Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Aaron’s Retro Reviews: Rocket Knight Adventures

Hello, I’m Aaron. You may remember me as one of the hosts of the last few podcast’s you’ve listened too. Well, from time to time I’ll also be reviewing some classic early Nineties video games. For what reason…well, hell its fun, and you may learn about a

Few overlooked games from the era, as well as a selection of fan favorites and flops.

So without further ado, let’s get reviewing with this post’s game; Rocket Knight Adventures.

In the late 80’s Nintendo’s Mario pulled video games out of the depression, and became a figurehead to one of the most famous and recognizable franchises in the world. Everyone knows who Mario is just by merely seeing a picture of him. Naturally in order to compete, Sega created their own mascot franchise, know as the Sonic the hedgehog series. Sonic was edgy, cool, and fast unlike the slow bumbling plumber and this lead to Nintendo and Sega’s heated rivalry during the 90’s. With sonic moving unit’s the way he was other companies wanted to created their own cool, edgy animal to bring in the big bucks. Many of them tried and failed, and most of those mascot attempts faded into obscurity. However, there is a character though overlooked that really may have given Sega’s cash-hog a run for his money; and that character is Sparkster from the Konami Classic “Rocket Knight Adventures”.

Rocket Knight Adventures came out in 1993 to little fanfare or notoriety, and was Konami’s toss into animal character ring. However, an immediate difference from other companies was that Sparkster was not designed so edgy; he was actually sort of cute. Sparkster is a possum…well maybe a mutant possum or something, most possums look horrifying. I digress, he’s not just a possum, he’s a knight in a kingdom of other Possum creatures. But that’s not the selling point, the catch is that he’s a “Rocket Knight”, basically he’s got a rocket booster on his back. So what’s so cool about that you may ask yourself? And I may ask “What’s wrong with you!?” Let me put this in perspective for you, picture a knight. Now this knight has a sword and thick armor, so he’s pretty powerful right? Well picture that same knight coming at you at 120 miles per hour. If you don’t think that’s a crazy concept, I don’t know what is. Anyway, Sparkster lives in a peaceful kingdom of medieval/mildly technological possums. One day this army of Pig creatures with vastly superior technology show up and invade the kingdom, and not only that, but Sparkster’s rival, an Ex-communicated Rocket knight called Axel Gear (cool villain name) kidnaps the princess. (so now you have some sort of Mario/Sonic combined angle.) So Sparkster sets out to liberate the kingdom and save the princess…your usual gaming fare.

The game play is fairly straight forward, you can move around left and right, (mostly right) and can jump around, sort of like many plat forming characters from that time. But Sparkster has a sword, no jumping on or killing with fire pellets in this game. The sword can do better damage when making blade to enemy contact, but also can send out damaging sword waves? That can knock out most of the little enemies in one flick of the B button. But the greatest tool of all in Sparkster’s armory is the rocket pack. The pack can be charged at any time by holding down the attack buttons, and when released once the fuel gauge is full it sends Sparkster flying in which ever direction you’re holding. This is not only for getting around many obstacles in the game, but if you get creative you can use it against enemies and some crazy trick shots around the levels.

The level design is another nice feature of this game, not only visually but seemingly every level has a hook or neat little modification so that it plays different than the last. As you traverse the kingdom you see many surreal environments from a vibrant castle village, to a mirror like lava filled cavern, to a dingy industrial city and even outer space. Every environment plays differently, in some you’ll ride in a mine cart, hang from an airship, or fly through a city on an infinite rocket boost. The music in the game is quite catchy, so much so that if you a nerdy 90’s gamer like me, you will find some way to put it on your I-pod. The highlights of the levels are the bosses, which are practically dropped on you at every turn. From battle mechs, to robotic dragons, and even a mad pig computer thrown in for good measure. Even when you think you have defeated the last boss, well…I’m not going to spoil anything for you readers out there, play the damn game. Although…I did kind of blab it out on the podcast….never mind just play it anyway.

Sparkster did make enough money to warrant two sequels, one for the genesis and on for the SNES. Both titled “Sparkster” and released at the same time the two games are entirely different, but the design of the character Sparkster is changed to a more edgy appearance I assume in an effort to compete with Sonic. If you play RKA after reading this review and are looking for a recommendation as to which sequel to play next, I recommend the SNES version as it is more of a spiritual successor to RKA, the Genesis version has less of that charm. After these sequels Sparkster disappeared into obscurity, occasionally popping up in cameo’s in Konami games, and most recently he has made a true reappearance in NAMC: Track and Field as a playable character. But personally I would love to see a new full fledged RKA game, preferably for a handheld for splendid 2-D goodness. In the meantime I’ll have to make due and get my hands on a Sega nomad so I can play some RKA on the go…yes…it’s that addicting.

This is Aaron a.k.a Aaronthewolf, signing off till the next installment of “Aaron’s Retro Reviews”. Oh, and the picture included for this post I made personally…I think its pretty rad. I will eventually have a full rez at my art site...or something.

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