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Sonic Frontiers gameplay shows a strangely empty open world

Sega’s next 3D mainline Sonic game looks sparse

Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

We got our first real eyeful of the gameplay in Sega’s next 3D mainline Sonic game, Sonic Frontiers, on Wednesday. A new seven-minute video reveals the island setting and its open world, as well as how Sonic will get around it. The video shows Sonic running fast (shocker), grinding on rails, scaling giant monuments, and making use of a new gameplay mechanic that involves a trail of light. The new footage comes courtesy of an IGN exclusive.

All of the video takes place on an island with lush and sprawling, grassy plains. Sonic runs around, using bumpers to propel him through the air; he is also shown riding rails and using some bubble-looking objects to chain a series of jumps. There are also special glowing walls he can jump from and run up.

The most notable departure from previous Sonic games is a new mechanic whereby Sonic can encircle objects with a trail of light to interact with them. In the footage, he uses it to extinguish some torches and solve a puzzle.

True to the core premise of the series, it looks like you can move across the world fast. Throughout the video, we see Sonic using a combination of all his traversal abilities to scale a giant tower and move around the island. (Although, seemingly nothing happens when Sonic finally reaches the top of this magnificent tower.) Sonic traverses an entire island to arrive at what appears to be an upside-down floating pyramid in a matter of minutes.

The overworld design and puzzles look a bit underwhelming. For starters, the rails in the sky just look like lines in the distance and aren’t quiet as evocative of the sprawling natural wilderness and built-up landmarks we’ve seen in previous open-world games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Elden Ring. As Sonic ran, seemingly important monuments like a giant floating platform appeared in frame out of nowhere at certain points. Additionally, the video showed a simple pressure tile puzzle and another puzzle where all you have to do is turn a statue to open a door.

It’s just a preview video, so there will likely be much more to see in the coming months. Sonic Frontiers will be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.