Sonic Frontiers director Morio Kishimoto has explained what the game’s “Open Zone” structure really means.
Speaking to IGN, Kishimoto’s comments somewhat clarify what separates Sonic Frontiers from open-world games.
“Level-based platformers often have a world map. Our Open Zone is a world map, only we’ve made it entirely playable,” said Kishimoto.
“A playable world map that includes stage-like elements is something that hasn’t really been done before, so we had to come up with a new name. What is often defined as a World in other level-based platformers is called a Zone in Sonic games, so we took that and combined it with Open, which refers to a freely explorable field. So that’s what Open Zone stands for.”
See? Sonic Team definitely hasn’t just swapped out “world” for “zone”. It’s aiming for the game to be a development from previous platform games, rather than influenced by the current trend for open world games.
“Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in Japan in 1988. I believe this was the first game to introduce a world map. The system has been used by countless platformers since, even to this day. A true evolution of this structure is what we see as the essence of Sonic Frontiers’ field. We wanted to provide a next-gen level-based platforming experience. But how do we evolve a level-based platformer like Sonic into this new Open Zone? That’s what Sonic Frontiers is all about,” said Kishimoto.
“The Open Zone stands central in Sonic Frontiers’ gameplay, and the game’s levels exist as elements within this area. From grind rails to platform objects, loops and so on, the Open Zone is packed with the athletic action we love in Sonic games.”
As for what will make Sonic Frontiers different from other platformers, the answer is – of course – speed.
“In the Open Zone, the high-speed gameplay can carry players in any direction without the limitations of a stage or course,” said Kishimoto.
“In Sonic Frontiers, the Open Zone offers a lot of content already, so raising the difficulty in order to increase the play time was no longer necessary. From start to finish, we were able to maintain a sense of speed with ideal level design for a Sonic game.”
So, “Open Zone”: an evolution, or a marketing ploy? Let us know in the comments.