Sonic Prime will premiere on Netflix on December 15, 2022.
Netflix has cultivated a wonderful collection of animated shows based on video games over the past few years. Esoteric, Castlevania, Dota: Dragon’s Blood – each goes from good to great thanks to what seems like a solid understanding of what makes a given property unique. This trend continues with Netflix’s upcoming Sonic Prime series. Full of classic references, great voice work, and vibrant animation, it’s one of the best family shows released this year.
Sonic Prime follows the lives of Sonic (Deven Mack) and his friends as they strive to protect their home from Dr. Eggman (Brian Drummond). Set in the future, compared to the game series, the residents of Green Hill are experienced heroes. They have foiled every evil plan, defeated every Badnik, and destroyed every exoskeleton Eggman has. Fighting is routine at this point and everyone knows it. Things change for the worse, however, when an overconfident Sonic falls into an obvious trap. The result is the destruction of the Paradox Prism, a powerful artifact that can manipulate time and space, which sends it to new worlds through the Shatterverse.
What follows is an entertaining jaunt down memory lane. The new worlds and enemies that Sonic encounters are uniquely designed. That said, the look of it all is clearly franchise-inspired. The dynamic environments that Sonic traverses could easily have featured in any of his games. Each of the brightly colored character models is nearly perfect in proportion – a social media outcry over “human teeth” is unnecessary as everyone from Sonic and Knuckles to Big the Cat and Amy Rose , looks great. Even the new characters blend in visually with a strong adherence to a unified look.
The nostalgic journey does not end there. Sonic Prime is filled with clever Easter eggs. Some are more hidden than others; Tail’s keyboard secret code being the year he was introduced to the series, for example, is a treat. There is even a reference to sound borders, released only last month. The sound of Sonic gathering rings, dynamic camera moments (which mimic games’ side-scrolling and/or third-person views), pixelated shifts, and over-the-top nature of battles are all tailor-made for fans of this iconic franchise. That’s not to say there’s nothing here for newcomers. Beyond nods to older content, Sonic Prime also features a fun new take on a familiar premise.
As this is the sixth animated show based on the speedy hedgehog, it should come as no surprise that this is another series focusing on the ongoing conflict between Sonic and Dr. Eggman. However, Sonic Prime elevates this premise slightly. While yes, it’s definitely about Sonic struggling to stop the latest machinations of an evil scientist, the series is also looking to improve his character. Moving through different worlds and bumping into different versions of his friends, Sonic is constantly informed of how his actions (or lack thereof) can negatively affect those he cares about. Still, Sonic Prime is family-friendly, so corny one-liners and slapstick humor often prevail. That said, these fun aspects don’t replace the importance of an episode’s message. Essentially, Prime shows the growth from a brash teenager, always running headlong into danger, to the mature hero/friend that Sonic is destined to be.
Those worried about the overall tone of Sonic Prime need not worry. While it’s not as light as recent depictions, it’s not completely dark either. On the contrary, the mood changes slightly depending on the state of a given world; the goal is to provide a fun and entertaining ride no matter what happens in the plot. One of the main environments, for example, is ruled by a group of dastardly villains. The animals that live there are oppressed, living in a constant state of fear as Badniks of all sizes fly around in an effort to maintain “order”. Their only hope lies in an underground group of heroes made up of alternate versions of Sonic’s friends. Things certainly look bleak. But thanks to Sonic’s heroic – and sometimes clumsy – efforts, there’s always enough levity to lighten the mood.
The cast of Sonic Prime does a terrific job voicing their varied characters. Deven Mack nails the iconic role perfectly, making his portrayal of Sonic a new franchise staple. Brian Drummond’s Eggman is equally enjoyable, with lines delivered with just the right amount of swagger and campiness. Ian Hanlin does a great job with Shadow and Big the Cat. Ashleigh Ball, Shannon Chan-Kent and Adam Nurada are also strong as Tails, Amy Rose and Knuckles respectively.
Sonic Prime manages to pack an interesting story and a huge dose of nostalgia into a fun and (mostly) light-hearted package. There are a few issues though, one being the pacing. There are episodes that detract from the whole thanks to their viewing order; it can be hard to care about “new” characters when they’re introduced right after a cliffhanger. And while their presence makes sense overall, as each episode’s subplot converges with previous events, there are times when a given episode feels like filler.
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There is also the abrupt end of the season. Apparently, there will be 24 episodes spread over three seasons with 8 episodes each. The problem is that this batch of episodes ends in a way that feels incomplete – almost as if this season was supposed to have more entries than are currently available. The sudden ending doesn’t spoil the whole experience. However, that puts a damper on what is otherwise a great show.