Sonic Prime Review: Sonic Speeds Into an Awesome New Adventure

Sonic the Hedgehog is having quite the year. After starring in Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and headlining Sega's Sonic Frontiers, the blue blur is getting a brand-new animated series from Netflix. The show takes Sonic on all-new adventure through the "Shatterverse," where he meets wild new takes on his friends and foes. The show's first season is an ambitious one, as it tries to appeal to longtime fans of the franchise, as well as newcomers introduced through the movies and recent games. Luckily, the show manages to strike that balance more often than not.

In Sonic Prime's premiere, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and Rouge find themselves in combat with Dr. Eggman. However, when Sonic's impulsiveness results in the destruction of the mysterious Paradox Prism, the hero finds himself transported to a twisted take on Green Hill called New Yoke City. The lush greenery has been replaced entirely by machinery, and the animal populace is kept in check by a group of Eggman variants known as the Chaos Council. Sonic quickly finds that his friends in this world are "shattered" takes that are significantly different than expected.

(Photo: Netflix/Sega)

Sonic's adventures in the show's first season mostly take place in New Yoke City. However, the hero finds himself bouncing between other worlds, each of which has vastly different takes on the main cast. These takes are actually a big highlight, and it's fun to see just how different they can be. While the New Yoke City version of Knuckles feels close to the classic take, the pirate version is more laidback than the echidna has ever been depicted; longtime Sonic fans are sure to get a kick out of seeing how the writers capitalized on the concept. It also helps to keep the show lighthearted, even when things start to get a little bit dark.

That said, I can see some viewers struggling with the show's overall concept. While older Sonic fans will be happy to see new takes on classic Sonic characters, some newer ones might long for the familiar versions. When we'd see flashbacks with the plucky, lovable version of Tails, I found myself lamenting the fact that most of the time we see the character, he's a bitter loner that calls himself "Nine." He's not the only one that's had a major makeover, as one version of Amy Rose sees her transformed into a dangerous villain called "Rusty Rose." I couldn't help but wonder how younger audiences coming off seeing Tails and Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will feel about these takes, and what impact it will have on their enjoyment of the series. Thankfully, the show does feature frequent flashbacks to events that take place immediately prior to the premiere. Not only does that add a lot more context to the story, it also gives viewers a chance to see more familiar versions of these heroes.

(Photo: Netflix/Sega)

In an interesting deviation from previous Sonic cartoons, Sonic Prime is set in the continuity of the Sega games. While I was aware of that fact going into the show, I was skeptical of how much it would actually be reflected in the series. However, this ended up being one of my favorite things about Sonic Prime, and it will likely prove true for a lot of Sonic fans. Sonic's actions and moves are very faithful to the games; we often see him running through rings to pick them up, and even dropping them when he gets hit. The series also features flashbacks to events from past Sonic games, and even shows them animated in a 16-bit style meant to evoke the Sega Genesis. When Sonic reflects on his first meeting with Tails, we see it play out in the same way it does in Sonic Origins, except now we're seeing it in a faux-Genesis style. It's a great callback to the character's history, but Sonic Prime doesn't overdo it; these sequences happen very infrequently, and actually left me wanting more.

While Sonic has already had two other voice actors this year (Ben Schwartz in the movie and Roger Craig Smith in the games), Deven Mack provides the character's voice in Sonic Prime. Marvel fans might be familiar with Mack's work, as he's voiced Thanos in several projects over the last few years. He does an excellent job bringing Sonic to life in the show, staying true to what's come before and helping to sell the idea that this is the same Sonic from the games. The rest of the voice cast is equally strong, and there's not a bad performance to point to.

(Photo: Netflix/Sega)

The first season of Sonic Prime might be the most ambitious animated series to ever feature the character. Setting a show in the world of the games was a gamble, but the show's producers managed to do it in a way that feels authentic. The animation is great, the voice actors all do a stellar job, and it feels like a love letter to the source material. Given how well the series handles that source material, I sometimes found it disappointing that we don't get to spend more time with the "real" versions of characters like Knuckles, Amy, and Tails, but not everyone will feel the same. The season also ends pretty abruptly, and fans will be left wondering when more episodes will be made available. Regardless of these issues, Sonic Prime is yet another strong release in a year that's already been very good for fans of the hedgehog.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sonic Prime is set to premiere on Netflix on December 15th. All eight episodes of the first season were provided by Netflix for this review.