Welcome back to the second half of our look at the interim arcs of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles adaptation! Last time we travelled with Sonic and Amy Rose to the Marble Garden Zone, escaped the newly-revealed secret headquarters of Sonic & company as Big Arms smashed the place to pieces, and did some gambling with the
Mario Marxio Brothers in the Carnival Night Zone. However we’ve got much more ground to cover, so let’s get started!
While Knuckles was off playing with Nintendo parodies, the Sonic stories of the comic were still going – and oddly, the first of these also has Knuckles in, presumably it’s set shortly after he’d punched the Marxio Bros off the Floating Island. In “Ice Cap Attack”, We join our heroes in the Hill Top Zone, who are apparently just wandering through it for no particular reason, but aren’t in the circus disguises for reasons also never explained. Tails asks if Sonic thinks they’ll encounter any trouble (maybe he wants to be back in the clown outfit again?), with Sonic saying he always expects trouble, due to their outlaw status – and right on cue, a swarm of Penguinators fly overhead. Yes, we’re still in Hill Top – do keep up at the back, we’ll get to an explanation in a minute. Sonic sighs that it can be a pain being right all the time, but that he can live with it – and starts bashing badniks apart. One crossbow shot from Amy, and Tails getting a dual pep-talk & insult from Sonic later, everything is right with the world again.
The gang is out of trouble for now, but amid Amy’s jubilant celebrations Sonic is thinking out loud – why were Penguinators in the Hill Top Zone? After all, they’re badniks from the Floating Island‘s Ice Cap Zone. Tails suggests that maybe they came down to Mobius for a Christmas break (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention – this arc was printed around Christmas 1994. David the Lurker touched on this story briefly in Xmas 2010, and I mean briefly – it’s literally just the last panel… so I’m doing it anyway. =P Besides, it’s Christmas Eve today!) Sonic however immediately shoots down this suggestion as the terrible joke that it is.
Just look at Tails’ body language. He’s only trying to gain your approval, Sonic, give the poor kid a break. However there’s no time for merriment or deflating young foxes’ dreams of being accepted, as Porker Lewis has spotted how the Penguinators are in this zone in the first place – a massive hole in the sky, on the other side of which is a snowy wasteland. Sonic quickly realises it’s a gateway to another zone, specifically Ice Cap. I think it says a lot about just how stubborn Robotnik is with his badnik assignments that a giant portal floating in the sky connecting two different points in space makes more sense as a reason for badniks being somewhere, than the lard-arse just mixing up his rota assignments… but I digress. More baddies means more smashing, and Sonic & co get on with trashing the latest arrivals. Eventually Tails points out that they’re winning, to which Sonic asks the others to finish up the current round while he takes care of the root problem here, and jumps into the portal, despite Tails’ warning that he might not be able to get back. The portal closes behind Sonic as he lands on the snow (Tails being bang on, it’s a shame no-one ever listens to him – well, I say no-one, I could just limit this to Sonic), as we see Knuckles also busy punching the crap out of badniks. Sonic notes the echidna could use some help, to which Knuckles says it’s bad enough fighting off the invading badniks without Sonic turning up as well.
I said this previously in Part 3, but these two still need to just get a room already. Knuckles stands victorious over a pile of badnik parts, his gloves smoking… wait, why are they smoking? Is there something Sega’s not telling us here? I thought Knuckles was anti-smoking, anyway? Either way, he’s too busy posing to notice the badnik heading straight at him from behind – fortunately for Red, Sonic’s seen it and runs past him, smashing the last badnik to bits. While Knuckles appreciates the help, he’s still all business, asking Sonic to either state why he’s here or get off the island, to which Sonic replies that it’s sure not to give him a Christmas present (oh, I see, Sonic. You smack Tails down, then steal his material for use elsewhere!), filling Knuckles in on the portal. There’s a few panels of back-and-forth along the lines of “Floating Island is my domain not yours” from Knuckles and “Mobius is my problem and if your zones are the cause of issues I’m dealing with it” from Sonic, but despite Knuckles not being impressed with either Sonic’s offer for Knuckles to be his assistant (and it was such a generous offer, too, and not at all condescending), or Sonic’s “arrogant glory-seeking”, Knuckles eventually agrees to a truce, seeing as it’s Christmas (all together now: “awwwwww.” How adorable. How does Christmas even work on a planet that never had Christ, anyway?!) However, Robotnik is watching:
Yeah, I think he’s got the right idea here about how vomit-inducing this is, even if he’s not exactly in the most festive of moods himself. Why does he have a video screen dedicated to a close-up on the handshake though, if he thinks this is so terrible? Oh, by the way guys, there is snow and they keep mentioning Christmas, has the message been hammered home yet?
