Sonic Frontiers/Development

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Development process

Sonic Frontiers was developed by a team of sixty people in Tokyo and the project began in late 2017.[1]

Designing Giganto

Back in development of Sonic Lost World, Morio Kishimoto wanted to make every boss fight a Super Sonic boss fight but wasn't able to implement it at the time.[2] In Sonic Frontiers he was able to make the Super Sonic boss fights a reality. Giganto was a huge challenge to design. The actual model of the boss itself was easy enough but the fight with Sonic and figuring out where the Chaos Emerald would be was difficult. It took four years for the development team to perfect the fight.[3] Morio Kishimoto wanted a stage where mass-produced Gigantos were left abandoned on the Chaos Island but this was cut from the final game.[4]

Creating Sage

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Writing process

For Sonic Frontiers, long time Sonic comics writer Ian Flynn was brought in to pen the script to the story. He was picked because he was writing the overseas comics and had tremendous support from fans.[5] It was a very different experience of writing a Sonic narrative compared to what he is used to. Sega provided to Flynn the basic story, backstory, plot beats and characters.[6] Takashi Iizuka has said "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." In the same article, Ian Flynn said "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."[7]

Ian Flynn got to play a proof of concept alpha while writing the game, but had no idea what Sage would look like. He doesn't believe she would have been designed at the point when he played it.[8]

One of Ian Flynn's objectives was to make it clear that Sonic Frontiers was part of a greater universe. This was a direction on top from the very beginning, Sega wanted a story that felt like it was part of a greater whole, not just another standalone game. They knew Ian Flynn had been doing this for awhile and knew his interconnected Sonic story stuff, he should bring it to the game.[9] He's said "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."[7]

The game features many callbacks to previous Sonic games in an effort to validate what came before and make it feel like the next chapter in the story of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Part of the reason Frontiers' storyline includes as many references as it does is that by itself the events are not really connected to Sonic. With the story revolving around the Ancients, The End and the Titans, Ian Flynn wanted a little more connective tissue to make it feel part of Sonic's world.[10]

Morio Kishimoto has also said Flynn presented some ideas for characters to bring into the story. To quote "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."[7]

When speaking about the tone of Frontiers, Kishimoto said "We needed something dramatic to set that serious tone and foreshadow things to ponder while playing the game. 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." What Flynn said about the tone was "I'd say it's a more somber story overall. 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."[7]

Tangle the Lemur and Sticks the Badger were namedropped in the game to much surprise. They were put into the script simply because Ian Flynn asked if they could be mentioned in the game and then he put them into the script. Before this they were already talking in other departments and other groups about where the Sonic the Hedgehog IDW comics fit into everything. The decision was moving more towards make it all one cohesive brand, one universe. So Ian Flynn said "to facilitate that, if there's an opportunity where it would make sense, where it isn't really too jarring, can we do some name drops?" And they were like "yeah".[9]

Ian Flynn didn't even know if the incidental lines in the field would even be used, it was a pitched idea. He also thought the islands were going to be much larger. He thought there was going to be more down time in between events. When the initial concept was pitched to Flynn, he was thinking something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild where "you would have these expanses, where you can enjoy nature. In the final product it's much more compact, so that effected how everything played out in the end."[9]

While Ian Flynn penned the English script, Morio Kishimoto penned the Japanese translation.[7]

Writing The Ancients

The idea that the Ancients brought the Chaos Emeralds from space to Earth was in backed the story Ian Flynn was given. Flynn wanted their to be a greater connection between these new aliens and the previous established elements of the Sonic series so it wouldn't feel like a random new alien species in the distant past. Flynn pitched the idea to Sonic Team that the Ancients look like Chaos from Sonic Adventure and that over countless tens of thousands of years their genetic lineage eventually became the Chao. He did not anticipate the artists rending them to look almost exactly like Chaos however, being waterlike creatures.[11]

With the Final Horizon update, Ian Flynn wanted to give the Ancients more meaning instead of just factoids. He wasn't able to flesh them out in the main game because they needed to have a veil of mystery surrounding them. Now in Another Story, since Sonic needed to travel to the four towers for the gameplay, Ian Flynn felt that the towers should be about the four pilots of the Ancients. He wanted to highlight that there is also a parallel between the four pilots and Sonic and his friends. Ian Flynn's personal favorite moment with the Ancients was meeting the Supreme pilot.[12]

Writing The End

With the flashbacks to The End's attack on the Ancients' home world, what Ian Flynn intended in the script didn't necessarily translate into the final product. The original intent was more along the lines of while The End was feasting on the Ancients' world, they escaped. It wasn't supposed to be a one-shot kill from The End that destroyed the planet. And when The End arrived at Earth, originally, the Ancients were ready to fight, so The End didn't get a chance to attack like it normally does. It met resistance the second time around.[13]

