A rumor I've seen here and there (I really wish I knew where the hell this originated from*) that makes absolutely no sense to me is that the reason Mighty the Armadillo will not be returning to the Sonic is games is because his creator left SEGA and took the rights with him.
*If anybody has ANY clue where this started, let us know!
... what? Is it just me or is this just total bull?
I call BS for the simple reason that Mighty is still a regular character appearing in Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic. Really, what other reason do you need? Archie's comic is a LICENSED SEGA PRODUCT with every issue put under review by SEGA before seeing publication. If SEGA really no longer held the rights to the character, they would have had him wall-kick his way out of the comic for good. Since this hasn't happened, it safe to say that Mighty the Armadillo is 100% © SEGA.
Now that that's out of the way, a short little history lesson about everyone's (all three of you ) favorite armadillo. Jokes about obscurity aside, Mighty is practically unknown, if not almost completely defunct character. His only exposure following his last game appearance (in 1995, Knuckles' Chaotix) is probably through fan art and the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say about him.
Mighty first appeared in 1993 in a little known arcade game called SegaSonic the Hedgehog. He is one of the playable characters, starring alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Ray the Squirrel, another one-off character that only appears in the comics now. The arcade game was released in Japan and saw extremely limited release in the West (as far as I know).
A flyer for the arcade game from Japan, complete with Engrish. From Sonic Retro.In the game, Sonic, Mighty and Ray are captured by Dr. Eggman and taken to his island, where they bust out of Eggman's prison and traverse the island to escape. The game is controlled with a trackball for movement (meaning it is the first Sonic game to feature an isometric perspective, not Sonic 3D Blast) and one button used to jump. It was originally slated to be released on the Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube, PS2 [in Japan and Europe only]), a compilation of obscure, "rare" Sonic games, but was left out because of issues emulating the trackball control scheme (why the joystick wouldn't have made a good substitute I'll never know).
Mighty's next and, as of right now, final game appearance was the only 32X Sonic title, Knuckles' Chaotix. In this game, he is again captured by Dr. Eggman, but is one of the playable characters that can be set free from the "Combi Catcher" (a UFO Catcher used to select partner characters). He joins Knuckles the Echidna, Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee as they try to put a stop to Eggman's world conquering schemes. Due to the fact that artwork for the game is featured in Sonic Gems Collection, it's possible Knuckles' Chaotix was meant to be included... but was left out for some unknown and, dare I say, stupid reason. It was a great platformer, and sort of lives on, in spirit, with the Gameboy Advance game Sonic Advance 3, but that's it. Personally, I'm still waiting for Chaotix to hit the Wii's Virtual Console. Yo SEGA! What's the damn hold up?!
In 2004, Sonic Heroes (Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox) was released and the Chaotix came back from obscurity, appearing as a private detective agency. Team Chaotix was made up of Espio (speed), Vector (power) and Charmy (flying). Whoa, wait, what?! Where's Mighty?! Unlike his teammates, it would seem he was not so lucky. But since Sonic Heroes features teams of three, it would be redundant (as if Heroes isn't redundant enough) for there to be either two speed or two power characters on the same team, just to have all four together. Also, the player already plays through the game four times (once for each team) anyway, and since there isn't a whole lot of variation in levels or gameplay, it would just be forcing the player to play the same game again on another difficulty setting. Unfortunately, Mighty just had no place. And that still seems to be the case as Mighty and his buddy Ray the Squirrel have yet to make any more appearances in the games.
Luckily, the good folks at Archie still remember these unsung heroes as they regularly appear in the Sonic comic. Mighty and Ray are members of the Chaotix, Knuckles' version of Sonic's Freedom Fighters. There was even a three-part backup story in issues 26-28 of the long since dead Knuckles the Echidna solo series showing the story of the arcade game in a series of flashbacks while Mighty goes looking for Ray on Robotnik's abandoned island prison (with Nack the Weasel's sister, Nic... don't ask).
Mighty (bottom right) and Ray (top left) fighting alongside the Chaotix and Freedom Fighters. From issue 177 of the Archie comic. Art by Tracy Yardley!Other obscure SEGA characters like the fanged sniper, Nack the Weasel, Bark the Polar Bear and Bean the Dynamite (from Sonic the Fighters, an arcade fighter featured on the Gems Collection) also make somewhat regular apperances in the comic. Nack as a bounty hunter for hire who often manages to be a nuisance to Sonic and any of his other targets. Bark and Bean are mercenaries, currently on Mammoth Mogul's pay roll (Mogul is an Archie exclusive villain who might actually be a bigger threat than Robotnik himself!).
It's great to know that these characters have, at the very least, not been forgotten and still show up in current Sonic media, even if they don't get to share the spotlight in the games themselves. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they'll stay on as Archie exclusives. Who knows? The possibilites are never ending...
With that, I must bring this rather long winded, if not poorly written article to a close. I leave you with a great piece of fan art I found on Deviant Art, modelled by Chris "Artguy/Supernerd" Phyffer:
Chris does some great work, 3D AND 2D. He also did this amazing 3D remake of Sonic 2's ending! Yes, I know, both of these works are old as hell, but I'm still using "we just started a week ago" as my excuse until it's no longer allowed.