So, Mobius is in pieces due to the Dark Gaia incident and the hunt for the Chaos Emeralds is on. What better than for Sonic, Amy, and Tails to enter a tournament to go find one of the most powerful gems on the planet! Sonic #268 begins a four part tournament arc that has been almost two decades in the making.
The story opens on a bygone battle between Sonic and the old Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad (Referred to as the “S6” for now on) of Coconuts, Scratch, Grounder, and a woman named Breezie, who happens to be a double agent for Eggman. Flash forward to the present, where Breezie is in the media business and holding a fighting tournament for a Chaos Emerald, in which Sonic, Tails, and Amy are entered as Team Fighters. As these three journey to the Casino Park Zone from Sonic Heroes, which is located in Unleashed location of Empire City, they run into Honey the Cat, a fashion designer who is entering the fray for pure publicity. Throw in Bean, Bark and Knack as bounty hunters working for Eggman, Espio of the Chaotix Detective Agency, and Knuckles, who is currently taking care of Chip at the time, and you have the stage set for an adaptation of the Sonic the Fighters arcade game.
As stated earlier, this story is a rendition of the arcade fighting game, Sonic the Fighters. While that game did not have much of a plot other than defeating Metal Sonic and Robotnik, this comic tries to set the tournament inside of the Unleashed timeline. The throwbacks don’t end there. The S6 Squad and many of Eggman’s old robot models were bought out by Breezie. Klagens and Casino Pawns, which littered the Casino Park stage, now return as staff to the Vegas-themed resort alongside many of the old-school Badniks from the Genesis-era games. Honey as a character is a walking reference. She was meant to be included in Sonic the Fighters, but was scrapped due to tech and time limitations. The fact that she shares a similar character model as Amy, as well as clothing, hearken back to this. She even refers to what Amy is wearing currently as part of the “Dream-casters” line, a nod to the pink hedgehog’s design change for Sonic Adventure.
Skelly’s art is right at home in the Sonic comic canon. During the flashback, she uses Sonic’s classic design as a visual note alongside the green text box to easily differentiate parts of the canon. Curiously, the character expressions are all over the place, which is easily seen through Breezie on page 3. At the top of the page, she looks understandably nervous at the prospect of a con, but when Sonic slams into Scratch further down the page, it is not too hard to imagine her eyes bugging completely out of their sockets. Pages ten and eleven speaks volumes of how many moods are present in this story. The scene transitions from a wonderfully drawn but disgruntled Eggman, to the “Hooligans” comically enjoying themselves on the Bingo Highway, to Metal Sonic attacking an old man in the nation of Apotos. The dialogue from Flynn shares the same problem. For instance, when Sonic and Co. arrive at the main casino, tensions rise during their meeting with the media mogul Breezie. Just afterwards, when we get some form of scene lightening, Honey is shoehorned into the scene where the feeling goes from light-hearted to incredibly cheesy. While the multiple-focus story attempts to frame each of the characters in this Fighters story-line, it is too hard to keep up with the constant shifts in feel.
While this storyline does not yet have a clear identity, it does have the legacy of the only Sonic arcade fighter to live up to. In this issue’s “Off Panel”, Scratch and Grounder get hyped up over an homage to the arcade cabinet in question, where they play as Bunnie Rabbot and Blaze the Cat. As laden with references as it is, Sonic the Hedgehog #268 gives its readers the preliminary of a good tournament.