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Sonic Frontiers developer says it isn’t an open-world game

When Sonic Limits debuted the first little bits of gameplay, fans immediately drew comparisons to Breath of the Wild† It wasn’t hard to do. We got to see Sonic racing through realistic, natural-looking environments and exploring amazing stone artifacts dotted around the landscape. There was no timer, no counter ticking the number of rings obtained, just Sonic and a seemingly open world.

And while Sonic Limits’ creative officer Takashi Iizuka understood why to some fans the game resembles Sega’s belated attempt to replicate BOTW‘s success, it really isn’t like that. “We’re starting with a design perspective that’s completely different from what other open world games are,” Iizuka told me earlier this month via a translator at Summer Game Fest. “We don’t see ourselves as an open world game.”

Iizuka told me that the idea for borders came after Sonic Powers shipped in 2017. For 10 years, he said, 3D sonic games had fallen into a clear pattern and that the team was “on the limit of what they can create that will excite the fans.” In front of bordersthey decided to revise an idea they had but couldn’t execute with the technology at the time, a kind of “open zone” concept where sonic would not be tied to any job or forced perspective typical of his games at the time.

“We tried the 3D platforming gameplay of previous games in the sonic series,” he said, “and take that linear, traditional format and expand it to make it a platformer in this vast expanse of 3D environments.”

In my hands with the Sonic Limits demo, I could see that vision. Although I don’t necessarily agree borders is not an open world game – it still speaks the same open world language of “if you see it, you can go there” – I can see why Iizuka doesn’t think so. borders is a platform game like any other sonic game, but now platforming isn’t tied to a discrete track you can select from a menu screen like in sonic spell Past. It’s up to you to discover the platform sections by exploring the world. And with the variety of new moves in Sonic’s kit, how you travel the world is as varied as the types of puzzles you can find.

Taking Sonic’s wall climb or homing attack and clearing an obstacle course on rails to a more open world breathed new life into what has been Sonic’s standard formula for a decade now. Last sonic games put you on a starting line and led you to the finish. It presented the platform sections to you in order, requiring no more attention than the push of a button. I really enjoyed the way borders reversed that formula by presenting me with a finish line — like a collectible in an otherwise inaccessible place — and forcing me to work backwards to figure out how to get there. Instead of giving me a stage to run through, I can essentially create one out of the landscape itself.

But all that puzzling, while it’s a fun and intriguing new formula for sonic, however, is unfortunately slow. A core part of sonicThe appeal, be it 2D or 3D, is “must go fast”. Fortunately, Iizuka and his team have added a little of the old with the new. As Sonic works his way through the mystery of the island he’s trapped on, he unlocks portals to Cyber ​​Space. In cyberspace, Sonic Limits abandon the slow, puzzle-platforming of the open zone environment in favor of some good old-fashioned Sonic speed runs on the rails.

just about every sonic fan will tell you that Sonic Unleashed is taunted except for the day levels. The Cyber ​​Space levels in borders feel like the day stages of Sonic Unleashed† Complete the stage while completing challenges such as ‘beat the stage in X minutes’ and Sonic will be rewarded with items he needs to progress.

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Although I was only able to play a demo that lasted about 25 minutes, I feel like Sonic Limits can do for 3D sonic games what? Sonic Mania did for the 2D ones. The open zones with the in-depth puzzle platforms and the monster battles that require Sonic to fight harder and more strategically than simply unleashing a few homing attacks bring the franchise exactly the kind of novelty Iizuka and his team have been looking for. The Cyber ​​Space levels, meanwhile, feature the older, established style of gameplay fans that continue to enjoy it.

Iizuka is aware of the criticism of these first glances borders† The game looks unfinished and thin, but he’s hopeful that when fans finally get their hands on the game, they’ll see the vision I have.

“When people sit down and play the game, they will understand that it is all sonic essence is in it,” he said. “As you play the game, it will feel mysterious and maybe as if there is nothing here. But as you start exploring, you will find things and things will happen that will take you on this adventure. Hopefully people will play that experience and really enjoy it.”

Sonic Limits launches on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC Holiday 2022.

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