With the excitement over Sonic Generations bubbling all over the Internet, people have been looking back on the classic games, hyping themselves up over what may be coming down the pipeline. What zones might come back, what friendly classic faces they’re going to run across again, hoping beyond hope for Metal Sonic to redeem himself for what he did in Sonic Heroes. Looking back on the classic era, it might be easy to overlook the Master System/Game Gear games, since the first two weren’t as critically hailed as their Mega Drive/Genesis counterparts. But the Sonic & Tails series (known as Sonic Chaos and Sonic Triple Trouble over here in the west for…well, I have no idea why) delivered some amazing moments on its own, even with the restraints by the 8-bit hardware. Many people even think of Sonic & Tails 2 as a contender for the “true” Sonic 4, since it was made during the same era. And it does have Fang the Sniper. Who doesn’t love Fang the Sniper?
So of course, Archie had to make it a comic book.
I’m not entirely sure if Sega asked Archie to make this or not, since it was a Game Gear title and, while a money maker for Sega, not nearly as high profile as their major titles. With a cover date of October 1995 (meaning it came out a couple months before…but still way after the fact when you take the game’s release date into consideration) the cover proudly states its collector’s edition status. The four-part, 24 page tale hiding within, written by Mike Gallagher and drawn by Dave Manak, is sure to be a rip-roaring good time, so without further adieu, let’s jump inside!
Entitled “Tttriple Tttrouble,” (oh I get it) the first page features a full-on spread of a single Chaos Emerald, gripped in the hand of Dr. Ivo Robotnik, the evil mastermind who rules Mobius but can’t seem to eradicate a small band of freedom fighters hiding in the forest next to his city. But I digress. We don’t know how he got it, but that’s not important. What is important is how the egg-shaped villain is going to use the emerald. I could make it a guessing game, but it’s pretty obvious: he wants to use it to rule Mobius even more, making it the fuel source of his “largest and most inefficient mega-engine, polluting the globe in days!” I never really understood why this version of Eggman was so hell-bent on causing smog and toxic waste. Ruling over a barren wasteland isn’t that exciting. Wouldn’t you rather want to rule the planet and have a couple trees around to make a hammock if anything?
Making a big deal out of the fact he placing the emerald on a “three-pronged power inducer,” we come to find out Crabmeat set the controls for a six-pronged inducer. Glad Robotnik creates multiple inducers for maximum inefficiency. Regardless, the imbalance is meant to cause an explosion, and even though ol’ Robo yells to run, he smashes Crabmeat on the ground. Poor guy, Robotnik destroyers him more than Sonic ever did! Though the dictator gets away, the emerald isn’t so lucky, splitting in half and going into orbit in opposite ways. Wanting to get into exposition mode, the readers get to find out that half a Chaos Emerald is dangerous. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be getting this story, would we? Reminding us that Mike Gallagher is the one with writing duty, Robo pulls out a phone and calls “Bounty Hunters ‘R’ Us.”
Back in Knothole, Sonic the Hedgehog is where he always is, sitting in a kitchen eating a plate of chili do-wait a minute. He’s holding a chilli hamburger, even though there are chili dogs right there. What kind of madness has befallen our hero?! This must be an artist’s mistake. Quick, Tails! Pull Sonic away so we can forget this ever happened! Rotor Walrus, everyone’s favorite loveable…walrus…sent Tails to get Sonic because he picked up something on his monitor. An incredible power reading that can only be linked to a Chaos Emerald. Mentioning the patterns as erratic, he sets up a visual to show the emerald landing in the forest and creating a new zone right before their eyes. In a collage of roadways, badniks, rings, and other assorted level parts, the comic once again lets us know that this new zone is “the same type of ‘action zones’ found in all Sonic games.” What would I ever do without you, Scott? Proving his impatient nature, Sonic dashes off before Rotor can understand the still fluctuating incoming data, instead journeying to a land no one has ever set foot in. The comic decides to tease, though, with the silhouette of a weasel-looking figure. Oh man, who could that be?
Meanwhile on the surface of the Floating Island (can I call it Angel Island yet Archie) Knuckles the Echidna lounges upon a beach chair, a glass of lemonade at his side and green shades to block out the sun. Great job guarding the island there, Knucklehead. You’ve been invaded twice in the last week, right? Oh, and can’t forget that crazy guy who led you on a wild goose chase back in the Sonic & Knuckles special. And why do you always have to be right at the edge of the island? Shouldn’t you be a little closer to the emerald you’re supposed to be guarding? What if someone…I don’t know…shows up on the other side? Eh, just go ahead and comment on the color of the sun.
