The Homing Attack (ホーミングアタック,Hōmingu Atakku?) is to date one of Sonic the Hedgehog's most recognizable trademark attacks. First appearing in Sonic Adventure, it quickly became one of the most frequently used moves in the video game series.
The Homing Attack was first used in Sonic Adventure. As its name implies, the Homing Attack allows the user to home directly into a nearby enemy with a target-seeking midair spin attack. The attack's force from bouncing off targets can be chained to attack several enemies and to reach higher areas. Sonic and the Secret Rings has purchasable upgrades that increase the max distance you can homing attack/chain attack. Sonic Generations has a purchasable upgrade that allows Sonic to perform chain attacks faster. The attack was first performed by Sonic and has since become a staple in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, with all manner of characters being able to perform the attack, including Tails, Amy and, most notably, Shadow. The Homing Attack can also be used to quickly target other things such as Springs, Grind Rails, Balloons, and Item Boxes, and the attack move is sometimes necessary to cross bottomless pits or to just proceed forward more quickly.
However, should the target start moving "too fast" as the homing attack is executed, it can still catch up with no problem, as in Shadow the Hedgehog, if one player in vs. mode uses a Spin Dash away from another's homing attack, it shows that they cannot escape it, unless they block it with another spinning motion type move that is (or being shielded by certain obstacles that can be destroyed by a Jump Dash and Homing Attack alike; which as it also applies to any target that will put Shadow in a Homing Attack state, any object that can be destroyed can block the Homing Attack and cause one to bounce off of it despite not being target-able). But in some games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations, if the target is moving at the same rate as Sonic, like a boss, Sonic will give up after about four seconds and cancel the move. Also, in the 3DS version of Sonic Generations, if Classic Sonic attempts to home in on Big Arm while he moves to the background, Classic Sonic will either hit or go right past it, depending on the timing. Some games increase the speed, and the "bounce off" motions varied from game to game.
Since Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic and the other users of the homing attack perform various tricks after striking an enemy. In Sonic Heroes, this would occur when the Speed formation character performed the homing attack on an enemy. He/she would ricochet back into the air performing a variety of flips or spins. Since Sonic Unleashed, Sonic will strike one of five poses after hitting five targets in succession with the Homing Attack. As of Sonic Unleashed, a targeting reticle will appear if the user is close enough to use the Homing Attack on a target.
From Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and forward, the Homing Attack become faster and the character should wear off his/her spinning animation to kick off the target, making lesser enemies fly ahead destroyed upon contact, although that concept would later be dropped in Sonic Lost World.
Sonic Unleashed - Activated when pressing / while a lock-on cursor appears in midair.
Sonic Colors - Wii: Activated when pressing (for Wii remote held horizontally)/ (for Wii remote with Nunchunk)/ (for GameCube controller) while in mid-air. DS: Activated when pressing / while in mid-air.
Level 2: The attack causes three hit points of damage to the targeted enemy.
Visual: Rings become larger.
Level 3: The attack causes three hit points of damage to the targeted enemy. The attack also has the same effects as a Tornado Jump, causing enemies to lose their shields or be flipped over as well as allowing the character to traverse up poles and activate propellers.
Also, whilst in power formation, the other two teammates will automatically perform a Homing Attack (known as "Auto Homing") nearby enemies when they are not being used in other attacks. Notably in this game and Sonic Adventure 2, the Jump Dash and Homing Attack can both be cancelled by pressing the attack button. When cancelled, the character will keep their current velocity, but uncurl and no longer home in on the target.
The Blast Attack is a move that appeared in Sonic 3D Blast and can only be used when Sonic has a Gold Shield. Much like the Homing Attack, the move causes Sonic to home straight into a nearby enemy and the player has to press the jump button twice to perform, however, the Blast Attack cannot chain attacks. Sonic can not jump dash with this move when there are no enemies nearby and instead goes straight down to the ground. This is often considered to be the predecessor to the Homing Attack.
The Jump Dash is a quick dash performed in the air. The move is performed whenever a player uses the Homing Attack when there are no enemies in the vicinity. The Jump Dash is also used by every playable support character in Shadow the Hedgehog (with the exception of Maria) instead of the Homing Attack. The move lets the player move forward a bit and also helps with platforming, but it also takes the player out of a spin, so if the player collides with an enemy, he/she will take damage.
The Light Speed Attack can only be performed if the player has the Ancient Light Level Up Item. The Light Speed Attack is a technique that resembles a cross between the Homing Attack and the Light Speed Dash. This move attacks all nearby enemies with series of Homing Attacks at light speed.
The Fire Claw is a move used by Blaze the Cat in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), where Blaze launches forward whilst spinning horizontally and sticking one arm and one hand out in front of her. The move allows Blaze to home in on the nearest enemy and like the Homing Attack, the move can be chained.
Other game appearances
Super Smash Bros. Brawl / Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U
The Homing Attack takes longer to perform here. Sonic spins in to the air and rises, grunts and then goes for the the closest character. If no one is present, it will just go diagonally downwards in the direction he's facing. He can also tap the attack or special button to attack sooner but with less accuracy and power. The attack can also be steered to a certain extent.
In some games, as long as the Homing Attack hits anything damageable, the character will bounce off. Thus in some cases, it is possible for the Homing Attack to be blocked by other targets that cannot be locked on, such as breakable walls in Shadow the Hedgehog, though this happens rarely.
Sonic in Shadow the Hedgehog is the only partner of Shadow's who can perform this move, as this is because Sonic needed a working Homing Attack for the Boss Battle against Diablon and Sonic.
Sonic also seems to break the logic in that he can aim a Homing Attack at targets a higher elevation from him and even right above him, despite in most games needing to be a bit high above targets first. This also even works when Sonic is directly above an enemy/target, where in that case a Jump Dash would occur instead if a normal circumstance.
This also occurred in Sonic Heroes, while in Speed Formation. The speed character's homing attack would not be able to reach robots that were higher than them but the Partner characters like Tails and Knuckles would attack the robots no matter how high up they were. This could be used to an advantage to destroy robots too high to reach by normal means.
A glitch in various games, using the move can cause the player to circle around the enemy several times instead of actually hitting the enemy.
It should be noted that in some games, like Sonic Generations, Sonic just kicks the enemy when making contact, instead of bouncing off in a ball.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, depending on the circumstances, Sonic can go under a stage (like Final Destination) and perpetually use the move to move around under it.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the only game where Sonic cannot choose which opponent to attack and the move itself has a delay.
Homing Attack is also an unlockable Skill for Classic Sonic in the console/PC versions of Sonic Generations. He automatically gets it as standard in the 3DS version after beating the first boss.