Sonic Frontiers: The Final Horizon DLC Game Review

Sonic Frontiers: The Ultimate Horizon DLC Recreation Assessment

This review contains spoilers for the base game of SONIC FRONTIERS.

Sonic Frontiers provided a delightful surprise. In a world where SEGA appears to be continuously struggling with what to do with the spiky blue hedgehog, Sonic Frontiers seemed like a genuine step forward in taking the characters and gameplay to the next level. The game wasn’t flawless, but it left me eager to see what SEGA had in store for the characters next. At the time, I assumed “next” meant another game, but to my surprise, it meant a full DLC installment that builds on the finale and offers us more to think about.

Sonic is on a quest to save his companions who have become trapped between dimensions in the original Sonic Frontiers narrative. To do so, he must collect Chaos emeralds on numerous islands, defeat Titans, and collaborate with Dr. Eggman to destroy an evil entity attempting to escape its confinement. This DLC chapter takes place on the final island and serves as a retcon or rewrite of the game’s original finale. Much of this revolves around one of the primary campaign’s most neglected storylines: Sonic’s cyber corruption.

In the original game, every time Sonic rescued one of his companions, he absorbed a form of energy that brought him closer to death. At the end of the game, Sonic’s buddies intervene to prevent death and allow him to complete the last level. This DLC instead asks, “Okay, but what if we involved everyone in the game’s final level?” I mean playable, not just narratively. In the first few hours of this DLC, Sonic takes a backseat to cope with the corruption, while Amy, Tails, and Knuckles explore the final island in pursuit of the Chaos Emeralds, each with their own distinct move set.

When I heard that this would be a major selling point for “The Final Horizon,” I was ecstatic because it had been a long time since we had control over any of these characters in three dimensions. Giving Amy, Tails, and Knuckles their own moves in a big open environment filled with obstacle courses and goodies was a brilliant idea. The entire island has been updated with new platforming challenges and obstacle courses to accommodate everyone’s new move sets. It’s a little restricting because some obstacles are designed exclusively for certain characters (they’re even color-coded to show the player which character to bring to each region). Still, you can see that a lot of work went into making each character feel distinct based on previous gameplay experiences and character personalities.

Amy is the group’s most vertical platformer, with extremely high jumps and glides. Given the characters’ fondness for fortune-telling from the original series, they have a tarot card motif. Knuckles can climb specific surfaces, glide long distances, and smash terrain with his immense strength, all of which have been linked with him from his first debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Then there’s Tails, whose platforming is based on flight, following air routes to travel longer distances. Some difficulties appear to be straight out of the Sonic Adventure franchise, and playing in this open environment made me question if this is what a Sonic Adventure game in the present era might look like. The very thought and affection that went into all of this made my nostalgic heart flutter, and if you’re a longtime Sonic fan, you’ll find a lot to feel validated about here.

However, intentions and implementation are two distinct concepts. While I enjoy everything I see on paper, it is less than ideal in actuality. Granted, I didn’t play as each character for nearly as long as I did as Sonic in the main game. Even without that direct comparison, I believe these three don’t control nearly as well as they should. Using all of these new techniques while also manipulating the camera may be a problem, making all of these flying skills appear overly hard. I lost track of how many times I overshot a platform or completely missed a certain place because everyone felt so airy. None of this is aided by context-sensitive actions such as the homing strike, which every character can use. It does not feel as responsive as when you play as Sonic. Sometimes there is an odd latency after pushing the button, and other times it simply does not respond. For a high-speed platformer where you’re constantly jumping over bottomless holes or in high-altitude, do-or-die scenarios, there’s no room for error. It is considerably more likely to be frustrating than rewarding. Also, as I highlighted in my primary game review, the game still has significant optimization flaws, such as excessive pop-ins and incorrect collision detection.