If Knuckles was already wearing green shades, wouldn’t everything look green anyway? Regardless, the green-hued sky is enough for Knuckles to spring into action and realize the a “meteor” had passed in front of the sun for a brief moment. Noticing that it’s about to crash on the island, the guardian decides he has to check it out. Not because he’s curious, but because it is his job to. I know it’s a Chaos Emerald, you know it’s a Chaos Emerald. But Knuckles? Right now he thinks its just a rock. Which is apparently one of his duties as guardian, to go look at it. Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh here, but its hard for me not to seeing Knuckles explain how he can glide to no one. This is why narration boxes were created…Gliding to the unclimbable mountain, Knuckles watches helplessly as the Chaos Emerald (which he can now identify) burrows itself into the mountain, which also causes it to vibrate uncontrollably. Looking for safe haven, the echidna attempts to glide away, only to be hit on the head with a rock and fall towards the jagged surface below. Ooo, suspense!
The next part begins with Sonic running towards the entrance of the newly-created zone, unknowingly watched by the same shadowy figure. In direct communication with Dr. Robotnik, the mysterious figure showcases an attempt at humor, muting the doctor and using the words “chins” and “knot” in the same sentence. Why does this bounty hunter organization even exist? Shouldn’t he have just robotocized this guy immediately or something? We’re then treated to a two-page spread that reminds the readers at home that, yes, this is an adaptation for Triple Trouble. With artistic renderings of the six zones in the game (some better looking than others) we get to see Sonic defeat Eggman once again. Wait a minute. How does…why is Dr. Eggman in the zone? Why does Sonic call him that? How did he even defeat that machine? Is that meant to be Dr. Robotnik who somehow sneaked into the zone for a moment then immediately abandoned it? Or is it a “fake” Robotnik created by the zone because the last thing the emerald touched was the diabolical doctor?!
Using his Super Peel-Out (to give the artist an excuse to draw the figure-eight) to enter the exit room just in time, Sonic turns off the zone. Wait. You can turn off a zone? Is this supposed to be an analogy to turning off your Game Gear and going back to the real world? Either way, the Chaos Emerald half is sitting in another three-pronged inducer for no good reason, giving Sonic explanation as to why the zone was so weird. Weird in what way? The game was good for an 8-bit Sonic title, but it was pretty standard Sonic fare…why am I even thinking about this. We finally get to see the figure, who is none other than Nack the Weasel. Does his name change to Fang in later issues? I don’t remember. Heck, trying to remember without looking it up is enough for me to not even comment on Sonic’s blue eyelids! O-oh. Right. Moving on.
Part III (wait didn’t part two just start) begins with Nack reporting back to Robotnik, having knocked out Sonic and gotten the Chaos Emerald half. Extortioning Robotnik for double the price to get the second half of the emerald (how does currency even work if Robotnik is supposed to rule Mobius), the bounty hunter flies off towards the Floating Island, calmly stating the emerald must be there. He sure isn’t freaked out over a floating landmass that’s in plain sight and which most people aren’t supposed to be aware exists. Unless he was hanging out in Knothole earlier. If all these freedom fighting groups are supposed to be underground, news shouldn’t travel all that well. But who am I to talk, the only reason Nack is in this story is because Robotnik called him up on his cellphone.
Meanwhile, in some random location, Knuckles wakes up, a bit bruised but nothing serious. He doesn’t wake up in the jagged cliffs of Mt. Osohai, but in a CAAAAIEE-*ahem*-I mean, a cave. With three crazy looking animals wearing masks surrounding him on a table. Knuckles is a bit freaked out, recognizing their images from “the Book of Myths,” whatever that might be. Calling them the Ancient Walkers, he gets even more freaked out when he thinks one of them is about to impale him with a stick. Oh, silly Knuckles. You should know better than that. You’re an official Sega character! You’re not going to die…at least, you won’t die permanently or anything. The stick is used to paint Knuckles a picture (guess if they talk they explode or something), explaining that the Chaos Emerald he saw entering the mountain was actually half of one, and that it is being attracted to the Chaos Emerald keeping the island afloat. If the two were to meet, the island would explode. A buzzkill for any future suntanning the echidna might be planning.
Asking to be sent back, the walkers make Knuckles smell a bowl…which sends him back. Huh. That was easy. Not even on the Floating Island for five seconds, Knuckles spots Nack’s air-sled, hiding in the bushes long enough to catch the weasel by surprise and knock him out. Why did he do that! Sure, we know he’s evil and all, but Knuckles doesn’t. He could have punched Princess Sally, for all he knew! Nack’s craft crashes into the water, and while the sniper is safe on land, Sonic the Hedgehog is not so lucky, still being in the backseat of the craft. The water makes him come to, and entering a “Sonic Spin,” he cuts through the ropes and swims back to the surface. Wait a minute. Sonic can’t swim. Unless that’s supposed to be a very dramatic jump. With that, part three ends.