Two weeks later (still technically Christmas; this issue hit the shops on January 6th 1995, the 12th night), the second half of this “festive” tale came out. Sonic & Knuckles are racing across the zone with Sonic kicking up snow into Knuckles’ face as he does so, a gleaming smile on his face. Knuckles complains and tells Sonic to stop doing it, but all our dickish bullying hero can do is tell “Curly” to try keeping up with him if he wants to have clear vision. Knuckles then takes a different tack, telling the “speed-freak” to slow down, as he thinks he’s spotted what they’re looking for – though Sonic says he can’t see anything in the zone but snow & ice.
Gee, Sonic, do fill us in. Who could possibly have made this egg-shaped ice structure? Answers on a postcard to ‘”I’m Quicker On The Uptake Than Tails Is”, Sonic Retro Headquarters, The Internet’. There’s no obvious entrance, but this isn’t a problem, Knuckles says. All he needs to do is tunnel underneath it, and: it’ll take ages? That’s according to Sonic anyway, who has somewhat of a less-delicate way inside, smashing a giant hole in the wall and racing inside. Oh, it was Robotnik behind this after all – such a shock! I’d never have guessed.
Very Bond villain-esque line there, Ivo! However the line of penguin henchmen kind of skews it more towards Dr Evil than Dr No – that said, I guess that suits the character more. Sonic makes a gag about Robotnik playing it cool (it is funny because they are in an arctic biome Zone, get it), but Robotnik says he’s less about competing than he is conquering and destroying, pressing a button on a control panel and trapping Sonic & Knuckles in a green chamber of light that he advises them not to touch. Sonic tries to anyway, and burns his glove for his trouble; as Knuckles complains that he knew it was a mistake teaming up with Sonic. The hedgehog asks Robotnik what he’s going to do, such as bore them to death with details of his latest plan – and as it happens, doing so about his new Inter-Zone (catchy. Hope it’s more reliable than Inter-City) technology is just what the good doctor had in mind.
Knuckles has something of an interesting point – why has this thing been built here (other than as an excuse to do a Christmas-themed comic, obviously)? It could be that it needs the cold to work but this is never stated in the comic, nor does Robotnik ever go back to building another generator for what he dreams could mean “a future where armies of Badniks pour through gateways, outnumbering any resistance”, and generally making him unstoppable. Sonic says he’ll find a way out of the energy field and stop him, sort of echoing Tails’ comment in Sonic Generations that he always does. Knuckles however is ahead of him, saying he’s already found one – and digs down into the floor (vindication from when they entered the place!), punching free on the other side of the field. Robotnik calls in badniks to stop them – I have no idea why he doesn’t just move the field to the new location, but then I guess he’s just playing whack-a-mole with multiple holes in the floor, which is a losing battle – though as Sonic & Knuckles point out, badniks stopping them isn’t a likely proposition.
Knuckles gets a zinger in (that in the grand scheme of things karma will balance, but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves), as Sonic then says that if he’s so brilliant, he can deal with the Penguinators while the hedgehog takes out the main problem. Knuckles retorts that he can handle it, can Sonic? Well, Knuckles, seeing that all Sonic has to do is smash apart a computer console, it’s not exactly a terribly difficult feat – and indeed, Sonic makes fairly short work of it. Knuckles is concerned about Robotnik making his inevitable exit, but Sonic tells him to let him go – there are animals scattered about that they need to get back to Mobius before the gateway finally closes (convenient that it hangs on for a bit after the mechanism has been trashed). Does this mean that all the badniks on the Floating Island have Mobius-based animals in them? That must be a hell of an inconvenience for Robotnik, having to ferry them up there whenever he runs out. Sonic and all the animals fall back through the gateway to Hill Top Zone, as Knuckles stands on thin air and tells Sonic that the mission has been accomplished, and that the truce is therefore now over. This suits Sonic just fine, musing that Knuckles won’t be joining them for Christmas then. The other freedom fighters rush over to the newly arrived hedgehog, Tails asking how it went; Sonic replies that despite being slowed down by Knuckles, it was like any other mission in the Ice Cap Zone – cool (groan. We’re not quite at Batman & Robin levels of jokes about low temperatures, but at least we’re almost free of ice-based pun-ishment now (I thought I fired you already? – Ed)). It starts snowing, a panicky Tails gulping and wondering if it’s a fiendish plan to turn the Hill Top into a new Ice Cap – but Sonic tells Tails to relax. After all, it is Christmas. Yes, we’re going to keep hammering this message home until the last panel – oh, here it is again:
Yeesh, this panel isn’t any less freaky than the last time we saw it, is it? The passage of time hasn’t made Amy’s face any less creepy at all – I wonder if Sonic still has that chastity belt from the Sonic CD arc available? I think we should move on before she makes her move with the hidden chloroform rag.