Going into the ending, Flynn didn't really know what The End would be since the concept of the character was nebulous in general. Later on in the process, Morio Kishimoto wrote the monologue and ran it by Flynn. His reaction to it originally was that he felt it was more like a JRPG final boss and asked if he could take another approach at it. After getting the approval to do that, Flynn tried to make The End feel transcendent. Something bigger and more alien than what Sonic has fought before in terms of gods and monsters.[14]

The original ending of Sonic Frontiers had limitations of time and staging, meaning some scenes written didn't make the final cut.[15]

Ian Flynn also pitched the idea of Hyper Sonic battling The End instead of Super Sonic, which did not make it into the game.[16] The story would have been that Sonic called upon all the lingering energy of Cyber Space. The will of all of the Koco and Ancients to boost his Super state into Hyper Sonic. This way in the final boss fight wasn't Super Sonic again, it was him empowered with the will of the very people that The End had brought to an end. It would be a more cathartic end to the entire confrontation and it would neatly tie a bow on the Hyper Sonic form because once that's done you can't do it again. The Ancients gave the last of their energy to preserve the world. Sonic's monologue during the final boss made it into the final game, but not the visuals that were supposed to go with it.[17] He later said when discussing the Final Horizon update that he "wouldn't want Hyper Sonic in a DLC ending".[12]

Character arcs

There was a lot of internal discussion around Amy's character growth in the game. Ian Flynn feels her story is a little muddled in it's messaging and presentation. She had the most discussion on what to say and how to say it. It is left a fair bit open ended to be explored at another time. Ian Flynn's main goal was to give Amy a drive outside of Sonic, but was still very true to her character. Fixating on her love and compassion for others, and wanting to see that expand beyond just her own personal affections was the wide net Flynn cast. If that stuck and was well received then hopefully Sega will pick up and run with that torch. Ian Flynn hopes to get to be involved with that. A lot of the story was Flynn planting seeds hoping that they will bear fruit in the future.[9] Unused dialogue of Sonic wishing he was under an umbrella with Amy would have been used on Ouranos Island.[18]

For Knuckles the direction came from on high to make him more serious in this game. When they were first getting Frontiers up and running, very first meeting to discuss stuff, one of the notes said Knuckles has been played very comedic over the past few years, and they wanted a more concentrated effort to make him more serious and cool again. Ian Flynn was in total agreement with this direction for Knuckles.[9]

Hidden Palace was also supposed to be shown in Knuckles' flashback instead of Angel Island Zone.[19]

Dr. Eggman also plays a different role in Frontiers compared to previous Sonic games. Kishimoto said "Featuring Eggman in the story was something we decided on from the early stages of things. We wanted Eggman to be an extremely important key figure in this story for it to be successful; we didn't want him to just be the bad guy in our 'good guys versus bad guys' scenario. We wanted to portray him as a flesh and blood human being in the story."[7]

Writing Another Story

When writing Another Story for the Final Horizon update, Ian Flynn was given the general premise and how the pacing would play out. "It's going to be on the final island, it's going to have Amy, Knuckles and Tails as playable and there will be a new final boss fight." Due to how it applies to the greater narrative, there was also a degree of open-endedness to it and needed to land in the same place as the original ending. It was tricky for Flynn to "color inside all those lines, and doing something that felt worthwhile". Knowing that this would be when the player will be able to play as the other characters, Ian Flynn made it his main focus to give them their personal heroic moments. Let them show why they are Sonic's closest friends and why they have endured in Cyber Space as much as they have.[12]

None of the incidental dialogue was written by Ian Flynn in Another Story, and it was all a surprise to him when playing the game. He only did the main quest dialogue. He didn't want to explain Big's cameo in the game personally.[12] He doesn't know the meaning behind the different tribes of the Ancients.[20]

With the new ending, Ian Flynn was wanting to hit the spectacle that was intended in the original ending. He wanted all the souls of the Ancients to help Sonic with a planetary laser beam and that didn't happen in the end. He hoped now with more time for the new ending they could do something a little bigger. He also wanted to give Amy, Knuckles and Tails a role in the new ending. He also felt since Eggman was absent for most of the game, he needed to do something. Now with everyone here, time to add a big ensemble moment. He does not remember if he pitched the new Super form or if it was in the dev doc. Ian did not know what the new form was going to be, and didn't know Sonic would have two forms in the ending. The internal term for the blue eyes Super Sonic is "Starfall Super Sonic".[12]

Promotional screenshots

The following are various images released by Sega to promote the game.



Monster Hunter collab DLC

The Final Horizon Update


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