It used to be portrayed in commercials, AOSTH, comics all over, games etc. It's only recent the whole nothing angle. Not really sure how it's so hard to picture him or Knuckles or Amy being able to move fast. Just not Sonic fast.
I know it's not much but in Colours while brainwashed Tails easily got in Sonic's way, and he was fast enough to knock Sonic out of the way mid-jump in LW. It's weird they act like he can't fight nowadays but they've been reasonably consistent about him being able to keep up with Sonic.