When Konami signed up to make video games for Sega,
most of their titles were simply sequels to previously
established series (Castlevania, Contra, Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles.) Rocket Knight Adventures marks the first
time a franchise (well, that's stretching it a bit....there's really
only two games in the series) was started on a Sega platform by
Konami. It was also an attempt to create a cuddly mascot for Konami
(evidenced by all of the merchandise that's available for purchase in the
instruction manual.) Luckily, it's not just an attempt to cash in on
a character....Rocket Knight Adventures contains most of the Konami charm that
we've come to know and love.
Rocket Knight Adventures tells the story of a little oppossum named
Sparkster. (Much like a certain hedgehog, Sparkster resembles an oppossum
in the most minimal way. He's small and cute of course, but the only
real link to roadkill's favorite victim is that he can grab onto certain
surfaces with his tail and hang upside down.) It's set a storybook
like world that's made to appeal to kids, but older gamers can enjoy too.
ome evil pigs, part of the
Devotinos kingdom, have kidnapped the princess of Zebulan family. It's up to the head Rocket Knight,
Sparkter, to save her. In addition
to the evil emperor pig, there's also a traitor to the Rocket Knights
named Axle Gear. He has the same weaponry that Sparkster does, and you'll
confront him at several points in the game.
Sparkster's main weapon is sword that shoots out little flame rings that
are slightly limited in the ways of range and power. If you really want,
you can get close to an enemy and slash them directly with your sword
to do quite a bit more damage. But the primary attraction of Sparkter's
arsenal is his rocket jet pack. By holding down the Attack button,
you can charge it up. By releasing the button without pressing any direction,
Sparkster will spin in place with his sword held outward, similar to
a buzzsaw. However, if you press in a direction and release the button,
Sparkster will be sent flying in any of the eight directions. You can
use this for a variety of things: flying up high into the air, ramming
forward through vast hordes of pigs, or even bouncing rampantly off
walls. It can get fast and furious, and if you're not paying attention,
you could send Sparkster rocketing to his doom.
At a few key points in the game, there are fuel cans that Sparkster
can pick up. Here, his jet pack will be set on the maximum level and
you'll fly, shooter-em-up style, through various levels. These areas
are particularly cool, and even feature a few obscure Gradius references
to those mad Konami nuts such as myself.
There are a total of seven levels for Sparkster to fight through before
facing off against the Emperor's battleship and the evil crony Axle Gear.
As mentioned earlier in the review, there are certain "marks" that Konami
leaves on their games that makes them stand out from all others. Other
than the jet pack technique, there are plenty of interesting techniques
in the level. Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES) fans will recognize
little floating platforms that will move in front of and behind waterfalls, bringing
Sparkster from the foreground into the background. Near the end of the game,
you'll duel with Axle Gear in huge Rock'em Sock'em type robots. But
my favorite area is a level with rising lava. At certain points, your
view will be blocked by an object in the foreground. You have to look at
your reflection in the lava (don't ask me how that's possible, it's
just a video game) to find the platform you need to jump on.
In order to curb frustration, there are four difficulty levels to be
chosen from. The only real thing it seems to change is the amount of
lives and continues that you get. I'm not really a fan of this type of
difficulty modification. Instead of making the game more of a challenge,
it just lessens the amount of tries you get to beat the game. On a whole, the game really isn't
that hard though...you'll find a few spots that need to be played over a few
times before they can be mastered, but it's unlikely to cause the
sort of temper tantrums that games like Contra can induce. Still, it's
well balanced to the point that it's not a cakewalk. But beating the
game in the lower difficulty levels will lead to the typical "Try
the next level!" message.
There's some rather splendid visuals to be found in Rocket Knight Adventures.
The colors are bright and vibrant, and the animation gives Sparkter a
unique personality. You'll also see some nice special effects here and there,
like the bosses made of many sprites (similar to Gunstar Heroes, but
to quite the same scale) and an occasional cool background or two.
While there's some generally good music here, few tunes of it really stands
out as being utterly wonderful...a bit odd, given Konami's usual reputation
in awesome music. The only theme that stands out in my head is the boss
tune and the final level (a cool techno theme.)
Rocket Knight Adventures is a solid action title for the Sega Genesis.
Some hardcore gamers might be turned off by the overall cuteness factor
that permeates the game, but it really shouldn't bother you.