The platform represents only half of the difficulty spike. Despite knowing the developers’ goals, the other half is focused on battle. Amy, Tails, and Knuckles, like in the original game, each have their own talent tree from which they can unlock new moves by earning skill points. Acquiring skill points isn’t tough, especially when there are specialized stations that reward you after you find them. The difficulty is that all of these characters begin at a substantially lower level than Sonic at this stage in the story, so you must grind a little bit with each character to learn moves identical to his, some of which are required to explore specific regions of the island. Furthermore, the island is still crawling with enemies. A few new opponents are much more aggressive than anything in the previous game. When you add in the occasionally unreliable controls, things become overly complicated.

It got to the point where I avoided combat completely since there was no value in it. You might complete this DLC by simply jogging to the marked places on your map, with little exploration. This is unfortunate because I hoped to fully participate in the all-new content with this new trio. I wanted to unlock more attractive and nostalgic moves, but the path was less appealing than the prize. I can only image how delighted I’d be if a future game reintroduced all of these skill sets with improved controls and physics.

Thankfully, we’re not just unlocking moves, but also unveiling a fresh ending to the game’s tale. I’m not sure if “The Final Horizon” was produced in reaction to player feedback on Sonic Frontiers’ original ending. I appreciated the finale from a narrative standpoint, especially how bittersweet it was. However, this one goes a step farther by including everyone in the ultimate confrontation. The inclusion of Amy, Tails, and Knuckles does not feel like a gimmick; rather, it feels like a natural evolution of the game’s themes of growing up, overcoming personal challenges, and moving on to a place where there may be a life for all of these characters beyond Sonic. Everyone now has a role to play in the final battle, which is no longer a random space shooter but rather a thrilling Sonic boss encounter featuring a new Sonic transformation. Unfortunately, the trailers revealed that change, which isn’t much different from his initial super form.

The bond between Sage and Dr. Eggman is developed further, making them feel more like a father/daughter duo, to the point that I truly wonder whether these characters will return as bad people in future games. Sonic Frontiers seemed like a springboard for the characters to explore new frontiers, and this finale does a far better job at conveying that notion. Not only do we learn more about the prior occupants of these islands and what caused them to fall into ruin, but that history contrasts well with our primary characters actively striving to give back to Sonic in the same way he has given to them. Much of this is impactful because of the voice acting. These are some of the most subtle performances these characters have delivered in video games. There are instances in the plot that Amy, Tails, and Knuckles begin to understand exactly what Sonic has been going through to save them, and it not only makes them love him more, but it also pushes them to push through and be there for him. A huge shout-out to Cindy Robinson, who I didn’t believe provided such a strong voice performance in the base game, but she knocks it out of the park in the more emotionally charged parts.

Then there’s the music. My God, there is music. This may be one of my favorite Sonic soundtracks of all time. The majority of it is heard in the original game, although certain additional pieces, such as new character themes, help to represent these characters through orchestral and rock styles. Some of it is moody and sad, while others are vibrant, making me want to get up and go running myself. My favorite track is undoubtedly Knuckle’s theme because that bass riff has made its way into my head.

Sonic is still Sonic. He still plays like the original game, complete with weird mechanics, and his disposition has not changed. You could argue that he goes through a lot more physical changes in this DLC, coping with corruption and a new power-up form. Roger Craig Smith captures that irritation admirably with the character’s trademark captivating cockiness. However, if you expect “The Final Horizon” to be very different from Sonic, you may be disappointed. This ending is intended to let everyone else realize that they will be OK going on their trips without Sonic in the future, and Sonic, the lovely scamp that he is, waves them off with a smile and can’t wait to see when they return.

That is the finest way to explain “The Final Horizon.” It’s a better way to end an otherwise solid game. This DLC has similar faults to those I mentioned in the main game, particularly with the controls and objectives not matching the entire presentation. However, there is so much heart here that many of the flaws can be overlooked. That mileage will vary based on what the Sonic Team and SEGA do next. Is this a one-time occurrence, or is the DLC a proof of the character’s dedication to a bolder and stronger direction? Only time will tell, but if you enjoyed Sonic Frontiers, check out this DLC because, like Sonic, I’m excited to see what happens when these characters return.

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