TSS (Mini) Review: Sonic Prime’s First Episode Sets Up a Character Driven, Action-Packed Adventure

Sonic Prime’s road to release has been excessively weird for me to experience as a Sonic Stadium writer, with an exceptionally strange advertising campaign. Yet I never for a moment thought that this show would make me watch its first episode inside a semi-official Sonic game built within a game making app. But it did, so I might as well talk about it! And my verdict on that episode?

It’s good!

The first episode, titled “Shattered,” sets up a character-driven adventure, that’s full of extremely well-animated action and is easily the most game-accurate version of the blue blur’s world ever put to screen. The writing, which is handled by Man of Action Studios, has plenty of heart, and while the humor isn’t usually laugh out loud funny, it’s also never painful. There’s solid drama and character moments to be had here, giving even non-Sonic fans something to get invested in.  Ultimately, Sonic Prime reminds me of some of MoA’s better shows, more along the lines of Ben 10: Alien Force then Ultimate Spider-man.

What I find most interesting about the episode is that it pretty explicitly sets up an arc for Sonic. Here, Sonic is arrogant and cocky, and clearly takes his friends for granted. In essence, Sonic has notable character flaws now! I’m sure some Sonic fans will take issue with this change, especially given that this is supposed to be canon to the games, but if Sonic Prime is going to work as a story focused on drama and character, it needs a way for its main character to develop! 

Prime gives this version of Sonic a way to positively grow and change as a person, without changing him so fundamentally that he doesn’t feel like Sonic anymore. And really, he does still feel like Sonic. Plenty of media in both the west and Japan has portrayed Sonic with a cocky attitude, but even now he is still incredibly confident in his abilities. Prime Sonic also still loves his friends and adventure, and has a great time kicking Eggman’s butt. Prime Sonic is still Sonic, just maybe…a little less mature. Or maybe he’s grown overconfident after years of effortlessly besting Eggman. I don’t know, my personal head canon doesn’t have much issue linking Sonic Prime with the existing games & comics canon. This doesn’t feel like whole new version of Sonic, but more like a version of game/IDW Sonic who is in a different place in his life.

Aside from Sonic himself, Tails is the clear focus of Shattered, and he is great. In fact, this is probably my favorite version of Tails ever put to screen. Prime Tails feels absolutely dead-on to his game counterpart, a fine mix of brother-in-arms and boy genius sidekick. Once we get to the dystopian universe, Tails’ counterpart “Nine” takes center stage, giving us a look at a tragic version of the character who didn’t have Sonic around to help him growing up. The juxtaposition between Tails and Nine is interesting to see, and the revelation of what happened to Nine without Sonic, and Sonic’s reaction to it, is truly heartbreaking. Tails and Sonic’s brotherly bond is the heart of this episode, and if this is how Sonic Prime will be treating Sonic’s interactions with his other friends, we are in for some truly great stuff once the full show launches tomorrow.

We don’t see much of Sonic’s other friends and enemies, but they also seem to be pretty accurate to their game counterparts, though Knuckles’ guardianship of the Master Emerald is left ambiguous. The show treats Knuckles just like Sonic’s other friends: a protector of Green Hill. Hopefully, his lore won’t be ignored once the show turns its focus to him. Dr. Eggman’s great, and anyone who was disappointed by how much more subdued he was in Frontiers will love how consistently over-the-top he is in Prime.

Shattered’s got peak mad scientist Eggman, complete with his usual “messing with powers he does not understand” schtick. And “The Council” of Eggmen we get in the dystopian universe, while not especially interesting as foils to Eggman, is at least fun. Amy and Rouge are also solid, though aside from the superb performances from their voice actors, we don’t get much.

Speaking of voice acting, this may very well be the most consistent cast we’ve ever gotten in a Sonic property since at least the days of Sonic SatAM. Devin Mack is an excellent Sonic, practically a middle ground between Roger Craig Smith and Ben Schwarz. He’s got great emotive range, which is key to some of the best moments in this show. Really, in terms of the quality of their performances, this goes for just about everybody. Ashleigh Ball’s Tails and Shannon Chan-Kent’s Amy Rose are both great, and Kazumi Evan’s Rouge may very well be the best the character has ever sounded. Vincent Tong’s Knuckles is solid, though his voice does sound a little…too deep, though I suspect I’ll get used to it as the show goes on. Top all this off with Brian Drummond’s wonderfully bombastic performance, and Sonic Prime truly feels like it has an all-star cast.

Finally…we have the animation. Wildbrain has bragged about using Sonic Prime to refine their CG animation to movie quality and…yeah, I can tell. Even through Roblox’s weird compression and color issues, this show looks great. It is a genuine shame I had to experience it for the first time this way, because a Sonic show has never looked this good before. The models are gorgeous, and the sheer fluidity of the movement of everything in this is simply superb. The body language, the expressions, the action, it all animates so beautifully in a way that we rarely see in CG animation made for TV. While it is possible that the other episodes won’t look this good, Shattered leaves a heck of a first impression.

So, I’ve had a lot of positive things to say about Sonic Prime’s first episode so far…but I do have some issues. In addition to the humor not always landing, the story makes one very odd choice: it chooses to center everything around Green Hill. Sonic doesn’t protect the world, he protects Green Hill. Eggman isn’t seeking to conquer the world, but transform Green Hill into a technological dystopia. Sonic opens the show talking about how great Green Hill is. When Sonic is transported to the dystopian universe, he realizes this by recognizing multiple Green Hill locations. Green Hill is pretty clearly the primary location where all these characters operate, which is strange considering even in the first game Sonic traveled across an entire island of locations, of which Green Hill was just one.

It seems pretty clear that Sonic Prime is trying to simplify aspects of the lore to ease in non-Sonic fans, much like the first Sonic movie did. Even so, obsessing over Green Hill as the location simply feels like an odd choice. It seems the show is trying to utilize Sonic’s emotional investment in the location to more effectively invest viewers, but that simply doesn’t seem necessary when Sonic’s friends being changed and transported into a dystopia is enough on its own.

Ultimately though, this one complaint of mine isn’t likely to ruin the show, especially given that we will still be seeing loads of different locations, pirate universe included. Honestly, it’s genuinely nice seeing Green Hill in a Sonic cartoon for the first time, and even though the lore feels simplified, this still manages to feel like an adventure straight out of the games, which is something I’ve never been able to say about a Sonic show before!

On the whole, Sonic Prime has left a very good first impression on me. I’ve watched every Sonic show to ever release since I was a kid in the 90s, but I’ve only ever enjoyed two of them: Sonic SatAM & Sonic Boom. Sonic Prime not only seems set to join that shortlist, it at least feels like it has the potential to be at the top of it. I eagerly await the first batch of episodes!

Sonic Prime’s first 8 episodes will release tomorrow, on December 15. We will have a proper review of all 8 episodes at a later date.

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Nuckles87

Nuckles87 has been an editor at Sonic Stadium since 2007, and has been covering events like E3, PAX, and SDCC since 2010. An avid retro gamer, he runs a monthly stream on Twitch where he explores obscure Sonic oddities, and how aspects of the franchise have evolved over the decades.