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INTERVIEW | TGS 2022: ‘Sonic Frontiers’ to Enter New ‘Open Zone,’ Says Game Director

SEGA’s Morio Kishimoto talks about how Sonic Frontiers, one the most anticipated games at Tokyo Game Show 2022, is unique.

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“In all the times I have been at Tokyo Game Show, I have never seen such a long line for a Sonic game,” says Morio Kishimoto off camera. He is the game director of SEGA ATLUS’ most recent offering, Sonic Frontiers

In fact, even on the 30th anniversary of the brand’s launch, the much-loved blue hedgehog Sonic is still poised for new adventures. 

Sonic Frontiers is a game which sees the popular character going through various islands (called Starfall Islands). Clearing riddles and puzzles, for the first time in a more open-world format, the creators define it as an “Open Zone” game. 

What are the key points of the game, and what can we expect from creators going forward? JAPAN Forward caught up with Kishimoto at the Tokyo Game Show SEGA ATLUS booth on Friday, September 16, to find out some of the highlights of the company’s upcoming release, expected in 2023. 

Excerpts follow. 

SEGA ATLUS’ booth at Tokyo Game Show 2022.

Tell us about the main point of appeal of your new game, Sonic Frontiers

Essentially Sonic has for the past 30 years been a stage-clear action game, with a very similar format. But this time, for the first time, we have what we call an “Open Zone” format. This includes a world-map function that allows players to roam more freely, and we are very excited about this new feature. 

“Open Zone” is the new feature as you mentioned. Tell us a bit more about the background of this decision. 

For 30 years now we have aimed at making stage-clear games. So we wanted to really leave a mark this time and introduce this new generation action-adventure style game, which led us to the “Open Zone” concept. 

Many fans noticed that the game trailer featured a collaboration  with popular Japanese band One OK Rock on the song “Vandalize.” Could you tell us how this collaboration came about? 

As the Sonic team, we are responsible for a very important IP as part of our company, and we wanted to take this opportunity to shine a light on our brand on the world stage. 

By way of background, the Sonic brand itself is very well-known in Western countries, but there is still room to grow in Japan and in Asia. Especially to appeal to a new generation in Japan and Asia that previously might not have been interested in Sonic, we thought it would be a great idea to have such an impactful and amazing band like One OK Rock be at the forefront. 

As the development team, we are so excited about this collaboration, it’s really a dream come true. 

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Tokyo Game Show 2022 poster at the entrance of Makuhari Messe, with the tagline “Nothing Stops Gaming”.

What are your hopes for the future? 

With this game, we are taking the first real step to get into the same league as some of the top gaming brands and IPs. Really, this is just the beginning. From here on we really want to just continue with this series. 

For people coming to TGS in person and trying the game, do you have any particular points you would like to highlight?  

For Sonic fans, we want to present a new generation format for a classic beloved game. 

When it comes to fans of adventure and action games, we are hoping for a new cutting-edge way of enjoying that genre. Therefore, we are really excited to hear the reaction from current fans and new fans alike, and we welcome both to our booth.

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