Part four begins with Sonic jumping to safety, only to immediately enter a fight with Knuckles. For no reason whatsoever. One thing that always bothered me about the Archie series was the forced nature of the Sonic/Knuckles rivalry. Calling Knuckles “Sonic’s Friendly Nemesis” never sat right, because the two aren’t supposed to be each other’s “nemesis.” Knuckles is meant to be hot-headed and quick to a fight, sure. He can be gullible and fight Sonic, yes. But for the two to fight for the sake of fighting? I don’t see it. Yet here it goes, with Knuckles blaming Sonic for everything (ignoring the last two times he was on the island and saved him) and Sonic doesn’t even try to defend himself, punching Knuckles on the spot. They continue to fight until the voice of a certain evil villain interrupts them, stopping the two from killing each other.
The communicator on Nack’s wrist still working, the voice of Robotnik alerts the pair to who is actually behind the Chaos Emerald tomfoolery. Like it took a genius to guess that one. Propping up Nack and miming his movements, they’re able to trick the doctor into giving them information they already have, Sonic finding the emerald half in Nack’s backpack. Realizing time is of the essence, the pair jump down a convenient short cut chute to the Central Chamber, the fake Hidden Palace Zone that could have looked like the Hidden Palace Zone had the artists cared enough to get through Sonic & Knuckles. Seeing the half breaking through the wall, the pair hold up the emerald shard, hoping the two halves will be attracted to each other and not the whole piece. Wait, why didn’t the emerald half that Nack had try to burrow underground once he got to the island?
Luckily, the two halves join up, reuniting and somehow transport the pair back onto the surface, the emerald vanishing in the process. Sonic and Knuckles look at each other like they’re going to fight, but they resist. Good thing, too. I can’t blame them for being a little freaked out, since there’s no real reason why they went back to the surface. The only thing I can think of is that the writer didn’t want to add an extra panel or line of dialogue where they climb back topside. Wanting to get home, Sonic grabs Nack’s wrist radio and pushes a button to bring his cycle back up from the sea. Not entirely sure how Sonic “noticed” the unmarked button, but hey, I’ve been confused enough as is. Re-establishing the fact that neither trusts each other, Sonic ties up Nack and wishes Knuckles farewell, wondering to himself what the echidna did with the Chaos Emerald.
We are then treated to a one-page epilogue of sorts, showing the Ancient Walkers draw a circle in the sand and having the Chaos Emerald appear to them, fulfilling an age-old prophecy and having “the cycle [begin] anew.” The first time I read this years ago, I assumed that the Ancient Walkers were in the past, and the Chaos Emerald that showed up was actually the one Knuckles would then guard in the future. Now? I have no clue. It’s not like Chaos Emeralds are hard to come by in this era of the comic, either. They’re all over the place! Look, can I just read this public service announcement where Reggie Mantle tries to insult a kid with Cerebral Palsy?
The other two stories are Tails and Knuckles’ solo adventures. The first gives Tails his Sea Fox, which is featured in Triple Trouble but used here to save a seagull. The second gives the comic an excuse to introduce Vector the Crocodile for no reason, and setting up the next chapter of the “Archimedes” mystery that tried to be way too cool for school. But I’m not about to get into detail with those, since they have nothing to do with the game adaptation proper. Just thought I’d mention them.
To be fair, the story this time around actually tries to stay faithful to the source material, though there is little story to be found in the manual. What is there does talk about Dr. Eggman trying to power a machine using the Chaos Emeralds, but something going amiss and the emeralds scattering. However, nowhere does it mention a single Chaos Emerald splitting in half…of course, since Archie has already made the precedent of using one emerald at a time (except in issue #4 when Super Sonic shows up), I’m not too surprised by what they did. I guess it’s easier to write about one emerald in an issue than trying to tackle six or seven at a time. As for Nack, the only manual that makes it explicitly clear that he’s working on his own agenda is the Japanese one. The American story leaves it quite ambiguous, so having Robotnik call him up seems as easy a way out as any.
The two page spread of the levels? I’m not going to lie when I say it feels forced, and more a response to kids writing in to Sonic-Grams and demanding to know why their favorite levels from previous adaptations went missing. This way? You have no room to scream at me, the 35 year old writer, you 10 year old child! But wouldn’t it have been easier to just…have Sonic go through each level during the entire course of the story? Ah, but then you might not have room for your Ancient Walkers (which I wouldn’t be surprised Ken Penders asked to be thrown in) and your strange Chaos Emerald subplot which leaves way more questions than answers. Do we ever get answers? Wish I knew.
All in all, it’s a fairly inoffensive comic book adaptation to a game that didn’t have a lot of story to work with in the first place. At least they didn’t pull something out of the blue like with the Sonic & Knuckles special. Although I would argue to say that, while the previous story had problems, it was slightly more memorable than this adaptation. It really does seem by-the-numbers, and could have easily been just another plot in the main titles to fill an issue, and not the dramatic tale that is deserving of the extra quarters.
Next time: Knuckles’ Chaotix. Won’t that be fun!