Even while moving forward, Sonic Frontiers never forgets the series’ past

Throughout my nearly 20 hours of playing through Sonic Frontiers, running through Starfall Islands, and attending to the underside of Sonic’s friends getting stuck in digital purgatory, I kept getting blasts from the past. The newly released adventure is stuffed with wonderful callbacks to previous games, each by way of gameplay and story canon. It might be a brand latest “open-zone” game, however it beautifully blends modern open-zone gameplay mechanics with classic side-scrolling ones. A few of the previous Sonic titles have kind of done that before, including Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours, and Sonic Forces, but Frontiers stands out in how respectfully it treats the remaining of the series.

What stuck out to me essentially the most during my playthrough is how Sega uses the sport to reflect on a few of one of the best (and worst) moments within the Sonic series in some cutscenes. Despite marking the start of a latest era for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the Blue Blur’s latest outing never forgot to honor where he and his friends have been within the last 31 years (or how long they’ve actually been together and fighting Dr. Eggman canonically since time passes in a different way of their world).

The wheel comes full circle

All of the references that Sonic Frontiers made to previous installments are due to author Ian Flynn’s wealth of lore knowledge that spans back many years. Flynn famously wrote the Blue Blur’s comics at Archie and IDW (the latter’s comics start after the events of Forces, in spite of everything), with each mention being what he terms a Flynn-ism. Living proof, the sport makes several references to the Knuckles’ history within the series, including Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Adventure.

Sonic Frontiers Prologue: Divergence

After Sonic releases Knuckles from his cyber cage, Knuckles explains he was exploring the ruins of Angel Island before he got transported to Ares Island, as seen within the animated short Sonic Frontiers Prologue: Divergence. Within the short, he speaks about how his role as guardian of the Master Emerald got here in consequence of his ancestral Knuckles Clan attempting to steal the emeralds to be able to gain the upper hand over the neighboring countries they were fighting. The rampaging Perfect Chaos would annihilate the echidnas, forcing clan member Tikal to sacrifice herself to seal him contained in the Master Emerald in the method. The military unit of Ancients that the Koco resided in met the identical fate, albeit in a special cataclysmic event. The militant Koco that Knuckles guides (in addition to the war medals that shape Knuckles’ Memory Tokens) pay tribute to the Knuckles Clan, whose members were just as stubborn as they were.

Knuckles later discovers a pyramid-like bunker in the sport, which brings him back to the moment he first met Sonic and Tails on Angel Island. The flashback will not be a CGI recreation of Knuckles knocking Sonic out of his super form and taking all of the Chaos Emeralds, but moderately a direct screenshot from the classic Sega Genesis game with the red echidna flashing his infamous chuckling grin.

Retro flashbacks are used throughout the sport, taking players back to previous titles. When Tails asks Sonic if he’s a burden on him, Sonic tries to cheer him up by helping him keep in mind that he prevented Eggman’s missile from detonating on Station Square in Sonic Adventure (cue screenshot of Tails watching the missile flying overhead) and saved him from the Deadly Six in Sonic Lost World (cue still of the nefarious Zetis from the sport’s announcement trailer).


Other moments and characters from the series are mentioned in passing, whether Sonic is talking to his friends or to himself. As an example, Sonic asks if the visions Knuckles got during his Cyber Space imprisonment were much like the visions Tikal gave him in Sonic Adventure as he was collecting shards of the Master Emerald. Tails mentions his mental breakdown after Infinite beat Sonic in Forces. At a key moment, Sage reminds Eggman that he helped Sonic prevent the Space Colony ARK from colliding with Earth in Sonic Adventure 2 and beat Neo Metal Sonic in Sonic Heroes. Sonic even namedrops some unseen characters, like Shadow, Rouge, Jet, and Zavok. At the tip of the sport, Amy even asks if Cream the Rabbit and Sticks the Badger will likely be free to go on a road trip when she gets back home. Cream hasn’t been within the mainline Sonic games since Shadow the Hedgehog, however the Sticks name drop is very left field as she’s a personality from the somewhat infamous Sonic Boom.

Embracing the past, but living for now

Previous series writers Ken Pontac and Warren Graff wrote Sonic and his friends a bit of bit out of character within the series’ more moderen games. Games like Sonic Forces went heavy on forced comedy, which rubbed some fans the improper way on the time. With Sonic Frontiers, Flynn ushers in a return to normalcy. Sonic isn’t the borderline wisecracker that we’ve seen in recent games here, but moderately back to being more sincere. Due to Flynn and his years of experience in writing for the Sonic comics in addition to his wealth of information of the sport series’ lore, everyone’s personalities have come full circle — or should I say “full loop” — while another side-characters have now develop into a part of the series canon.

Sonic performing an air trick in Sonic Frontiers.Sega

It’s common knowledge that Sega is understood for experimenting with latest things in the case of Sonic’s gameplay mechanics, but fans have been on high alert over the past decade in the case of story. Sonic diehards have paid extremely close attention to the negative shift within the games’ writing style for the characters due to Graff and Pontac’s employ, which became more distinguished in Sonic Forces. That’s why Sonic Frontiers is something of a triumph for long-time fans in the intervening time (even when its nuances haven’t resonated with everyone equally). Its willingness to reflect on past moments within the Sonic series, subtly and overtly, is an indication that Sonic Team has learned from the successes and mistakes of previous games. An important lesson of all is hiring someone who understands the characters, and so they did that with Flynn.

By weaving in references to the Sonic series’ past and mentioning even the more obscure friends he’s met over three many years, Flynn single-handedly realigns Sonic’s story arc back in the precise direction, allowing him to look back on the things he has done while still moving forward to a greater future.

Within the immortal words of Beyoncé: “Embrace your past, but live for now.”

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