Next issue, we’re back to a more direct continuation of the story following the escape from the secret headquarters, in “Badniks Bridge” – and it looks like Porker Lewis (still in carnival getup) is in trouble, as arrows fly through the air, thunking into a target directly behind him. Have Robotnik’s forces finally seen through the incredibly flimsy disguises? (There’s a hint in the bottom right!)
In a word, no. Fortunately for the pig, he hasn’t been captured by Troopers, but instead is merely being shot at by Amy for the sake of a cheap circus act (obviously much more desirable. Wonder if she’s humming “My Sweet Passion” in her head while she’s doing this? “F-f-fire, fire…”). They seem to be quite popular too, having caught a crowd of country-dwellers applauding the shooting. As they take their bows, Amy hisses at Porker to keep still during the act as she’s still trying to get the hang of her new bow – however it seems this is the reason that he’s shaking, apparently being afraid of becoming skewered pork! “Bob Beaky” (that’s Sonic, remember) thanks the audience and tells them to tell their friends about the act if they enjoyed the show, as the crowd slowly drifts away. Inside the caravan, Sonic removes his disguise while Johnny compliments Amy on her sharpshooting skills. Sonic slyly wanders over to Johnny and says he didn’t realise he had eyes for Amy. The rabbit says he doesn’t, but Sonic seems quite keen on the idea, especially if it means she’ll stop pestering him! Fortunately for Lightfoot, Tails has a more pressing issue to discuss with Sonic – the Kintobor program (now downgraded to a computer monitor instead of the fancy hologram he’s been using) has been hacking into a transmission by Robotnik and has some grave news.
At this news, Sonic decides that the only course of action is to take the Michael Bay approach and blow up a bridge, as the computer notes to reach the helicopter it will have to cross over one: the Emerald Valley bridge. Surely Robotnik will know this is a lucrative target for the freedom fighters even without his transmissions being hacked, so I’m not sure why the helicopter couldn’t fly to where the booster is, rather than the booster being driven to an arbitrary site first… but hey, what do I know about Mobian logistics? Sonic asks Porker Lewis for some explosive charges (that they just happen to keep on board the caravan. That’s not asking for trouble, no…) and runs off, saying the others can follow in the plane, but that it’ll probably all be over by the time they get there. Meanwhile on the Floating Island, Grimer & Robotnik are receiving some news.
See, it all ties together, we weren’t just looking at the Marxio Bros last time to mock 90s-era Nintendo, honest! Robotnik basks in the news of Knuckles’ imminent demise, saying he’ll regret the day he turned against him (though presumably not for very long, if he’s on the way out). Not only that, it won’t be long until the Death Egg is completed, at which point he will be indestructible. Cue evil laugh, naturally. We then cut back to the surface of Mobius, where Sonic has arrived at the bridge just as the very phallic-looking booster is beginning to make its way across.
Sonic begins to lay some fairly weedy looking mines on the bridge in order to take out the Egg-Dildo, with small sensors in the middle that will obviously set the mines off. Yay terrorism! To be honest with you though, judging by the size of the tracks and how much that thing must weigh, you’d have thought the mines would be crushed to uselessness long before the tracks even reach the button to set them off, but whatever… While noting there’s enough explosive in the mines to bring down the entire bridge (the goal here not so much being to blow up the booster, as to cause it to break itself by falling into the valley below. Either way, those are some bloody powerful mines for the size), Sonic realises he’d better leg it before the mines go off – just as a giant fist zips towards him, that he dodges out of the way of just in time. The bridge apparently wasn’t unguarded, which Sonic admits to the Trooper that he hadn’t given any thought to (really? You’re supposed to be the leader of a freedom fighter cell!), but that he appreciates the concern – as he kicks the Trooper off the bridge into a long drop, shortly followed by it exploding on the ground.
Well, that was the plan, anyway.
