--------KONAMI ENTERS THE ANTHOPOMORPHIC FRAY--------
Ho ho ho! What do we have here? Some of you out there may be saying "It's about time" when it comes to this highly-regarded classic, while others are gawking and thinking "Oh great, what stupid game is this website covering NOW?" Well, for all those naysayers, I have to inform you that THIS game is a whole slew of things, but "stupid" definitely isn't one of them. I remember this title all too well from my youth, and it still holds up today as one fantastical game. Do you folks like Contra? Do you folks like Sonic the Hedgehog? Do you like games that look, sound and play great? Well then, you don't need to worry about any of those things when you play Konami's gem, Rocket Knight Adventures.
Why is that? Well, let's ask Konami! I was lucky enough to find my old blue prints on how to build a time machine, so I traveled back to 1993 and conducted an interview with Tomikazu Kirita (the producer), who is undubiously dubbed Konami because it would be easier to remember. While keeping in mind that undubiously has yet to be established as a real word (I'm entitled to my own personal lexicon), let's see what he has to say!
Bel: "Hey Konami! What's so good about this game?"
Konami: "It's so good because we're introducing the mightest mammal ever to rocket to stardom! He's called Spakster, and he's one good lookin' oppossum!"
Bel: "That's cool... but that doesn't exactly answer my question."
Konami: "What else is there to explain? He's Sparkster the Rocket Knight, the heroic jet pack jockey with warp speed, quick wits and pumped up personality. After all, who else do you know can get a grip with his tail? You can rocket through 7 epic stages of animalistic adventure, home of the hugest, strangest enemy pig creatures imaginable. In fact, your mission is crammed with more ham than a Hollywood premiere! The tricks, traps and challenges never end!"
Bel: "I see... that sounds pretty exciting and paved with good intentions and financial gain, but it doesn't sound like enough to justify the purchase of your product, though prolific game developers you may be. "
Konami: "Well, we are proud to say that you get your money's worth and Sega's seal of quality."
Bel: "I've seen Sega's seal before and I've been promised quality time and time again by numerous corporations. More often than not, I've come up on the short, more beligerent end of the deal. Surely you understand where I'm coming from Konami? Time is money, and and I can get my money back, but I can't replace the time I've invested. Imagine that you're the consumer here; what can you say to make me feel confident about your product?"
Konami: "We at Konami are so confident you will like our product that we've exhausted extra funds making hip Sparkster merchandise for you to buy once you've mastered Rocket Knight Adventures. You can order your very own Sparkster T-shirt!"
Bel: "...You're just taking all of this off the box aren't you?"
Konami: "Umm... uh... please buy our product! Congratulation! Domo arigatou!"
That concludes my super secret interview with Tomikazu. Darn, I was hoping it would actually tell you what makes this game so great and save me the trouble of writing a long-winded article, but things aren't always so easy. Now I have to tell you about the stuff they don't talk about on the box.
--------OMG! THIS GAME HAS A PLOT!--------
No, I'm not talking about a gut-wrenching plot full of twists and turns that consist of mostly naive, uncommonly beautiful individuals who have barely reached puberty with supernatural powers going to save the world for the 346,382nd time (might want to multiply that exponentially), but a classic, modest story for a classic action game. The in-game story developments are almost entirely visual, as in, almost no text. However, the manual almost brags in a way with headlines like "The Brief History Of Zebulos". Let's just see what it's all about.
The world that the player encounters is called Elhorn (also stated as Erehwon). It is a world of warriors, magic and machinery. It is also home to the "Kingdom of Zebulos". Zebulos is a kingdom with a long history... a few pages worth, so let me spare you the details and get to the important parts. For generations, the Zebulan royal family has protected what is known as "The Key To The Seal", and to do so, an elite fighting force was formed-- the powerful Rocket Knights. They stop any would-be invaders from stealing the key and reactivating a powerful evil ship known as the Pig Star. Fast foward and you'll get to take control of the current leader of the Rocket Knights, Sparkster, who was trained by the skilled Knight Master, Mifune Sanjulo. Sparkster became leader not only because of his skills, but also through the actions of a corrupt knight named Axle Gear, who is hungry for power and the hand of the Zebulan King's beautiful daughter, Princess Sherry. Axle Gear mortally wounded Sparkster's master and Sparkster dueled and banished Axle Gear from the land, restoring peace to Elhorn.
However, just as the sands of time flow, history repeats itself and a new conflict arises. The kingdom of Zebulos is under attack by the nearby Devotindos Empire, comprised of pigs of all shapes and sizes and led by the wicked Emperor Devligus Devotindos. Versed in archaeology and mechanics and skilled with hypnosis, he built a mighty robot empire by manipulating crowds and oppressing neighboring countries. However, he's heard of Sparkster's exploits and doesn't want to take him lightly. Devligus, along with Captain Fleagle (a cross-dressing aristocrat who pilots a mighty airship) and the exiled Axle Gear (who is Devligus' assistant and wants to get even with Sparkster and secretly wishes to take control of the Devotindos Empire) formulate a plan to overthrow the kingdom, kidnap Princess Sherry and get the Pig Star flying again. So far, their plan has succeeded... can you control Sparkster and save Elhorn?
