Morio Kishimoto, a long-serving member of the Sonic Team and the director of Sonic Frontiers, recently attempted to clarify what Sega means when it touts the game's 'open zone' elements.
However, his response appears to corroborate that the word is simply a made-up marketing term rather than a sign that Frontiers is significantly different from other sandbox games.
'Our Open Zone is a globe map, but it's completely playable,' Kishimoto explained to IGN. 'Because a playable globe map with stage-like components hasn't actually been done before, we needed to come up with a new name.'
In Sonic games, what is commonly referred to as a World in other level-based platformers is referred to as a Zone, so we coupled that with Open, which refers to a freely explorable field.'
What Sonic Frontiers appears to be about has a strong resemblance to the design of Bowser's Fury, the wonderful expansion pack included with Super Mario 3D World on Switch.
Bowser's Fury was a continuous, open-world game at heart, despite the fact that classic Mario stages were distributed throughout a wide territory. Sonic Frontiers appears to be attempting the same thing, at least to my eyes.
'The Open Zone is at the heart of Sonic Frontiers' gameplay, and the game's levels are contained within it,' Kishimoto explained. 'The Open Zone is jam-packed with the athletic action we love in Sonic games, from grind rails to platform objects, loops, and so on.'
To be clear, I don't mind people characterizing their games in any way they think is most appropriate. Language evolves all the time, especially when it comes to game design.
Even though most 'roguelikes' these days have little in common with 1980s Rogue, I always understand what someone is getting at when they use the phrase, even if it has lost some of its original meaning. It's the same with phrases like 'Metroidvania' and 'immersive sim.'
'Since [Super Mario Bros. 3], the [world map] system has been employed by innumerable platformers,' Kishimoto added. 'What we consider as the essence of Sonic Frontiers' field is a true progression of this structure.'
We intended to create a level-based platforming experience for the future generation. But how do we transform Sonic, a level-based platformer, into this new Open Zone? That's the whole point of Sonic Frontiers.'
During the recent media blitz, no one asked Kishimoto to explain all that verbiage or even nail down what genuinely distinguishes Sonic Frontier's 'open zone' from an 'open-world' game. Kotaku contacted Sega for more information but did not receive a response right away.
Sonic Frontiers will be released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, and PC in late 2022. Despite the mixed reviews, Sega is dedicated to releasing the game.
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