The gleeful Trooper announces that it’s all over for Sonic, caught in the cage – but he doesn’t realise just how true this is, as Sonic points out. If the carrier hits one of those mines, it’ll be all over all right for the hedgehog – specifically, bits of Sonic will be all over the entire Emerald Valley; as the carrier trundles blissfully towards the fairly obviously placed black mines on the grey marble bridge, sticking out like a sore thumb yet not seen at all by either the driver of the carrier nor the 4 floating escort ships surrounding it. Time for a cliffhanger? Sure is, kids! (cue cries from the readership)
A fortnight of accelerated time later, we pick up right where we left off, with a view from the air of Sonic trapped in the cage of the S.B.S. Trooper and the carrier literally a couple of metres from the mines – the Tornado has finally arrived, Johnny piloting with Amy sitting right next to him in a very cramped single-seater cockpit. Sonic tries to insult his way out of the trap, telling the “bozo” of a robot to get them off the bridge before the transporter hits one of the explosive charges, to which the Trooper… does nothing. No alert to his comrades, no questioning of Sonic, no hauling them back up onto the bridge… it just stays hanging there, glaring at him. To be honest to some degree this is understandable – a badnik suiciding if it means certain death for Sonic would be hard programmed into the units, wouldn’t you think? Fortunately for the spiky blue one (& the Trooper, I guess), the bots on top of the booster are far more attentive to their duties, with one spotting the Tornado flying overhead and ordering an immediate stop of the transporter – centimetres from one of the mines.
The immediate danger out of the way, the S.B.S. Trooper decides to taunt Sonic instead, saying that he is constructed from a new super strong alloy that he can’t combat – Sonic’s rather inventive response to this is simply to whirl around and unscrew the cage to pieces. God knows why he just didn’t do that from the start. The Trooper does make a valid point that Sonic is hundreds of metres from the ground, and indeed Sonic does fall… right onto the wing of the Tornado, thanks to some well-timed flying by Johnny Lightfoot. The S.B.S. Trooper evidently then hauls itself onto the bridge, as it gives an order to check the area for explosives. Sonic curses that they’ve found his incredibly obvious and easy to spot mines (how could that possibly have happened?), and says to Johnny that he’ll need to take the plane back down.
Two insults in a single panel, Sonic’s on form today! Incidentally, I like the pose in the close-up to the left, it’s somewhat reminiscent of some official Sonic CD art… anyway, the plane flies low over the bridge and Sonic hops off, telling himself that he needs to get this right first time as they’re almost off the bridge. One of the Troopers alerts the others Sonic’s there, and to get him – but they can hardly see him, as Sonic flits around the wheels of the driver cabinet, unscrewing the bolts holding the wheels in place (why did he need a tool kit to do this here, and not for the S.B.S Trooper?) They slam to the ground faster than a car’s that’s been left parked in a badly lit inner city street, as Sonic torments them by showing the bolts to the Troopers. The fact they’re going nowhere fast doesn’t faze the robots too badly though, as they’d ordered reinforcements as soon as the aircraft was spotted – and they’ve just arrived. As much as he’d like to attack them all, Sonic has other things to attend to, leaping off the bridge into thin air again, surrounded by gunfire. However Johnny wasn’t expecting Sonic to jump off again, and isn’t entirely sure he can make it, though he brings the Tornado around just in time for Sonic’s hand to smack down onto the far corner of the right wing. Johnny asks Sonic if he could signal before he jumps, but apparently that wouldn’t be anywhere near as cool. Look, Sonic, there’s legitimate times to complain about Health & Safety Gone Mad, but I daresay letting your landing platform know when you’re about to make a leap of faith isn’t one of them. Bringing himself onto the wing, Sonic tells Amy to get her bow out, which she does, telling Johnny to hold the plane steady… and we’re then treated to this utterly terrible pun.
Cue enormous explosion. All said and done, the bridge actually holds up remarkably well, but the booster is well and truly trashed – as Amy points out, it really was stupid of the badniks to put the mines where they could still see them. Sonic grudgingly admits that Amy is pretty good with the bow (her earlier torture of Porker Lewis apparently having all worked out for the best), but all Amy can think of is that it’s a shame that Cupid’s shots aren’t as accurate as hers. Keep on dreaming, girl. Back on the Floating Island, Robotnik is in a predictable rage about the news of the booster being destroyed, with Grimer not being fast enough to move out of the way of Robotnik’s slapping him across the room. The villain says that he must immediately begin work on another one, as he clutches a globe that… is Earth, basically. Considering the comic later establishes that Mobius is most certainly not Earth (something that was always set in stone in the European variant of the Western canon, unlike how Archie did it later with the “Overlanders“), this is a fairly odd item for the man to be using here, but I don’t suppose a generic planet would have as much impact as Robotnik’s pudgy fingers being almost on top of the United Kingdom. Maybe he misses his home planet and keeps it around as a keepsake? Whatever.
Our final brief one-shot story, “Day of the Death Egg”, begins with a countdown – umbilical cords go flying and launch towers retract as the Death Egg lifts off with a successful launch into the sky. Robotnik practically screams with triumph, telling Grimer to bring them down to the surface of Mobius (after all that effort spent launching this massive thing upwards?!) as it is time to show off his shiny new battleship toy to the locals of the Emerald Hill Zone. Cutting to the zone itself, we see Sonic and Tails smashing up badniks as per usual.
Oh, Sonic, how soon you’re going to regret those words. A Rhinobot runs towards Sonic (wait, why aren’t they making a big deal about this being out of zone, like they did for the Penguinators?) but he leads it off a cliff, and while Sonic has Tails to catch him, the badnik has no such luck, exploding. Looking to the sky, Tails notes it’s suddenly getting dark, and asks Sonic what’s going on – the hedgehog doesn’t know, but doesn’t like it.
Gee, guys, whatever tipped you off, the giant red glowing eyes?! Robotnik’s voice echoes out that this is a small sample of his power, as laser beams blast out from the eyes of the Death Egg, tearing huge chunks out of the zone. He issues a demand for them to bring him Sonic, lest they face the full extent of the Death Egg. However there was no need, as Sonic & Tails have already arrived, Sonic not being afraid to face him. Robotnik for his part only notes that he didn’t think Sonic would be, but that he couldn’t resist trying out the Death Rays. Tails suddenly decides to try taking Robotnik by surprise, as he’s the only one who can fly (I don’t know what he thinks he can do against something that size) – but even as Sonic calls Tails an idiot and to come back, the ship’s right eye is already powering up…
And right here is where we hit hardcore, kids. Tails is dead, as a stunned Sonic tries to take this in.
Yes, seriously, this isn’t Sonic toying with his friends this time for emotional grief. Tails has been killed, vapourised by the Death Egg. Sonic breaks into a run, calling Robotnik a murderer, and that Tails was just a kid – he won’t find Sonic such an easy target, as he jumps towards the other eye. Robotnik calmly says that Sonic shouldn’t count on that, changing the beams to wide angle and maximum power – and firing again, this time on the entire zone. I think we finally found Genocide City, folks!
Grimer calls for the lights, and we see that actually Robotnik was just watching the entire thing on a TV screen – a simulation. Or as a note from Megadroid says, “You didn’t REALLY think we’d let anything happen to poor Tails, did you?” (He doesn’t include the usual mental torture by Sonic, then.) The doctor is extremely (or should I say eggs-tremely?) pleased with what he’s just seen, and Grimer tells him that though this was a simulation, the real Death Egg will be able to do all this and more – and they took delivery of a new main thruster that morning, the launch is just weeks away.
And thus comes to a close the interim story arcs. I like some of these stories better than others (the Marxio one is rather loosely related, but a fun romp; while the IT’S CHRISTMAS message that keeps getting hammered home in the Ice Cap one gets labourious after a while), but the main link thread here between the two main game adaptations (the base evac, the thruster sabotage, the simulation) is solid, and I like to think vaguely faithful to that universe in that it almost entirely takes place in named zones, mostly from Sonic 3; the team are actively trying to stop the Death Egg from being fixed over a period of a few months, but in the end there’s nothing they can do to do so.
Next time, the conclusion to this epic Sonic 3 & Knuckles saga: An old foe returns, Sonic & Robotnik have their final showdown, and the real launch of the Death Egg.
Ulp. Strap yourselves in, folks. This is gonna be big. But in the meantime – have a good Christmas & New Year, from all of us at Sonic Retro!
You’ve not read the previous parts already? You have the time, it’s the Christmas holidays! Go on:
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part One: Of Flying Battleships and Space Eggs
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 2: Of Time Stones and Shrink Lasers
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 3: Of Emeralds and Echidnas
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 4: Of Evacuating and Electricians
And of course there’s David the Lurker’s lookback at how Archie did games adaptations a few thousand miles west of the UK:
How Archie Played the Games, Part One: Of Pinball and Echidnas
How Archie Played the Games, Part Two: Of Floating Islands
How Archie Played The Games, Part Three: Of Pink And Metal Hedgehogs
How Archie Played The Games, Part Four: Of Walkers and Snipers
How Archie Played The Games, Part Five: Of Rodents and Giants
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6A: Of Death Eggs and Robot Birds
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6B: Of Silver Hedgehogs and Falling Islands