--------SO GOOD IT SELLS ITSELF?--------
If anyone is to blame for this game's marketability (or lack thereof), it's Konami. All the time they spent trying to make Sparkster sound like the rad alternative to Sonic could have been spent actually talking about this game's strengths. Seriously, what's wrong with them... they barely glossed over the visuals and they didn't say a word about the audio, and those two things are certainly strong suits for this game and among some of the finest on the system in general. This isn't one of those games that just screams "It's so good, it prints money!" and Konami was too busy trying to sell you Sparkster gear without telling you enough about what RKA represented. Well, let me tell you. This game has everything you'd come to expect from a Konami title; Great visuals, loads of action, and excellent tunes that blend the whole thing together. Whether you're flying across the kingdom on your rocket pack, slashing giant dancing robots in outer space, using your reflection cast in mirrored lava pools to cleverly trek forward, or avoiding Axle Gear as he shoots enormous cannon blasts that take up almost the entire screen, the visuals are truly impressive and only seldomly slowdown. Everything is very well illustrated, well animated, and I'd have to give this portion of the game two thumbs up.
While we're on the subject of visuals, I should probably plug-in some useless trivia. The Japanese game for whatever reason has a different intermission screen as well as a different introduction. In the Japanese game, the Zebulan citizens can be seen running from Devligus' baddies and the pre-level intermission screen has an awkward-looking Spakster jamming to a Zebulan-generated fanfare. The U.S. game has Sparkster standing on a rock basically telling Devligus to bring it on. The U.S. game also has a different level intermission for every level unlike the Japanese game and better portrays Sparkster's attitude. Come to think of it, the U.S. game is the only version where Sparkster seems to be frowning on the box instead of smiling... I think Konami tried too hard to market him in the states as a tough guy, though I think the intermissions and intro are better in the U.S. release, but that's just me. Anyway, let's keep moooving along.
You shouldn't expect anything less from the sound department. As befitting a hero of Sparkster's caliber, every level is packed with adventurous ditties and boss battles play intense tunes that you'd only come to expect from the creators of Contra. The game even has a few cool sound effects, such as the way Sparkster yells when he's in shock and the cartoony sound the game makes when you beat up Captain Fleagle... I know I've heard Captain Fleagle's defeat cry a million times before... I'll plug in a link when I find the precise name for it. While I'm still on the subject of sound, I should probably plug-in another useless trivia bit. The Japanese game has a few slightly different sound effects from the other versions of the game. They don't really impact the game in anyway, but I felt I should put it out there.
--------BE A KNIGHT FOR A DAY!--------
First off, if Konami really wanted this game to make an impression, they should have changed the title. "Rocket Knight Adventures" sounds a little tame when you can shoot beams from out of your sword, fight an entire army of pigs, give Axle Gear several knuckle sandwichs (for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and the occassional midnight snack of course) in a giant mech, fly in space in a level that can largely be considered a tribute to their Gradius series, and battle robots so twisted that they no doubt inspired similar freaky monstrosities found in Contra Hard Corps which would come later. I would have called the game "Controdius Knight Adventures With Miscellanious Hardcore Action Featuring Sparkster That's So Cool You Have To Buy This Video Game" or "The Video Game That Must Be Bought" but again, that's just me. I'm not too good with names, so hopefully you can do better on my behalf.
Rocket Knight Adventures doesn't have a plethora of power-ups or gameplay modes. You'll be tackling the bad guys in large part with nothing more than the sword on your back, the beams it can unleash, and your trusty jet pack which has you fly across the screen at great speeds. Flying around haphazardly will only get you killed, so you should blast off well. Rocketing is best used against bosses, since it's Sparkster's strongest attack. While it's once again referred to as a Sonic-esque game, RKA really isn't a whole lot like Sonic. While it has a certain sense of speed and the protagonist is your run-of-the-mill anthropomorphic hero, the game is largely an action title and has very little platforming in which to speak of.
While the game sounds linear on the surface, it makes up for what it lacks in power-ups with over-the-top action, great level designs, and a very varied gameplay style. Each level posseses something different from the last to make it not feel tedious as the game stretches out. For instance, you'll be fighting pigs, fly over the sea and fight a mechanical serpent and break through a wall, dodge roaring flames, and destroy a machine that bursts through the castle walls... all on the first level alone. Later levels give you the luxury of swiming through water, execute minor puzzles of sorts, fight in a robot, and even play around in altered gravity, among other things.
One of the neatest things about RKA is that it challenges gamers to play at their best, rewarding the skilled gamer with the best possible endings on highest difficulties and restricted play at easier levels. They actually made it worth your wihile to challenge yourself and get the most out of the game.It's interesting to take note of both the English and Japanese versions in this regard. The Japanese version is said to be easier, but it's actually not. While the U.S. game gives gamers access to all four difficulty levels, the Japanese game makes you play repeatedly to unlock codes to access higher challenge levels. What's considered "Normal" difficulty in Japan is actually considered "Children" difficulty in the U.S., while "Crazy Hard" in Japan is the same as Hard in the United States. I don't know what Konami of America was smoking but if I smoked at all, I'd want some of what they were having when they changed the difficulty settings. RKA isn't too hard, but even the "Children" difficulty requires a little dexterity, and Hard/Crazy Hard is almost impossible without complete and utter memorization of the entire game.
--------THE STUFF OF LEGENDS?--------
Rocket Knight Adventures is a fantastic game that really showcases what the Sega Genesis can do and it's made many a gamer proud to own the console. With it's excellent presentation, non-stop action and light-hearted story, this game can go down as a timeless classic. If you're looking for great Sega Genesis games, RKA should be on any gamers list because it's exactly that; A great game. I wouldn't call it "the stuff of legends", but it certainly is a game you should play at least once and it's usually very cheap so there's no reason you shouldn't be able to afford it, unless you're really poor... in which case, I feel for you. If you're not a poor person though and you're just cheap, then I grieve for the Rocket Knight himself. Give up a few gold coins or shiny apples for this great game folks, and Sparkster will return the favor; anything less just wouldn't do the game justice in my book.
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -