Sonic fans can get a bit of a bad press for the community's crazier moments, but honestly, being a Sonic fan can be a hard old life. Sonic 2 was a big game for me when I was a kid and so my adult life has largely been spent getting excited about Sonic games that look awesome but turn out to be terrible (hello, Sonic Unleashed). Sonic Team has been in the business of breaking hearts for decades, but I can't help it: I'm excited again.
The trailer makes this look like a dream Sonic game. The aesthetic is gorgeous, green fields stretching off into the distance and bordered by the bluest of skies, while the open world's topography reminds me of nothing so much as early Halo—something probably only enhanced by the whole ring theme. The combat looks a bit button-mashy but that probably suits a Sonic game where you're zipping around a vast landscape and bashing through enemies.
IGN has the first big chunk of gameplay footage, a seven-minute video showing Sonic navigating the vast landscape. The footage here begins with a gigantic vertical ascent that shows the truly impressive scale of the world, and as you'd expect it's dotted with classic Sonic elements like bumpers, speed pads and loop-the-loops. Sonic's constantly in motion and can easily run up all but the most sheer vertical structures, and it's nice to see a little Wind Waker nod here—as he dashes along, seagulls pop in and out of the frame above him. You'd think Sonic would be faster than a bird, but whatever.
There are some hints in this first glimpse about how Sonic Team is trying to make an open world that will work with the character. There's a clip of Sonic running on a hamster wheel-style ring that appears to be regenerating or doing something to the landscape, which made me wonder whether it's going for an Okami-inspired structure: in that game, you bring the world back to life by drawing in new elements, which sees blighted locations burst into bright nature.
The video also includes a puzzle that Sonic solves by 'drawing' a circle around torches with his speed trail, though in both cases the mechanic's being used to get an item rather than change the landscape. Since the original game Sonic's had that 'save the cute liddle animals from industrial evil' theme, so some sort of regeneration vibe would be a good fit. Of course I'm just spitballing here based on a few seconds of footage.
Other elements include rail-grinding, which is a Sonic Team favourite, and at certain points you can see giant networks of rails crisscrossing the sky. There's a great sense of speed as Sonic zips across the landscape (with decent camerawork too, wonders never cease) and the constant sense of onwards motion is impressive. There's also an amazing-looking final sequence in the trailer where our hero sprints up the leg of a giant mecha-monolith thing and karate kicks its weak spot to make it explode—what's great here is just the size of the thing, and the thought of going around as Sonic taking on all these massive contraptions.
Final thought on the footage: the understated piano music is such a good fit. Say what you will about the 3D Sonic games but the music is always great even when the action's not.
So Sonic Team has done it again. They've got me excited for a game that I know in my heart of hearts will not be as good as this makes it look. But I want to believe. The trailer also comes with a splash screen at the end which confirms for the first time that Sonic Frontiers will launch on PC alongside the console versions: it's due at the end of 2022.