So this is something I've been doing some thinking on lately, and after wrapping up the latest arc over in the comics it's something I want to share here. Since their introduction in 2013, the Deadly Six have been a rather controversial group of characters in the Sonic franchise, due to their unconventional designs, limited characterisation and uninspired introduction to the Sonic world, both in terms of the quality of their debut game and their rather slapdash insertion into the story with little worldbuilding or contribution to the general mythos. Despite this, Sonic Team has brought them back time and again, with Zavok and Zazz in particularly popping up in spin-offs such as Sonic Dash, Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, Team Sonic Racing and of course the Olympic Games, to the confusion and apathy of many. However, I think that these characters, when applied correctly, could play a compelling role in the ongoing Sonic story. I feel that, in some ways, the Hard-Boiled Heavies parallel the Deadly Six as a hexad (heh) of distinct antagonists with their own traits, interactions and design gimmicks that end up rebelling against Eggman to become a third faction in the Sonic-Eggman conflict (or at least the Heavy King does). Of course, the HBH have been far better received by the fanbase for several reasons; they fit better into the design conventions by way of being a novel take on a previously established enemy (being the Egg-Robos from Sonic & Knuckles), they're introduced into the world in a less abrupt manner with the use of the Phantom Ruby, and are more closely linked to the plot they debut in, and one could argue that, due to the lack of dialogue in Sonic Mania, potentially limited personalities are not exposed, and their identities are instead explored through their boss fights and mannerisms (with Heavy Magician being the best example of this in my opinion). This is all to say I think that the success of the HBH proves that the Deadly Six can work as villains, given the proper attention and effort. So what are the merits they can provide? As outsiders, the Deadly Six can act as a compelling third faction with their own goals and means of achieving said goals. This is an idea that has been at least present since Sonic Lost World. Broadly speaking, the Zeti don't necessarily have the investment in the Sonic-Eggman conflict as the other two factions do. Until Eggman enslaved them, they were seemingly quite content keeping to themselves on Lost Hex, likely terrorising the local wildlife but otherwise not really being a huge threat. After Lost World however, they seek revenge on both Sonic and Eggman for their humiliation and abuse at the hands of each of them. I think this is an adequate setup to allow the Deadly Six to continually reappear in future games as a wildcard that can help or hinder either side. For example, I think they could have had a compelling presence in Sonic Forces where Zavok and co. have witnessed Infinite's power, acknowledge it to be a threat to them, and set about to try and sabotage him and Eggman. While initially they would of course butt heads with Sonic once more, their involvement in such a plot could have been a vital factor in Team Sonic's success, presenting an interesting relationship between the two factions in the form of a temporary truce where the Zeti still seek defeat Sonic, but realise that it's in their best interests to help him stop Eggman. The powerset of the Zeti has the potential to force other characters to approach problems in new ways. In Lost World, the Deadly Six became a threat when the absence of the Cacophonic Conch allowed them to unleash their powers over electromagnetic fields and control Eggman's machinery. However, I feel this is a very surface level exploration of the concept and one that doesn't change how Sonic dealt with them compared to how he deals with Eggman and rather than doing something interesting as a result of this development, Eggman was relegated to doing pretty much nothing at all that contributed to the plot as a whole. In the Archie Comics in particular, Eggman has proven himself to be very canny even without access to his usual resources, employing unconventional technology such as the Egg Beater Mk. II (a reinforced ceramic mech that ran on pulleys and chords rather than circuitry) and Hard-Light Armour, the latter of which allowing Eggman to get his hands dirty in a bare-knuckle brawl. One merit of the Deadly Six's introduction is that their powers were clearly defined and as such this allows other characters to adapt to those powers in organic ways. Furthermore, it should be noted that Sonic's side also relies on technology to an extent, both through Tails' skillset and the existence of characters such as Omega and Gemerl. As the IDW comics have shown, this creates the opportunity for Sonic and co. to employ different strategies when fighting the Zeti that wouldn't be considered against Eggman. Their straightforward personalities could be used to explore new and interesting level locales. While I wouldn't argue that the Deadly Six have very well-rounded personalities (I mean how many Sonic characters do?) I think that the simplicity of their character traits could allow for strongly themed levels if they were to ever return as a primary antagonist. For exmaple, Zeena's vanity would lend itself well to a level themed after a fun-house inspired mirror maze, a locale which has not been explored in a Sonic game previously and that would allow for new and creative mechanics. Zor's dark personality and pessimistic philosophy would tie themselves nicely to a locale that draws from illusion sequences such as those scene in the movie Spider-Man: Far From Home. While this idea has been played with to an extent, I feel there is a lot more that could be done with it than simply having a level made out of sweets in Des(s)ert Ruins because Zomom likes food. I know this has been a bit of a ramble but I'd be interested to hear what ideas other people can bring to the table in this regard. Evidently Sonic Team are going to keep bring these characters back, so I think it'd be worthwhile for us to consider how they can play into the strengths and idiosyncrasies they have and what we'd like to see from them.