Throughout the month of June we’ve revealed new Sonic Frontiers gameplay, we’ve interviewed the developers to get to the bottom of Sonic Frontiers’ design goals and processes, but there’s one aspect of Sonic’s latest that we haven’t touched upon: The story.
For that, we turn to Ian Flynn, the writer of Sonic Frontiers and a man who is certainly no stranger to Sonic. Flynn has been writing for Sonic in some capacity ever since 2006, touching everything from the classic Sonic the Hedgehog Archie Comics, the rebooted IDW comics, the Sonic Encylcospeedia, episodes of Sonic Boom, and various comics and scripts meant to help promote Sonic Forces, Sonic Origins, and more. He’s even the host of the Bumblekast, a podcast focused around Sonic. Needless to say, Flynn is a huge Sonic fan himself. Here’s what he had to say about taking up the reins of writing the latest adventure of the Blue Blur.
IGN: You’ve been intrinsically tied to the Sonic series for a long time now, whether through comics, TV, or games. What has it been like taking the reins of writing Sonic Frontiers’ story compared to everything else you’ve worked on for the Blue Blur?
Flynn: It’s been a very different experience to be sure. With the other tie-in media, I’m the one to pitch the story, the characters, the themes, etc. With Sonic Frontiers, SEGA provided the story, backstory, plot beats, usable characters, and so on. So it was a very different approach to telling a Sonic story than what I’m used to.
„It was a very different approach to telling a Sonic story than what I’m used to.“
All that aside, it was a dream come true to work on a major Sonic titles like this, and an incredible learning experience. I hope everyone enjoys what I was able to bring to the table.
IGN: Can you give us a brief overview of what Sonic and friends are up to in Frontiers?
Flynn: Sonic, Tails and Amy embark for the Starfall Islands to investigate the disappearance of the Chaos Emeralds. Things take a turn for the dramatic immediately, and Sonic is left alone with a lot of questions. The story is his journey to uncover all the mysteries of the islands, rescue his friends, and discover how everything ties together.
IGN: Being an “Open Zone” game, Sonic Frontiers’ story is told much differently than previous games. Can you talk about the challenges of writing a story for a non-linear game?
Flynn: The biggest question was how to pace out each story beat when the player has the freedom to take the islands at their own pace. That had to be massaged and revised as the game’s structure took shape. It’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together in the finished project.
IGN: Who is your favorite Sonic character to write for? Does it change from comics to video games?
Flynn: I try to find something fun in all the characters, but letting loose with Dr. Eggman is always a delight. We get to take his character in some interesting directions in Sonic Frontiers.
IGN: Playing Sonic Frontiers, I got the feeling of a very lonely and mysterious atmosphere, with the melancholy piano melodies, an island that’s largely devoid of life, and a Sonic who starts the game separated from his friend.. How does this feeling that emanates from the gameplay translate to the tone of the story, and can you talk a bit about writing for Sonic in this unique setting?
Flynn: “Melancholy” is a good word for the story overall. Sonic’s indomitable spirit carries him throughout the adventure, and it’s what allows him to help each of his friends as they tackle their own personal challenges. Someone else you encounter will have their very identity shaped by their interactions with Sonic, which isn’t always a comfortable process. Then there’s the secrets of the Starfall Islands themselves and how the tragedies of the past have led to the adventure today. Sonic’s “never say die” attitude is certainly put to the test.
„‚Melancholy‘ is a good word for the story overall.“
All that is to say that, while it can feel very lonely, it never feels hopeless because you’ve got Sonic on your side.
IGN: What do you hope players get out of the story in Sonic Frontiers?
Flynn: For new players, I hope they enjoy their time with Sonic, get to know his friends, and are satisfied with the journey to uncover all the mysteries of the game. For veteran players, I hope they enjoy the individual character arcs and the threads I tried to weave between Sonic Frontiers and the rest of the Sonic Series.
„[The Sonic fanbase is] a constant source of inspiration.“
IGN: The Sonic fanbase is one of the most passionate fanbases across all of video games, and it seems like you’ve really taken to being an active part of it, from your podcast the BumbleKast, where often do fan Q&As, to literally writing a Sonic Encyclopedia. Given all of that, what does Sonic and its fanbase mean to you?
Flynn: They’re a constant source of inspiration. Their passion for the franchise is unquenchable, their creativity is boundless, and loyalty unshakable. It’s always thrilling and fulfilling when something I’ve contributed to gets embraced by the fandom. They serve as a constant reminder of where I came from, and why I enjoyed being part of the Sonic Series for so long. And they’ve steadily been joining the ranks of official contributors, helping to shape the future for the next generation, which is very exciting.