially appears in footage. It’s not a go-anywhere, do-anything in one huge world kind of game, which he believes has thrown observers,” an article in Axios explained, citing an interview with Iizuka they conducted by way of a translator.
“Rather, Frontier’s 60-person team is creating a series of 3D playgrounds on differently themed islands, where Sonic can run, jump and battle. (The game will have linear stages too.)”
Iizuka further explained that all the demos of the game we’ve seen so far are just from “the first island.” However, as the game progresses, so will the way one accesses different areas.
“Maybe it’s going to feel easy. But later on, you will need [more] technical skills to get to certain places,” Iizuka said, adding that the game has been in development since late 2017.
Sonic Frontiers Director Morio Kishimoto also told IGN that he considered the game’s “open zone” format as its “secret weapon.”
Kishomoto compared the “open zone” format to an entirely “playable world map,” likening it to the logical 3D and evolved version of classic 1988 2D platformer Super Mario Bros. 3.
“I believe [Super Mario Bros. 3] was the first game to introduce a world map. The system has been used by countless platformers since, even to this day. A true evolution of this structure is what we see as the essence of Sonic Frontiers’ field. We wanted to provide a next-gen level-based platforming experience. But how do we evolve a level-based platformer like Sonic into this new Open Zone? That’s what Sonic Frontiers is all about.”
Kishimoto also said the game would be quite an expansive experience, taking “the average player between 20 and 30 hours to finish the game, while completionists can easily spend double the time to see everything,”
A “character progression” mechanic would also be part of the game, Kishimoto said, in order to “accompany the longer playtime.” Specifically, that will entail a “skill tree” to “level Sonic up.”
Sonic Frontiers is expected for a Holiday 2022 release on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One and Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.