Title: Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: September 28, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Action Platformer
Sonic Frontiers was an ambitious venture for the franchise, representing a significant departure in character portrayal, storytelling, and environmental design compared to previous entries in the series. While its execution didn’t receive universal praise, no one could deny that Sonic Team genuinely tried redefining what Sonic the Hedgehog video games could offer.
Fast forward to several post-launch updates later, and Sonic Frontiers has seen considerable improvements with a wealth of fresh content. Now, the pinnacle of these updates has arrived with the release of Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon. Frankly, I, and presumably many others, had no idea what to expect from this update. While hints of new playable characters and story elements were dropped, Sega remained tight-lipped about revealing substantial details. So, I approached it with no specific expectations and emerged thoroughly amazed. Without exaggeration, I consider The Final Horizon the new zenith of the series.
Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon takes place in the game’s concluding area, Ouranos Island. To avoid spoilers, I won’t delve into story details. However, you can view this as a fresh approach to the ending, and a substantial one at that. The base ending of Sonic Frontiers and its final boss faced criticism from a portion of the player base. While enjoyable, I understood the complaints surrounding the last battle. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Throughout “The Final Horizon,” you assume the roles of Amy, Knuckles, and Tails, each with distinct controls and skill trees. Initially, these characters’ skill trees are almost entirely blank, requiring you to unlock practical skills. For Amy, her extraordinary verticality shines through a triple jump aided by tarot cards and an unlockable down special move from mid-air, propelling her to remarkable heights.
Among these three new characters, Amy is my absolute favorite to play. Her unique movement abilities introduce inventive platforming challenges. It’s important to note that Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon is surprisingly challenging. While the base game of Sonic Frontiers was forgiving and not particularly difficult, “The Final Horizon” discards that leniency. In addition to formidable enemies, the platforming demands precision and strictness that sets it apart as an entirely different game.
You must utilize each character’s skills to progress, and I’m not exaggerating. Tails doesn’t deviate from this rule. While he can fly for an extended duration, the platforming tailored for him is remarkably crafted to suit his abilities. The level of verticality you must master as Tails caught me off guard. Then there’s Knuckles, who undeniably presents the steepest learning curve. It wouldn’t be surprising if many players initially dismissed his control style as challenging. However, this is not the case.
To be specific, Knuckles’ glide requires some wind-up, which may take getting used to, unlike Amy’s and Tails’ techniques, which feel immediately intuitive. Once you grasp how to use this wind-up advantageously, especially when falling could mean restarting an entire sequence, you’ll appreciate it. Knuckles’ ground capabilities also deserve mention. All three characters, Amy, Tails, and Knuckles, offer distinct combat abilities tailored to different ranges and control styles, with Tails primarily excelling in this area.
However, Sonic himself isn’t excluded from the action. He has his own platforming and combat segments that are arguably the most challenging in this new campaign. The tower trials, in particular, demand a comprehensive understanding of Sonic’s abilities to overcome obstacles. For instance, the Quick Cyloop appears essential for progressing past specific platforming scenarios. As for the combat trials, they vary in difficulty. Some are exceptionally challenging, requiring every second of your time, while others are strangely straightforward. The latter didn’t detract significantly from the experience, but I wish these trials offered more consistent levels of challenge to maintain tension. I loved the demanding ones and wished they all matched that level of difficulty.
Nonetheless, the island’s contents make up for any shortcomings. There are numerous new collectibles guarded by thought-provoking and challenging puzzles. The base game of Sonic Frontiers had many collectibles that felt somewhat inconsequential and, at times, lacked a sense of achievement, particularly in the early stages. While “The Final Horizon” also includes collectibles that might seem somewhat less significant, they are necessary to balance the demanding ones. Players won’t breeze through this game without careful thought. The optional foes scattered across the island are equally challenging.
My key advice is not to give up on yourself or the game if you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges. Chances are, you need to improve your character’s stats, complete the skill tree, and consider which abilities are practical for your situation. Another aspect I appreciated in “The Final Horizon” is that certain collectibles are accessible only with specific characters. This showcases each character’s unique characteristics and importance, even in secondary roles. The game covers all bases to ensure a varied and skill-based gameplay experience.
One last point of praise goes to the soundtrack. The Final Horizon features many new songs that fit perfectly with the established melancholic tone of the game, featuring addictive beats. The narrative and character writing maintain this tone as well. Sonic Frontiers explores a level of maturity with its characters rarely seen in the video games. Fortunately, “The Final Horizon” continues this trend, providing a sense of completion and heightened tension to this final act.
Despite my endless praise for this update, there is an issue, or rather, a set of issues I encountered while playing. Occasionally, the game froze for several seconds during specific moments, with everything on screen becoming motionless. Everything returned to normal after five to ten seconds, and this occurred only a few times. It’s worth noting that I played on PC, so there might have been an issue with my machine. However, I wouldn’t describe the overall experience as buggy. Aside from these isolated instances, the game ran smoothly, although the typical “Frontiers” pop-in and draw distance briefly detracted from the experience on several occasions.
Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon is my most enjoyable experience with this franchise. The fair and satisfying challenges, excellent character writing, and newly added music that complements the game’s somber tone make this a genuinely outstanding experience. It demonstrates that the Sonic series can thrive with the right time and polish. And for all this to be delivered as free DLC is mindblowing. I’m looking forward to seeing where the 3D aspect of this series goes next.
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