Sonic the Hedgehog is no stranger to animated shows. Since the 90s, he’s been on multiple adventures in the cartoon space, picking up tons of friends along the way, and further endearing himself to the younger crowd of fans. For the most part, just about any Sonic show has its qualities, like endearing characters, fun action, or clever writing — which can’t always be said for the games. The Netflix-exclusive Sonic Prime securely fits in the same space, but doesn’t reach too much higher than that.
A story of give and take
Sonic Prime starts off in Green Hill, which Sonic describes as the home for him and his friends: Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, Rouge the Bat, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Big the Cat. Besides Eggman and his robots, these are the only named characters to pay attention to. Eggman has located a reality-warping gem called the Paradox Prism, and after Sonic spin dashes into it, it is split into pieces that travel through various realities and imbue their power into Sonic. He then goes on a journey to find his friends, reintroduce himself to them, and try to find the other Paradox Prism Shards to put things back together.
The story here starts out pretty strong and holds together for a little while. My biggest hold-up here is the questionable decision-making when it comes to Sonic lore. For example, Green Hill being Sonic’s home has never been a thing in other Sonic stories, even the games. It’s like if Mario spent all of his time in World 1-1 and there were no other environments. Sonic also spends a dedicated chunk of time gathering rings just to lose them in the first fight and never need them again, even though he gets hit a lot throughout the show. One moment, the show wants to be dedicated to the games, and the next, it completely moves on from it.
Not including the standard Green Hill, Sonic ends up traveling between three main worlds in this first season of eight episodes. All of these areas are essentially Green Hill, but with key factors affecting them. The dystopian New Yoke City gets the most spotlight here and depicts what would happen if Eggman’s forces took over nature, but we also spend some time in an over-dense forest and wide-open sea that flooded the land, à la Wind Waker. The city is definitely the best set piece, with the others feeling like afterthoughts from a design standpoint. Because of this lack of variety, the first season of Sonic Prime quickly begins to drag in its second half while in these new areas.
New realities mean potential for new character traits to rise
The character designs in Sonic Prime are just okay. There have been small changes that I like, such as Rouge’s new outfit not being weirdly oversexualized but maintaining a darker tone that fits her, and the variants of the regular Sonic cast have some cool additional new gear that fit them quite well in their respective worlds. One visual aspect in Prime that always threw me off was the weird textures on Sonic’s quills. I think this was the animators’ way of trying to put a little more detail into Sonic, but it just doesn’t work.
Voice performances here are pretty great across the board. None of the usual culprits from the video game cast are here; all characters have new voices and they fit very well. There were many moments where I forgot that Sonic is being voiced by Deven Mack instead of Roger Craig Smith. Mack and the rest of the cast do these characters justice and are good substitutes.
That being said, the writing for Sonic as a character in particular felt a little off. Sonic has always been arrogant, but especially near the beginning of this show, that seems to be his biggest trait. He does get better after the first episode, but the way he outright would ignore Tails felt very unlike the Sonic I’ve paid attention to my whole life. Outside of that, the new takes on Sonic’s friends in the variant worlds are pretty interesting to me. We see a tough and gruff Tails, an antagonistic Amy, and a timid Knuckles that go against how we know these characters to usually be. That being said, I love the new takes on them in these new realities. It’s novel to see these characters under different circumstances, and fun to watch them react differently with each other than they normally would. And even so, it’s not something that replaces what we know them to be in the regular world.
How was Sonic Prime season 1?
Overall, Sonic Prime is a pretty mid-tier animated showing for Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s nothing egregiously offensive here, but nothing too exceptional either. While Shadow’s inclusion in the first season felt very unneeded, the rest of the cast is pretty great. It’s not something I recommend binging, but watch a couple of episodes at a time with a kid or Sonic fan and you should be entertained enough.