While much has been made about the “open-zone” format of Sonic Frontiers, it’s also notable for having writer Ian Flynn penning the narrative. Flynn is known for working on Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog along with IDW Publishing’s series. This will be the first time he’s working on a mainline entry in the actual games though.
Speaking to Game Informer, Sonic Team creative officer Takashi Iizuka spoke about how Flynn joined the team. “Ian has been working as a comic writer for a long time, so I was very familiar with his work, but after reading the IDW comics, I was even more impressed with his talent. That’s why I wanted to ask him to work on the story for the game as well. He knows the characters well, so he brought a great improvement to the characters’ emotions and dialogue.”
Flynn noted, “I’m a career Sonic nerd, so I wanted to weave some of the series’ legacy into the story. I wanted to advance the characters’ personal stories, even if just by a little bit. I also wanted to bring some interconnectivity to the previous games. There isn’t anything that will be too dense for new fans to wade through, but just enough for long-term fans to appreciate.”
“The story begins as Sonic, Amy, and Tails visit undeveloped Kronos Island and are separated by a mysterious phenomenon. Sonic sets out alone to find his missing friends, but this is an undeveloped land that no one has visited before, so we won’t be seeing a huge cast of characters,” says Iizuka. Frontiers takes place after Sonic Forces and Team Sonic Racing, and players will hear Sonic speaking to himself while referencing past events.
For instance, he’ll talk about Kronos being a nice place for a Chao Garden (last seen in the Sonic Adventure series). And while there’s no Chao Garden in Frontiers, Iizuka says, “Those are things Ian put in for the fans. Including references to other games makes it clear that the Sonic Frontiers story isn’t a standalone world, but a part of the long history of Sonic.”
That being said, don’t expect tons of references like in Sonic Generations and Sonic Forces. In terms of other characters, players will encounter Amy, Tails and Big along with Eggman. Sonic may even talk about some surprising characters while rolling around. It’s also worth noting that Flynn had a “major” say in the narrative.
Director Morio Kishimoto said, “It was during that time when Ian Flynn presented some ideas for bringing different characters into the story. We had the development team think about how it could get integrated into the new open-zone format, which then prompted Ian Flynn to present even more new ideas to us, and through that cooperative back and forth, we settled on the characters that would appear in the game.”
Of course, the process for Flynn is a lot different from writing a comic. “With Sonic Frontiers, Sega provided the plot beats, settings, and characters, so my job was mainly to fill in the details. I was able to bring some ideas to the table, but this was more of a collaborative effort. As the game developed, new content and revised approaches were needed, so I was involved for much longer than a comic project.”
There are a lot of mysteries to unravel in Sonic Frontiers, from the mysterious beings called Koco and Eggman’s disappearance into Cyber Space to the location of Tails and Amy along with the role of the Chaos Emeralds. One thing is for sure though – Eggman will be more of a “flesh and blood human being” as opposed to being a simple bad guy
Kishimoto says, “On the surface, our story is something that can be easily enjoyed, but we also wanted to challenge ourselves to create a drama that would also be enjoyable if thought about at a deeper level. This is a rare type of experience in the stage-clear action game genre, but it was also important for us to integrate it in as we felt it was of critical importance to this open-zone format.”
“I’d say it’s a more somber story overall,” Flynn adds. “It’s about self-reflection and choosing how to move forward. And Sonic, being Sonic, is a positive reinforcement and the force for change that everyone needs. I hope everyone enjoys what we’ve put together.”
Sonic Frontiers releases this Holiday season for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, PC, and Nintendo Switch. For more gameplay of Cyber Space levels, head here. You can also learn more about the combat and Control Styles here.