Rocket Knight Adventures
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • US 06/16/1993
    • JP 08/06/1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/17/2013.

Rocket Knight Adventures is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game developed by Konami and released for the Sega Genesis in 1993. Several of the team members that developed this game later left Konami and went on to form Treasure, so the game's style is very reminiscent of Treasure's other works. Rocket Knight Adventures is a remarkable little game starring an opossum knight with a rocket strapped on his back named Sparkster. This was back when every console and game company had an anthropomorphic mascot character representing them. Konami apparently wanted to make Sparkster their spunky mascot for the '90s, but sadly, it didn't take. Rocket Knight Adventures unsuccessfully tried to replicate the success of Sonic the Hedgehog. What's sad is that most people probably shrugged the game off as another Sonic the Hedgehog clone, when in reality, it's much more. It's actually one of the best games on the Genesis. The game now has a fairly healthy cult following, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. It's just too bad that the game wasn't a bigger hit back when it was more relevant.

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If you want a more detailed account of the game's plot, then you'll have to read the instruction booklet. The game takes place in a world known as Elhorn, in a Kingdom called Zebulos. The kingdom is under attack by an empire of pigs referred to as the Devotindos Empire, led by Emperor Devligus. Axel Gear, an evil version of Sparkster and the anti-hero of the game, offers his services to the empire by kidnapping Princess Sherry. Sparkster is then called in by the King to take care of business with his elite rocket skills. It's one opossum against an entire army of pigs. What I like about the story in this game is that it's all told through visual cutscenes with no text or dialogue, and they're all very brief. There aren't too many of them, either. They usually serve as level transitions, connecting the different areas of the game together. Rocket Knight Adventures is an action game first and foremost, meaning cutscenes aren't really necessary, but these scenes are executed in such a way as to actually compliment the action. More games should handle the story in a similar manner.

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Sparkster is the protagonist of Rocket Knight Adventures, so you'll be controlling him for this adventure. He can walk and jump around at a leisure pace, in addition to ducking. Like a real opossum, Sparkster can hang from tree branches with his tail. His regular attack is a sword that shoots out bladed projectiles, though the range of these things isn't too great. Sparkter's capabilities are average at best, but they are substantially enhanced with the rocket pack strapped onto his back. This gives him a slew of rocket based moves that rock. In order to actually use any of the rocket moves, the attack button must be held down for a short period of time to charge it up, kind of like a Mega Man game. There's a bar at the top of the screen that tells you how charged the rocket pack is, which isn't necessary, but handy nonetheless. If one of eight directions is held when you let loose a fully charged rocket pack, Sparkster will quickly rocket in that direction while holding his sword outwards in a stabbing motion. He'll do major damage to anything that gets in his way while he's rocketing around. Letting go of the rocket charge while standing still has Sparkster performing a spinng sword attack, not unlike the way Sonic the Hedgehog spins to damage foes. Sparkster's rocket maneuvers not only inflict major damage, but they're also really good at getting him around to places that he can't normally reach on foot. On top of that, rocketing around is a good way to avoid attacks, as it's much faster than jumping out of the way. The rocket pack is the central mechanic of the game and pretty darn cool.

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All the stages in Rocket Knight Adventures are linear affairs with tons upon tons of nonstop action. The stage design is very enemy focused, as there tend to be gauntlets where you bust through a bunch of foes. Everything explodes in this game, as it should. Your primary foes during the stages are pig soldiers. What's great about these guys is the way in which you defeat them; beating up a pig soldier removes its armor, leaving it to run about in its skivvies. They'll be too ashamed to attack you at that point, so they'll run away. The stages are all fairly long, but they are broken up into sub sections that alternate the scenery on a regular basis. A good example of this is the first stage, which starts out in a green field and eventually transitions into the castle area. Every stage has something new to look forward to. In fact, each sub section of a stage has something different in terms of mechanics. There is a stage that starts with a bunch of water sections that require you to swim past various obstacles and then, all of a sudden, you find yourself on a frantic mine cart ride! The game has a large amount of variety in its environments, too, with places like airships, steampunk cities, volcanic ice caverns, and even a sci-fi section in outer space. A lot of the stage gimmicks are absolutely brilliant, like there's this part with instant kill lava that slowly rises and drops, and there is something in the foreground blocking your view of Sparksters as you jump across the platforms above the lava. In order to not die here, you have to stare at the reflection on the lava to see where Sparkster is located, and then use that to help you navigate the perilous platforms. In addition to normal stages you do on foot, there are also shooter stages that are similar to the Gradius games. For the shooter levels, Sparkster has unlimited rocket power and can fly anywhere on screen. These sections are just as heart pounding and well designed as the normal levels in the game, though there aren't too many of them. If you like unfettered action in your game, then you made the right choice with Rocket Knight Adventures.

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This game has some of the most action packed boss fights in the universe. Similar to Treasure's games, Rocket Knight Adventures features a large amount of bosses, sometimes having a stage with nothing but a bunch of boss fights back-to-back. Every boss in this game is accompanied by absolutely fantastic music, though the whole game has a stellar soundtrack. Typically there will be a big boss at the end of every stage, but during the stage, there are quite a few mini-bosses that could easily pass for a main boss. You can tell whether you're fighting a main boss or a mini-boss due to the music, as each class of boss has its own theme. I love the stages that immediately start out with a boss fight. There is no better way to leave an impression on the player when a given stage begins with a giant robot piloted by a pig. Most bosses are robotic in nature, usually piloted by pig soldiers, much like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The brilliant gimmicks seen in the stages also occasionally make appearances during boss fights, like this one mini-boss that switches between the foreground and background, sometimes hiding behind a waterfall. You can also go behind the waterfall to chase after him. At some point, there is a boss that you fight while riding on a mine cart. It's a giant train with guns and arms equipped onto it, and you have to frantically avoid its attacks while also damaging it, all atop a fast traveling mine cart. The boss fights in this game can get really challenging, the kind of challenge that gets your adrenaline going. They're also really creative. A defining moment in the game is this part where a giant robot chases you, touching it instantly kills you, and you need to run away from it for a brief period of time. You eventually find a giant robot of your own at the end of this segment, resulting in a giant robot battle for the ages. The bosses are part of what makes this game awesome.

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Rocket Knight Adventures is indeed an adventurous adventure. It's got an amazing soundtrack, awesome levels with plenty of action, some of the best bosses in a 16-bit game, and even great graphics. This is the greatest game that no one ever talked about, though many retro game fans know of its legendary status today. It's my job to make sure that future generations will continue to know of how great this game is, because it's really great. In a lot of ways, this game is a precursor to Treasure's future games like Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy. Rocket Knight Adventures is one of the best Sega Genesis games, so go play it if you haven't already.

Word Count: 1,528

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