The details for Sonic Frontiers have continued to pour in thanks to numerous interviews with Sonic Team, and they are shedding further light on the developer’s vision for the game.
In an interview with Axios, Takashi Iizuka described the structure of the game’s world, and why they were calling it “open zone.” Iizuka thinks the current reaction from fans stems from the simplicity of what’s been seen thus far. “This is just the first island. Maybe it’s going to feel easy. But later on, you will need [more] technical skills to get to certain places.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with IGN, game director Morio Kishimoto further elaborated on what Sonic Team is going for with this open zone design. Kishimoto described Sonic Frontiers’ open zones as a world map that is entirely playable. He elaborated:
“A playable world map that includes stage-like elements is something that hasn’t really been done before, so we had to come up with a new name. What is often defined as a World in other level-based platformers is called a Zone in Sonic games, so we took that and combined it with Open, which refers to a freely explorable field. So that’s what Open Zone stands for.”
“Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in Japan in 1988. I believe this 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.”
In essence, what is meant to separate open zones from hub worlds and world maps is that these locations are not just a way to access levels, but are filled with level elements themselves. “The Open Zone stands central in Sonic Frontiers’ gameplay, and the game’s levels exist as elements within this area. From grind rails to platform objects, loops and so on, the Open Zone is packed with the athletic action we love in Sonic games,” said Kishimoto.
One important thing that Kishimoto noted, which is likely key to Sonic Team’s approach to the game, is that this is not meant to compete with other open world games. This is still being made as a platformer, first and foremost, meant to rival the likes of Mario and Kirby.
When discussing puzzles, Kishimoto noted that most of them would be optional, as the central focus of the game was Sonic’s sense of speed. This would seem to indicate that much if what we’ve seen earned from puzzles may not be needed to complete the game. The puzzles themselves are going to be diverse, ranging from brain teasers, to tests of “action techniques,” to mini games.
Sonic Frontiers is currently scheduled to release Holiday 2022. Check out the full interviews in the source links below!