The Trial Towers in Sonic Frontiers have resurfaced an unwelcome childhood memory
Sonic Frontiers has recently received the Final Horizon update, which, as the name suggests, is likely to be the last major update for the latest 3D S...
Sonic Frontiers has recently received the Final Horizon update, which, as the name suggests, is likely to be the last major update for the latest 3D Sonic game. This update also introduces additional story content, marking the first time the game's narrative has been expanded upon. While reviews for Frontiers were varied, personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The inclusion of extra story elements and the opportunity to play as other characters has further cemented its status as one of my all-time favorite Sonic games.
There is one aspect of the Final Horizon DLC that took me by surprise: its incredible difficulty. I've been a fan of Sonic games for as long as I can remember, and they have seldom been known for being challenging in the eyes of many gamers. However, the concluding moments of Frontiers' story proved to be tough for anyone, and for a moment, I wondered if it was just me struggling. It wasn't until I checked social media and saw people drawing comparisons to Dark Souls that I felt relieved, realizing that I hadn't simply lost my skill in playing the game.
The bosses found at the summit of the new Trial Towers could very well be the most challenging I have ever encountered in a Sonic game. However, it's not the difficulty of the bosses themselves that troubles me the most. Surprisingly, I am actually a fan of challenging boss fights, even if they require numerous attempts and leave me feeling frustrated. Rather, it is the Trial Towers themselves, where these bosses await at the pinnacle, that have had the greatest impact on me.
Upon familiarizing myself with the three recently introduced playable characters, I revert back to playing as Sonic and undertake the task of ascending each of the towers. In essence, this can be seen as Sega's response to the game Only Up, which is uplifting news for enthusiasts of the indie sensation, especially considering its recent delisting. The distinction lies in the fact that Sonic is able to eventually reach the pinnacle; however, it should be noted that this summit is exceptionally high, even by Sonic's standards.
As I was ascending the second tower, I made the error of glancing downwards. I have attached a screenshot below to provide a glimpse of the view I encountered. Fortunately, Sonic, the speedy protagonist, did not plummet, but I must admit that my stomach lurched. Despite the fact that Sonic is impervious to fall damage in Frontiers, I had been scaling that tower for quite some time, breaking through panels and cautiously navigating around explosives. A single misstep would have resulted in a perilous descent to the very bottom, necessitating a restart from the beginning.
Initially, I struggled to recollect a sense of jeopardy like that in a Sonic game, but then it dawned on me. That familiar sensation in the pit of my stomach, where a single misstep could unravel all my diligent efforts, I had indeed experienced it in a Sonic game before—it had simply been a while. The last time the blue blur had filled me with such nerve-wracking excitement was back in the early '90s when I first encountered Sonic, racing swiftly through the Labyrinth Zone of the original game, pushing the limits of speed.
Levels featuring underwater sections have consistently posed a challenge for me, and Sonic's Labyrinth Zone exemplifies this struggle. I would diligently attempt to navigate the level without submerging myself, fully aware that such a feat was impossible. Instead, I would dash through the zone at maximum speed, occasionally missing the vital air bubbles that were crucial for survival. This would inevitably trigger the anxiety-inducing countdown to Sonic's underwater demise, accompanied by haunting music that continues to linger in my memory.
If you missed an air bubble or failed to resurface before the countdown reached zero, Sonic would be sent back to the nearest checkpoint or, in some cases, even to the beginning of the level. This meant having to go through it all over again. That's why the sensation I experienced while climbing that trial tower felt so familiar. The knowledge that any imperfection could result in a fall and the need to start from scratch. It's reassuring to realize that Sonic games can still evoke the same emotions I felt 30 years ago, and now I can add a fear of heights in video games to my existing fear of water in video games. Although, come to think of it, the feeling might have originated from traversing skyscrapers with Abby in The Last of Us Part 2. The thought of seeing that recreated in a live-action format doesn't exactly excite me.