Sonic Frontiers was a bold step for the franchise, and like so many reinventions, it had a good mix of great ideas and concepts that could use some polishing. It’s a solid foundation, but, with some changes, Sonic Frontiers 2 could be a more complete game with fewer caveats.
Retain the Open-Zone Style
While theoretically alluring, roaming open plains at ridiculous speeds was something that was actually more appealing in practice. Sprinting around with no goal in mind and zoning out while collecting items and completing little puzzles was relaxing and something a sequel should focus on again next time around. It nails the sense of speed a Sonic game should have and the mindless nature of an checklist-driven open world is a good excuse to experience that velocity over and over.
However, Frontier‘s abandoned islands also can put players in a trance, but not a good way. More colorful and lively worlds consistent with Sonic’s aesthetics would be appropriately hypnotizing and another way a sequel could improve on the open-zone concept explored in this first entry.
Polish and Cut
Freely roaming, powering Sonic up, and battling enormous Titans as Super Sonic were all a blast, but they could be even better. Sonic Team should throw in more collectibles, secrets, and stat upgrades into the world to make free-roaming more rewarding. Diversifying the Titan’s move sets and reducing the quick-time events a bit would also lead to more bombastic boss battles. Both are highlights, yet are restrained by a few poor decisions.
But while some parts should just be tuned, others should be cut entirely. Early puzzles should have just as much variety as the late-game ones. The koco minigames, which revolved around gathering and guiding these stone-like creatures to safety, were inconsistent at best and awful at worst, so scrapping them altogether would lead to a better flow. Frontiers also has a nasty bit of pop-in that could use fixing. All that, combined with a bit more overall polish and time spent on quality assurance, and Frontiers‘ sequel could be something special.
Bring in More Old Friends
Calling back to old friends may be controversial, as there was certainly a time when Sonic’s many friends were viewed as one of the triggers that led to the series’ dark mid-2000s period. The IDW comics have done quite a bit of work on improving the perception of this surprisingly robust cast, but outside of cameo appearances, most of Sonic’s pals have been seemingly excised from the main games. Even with that being the case, many of them have maintained popularity within the fanbase, and their reappearances would be quite welcome.
This would serve as a great opportunity to flesh out characters that haven’t been seen in ages, like Team Chaotix, Rouge, or even Silver. Bringing in more obscure characters like Bean and Bark, or making Fang the Sniper a prominent rival would also be unexpected and open the doors for new types of tales. They all have distinct visual designs, so a bit of character refinement by frequent Sonic writer Ian Flynn could make for some truly triumphant returns.
New Game, New Friends
But Sonic Team shouldn’t just indulge in nostalgia, as it would be smart to push forward and create more new characters, too. Sage and her interactions with Eggman were some of the most satisfying parts of Frontiers‘ narrative. And while the unlockable Egg Memos not only built on Sage and established something of a Sonic canon, they also threw some pleasant shout-outs to forgotten games as well. Taking advantage of its lore and introducing more characters like Sage is a good move and will move the series forward in the way that it deserves.
Frontiers also wasn’t afraid to take its characters and story beats seriously, which was one of its best features. Colorful anthropomorphic animals are inherently harder to take seriously than people, but the Sonic series has still had some interesting stories. Sonic clearly doesn’t need to hit the heights of Pride and Prejudice, yet more narratives that don’t wink at the audience every few minutes would be a good start.
Coming out the Shadows
There was once a time where Shadow the Hedgehog was at the center of Sonic‘s best storytelling and not just a bastion of edginess. It’s about time Sonic’s famous rival returned to the spotlight, as his attitude could once again be a welcome contrast to Sonic’s excitable personality. Rumors have swirled around about Sega being weirdly protective about how Shadow’s character is written nowadays — which is very surprising given 2005’s Shadow the Hedgehog — but giving Flynn free reign with him could bring the character out of the edgy phase he’s been relegated to.
Return to Form
Frontiers‘ aforementioned drab environment may be explained away narratively, but going back to a more stylized environment reminiscent of early entries would be much more suitable. Charming robots instead and saturated levels are a better fit for Sonic and his cartoonishly anthropomorphized friends; there’s a symbiosis there that the realistic stage design and intimidating deathbots can’t achieve.
The same applies to the music, which wasn’t quite as memorable in Frontiers. Its tunes were more suited to the story and aesthetic, but they were also not nearly as catchy. Some subtle or subdued songs are fine, but they have to be balanced out with some new Sonic earworms (and a couple of new Crush 40 songs for good measure). Returning to the energetic and exciting tones that defined Sonic for so long would liven up the soundtrack in a way that’s more apt for the series.
The Return of the Chao Garden
Many hardcore Sonic fans want the Chao Garden back, and it would be a solid addition for newcomers, too. As a ridiculously detailed and adorable minigame that appeared in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, the Chao Garden stood out even people who don’t care for the Sonic series itself.
It could probably be a stand-alone game, but it could easily fit in a sequel to Sonic Frontiers. Raising a bunch of weird little creatures, racing them against each other, and hunting down collectibles in hubs are all systems that could sit alongside the core running and jumping. Having a less frenetic portion of the game would be a calmer, low-energy way to engage with it and could lead to a more evenly paced experience.